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7 Food Blogger Tips for Efficient Instagram Engagement
Are you a food blogger looking for tips on how to use Instagram for your business? Are you wondering how to grow your Instagram account without losing your mind to the follow / unfollow crowd? In this blog post, I explore ways to be efficient on Instagram to promote your blog so that you spend your time doing what you do best – creating new recipes for your food blog.
7 Food Blogger Tips for Efficient Instagram Engagement
A few months ago, I was sitting at my computer trying to write a blog post about pesto sauce. I was having a bit of writer’s block in the sense that I like to share fun and interesting facts when I’m working on a recipe and I was coming up empty. When this happens, I find often find it’s a good idea to do something else for a little while and then come back to writing. So, every 2-3 minutes, I would pick up my phone to see if someone…anyone…had liked the post I had made to Instagram a few hours earlier.
At the time, I had less than 10k followers on Instagram. I had had my vegan recipe account for about a year and I watched my follower count like a hawk. This many follows. That many unfollows. Wait as second…WHO unfollowed me? I’m going to unfollow them back. And on and on and on.
On this day though, I finally had my moment. The moment where I realized that I was letting Instagram be the tail that wagged the dog. The dog, of course, being my blog that never quite got enough attention because I was too busy counting follows and unfollowing those creeps that play the follow / unfollow game. You all know that game, right? I hate that game.
Deciding to Use Instagram as a Business Tool
Anyway, on this day, I decided to learn how to use Instagram as a business tool and stop using it as a form of entertainment. (Actually, I was inspired by Food Blogger Pro’s opinion on limiting your time on Instagram. If you haven’t checked out their courses, you should!). And, you know what, I grew three sizes that day. Well, not that day exactly. But I made the commitment to stop grazing on Instagram in November 2019. It’s now February 2020 and I’ve more than doubled my following and I’ve increased my engagement significantly. This, all by focusing on how to be efficient on Instagram and then sticking to the plan.
The plan, of course, is a series of tips about how to grow on Instagram that I’m about the share with you. Before I get started though, I want to talk about what this blog post covers (and what it does not). First, I’m a firm believer that there is no silver bullet. Growing your Instagram account for your food blog takes a lot of time and effort. There are many pieces to the puzzle. This piece is designed to help you be more efficient with your engagement. Other pieces, like getting feature account attention, using promotions, creating great captions, etc. are all good things too. And, I will cover them, just not in this post. (Psst…this is your cue to sign up for my Confessions of a Food Blogger newsletter so you know when those pieces become available).
How to Use Instagram Like a Food Blog Boss Tip #1: Stop Grazing on Instagram!
I use this word, grazing, very intentionally. You know this behavior. You pick up your phone and just start swiping your thumb, scrolling through everyone’s posts wondering why (why!?) they’ve got 30k followers to your 1,200. Your photography is good and your recipes are inventive. Your hashtags are on point. So, what then, IS TAKING SO LONG?
You need to stop doing this immediately. Scrolling idly is a huge time suck. Before you know it, you’ll have blown an hour (or more) and gained next to nothing except a lower self-esteem and a lot frustration. It’s also a huge distraction from doing what you do best – which is to create new content and new recipes for your food blog.
Tip #2: Find Your People
If I know you (and I’m sure I do because I’ve been there) you probably have upwards of 1,000 accounts that you follow. I’m sure you’ve acquired these in an effort to hang on to every person who extends you the courtesy of following you. You’re afraid that if you unfollow them, they’ll unfollow you back. Guess what? They probably already have.
Gaining followers by playing the “I’ll follow you, if you follow me” game is painful. And, you know, in the (cyber)sense of the word, it’s also a bit hurtful. What you need to do is find people like you. Smaller accounts with good, quality content that you actually enjoy. Like their images. Leave them a comment. And then do it again the next day. Chances are, over time, these people will like your images and comment back in return. This behavior builds you a loyal tribe. And that loyal tribe, those people who are giving you content to engage with and then engaging back, is making the Instagram algorithm happy. Think about it: whatever the actual algorithm is, Instagram is a platform that needs engagement to work. It only makes sense that thoughtful, genuine engagement will lead to success on Instagram.
How to Use Instagram Like a Food Blog Boss Tip #3: Make a List and Then Check It Twice (a Month)
I have a list of 300+ accounts that make up my tribe. This list is divided into two groups: (1) the team players, and (2) new accounts that I think might be team players. I genuinely enjoy each account’s content, but (but) I do not genuinely enjoy taking the time and effort to engage with someone who won’t take the time and effort to do the same for me. Yes, this is a bit tit for tat. But engaging on Instagram takes a significant amount of time and it just makes good sense to spend your time and energy on people who want to be a part of the community. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. There are accounts that I follow and engage with who just don’t engage back, but I might find their content really valuable or I recognize that they’re a huge account and there’s just no possible way to get them to notice me (at least yet).
Tip #4: Be Genuine and Generous with Your Tribe
My list (and, yes, I really do have a list. It’s a Word.doc) includes each account owner’s name right after the name of the account. Here’s an example:
When I engage with these accounts, I use the person’s first name. As in: “This tofu bowl has me swooning! Loving all the veggies in there. Nice work Kate!” And, while I had to start with each person’s name in parenthesis in my list, I don’t really need it anymore. This is because I’m actually getting to know people. And, it’s really lovely, actually. It makes the time that I spend on the Instagram platform feel enjoyable. In fact, there are two or three account owners that I chat with on the phone regularly. It doesn’t have to be an impersonal place and the more personal you make it, the more rewarding it will be.
Oh, and if you don’t have your first name in your own bio, you need to add it for this to work. Pronto.
How to Use Instagram Like a Food Blog Boss Tip #5: Share the InstaLove
You know Instastories, right? Use them to show your tribe that you love them. Congratulate another account on a milestone (yay for 10k!) or give them a shout out for getting a feature on a larger account. I’ve seen members of my tribe agree to try and share each other’s recipes – a really cool way to generate new content. However you choose to do it, be generous and genuine!
Tip #6: Cull the List of Accounts You Follow
As you refine your tribe, start culling that list of people that you follow. If you have 100 accounts that you meaningfully engage with and that meaningfully engage with you, there’s absolutely no need to follow 1k.
I did this by checking each account that I followed. More often than not, that account had either already unfollowed me or they hadn’t posted in 6 months. These are the accounts you want to unfollow yourself. But, and this is a huge BUT, you have to do this slowly. I did ~20 accounts per day. Unfollowing too many accounts too quickly will lead to Instagram temporarily blocking you (at least at the time of this publication). So, each day or two, make an effort to clean up that list.
How to Use Instagram Like a Food Blog Boss Tip #7: Engage and Get Out
I try and make it a point to run through my tribe’s accounts 2-3 times a week. Typically, this is enough to stay right on top of each new post. Yes, it would be lovely if I could be a very prompt responder to each person’s newest post, but I can’t commit to receiving notifications on my phone for 300 accounts. I would never put my phone down and the whole point of this post is to make more time for content creation. That said, I do have about 30 accounts that I do get notifications for and I do try and stay on top of those, but not at the expense of distracting me when I am in the middle of something.
Typically, I just set aside an hour each day, 4-5 days a week and run through my newly curated feed. If I’m having one of those weeks where that’s not possible, I use the search feature and check each account specifically so that I make sure that I touch each one. Yes, I know that that sounds tedious, but remember all the time I am saving my not scrolling aimlessly every day. And when I am done, I’m done. I put my phone down and focus on something else until the next time I’ve purposely set aside to do Instagram engagement. I do not pick it up at every red light (I know you know what I am talking about).
7 Tips for Efficient Instagram Engagement
There you have it: my 7 Tips for Efficient Instagram Engagement! As I mention above – this isn’t a silver bullet. I don’t think that there is one. But, with discipline, you’ll be able to not only grow your Instagram account, but free up more time for creating new content for your blog. So go! Get started!
About Herbivore’s Kitchen
Herbivore’s Kitchen is a blog run by me, a plant-based home chef and aspiring food photographer. I switched my and my family’s diet to a plant-based diet after learning about the health benefits of going vegan. Making this change has prompted a variety of food and holistic-lifestyle related questions that I explore through this blog. I talk about how to pick and prepare the most nutritious foods, to how to reduce waste at home, to how to live a more sustainable lifestyle while on the road.