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How I Grew My Instagram Following to 20K in One Year

Dec 1, 2016 | Uncategorized | 18 comments

The first day of Blogmas… I’m blogging every day in December (because lets face it, I could not cope with vlogmas!), especially when I’m posting at 10pm on the 1st Dec!

I’ve had a lot of questions about my Instagram over the past few months, with people asking how I’ve grown my following from 5K to nearly 22K in just over a year. I don’t have a huge instagram following, i’m not hitting Taylor Swift levels of hundreds of thousands of likes, nor and I immune from the *fear* that I will get zero likes when I put up a picture.

Let me just say this is what has worked for me in terms of growing my instagram following, and more importantly, growing engagement with my community. This is a combination of tips from trial and error over the years, and from learnings at SITsum Atlanta and other influencers.
How to grow your instagram following
Think about what YOU like in a photo, what makes you double tap? A beautiful image, inspiring story, or motivating post?
  • Be authentic. It can be disheartening looking at some of those beautifully crafted instagram feeds that have 200K followers but don’t seem to have a real person behind the pictures. Post real, honest photos, these are more likely to garner engagement from your friends and followers, however don’t forget about the aesthetic.
  • Stay away from the filters. Whilst in New York,  Zoe and I were joking about how we don’t filter our images anymore, we create our own *filters* by turning up the brightness, contrast and saturation. Pick a style and stick with it to make your ‘grid’ look consistent – that could be black and white, bright colours, have a frame, muted tones (my friend Francesca doesn’t DO green in her feed – rather tricky when you’re taking a photo of her with her green juice). If you love one type of filter, feel free to use it, just stick with it!
  • A picture says 1000 words. Often the pictures with a story, not just a great image, do best on my channel and with my audience. One of my most liked images is a terrible pic of me, post 8hr flight, having collected my New York City marathon race bib.

How to grow your instagram following

  • Don’t spam your feed…unless you’ve just run a marathon, then posting 3 photos a day from the race is OK, right?
  • If you’re working with a brand, ensure that the style of your sponsored post fits with your normal style, otherwise your followers are going to spot it a mile off and it may not generate the engagement that both you and the brand are hoping for. Additionally, make sure you work with brands that naturally match your message.
  • Take plenty of photo options, it’s easier to post a great pic when you have plenty of options. I used photo capture from video I took during the New York City marathon as well as taking photo bursts to ensure I had pictures that captured the moment, and not my double chin.

How to Grow Instagram Following?

  • Engage with others – like your followers posts, comment on pictures you like and reply to the comments on your own pics. There are apps that you can use to keep track of this, with automated likes, comments and follows – use these with care. They can be great tools to use when you’re travelling and aren’t able to engage, however I wouldn’t use this for those spammy comments or likes of random pics. Use it sparingly to avoid losing your personal touch with your instagram – thats what keeps you different as a blogger/influencer than a company or brand.
  • Do you. Post pictures that reflect your personality and don’t copy someone else’s.
  • Utilise Instagram analytics to establish the best time to post for your audience, I thought my perfect time was first thing in the morning before discovering that 9pm is actually when the peak of my followers are online – probably accounting for audiences in both the UK and US.
  • Add a Geotag – in general specific geotags get 75% more engagement than those without.

How to increase your instagram following

  • Use hashtags – create notes on your phone with lists of different hashtags that fit the various themes you post about – for me these are currently running, fitness and travel hashtags, however do not just spam hashtag – make sure they are at least relevant to the picture. Additionally, keep a note of brand hashtags from companies that you might be interested in working with and use them where appropriate, it might help put you on their radar. Post your hashtags in the first comment after your caption to avoid making your post look messy or spammy.
  • Tag friends and brands that are in the pic, and other accounts that might be interested in reposting your image – with credit of course!

What are your top tips for Instagram? Any posts you’d like to see on here during Blogmas? 


  1. SJH (@sjhv1)

    This was such a great post and incredibly useful. I love your instagram and always enjoy looking at the photos you post. I would really like to see a post about your Winter running warm-up routine as this is something I always struggle with.

  2. Happy Fit Mama (@happyfitmama)

    Instagram is my favorite outlet on social media. Who doesn’t like to look at pretty pics? That’s quite an amazing feat to gain that many followers in a year. But I see why. Your pics are beautiful and authentic – that’s what people like! Thanks for the tips!

  3. Zoe at Splodz Blogz

    Some great tips here Charlie, thank you. At the start of this year I set myself the goal of reaching 1,000 insta followers by Christmas… er… nearly there (925 right now!). The timing of posts is very interesting – like you I have always assumed that 7am is my best time to post, and I do find images posted at that time get quite a few likes, but 9pm does seem to be when most people are online. I shall have to try it!

    And good luck with blogmas!

  4. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I am all about COLORFUL !!!! That’s how I attract people for the most part! 😀 And I am exactly what you said, authentic! I am not sugar coating anything… I tell it like it is! 🙂 It just so happens that I am a VERY happy person, ha ha!

    • charlotte

      Haha definitely best to be like that, and so glad a happy personality shines through!

  5. Tess @ FitBits

    ahh this is great, which tool do you use for Instagram analytics? I used to use Iconosquare but then they started to charge. I don’t use filters much any more but play with the structure, saturation and brightness/contrast too 🙂 You’re proper killin’ it on Insta, and everywhere else! SKILLZ

    • charlotte

      Thanks Tess!!! I use Instagrams built in analytics, think you just have to make sure you have an email linked to it to access them.

      • Tess @ FitBits

        I didn’t know about this… and I work in social media! Bad Tess…

  6. Tashi Skervin

    These are such amazing tips! I absolutely love your blog and Instagram x

    • charlotte

      Such an easy adjustment to make!!

  7. Myra

    Awesome tips! I’m slowwwwwly growing mine, but it seems like it’s taking forever 😀

    • charlotte

      Slowly but surely – the engagement will come with slow growth rather than rapid fire!


    Hey love, great post! Out of interest, which tool did you use for automating engagement? I love the idea of it and actually think that it’s just clever marketing but I feel like there’s no real way of getting around the liking of spammy pictures… No matter what parameters you set?

    • charlotte

      I used the free trial of Instagress. Used it while I was travelling and didn’t have wifi to keep engagement up and I think it worked although definitely want to avoid spammy comments, likes etc.


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