My 10-Step Guide to Instagram Success and Sustainable Growth

Melanie Boyden
11 min readApr 20, 2022


Do articles like this still need to be written? Do we still need to know what works on Instagram or not? This isn’t an article for people who constantly DM me saying, “Post what you like! It’s your feed!” I’m guessing if you’ve still clicked on this article after reading the title, you are struggling to find your way on Instagram.

Every year it gets harder and harder to crack Instagram. The platform has become saturated, there are now over 1 billion monthly users all trying to be seen and heard.

Instagrammers are becoming experts with their content with endless videos of hacks, DIYs and tutorials in the form of a Reel, so a photo of a velvet sofa that used to get over 10,000 likes is now competing with another “how to” panel a wall.

Instagram has become quite a competitive place and with TikTok now threatening to steal its Social Media crown, how can you become an influencer in 2022 and make a living from it? Some of these steps might seem a bit obvious but I’ve delved in a little bit deeper to give you some more insight and make you think a little more about what content you are creating.

Even I learnt some new things whilst researching this post!

1. Optimise Your Instagram Account

Brand identity is so important and often gets overlooked on Instagram. This is where your bio can help. Make sure your username really reflects what you are about and try to keep symbols or underlines to a minimum, to help keep your name search friendly.

Enter as much information into your bio that Instagram will allow, this is also searchable and will help your Instagram account be seen.

2. Instagram Content Strategy

OK, this sounds like it’s all getting a bit serious from the off, but bear with me. As you probably know, you can’t just post a photo or Reel and watch the new followers and likes come in, you have to know what you’re about because if you don’t know, how are your new potential followers going to know?

Have you got something to sell? Do you love DIY? Is your passion fashion? The most important thing from the very beginning is to find a niche that you love and stick with it.

Once you’ve decided on your niche, check out the best posts of what other people are doing in your niche. When I first started out on, I quickly realised that full room shots worked well and dark interiors were huge and inspiring. I also noted what hashtags the big accounts were using and added them to my caption.

It is more difficult than ever to get noticed on Instagram these days. Even I’ve noticed a huge downturn in likes and follows and this is because it has become completely saturated and nothing to do with the Instagram algorithm. And maybe it’s just because there are a lot of other people creating better posts than myself!

If you are struggling to gain followers or have just started out on Instagram, you have to work that little bit harder to be seen and noticed. Try not to follow the crowd and be unique as possible with your content, Instagram will thank you for it.

3. Instagram Aesthetics

Carrying on from content strategy is aesthetics, the two go hand in hand. When planning out your content, have a really good look at the aesthetics of your feed, it is absolutely key! People are busy and you’ve probably only got about 3 seconds to convince them when they look at your feed whether they want to follow you or not.

Plan your feed in advance and make sure it flows beautifully. You can use apps like Preview or Later to plan out your grid and move the images around so they sit nicely alongside one another.

Finally, when it comes to aesthetics, think about the image itself! I still see so many wonky and blurry images on Instagram and the owner moaning that they’re not getting many likes or follows. Use the grid on your camera on your phone, make sure there’s enough light and use a photo editing app like VCSO or Lightroom to make the image sharp and not too saturated.

4. Instagram Reels

Probably the most important element of Instagram now is Reels. We’ve all moaned about it, we’ve all had to become videographers and learn how to edit and use trending music, but we’re not all happy about it! As Instagram desperately tries to keep it users and not lose them all to TikTok, Reels is not only here to stay, but instrumental to Instagram.

The key to getting on well with Instagram is to get on board with new features. Instagram has put Reels at the forefront of the platform and they are consistently pushing users to create, browse and share Reels. Reels has its own separate tab and takes centre stage in the navigation bar.

Instagram is trying to rival TikTok and instead of just seeing videos from people you follow, you can see Reels from all accounts. This means that when you create a new Reel, it has a serious potential of going viral and if it does, bring 1000s, if not 10,000s of new followers your way. A single static post will never be able to rival this.

My top tips for Reels are –

  • Use trending sounds
  • Try to keep the majority of your Reels short and snappy as this encourages repeat views and will see your view counter go up faster
  • Use on-screen text where applicable
  • Use keywords and hashtags in your captions
  • Create your video with the Reels function (and never use a video from another social media site as this will include their watermark)
  • Try to add How-Tos or reveals in your Reels making them informative

5. Consistency

This is the biggy! So many people fall into the trap of being disheartened when their posts aren’t doing very well and post less because they don’t see the point. Then, when they decide to give it another go and start posting again, their posts tank.

Instagram loves consistency and followers have to be constantly reminded of who you are.

If you’re only going to show up once a week and then literally disappear again, who’s going to remember you?

Decide on a schedule that suits you and stick to it. I treat Instagram like a job and I tend to take Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays off which works for me.

Don’t give up when it seems that no one is seeing your posts, because more often than not, it’s you, not Instagram! As I said earlier, Instagram is now saturated and it is more difficult to be seen in people’s feeds.

Maybe your feed has become a bit tired and dated? Perhaps you need to produce more video content or talk on stories. There is no getting around it — the people who are doing consistently well on Instagram at the moment are producing viral Reels over and over again, so I know I need to up my game in that department. You have to keep up with what is popular and continue to feed the beast (that is Instagram).

There are plenty of schedulers out there where you could put some time aside and schedule your Instagram posts for the week. You don’t really need to look any further than Facebooks very own scheduler — Creator Studio. Here you can see all your Facebook and Instagram accounts under one page and schedule to your hearts content.

Unfortunately, you have to be persistent. Becoming an influencer isn’t easy and you have to be willing to put the time in which can eventually be extremely rewarding.

6. Create Engaging Captions

Be engaging in your Captions. Give people something to talk about, or a call to action. Your beautiful photos and Reels have drawn people to your feed, it’s your captions that will keep people coming back.

Make sure you make the most of your first sentence to get people to stop scrolling and want to read more. Instagram shortens your caption after the first 2nd or 3rd line so it’s really important to get that first sentence drawing people in. Offer information, a how-to or anything that can help educate or inform your audience so that they share or save your post.

One of the best ways to get people to engage with your caption is to provide a Call to Action or CTA. Try to link it to your image, eg: if I were to put up a picture of my living room saying I wanted to refresh and paint the walls, I could ask my followers what colour they think I should go for? Or, it could be something as simple as “How was your weekend?”

The most important thing about your caption is authenticity, be yourself! It is very difficult to keep a pretence up and be something you are not. Tell a story, but in your own voice. Sometimes I find it easier to write my caption away from Instagram so I am not distracted or bombarded with notifications whilst I’m trying to get my point across!

7. Hashtags

Which leads me onto hashtags! Are hashtags still relevant? Absolutely!! Hashtags are still as important now as they have ever been and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t listen to anyone who says “the rumour is hashtags are dead”. No, they’re not. There is no rumour and it’s just clickbait. Unless you are Kim Kardashian and can post a picture of you drinking a cocktail on holiday with no hashtags and 2 million likes, you have to use them and all 30! They are still one of the best ways to get discovered by new followers on Instagram.

Try and mix them up in every post and try to keep the hashtags with over 200,000 uses to a minimum. It is better to use hashtags that are smaller and more tailored towards your niche. I have about 10 firm favourites that I use almost all the time and then I mix it up with other hashtags that are relevant.

If you are stuck for ideas on what hashtags to use, find an image that is similar to yours and has done extremely well with likes and comments and see what hashtags they have used.

8. Build A Community

Your audience is your community and they will be the ones that will keep coming back to comment and like your posts. Make sure that you are producing content that connects with your audience and adds value. Stay authentic and try not to become something you are not.

I like to pop up in my images once in a while, but as the majority of my audience follow me for home inspiration, I can lose a few hundred followers by showing my face! I know that people want to see my gallery walls and kitchen and not me trying to dance to trending music!

Another very important thing when building your community is to connect with other Instagrammers and Influencers. Building relationships with people online can have a really positive effect with your social media experience and overall growth as other Instagrammers are more likely to share your content and comment.

9. Stories

Which leads me nicely onto stories! I was a bit of a late bloomer when it came to stories, I didn’t really enjoy doing them. Neither did I watch many stories of my followers as I was mainly interested in their homes and décor.

However, I have been popping up in my stories more regularly recently and I find I get more engagement and messages from my followers when I do. I think people like to see the person behind the account in stories as this is where the “real” stuff happens.

Interacting with people’s stories is a great way to build a community. Use all the interaction tools that Instagram has to offer like polls, question stickers and quizzes. You are probably more likely to answer a prompt than just send a message. How many times have you seen someone’s image at the top of your feed after you have spoken to them via stories?

Although, I do have to add that stories still seem to be a law unto themselves. I am always reading about how to keep your story views up, from updating them continuously to speaking on camera and adding your location. I find the best way to increase my story views is to let them drop for a few hours so you have no stories live on your feed. This has a significantly better result in pushing your story views up, much better than constantly appearing on camera talking about another décor decision or getting my followers to do a poll!

10. Use Other Platforms

Oh, I know! You’re trying to find your feet on Instagram and now I’m telling you to also create content for other platforms? It is quite easy to get social media fatigue, but this is where a content strategy comes in handy.

TikTok is huge and I am finding myself on it more and more these days. In fact, you can link your Instagram account directly in your TikTok bio and I have found quite a few new accounts recently by seeing their content on TikTok.

When a TikTok video goes viral, it has a direct effect on my engagement and followers on Instagram. This is not vice versa! Instagram’s level of influence, reach and stature in the world seems to be consistently on the decline.

Pinterest is also a massive traffic and referral driver. I probably get more messages from people saying they found my kitchen on Pinterest which led them to my Instagram account more than anything else. Pinterest is also my no. 1 traffic driver when it comes to my blog and easily eclipses all other social media channels.

I cannot emphasize how important it is to get your content out to all platforms if you want to grow your account.

But, Above It All, You Have To Enjoy It!

Yep, it’s really that simple. How are you going to continuously create content, stories, videos and engage with other accounts if you find it all such a bore and time consuming?

I absolutely love interiors, decorating, designing rooms and renovating houses so creating content is something I thoroughly enjoy and I love writing my blog. I am extremely lucky to now do this full time and if you follow these steps, be consistent and put some effort into really curating your feed and bringing value to your audience, it can be extremely rewarding!



Melanie Boyden

I help bloggers & small business owners build a profitable brand by mastering Blogging, Pinterest, Instagram & TikTok. I like coffee & cake

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