How to Win on Instagram


The ever evolving Instagram algorithm have you confused? You are not alone.. 

Listen, you are probably like the rest of us. Now, disclaimer: we are pretty new to the instagram race and are not saying we are experts. However, this is what we have learned over the past few months that may help you if you are just starting out, because Instagram is like a game you need to learn quickly to win or be successful. We’ve successfully gathered thousands of followers in a short period of time without paying for followers or likes, or having some service do it for us. It’s all us, one follower at a time. While we still have far to go, we’ve compared ourselves to a lot of similar profiles who started around the same time as us, and we generally come out far ahead of them. So.. here are our tips and tricks to making your Instagram profile followable..

If you’re just starting out, start here.. if you already have an Instagram account scroll down for the advanced stuff

1. Pick a Good Name

Yea, we get it.. this can be tough for some people. Really think about your brand, or what you wish to deliver on. Yes, you can always change your name later if you think this one doesn’t work, or *ahem* is really dumb. Here are some tips:

  • Brainstorm some vocabulary or terms that go with your niche.. for example, we are all about the traveling.. so wanderlust, travel, passport, adventure, world trip, all good names! Dogs, real estate, number 3, money – not really relatable.
  • Research what names are already taken in your chosen niche.. nobody wants to be “Travel12873023474” because every single person has used that name. Think of something unique and personal to you or your brand.
  • When all else fails change it up a bit, add a number like 0 instead of o, or 3 instead of e. Include punctuation or alternative spelling.

Our main advice: When people are deciding whether to follow back they often look at the name. Once we gained popularity, I often didn’t have the space to follow back all the people who followed us. So with a quick glance I looked at anybody that seemed to be in our niche and followed them back first. If the name seemed unprofessional, boring, or I had no idea what it was about, I didn’t follow them back.

**It is worth noting that at this time Instagram only allows you to follow 7500 people, but you can have unlimited followers. 

In our humble opinion, this feature sucks. It makes us pick and choose which accounts we wish to follow.. sometimes it means I have to unfollow somebody I find interesting just because there’s somebody new to follow who seems more interesting.. so.. dear followers: if we unfollow you, sometimes it is just because we need to free up space, not because we don’t like you.. please don’t hate us!

2. Have a Profile Picture

This seems like a no-brainer… after all Instagram is all about sharing photos, so why the hell wouldn’t you have one as a profile? This is how people judge you.. your profile picture, name, and bio are the covers to the book.. and while our parents always said:

“You shouldn’t judge a book by a cover” – Parents and teachers everywhere

The truth is we all do it. Also, there are tons of apps around that let you mass unfollow sets of people on your list. One of the more common options is those without a profile picture. So… make it classy. Whether it is a picture of you doing your thing abroad, a logo, your pet, whatever you are going with.. get something in there… pronto.

3. Include a Bio About Yourself

Bio.. read: Biography. Short blurb telling your story and what you are about. Ours includes the words travel, wanderlust, expat etc. This falls in that first impression box (see above). I can honestly say, I’ve flipped through Instagram and unfollowed people who may have been posting interesting pics and in our niche simply because when I went on their profile there was nothing in their bio. Notta. Nilch. Zero. Translation = BORING!!!

If your potential followers cannot figure out what you are all about, why should they follow you? Or keep following you? Play the game people!

4. Stick with your Niche

This is one of those rules that you can play with a little bit.. however, if you have gained followers for the amazing food porn you always post, and all of the sudden you switched to a cat obsession.. I can almost guarantee your numbers will start to drop. Now if once in awhile you post a rando kitty cat, fair enough. Just stick with your theme for the most part if you want to keep your followers happy and intrigued.

5. The Hashtag

#hashtags. Yea, I’ll admit, when I first started using Instagram like.. 6 years ago now I thought the people with the 25 hashtags were just being douchy. “#riseandgrind #fitfam #workout #cardio #hashtags” – F OFF!!!.. but now I’ve come to the other side and realized these little nuggets are the source of likes and followers. You can spend time researching what hashtags are popular in your niche. Some websites advertise that they will give you the most popular hashtags at any given time. However, we just found ones that worked for us the old fashioned way.. trial and error. DO NOT, I repeat do not, pay for any service that advertises finding the best hashtags.. don’t be lazy, just look yourself.

Tip: Once you find a bunch of hashtags you actually like and work, type them all up in a note on your phone so you just have to hit copy and paste and it’s all in there for you. Plus this way, you don’t miss or forget the good ones.

6. Quality Photos and Video

Alright, so your kid was doing something awesome or you really enjoyed the flower across the field. But for the love of everything.. do not post your fuzzy, distorted, dark photos. Camera phones produce amazing photos nowadays. You don’t need an expensive camera to have a great Instagram, you just need to take the time to learn the tricks of your phone. I learned something new about my Iphone 6s yesterday.. I’ve had it for 2 years. Use the filters sparingly to make your photo look great.. you can add filters or edit your photos.. do it if it looks like crap and see if you can bring it back to life. If it still looks like shit, try again or just don’t post it. I can honestly say in the last 24 hours I have unfollowed 4 people for crap photos. Blurry photos? I don’t have time for that.

Advanced Tips

Already have a good Instagram account going, but can’t seem to get more followers? Here’s what we found..

Follow Unfollow

Holy shit.. did I ever hate this practice when we first started up. We would get soooooo annoyed when somebody would follow us and then unfollow us within a day. We downloaded a few apps that allow us to track our followers and unfollowers.. so we could see who was doing it. We like to follow back everybody if we can, but as soon as we get notification we unfollow back if you’ve done the same. It can get annoying. SERIOUSLY ANNOYING. However, this seems to be the trick to getting followers and winning that damn Instagram game. It’s worth noting again that Instagram only allows you to follow 7500 people, so this is a trick you are going to have to learn to love tolerate if you wish to see your instagram expand rapidly.

Follow away, follow all of the accounts Instagram suggests for you. You’ll notice that your follower count increases in direct proportion to how many accounts you followed that day. We found that days I got follow happy were the days our followers increased the most. Where as days I didn’t put effort into following people, we didn’t see much growth. You can also use some of the follow hashtags like #followback #f4f #follow4follow etc. However, those follow hashtags generally don’t get you longtime followers, but it can boost your numbers for a little bit, making you look more popular for the time being.

Edit: When somebody follows you, instead of just following back, click on their profile, when you follow them this way usually Instagram will populate a list of similar accounts you might want to follow. I’ve tested how this works.. I didn’t randomly follow anybody for a week and our numbers went down, when I am constantly following all the suggested accounts our follower numbers go up. 

Instagram Pods

This is something we are currently on the fence about.. we keep hearing good and bad about these bad boys. Basically the current Instagram algorithm is tricky because your feed is no longer solely in chronological order. If you want your post to be top (or close to) the top of the pack, it needs to be engaging and have a lot of likes/comments in a short period of time. Now, if you use a lot of hashtags and have a decent following you are better than most to begin with, however, it seems comments are more difficult to come by…

Enter Instagram pods. Basically it is a group of 10-15 instagrammers who share recent posts through a group DM, where everybody is expected to like and comment on it. They all have basic rules such as max a post a day, at least 5 words as the comment etc etc. But it improves your engagement and moves you up the rankings. Or so they are believed to do. We have also heard worries about Instagram penalizing those who are in these pods because they are not authentic engagement and you are playing with the algorithm. At publish time, in my research, I had not found anything to back this theory up. But we did notice it seemed harder to improve our following numbers after we joined.

Edit: Since leaving the pod, our numbers have definitely improved again and we got over the number we seemed stuck at for weeks while in the pod. While it may work for some people, it didn’t for us. Plus, in reality we want people commenting and liking our posts not because they have to, but because they like what we are posting. We found our pod members just commented random stuff as long as it was 5 words long. Not 100% sure, but I would say that this doesn’t help with the algorithm. Don’t quote us though, it’s not research based, just observation.

Consistent Posting

Two things here… first: You need to stay active. But not too active. A good rule of thumb is a post a day, or a few spread out over your day or week. There’s nothing worse than flipping through your feed and finding somebody has posted 13 photos of seemingly nothing in a row. UNFOLLOW.

Take a look at the Instagram statistics if you have a business account, it will show you the best times to post, or when you get the most followers by time or day of the week. If it seems most of your followers are from North America don’t post at 3am NA time. Just don’t. Be consistent with your posts too, don’t post 26 photos in 3 days and then disappear for 3 weeks.

Also.. keep in mind, there are apps that allow you to unfollow inactive users. You can set the parameters, such as 90/60/30 days or whatever you like. We’ve started doing this.. when we have to unfollow people because we are getting close to 7500 the ones that go are the inactive users first. There is quite a few apps for this, just head over to your local app store and check out the reviews before you download. Most are free. Often they will get shutdown from Instagram because it doesn’t like you unfollowing or following large amounts at one time.

Beware of the Scams

We recently had one of our accounts receive an email that promised us free followers and likes automation, we just needed to sign in through them. While sometimes these sound amazing, the truth is there are scammers out there who would love to steal your account and followers and change it into something else. Ever seen those accounts selling porn? Yea, those accounts have usually been stolen from somebody. A friend recently had hers stolen, she had not many followers at all, so somebody hacked her and took it. I’ve seen advertising on it since.. UNFOLLOWED. While it may seem intriguing to pay for likes or follows, the truth is those are not genuine follows and they will eventually go away. If you want real success you need to put the time and energy into building something legitimate… otherwise you run the risk of being labelled fake.

Many people seem to also be enrolling in courses and paying money to find out the tricks and trades of becoming instagram famous… maybe this is for you, however, I am very doubtful that those courses are significantly different than anything you could find on the web, for free. This is how people are making their money, by providing paid courses. So while we are all for supporting fellow bloggers, make sure you do your research first and make sure its a legitimate course with high reviews.

Engage with your Followers

Like your followers photos back, reply to comments, or even post comments on other instagram users photos.. and please for the love of everything.. make them great comments. While it is understandable we are all busy, a smiley emoticon, in our opinion, is just tacky and lazy. Genuine comments helps you build a following and a community. It’s about networking and building relationships. Ask a question, and if you get asked a question.. answer it! Communicate, discuss, be authentic. When people comment on your photos, respond back in a reasonable amount of time. Thank them, answer the question, offer insight… don’t ignore them. Ever.

Edit: For the love of everything, engage yourself if you want to build a meaningful connection with your followers. There’s nothing worse than seeing the same person comment the same thing on hundreds of photos. Personally, I find self promotion via comments extremely cheesy. “Follow us for deals on travel” um.. no. Comment deleted and reported for being spammy. 

Heard of Ghost Followers? Ghost followers are those who have not interacted with your posts in a set period of time. Most apps allow you to unfollow ghost followers with a simple click. We have not chosen to do this because we know the new algorithm means that you don’t always get to see what all of who you are following’s posts. But think about it.. if you follow 7500 people, unless your life is dedicated to Instagram, you are probably not going to be able to keep up with everybody’s posts. Instagram works by determining your feed through your likes and follows. So you should reasonably expect that if you are constantly liking stuff from one individual, their posts will show up more often in your feed. Likewise, if you always skip over one person’s and never like or comment, it is likely that it will no longer show up in your feed.

Edit 2: It seems that there’s been other people saying that you should go and like all the pictures in somebody’s feed and they will follow you back. While that may work for some people, for us, it doesn’t. Thanks for liking our photos, we appreciate it, but due to the amount of people following actually engaging with us via messages and comments, we do not have enough time to pay attention to all the likes we get during the day. 

Instagram Live & Stories

This is a relatively new feature that is aiming to compete with Snapchat. It works almost the same.

Instagram Live allows you to live stream something you are doing. When you are done streaming, the feed ends and you will not see it anymore. Instagram stories stay on your profile for 24 hours, just like Snapchat. You can add filters, location, hashtags, tag people, and include links for your followers to check out.. Even if you are not able to post something everyday, this is a great way to give behind the scenes looks to your followers. It’s another marketing tool that we are just getting familiar with ourselves. This is great for those moments you do not want to permanently have on your profile, but maybe want to share with your followers. Plus.. Boomerang is right in the app now.. I love Boomerang. To add a story, simply swipe right from your home feed.. No this isn’t Tinder.. no match! Plus.. when you have a story, you get the rainbow like ring around your profile pic.. I think it’s pretty!

This is another great way to get yourself noticed. While sometimes your photos won’t show up in all of your followers feeds, this will allow you to show up in the top of their feed under the stories… this can be a double whammy. If you are popular enough, you will apparently show up for people who don’t follow you.. not sure how much that is true. Starting a live video also gives notification to your followers if they have that feature enabled, garnishing you more attention.


One new thing worth mentioning.. you can now archive old photos. This means you don’t have to delete them, but it is a good way of seeing what you posted, and how long ago you posted it. Great for if you want to recycle old posts that maybe didn’t do so well, or you have some posts you shit the bed on and are now embarrassed to have out there in Instagram world.

Update time: The apps we use.. click here for our new blog on the apps we use to help streamline out Instagram!


Alright.. that’s about all we have now for the Popularity contest that is Instagram. Like this? Need more tips? Follow us or comment below.. and happy liking! 

Access Token is invalid, please get it again

Please follow and like us: