Instagram. We all have our opinions on it, love it or hate it. We’ve been on the platform for almost a year now. We’ve grown to a decent following, and have worked with many brands during this time. We are, by no means, experts on the matter, but after a long period of high activity on this channel, we’ve learned quite a few things. We’ve been through some good times and some rougher times on the platform. We want to share what we’ve learned with those who want to document their trip in the hopes of becoming the next big social media travel influencer. We don’t have all the answers, but this should help get things started.
We started our Instagram page about a month after leaving on our long-term trip. Our friends back home were begging us to document our travels so they could see where we were and what we were doing.
We started out innocently enough, posting decent enough pictures that we edited through Adobe Lightroom. We just wanted to make them pop a little more. We had very little followers and were doing this more for fun than with the hopes to become content creators (we actually hate the word Influencer, but that’s a story for another day).
Slowly (and yeah, we mean very slowly) our following started to grow. After 4 months, we had about 4,000 followers. We didn’t quite understand why people were following us, but they did. Then, over the course of 2 months, we more than doubled our community, finally reaching 10k followers. That was an awesome milestone! We were so proud, so happy. We had started putting a lot of time and energy into growing our community.
But then, things started to change. We went go from gaining about 700 followers a week to being stuck between 11k and 12k for the last 2 months.
This isn’t the same journey for everyone. Some grow super fast, then stagnate. Others are super slow to grow then gain 50k followers in 5 months. Others just grow consistently throughout time. It’s different for everyone, but most will tell you that these lessons are universal.
Through the ups and downs, we keep sharing our adventures with others, hoping that we can inspire others to get out there and create their own adventure. We also love documenting our adventure through photography. We often take a look back in time to see how far we’ve come.
So here’s what we learned along the way (and are still learning). Hopefully, it will help you get off the ground a little quicker, and get you to where you want to be.
What we learned
You are not alone. Find your niche
When we started out, there were tons of other travel accounts out there. There are new ones popping up every day. Don’t worry, because there is room for everyone in this world (and on Instagram).
So to set yourself apart and find your niche. Be super targeted. If you want to do travel, dig down another two layers. That can mean eco-friendly couple travel, or budget nature travel, or LGBTQ travel with pets. Whatever it is, there is something that makes you unique. Focus on that. Always.
Find inspiration but don’t copy
Pretty simple, no? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. It’s ok to get inspired by your favourite couples out there, those amazing photographers, or the witty captions you read. What’s not ok, is straight up copy them.
It’s ok to find inspiration, in fact, it can help you get started or out of a creative slump. It also helps you figure out what type of pictures you like, what kind of editing you want to do, and what you want to focus on. So take a look at what other accounts are doing, what works and what doesn’t, but be sure you make it unique in your own way.
Consistency is key
We’re actually really bad with this, but we know it’s super important! A very popular couple we know and love posts at the same time every single day. That is commitment, and that’s the right way to do it. Your followers will know that you are serious about the account and your work, and they’ll know to expect to see you at the same time every day.
We try to post every day, but timing gets tricky. We’re travelling and we want to enjoy our trip as well. We won’t turn down dates with friends, or pull our phone out when we’re in the middle of an activity. We’d rather be fully present in the moment.
Find a balance that works for you, look at what times your audience is online, and stick to that timeframe. Be flexible, but have some rigour about it.
Extra tip: To figure out what the best time to post is, make sure you sign up for a business account on Instagram. Use the data to target your posts as much as possible. This will also help when you’re building your media kit.
Content is king
Your pictures, your stories, your captions, everything you put out is your content. It’s part of your brand, and it should be as awesome as you can make it. It’s a process for sure, and you will continuously be learning. Make sure your content is not only good for your standards, but for the standard of what’s online.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t put anything out until it’s perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist. Just make sure it’s the best thing that you can put out at that time. If it doesn’t make you happy or proud to put it out there, skip that day, or post something else.
Extra tip: To make sure your pics are always on point, make sure you edit them with software like Adobe Lightroom. If you want to create a consistent feed, use presets like the ones from Aggie Lal (@travel_inhershoes) or Marie Fe and Jake Snow (@mariefeandjakesnow).
Stories are queen
Often, people focus so much on their feed, they forget to put effort into their stories. Your stories should to have purpose too. They need to show your personality and what makes you unique. Put effort into your stories, and show the real you. Take people on the adventure with you, share candid moments. This is what will keep them coming back. Be consistent with your stories as well!
Extra tip: If you want to create a nice theme through your stories, use an app like Unfold. You can also put hashtags in your stories so more people see them, either through the #Hashtag sticker, or even just as text hidden in your story. Be sure to use the location as well, as that will help get more views and help locate people.
Another extra tip: If you start creating your story, then save it to share later, beware! Pretty much anything you save, like the slider, a poll, heck even hashtags, will not work if you post a saved story later on! So create your caption and save that story, but add anything else that adds engagement just before posting.
Start before your trip
This was one of our big lessons. We should have started creating content before we left on our trip. There are so many reasons for that. You get to learn how to use your gear. You figure out what works and doesn’t for you (in terms of style, poses, editing, all of it!) You get to see if you need more gear. And even more importantly, you start building your community while you’re still at home. Just make sure your content fits with your niche.
Engage. A lot.
The key to succeed on Instagram is no secret. Engage, engage, engage. The earlier you start, the more you do, the better! Some larger accounts say that to grow, you need to spend a good 3-5 hours/day liking, commenting and following other accounts.
To be honest, we know we should have done more of this, especially in the beginning, when the algorithm wasn’t such a *insert expletive of your choice here*! But to be honest, we were having too much fun on adventures to spend that much of our time on social media. But if your goal is to grow quickly, then spend your free time engaging. It’s called social media for a reason. So get social.
And like we said, if you start before you leave, you can do this while you’re watching TV at home, vs taking time away from your adventure, once you’re abroad.
Extra tip: It’s hard to get people to comment on your posts naturally, unless you are super kick-ass (which we’re sure you are!) In the beginning, we would recommend joining 2-3 pods to get more comments (aka engagement). Once your growth starts happening organically, you can drop out of them, as you will be getting regular engagement anyways. Also, when people comment on your posts, be sure to return the favour and like/comment on their latest post too.
Don’t focus on the numbers
Ok, easier said than done. Hell, we still get caught up in the numbers sometimes! And we get it. You put in so much time and effort to create great content. You pick outfits and props, take the pics, edit them, think of captions and engage with others. You want the numbers to reflect your hard work. But the algorithm changes again, and you’re stuck wondering why your numbers are garbage.
So save yourself the trouble. Really! Don’t pay too much attention to the stats. They will get you depressed. And don’t compare yourself to others either. You never know what they are really doing to get their numbers. Did they buy likes, followers or comments? Are they using the right hashtags? Are they spending twice as much time as you on this? Who knows, and really, who cares?! Just work on your own path, enjoy the journey, and stay focused.
The only times we would say to pay attention to those numbers are when a post does really well, or really poorly. Try to draw conclusions so you can either replicate or avoid the same things.
Post only your best
Post only your best work on your feed. Not what you think is ok, but really your best or your favourite. If it’s not good enough, then don’t post, and just engage on that day.
People see so many posts in a day, that to really get the best engagement, you should be posting only your greatest work… or work that makes you happy!
It’s a lot more work than you think
We totally thought we could put some hashtags up, take good pics and grow a following magically. Nope! It’s a lot of work. Like a lot!
We’re not just talking about the Instagram part, but all of it. If you want to have a blog and a Pinterest, that will take a lot of time. If you want to work with brands, you’ll need to build a media kit. You’ll need to reach out to a lot of brands who often won’t answer you. Reaching out and sending personalized requests takes time, effort and grit.
Then, once you get a collaboration, the work doesn’t stop. You have to shoot, edit, put together what you promised the brand and send a report of your results. It’s a lot of time and effort, but if you enjoy it, it’s totally worth every minute of it.
If you’re not in it for the long-term, or to monetize your account, then just stick to the parts you enjoy, and focus on those.
Extra tip: When brands do start wanting to work with you, choose wisely. There is no need to push products or brands you wouldn’t use in real life. So stay true to who you are, and use your “influence” for good. The perks may seem enticing, but don’t sell out your community for a quick pay-check.
Keep learning and evolving
Don’t get comfortable. Ever! Always look to perfect your skills. Whether it’s your photography, your captions, your editing, your poses, whatever. There area ton of sources out there to help you. Look for the content creators you like and soak in their knowledge. It will only help you grow as a creator, and keep your material fresh.
Have fun with it
This is our #1 rule. Just have fun with it! Don’t let it get too serious. Don’t get into arguments because of it. Don’t let that famous Instagram shot be the only purpose for your trip.
The day you stop having fun, you need to re-evaluate what you’re doing and how you can make this fun again. And if you can’t find the fun in it anymore, maybe it’s time you stop…
Have no shame
We’re not talking about getting naked, but if that’s your thing, go for it. We’re not saying it’s ok to break the rules either, cause you should never “Do it for the ‘Gram”. We’re talking about taking pictures in front of people.
It’s pretty awkward to set up a tripod in a crowded place, and start posing in front of strangers. Like the time a security guard followed us around and stood 3 feet from us while we were shooting… AWKWARD!
People will stare, they will ask questions, and give you weird looks. Just ignore them and have fun with it.
Make friends with other couples
This is probably the best part of Instagram: being able to connect with people. Being a content creator on Instagram is not a competition. Don’t push anyone down. Seriously, there is room for everyone on the platform and that’s pretty awesome.
Make friends with others, because the travel life can sometimes get lonely. It’s fun to meet Insta-friends around the world. When times get tough, or you need some advice, you can have a support system around you. A bonus is that you can have friends (and places to crash) all over the world!
Diversify your portfolio
We were lucky that pretty early on in our journey, we met an awesome, pretty famous Instagram couple. They were kind enough to share some knowledge that was passed on to them by another wise blogger. And we’re passing it on to you now. Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket, i.e. Instagram.
They told us to focus on our blog, because that’s a piece of the internet we actually own. When wise people talk, we listen.
From then on, we focused more of our energy on the blog, not forgetting IG completely, but not putting in as much time and effort into it. We also starting building our audience on Pinterest.
We’re really happy we took this piece of advice. We’re happy Instagram gets us to work with amazing brands, companies and hotels, but with the ever-changing algorithm, we’re using it more as a media channel for our blog. If Instagram wants you to pay to get your content seen, and they are acting like a media outlet, then we will treat them like one!
The blog isn’t for everyone. You really need to enjoy writing and have to find your niche there too. If that’s not your thing, go for a Youtube channel, or become a Pinterest guru. Just focus on the things that bring you joy. And if you just want to post pics on Instagram, then do that.
So there it is, all the advice we wish we knew before we got started. It would have helped manage our expectations and helped us avoid some important mis-steps. But like we said, it’s a process, and for the most part, we’ve been enjoying it.
If you want even more tips from some of our favourite Instagram couples, you can check out their wise words here.
Is there any advice that you got that could help others? What’s your favourite tip? Let us know in the comments!
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