Andy Bell Photography

Instagram – what to do and what not to do…


My Instagram Page

I use and love Instagram. My Instagram page is gaining new followers everyday. It’s not as fast as I would like, but it is steady and the new users are sticking around.

Like most of us, I’ve tried different strategies for building up my following and I’m going to share with you what worked and, maybe more importantly, what didn’t work.

If you’re being successful with some of things that I don’t find effective – good! But they didn’t work for me.

What to avoid

Never pay for users

Services out there tell you that the users you buy are ‘genuine’ and will ‘stick around’. But ‘genuine’ can mean anything – clearly a genuine person set up the account or accounts. But my experience is that these accounts may start to follow you but they never Like any posts or make any comments. They are dormant accounts at best. Over time, these new followers seem to unfollow you or, more likely, Instagram identifies them as fake and closes them down.

As a business I want real followers who can appreciate and (hopefully) purchase some photos. Fake followers may make the numbers look good but they are useless from a business point of view.

Never use ‘bots’ to try to get new followers on Instagram

These ‘bots’ try to get you new followers by Liking posts that meet whatever criteria you specify and then, hopefully, people will notice you like their posts and will follow you. To be fair, these bots do yield new followers but they have a downside.

No matter how much I tweaked the settings, the bots always managed to Like inappropriate posts. I was targeting posts that featured the UK Lake District and Landscape Photography, based on the hash tags used on the posts. The flaw is easy to spot – people put hashtags against posts that have nothing to do with posted photo in order to gain more views.

So, I found myself having Liked dozens of pictures that simply didn’t fit my brand and would make anyone who was seeing what I had Liked wonder if I was actually interested in photography or could tell a good photo from a bad one. I ended up having to unlike dozens of photos and even block some users whose pages were clearly inappropriate but the bot had liked dozens of their images.

I also found out later that using bots violated Instagram’s terms so I was fortunate not to get banned myself.

There are services where real people seek and find posts to Like on your behalf. But these services are expensive. Additionally, whilst they will probably avoid Liking clearly inappropriate posts, how do I tell them to only Like photos that are of a high technical and creative value? I usually can tell at a glance if a photo is worthy of a Like but that’s because I know what I like and have spent decades viewing thousands of photos. I doubt they’d be able to do it properly.

What may work

Boosting posts

Using Instagram’s Boost post facility definitely gains your images a lot of likes. Sometimes hundreds. And it doesn’t violate their terms and conditions, so it’s safe to use this method. To be honest, I’ve not found that it generated many new followers or sales. It can be an expensive way to increase the number of Likes for a post…

What does work


The page is only as good as the content! So, post regularly and make sure it is high quality. How regular should you be? At least once a day.

Content schedulers

These are good tools – I spend an hour or so a week preparing posts for the following week using a tool called Later. It is free for 30 posts a month and not too expensive for more regular posts. I just sit at my PC and prepare the pictures and the comments and upload them to Later. Later (pun intended) Later posts the image and caption to Instagram. I still have to edit it to add a location, but it only takes a second or two.

‘Like’ and comment on relevant posts

Now that Instagram allows you to follow hashtags, this is simple. I, for example, follow #landscapephotography. I spend a few minutes each day seeing what photos have been posted using this hashtag and I manually Like appropriate ones and try to make a positive comment about it. I am careful to only Like images that are of a high standard. Therefore, it takes a bit more time than using a bot but I don’t get any inappropriate Likes.

This strategy works –  people in general reciprocate good deeds and are interested when they see I’ve Liked their post. They check out my page and I often get new Likes and followers simply from Liking and commenting on some of their pictures.

Follow back when you can

I always check the Instagram page of new followers and, if their content is suitable, then I follow them back. By suitable I mean one that harmonises with my brand and contains high quality content.

Unfollow unfollowers

Sadly, some accounts just follow you hoping that you’ll reciprocate and then they quickly unfollow you. That’s very discourteous behaviour and they are hoping that I wont spot it and so they’ve got a new follower for free, as it were. There are may apps available that will tell you who has unfollowed you – I use an app called Followers on my iPhone and immediately unfollow anyone who does this to me.


There’s no substitute for high quality content and manually building up a following by liking appropriate content. Automatic Like services and buying followers is a waste of money. Instagram’s own Boost Post facility is OK, but it can get expensive quickly so it needs to be used carefully.

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