Wanna grow your Instagram account? Here's how I did it...


If you like reading my work, listening to my podcast or following me on social media, please consider donating as little as $1 a month (about 89 cents) to support rosemarymaccabe.com and my podcast, How to be SoundI have a Patreon account where you can do just that – read all about it here and check it out here. Now, before the eye-rolling begins, I know, I know; in the grand scheme of things, I'm not an expert on Instagram. I don't have 100,000 (or more) followers, and I have not made a huge amount of money from my Instagram account (I've done a number of paid collaborations with a variety of brands, usually taking in more than one platform). So this isn't a super-cynical guide to making your Instagram into a serious business. (I am, on the other hand, a total bona fide expert on journalism – read how to be a journalist here.)

What is it, then? It's an explanatory blog post detailing how my Instagram account went from 3,000 followers in 2015 to, as I type this, 41,500 followers.

There is a whole separate blog post in the fact that, quite honestly, increasing my social media figures has not had the kind of life-changing effects I thought it would. I'm not living off my social media channels; I'm not swimming in Chanel; I was quite late being approved for RewardStyle affiliate links – I've only been on the roster of influencers making money from your purchases for about 18 months.

But still: for any newbie blogger, knowing how to grow your social media is a must. So here's my Instagram crash course.

I want to get away, I want to fly away... 🙌🏼

A photo posted by Rosemary Mac Cabe (@rosemarymaccabe) on

Get into Instagram Stories

It's official; Instagram Stories is way better than Snapchat (because I said it, duh). On a serious note, it's a really fun micro-blogging platform that can allow you to share snippets of your day (or your work, or your pets...) with your following, and often results in a lot more engagement (i.e. conversation) than posting a plain ol' pic on your grid does. It's really addictive - and a great way to pass the time while you're washing up / cooking / doing the ironing! (Hello, it's the 1950s and I am a brilliant wife.)

Post, post, post (and then post some more)

This is quite possibly the single most effective way of growing your Instagram account: post frequently. My sweet spot is about four a day – although I suspect that, if I went up to eight, it'd do even better (I just can't ever find enough photo opportunities). The biggest revelation of all is that, when it comes to Instagram, it seems, quantity trumps quality: so don't worry about getting the absolutely perfect flat lay, or the best possible angle for your selfie. Just take a pic, put a nice filter on it, and share it to Instagram. But...

(Basically) 👍🏼 * * * #qotd #quote #mantra #basic #positivity #pma #fitfam #irishfitfam #igersdaily #mood #igers #instadaily

A photo posted by Rosemary Mac Cabe (@rosemarymaccabe) on

Don't just post any old crap

No, your photographs don't have to be prize-worthy every single time – but they do have to be relatively good. I am a serial Instagram unfollower, because in the early days I used to follow back every single person who followed me, with the result that I ended up following about 2,000 people whose content I didn't enjoy. That was the point at which I stopped living my life by the #followforfollow rule, and now I am so quick to unfollow people if I don't like their content. Content that annoys me:

  • Bad quality, blurry photographs with even worse captions. It would be one thing if it was a crap, blurred pic of your childhood home, with a caption about how much it meant to you; that content is engaging. But a rubbish photograph, slightly blurry, of a lipstick you just bought, photographed on your kitchen table with some crumbs in the background? No, thanks.
  • Fun group photographs from your night out. That's what Facebook is for.
  • Non-stop competition regrams. I have a problem, firstly, with competitions that ask you to regram pics – they just end up spamming other people's timelines with content they haven't opted in to seeing. But if your Instagram account is 99% competition regrams, that is an incredibly boring way to utilise that social media channel.
  • Non-stop... well, anything! I like the Instagram accounts I follow to show varied content, so if I click into your account and see that it's 10 selfies / inspirational quotes / food pics in a row... I tend to tune out. The exception to this rule is if you have a really niche account; if you're a chef, for example, food pics obviously make sense! But at the same time, no one is just one thing all of the time, and I like to follow people – people who do more than just eat / take selfies / search for #inspo online.

It's #wcw, right? So today I'm crushing on myself, and the difference I've seen in my body and mind over the last six months. Bear with me, I promise I'm not being all that vain... So I won't lie and pretend I don't love the fact that I can wear a tee and jeans and not feel like I've to spend the day sucking in, or never take my jacket off (at one stage I would only wear T-shirts if I could wear a controlling bodysuit underneath 😩), but more than that I love the fact that I feel strong and healthy for the first time in as long as I can remember. When I have a bloated tummy, I can pinpoint exactly what gave it to me; when I need to lift something up, I know I can; when I need to get somewhere, I can walk without sweating profusely or being exhausted when I get where I'm going. Want more? I haven't found myself standing in front of the wardrobe, crying cos I can't find anything to wear, in at least four months; I find far more things to be happy about every day than to be annoyed about; now, when I get irritated by something or someone, it's (at least 99% of the time) for good reason. Anyway: running still sucks. Even Nike says so.

A photo posted by Rosemary Mac Cabe (@rosemarymaccabe) on

Consider your Instagram captions

When Instagram first started, it was a neat way of sharing photographs with a circle of close friends and online acquaintances – and captions were best kept short and snappy. Nowadays? I find that, more often than not, I get the best level of engagement (even more important since it changed its algorithm) when I post something with a heartfelt caption. And I don't mean that cynically; I think people follow my Instagram because they're interested in me as a person (rather than following for my incredible fashion sense, for example), so when I post something that gives an insight into my life, my feelings, my fitness journey, it gets really high engagement. It makes sense.

Engage with other Instagram users

This is something that I was a little late to when it comes to Instagram; I used to "like" a whole lot of photographs, but I would rarely comment on them or attempt to join in any conversations that were happening. Well, I can tell you right now that, when I comment on someone else's Instagram pic, I can see an instant spike in my followers – even if it's just two people. Now, I'm not talking about commenting on Beyoncé's pic, or stirring shit on Kim Kardashian's account, as a way of racking up some more followers – I mean, engage with similar accounts to your own: Irish bloggers, #irishfitfammers, Irish business owners. Chances are, their followers will like what you're doing, too.

Take pictures of everything

The more photographs you take, the more photographs you'll have to share on your Instagram – duh, right? But this is something that, again, I've only really started doing in the last year. I have my phone in my hand almost all of the time (I know, I know, I'm going to get mugged one of these days), ready to take a picture of whatever strikes me. I probably take, on average, 20 photographs a day – of the coffee I'm drinking, breakfast I've made, sunrise, clouds, sunset... The pic above was taken as I crossed O'Connell Bridge, when I noticed the sky was looking particularly foreboding! There are so many moments, throughout the day, when a totally Instagrammable pic will be right there in front of you.

COMPETITION 🎉 In conjunction with @aeropostaleireland and @love_prezzo @liffey_valley and to celebrate reaching 25,000 Instagram followers, I'm giving away a €100 voucher for Aéropostale's brand new Liffey Valley shop as well as dinner for two at Prezzo's new restaurant in Liffey Valley with (of course) a bottle of Prosecco to boot 🙌🏻 To win, tag 16 friends... ONLY MESSING 😂 Just leave a comment below! BUT you must be following me (duh!), @aeropostaleireland AND @love_prezzo to be eligible 👍🏼 This competition closes on Saturday, May 28th at midnight. Good luck and happy shopping / eating / drinking 😘 #competition #win #free #aeropostale #prezzo #prize BTW: This competition is not sponsored. I'm getting nothing bar (hopefully) loads of engagement and a warm fuzzy feeling ☺ Pic: Aéropostale

A photo posted by Rosemary Mac Cabe (@rosemarymaccabe) on

Give back

I'm not talking about instagramming your charity work – although that would probably work well in terms of garnering engagement – but about doing competitions on your Instagram, with brands you think will appeal to your following. I've given away beauty goodies; lash extensions; a big pile of beauty booty I had accumulated from being lucky enough to be on (a few) press lists. It's a great excuse to promote your Instagram account on other platforms – I'll tell Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter that I'm running a competition, and use it to drive followers from one platform to another. Plus, guess what? It's nice. (Of course, once you get to larger follower numbers, you can charge people for competitions – as far as I know, the going rate, for a 'grammer with about 70,000 followers, is about €500.)

Use hashtags

However you want. Some people prefer to put them in the first comment (so they don't clog up the caption), but as the feed now only shows the first two lines anyway, I'll happily put them in the caption. Just don't spam people by using hashtags that you know full well don't apply to your photograph – that's a huge bugbear! No clue which hashtags to use? That's what Google's for; here's a handy post to get you started.

Got any more Insta-happy tips you'd like to share? Please, do leave them in the comments! And if you like what you're reading, why not add me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@rosemarymaccabe) too?