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Christmas Gift Guide

Go beyond the inspirational quote

Skip filters

Copy your competitor

Copy hashtags, too

Make things clear

Your bio matters

Use linktree

Make it a business account

Statistics

Be prepared

How to plan

Planning your posts is huge

Find your why

Create a theme

Use the Lux

Brand shoutout

Interact with others

Do a Instagram desktop upload

Keep stories short

I just broke the 1,000-follower barrier on my Instagram account, so I thought it would be a good idea to get -- and share -- some tips from some Instagram mavens that know their stuff. Here are some of their best tips for editing photos, engaging followers, getting new followers and more.

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Kathrin Zenkina, master mindset coach and Instagram rock star advises to focus on giving value. "Instagram has plenty of pretty (and sometimes not-so-pretty) photos to go around. But are you giving your followers something to take away beyond the photo? As a mindset coach and success strategist, even when I am just posting an inspiration quote for my followers, I make sure to go beyond that in the caption. What can I write below the photo to want others to tag their friends in the photo, or even better, repost it? Growth happens fast when your followers have something to gain from following your account!"

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Adam Martin is a physical trainer that takes the time to perfect his photos. "I always edit my photos myself, and I never use the filters because I find that it makes the pictures look generic, which makes you look lazy. I edit them based on the quality of the original image. For example, if the picture is a little blurry, the first thing I do is increase the structure and sharpen it slightly. Be careful with the sharpen feature because it can make a picture look pixilated if it's already heavily edited."

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Bonny Albo has not one, but three Instagram accounts, each with thousands of followers. To build your following, Albo says to copy your competitor. "Go look at your biggest competitor on IG. Now look at their most recent post," said Albo. "See the first commenters? Go follow and engage with those folks. They're your target market and usually heavy IG users. Do this with all your competitors and you'll have a highly targeted, highly responsive and highly engaged group of followers."

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"For my hashtags, I started out looking at similar accounts in my niche (fitness, bodybuilding, food and travel), and I created a hybrid of hashtags from the most popular accounts and also from the ones that I know work well, said Martin. "That part takes just trial and error!" 

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Albo also explains that to get followers, people need to know what you're about. "Make sure your IG handle easily explains what you do," said Albo. "When scrolling through people that follow me, for instance, if I can't tell what their feed is about immediately (and relevant to my niche), I don't follow. Use this to your advantage and make your handle abundantly clear."

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Zenkina agrees that your bio is important. "Your bio is like a 'love at first sight' section of your Instagram. Give new followers a taste of your personality here, what kinds of topics they can expect you to post about, and feel free to add some emojis to make it pop. Don't forget to add your link in your bio as well. This is where the magic happens when converting followers into buyers or new emails on your email list."  

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Frustrated that you can only post one link at a time in your bio? Use the website Linktree, advised Zenkinna. The site helps you make a "link hub" that you can put in your bio.

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Like me, Martin has a business account so he gets special tracking features. He can track characteristics of his followers, times of day that they're most active and more. "I can plan my posts around their activity," said Martin. You can make your IG account a business account by going to Edit Profile and tapping the Instagram Business Tools option.

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Once you have a business account, just tap the chart icon at the top of your profile screen to take a look at how many people looked at your Stories, how many followers you gained each day, promotions and more.

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Emily Cromwell, an illustrator with vibrant, coordinated images says that planning ahead is the key to running a great account that people will follow. "The biggest tip I could give when it comes to Instagram is to make a plan of what you want to post at least a week in advance. By doing so, you give yourself an ample amount of time to get your photos together, write up captions, plan your hashtags, and by planning your posts, you're never left without any content when the time comes to post."

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How does Cromwell do it? "I always write up my Instagram plan for the week in the 'Notes' app on my iPhone.  I've found that since doing so, not only am I more prepared, but I've also started gaining more followers by regularly posting quality and planned-out content."

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Martin agrees that planning is kind of a big deal. "When someone has 15 selfies in a row with one gym picture and then 10 pictures of food, it looks like that person is using their Instagram page as more of a Pinterest and less of a page to appeal to a specific audience," said Martin. "I try to rotate my pics as much as possible so that I have a general selfie showing a part of my day, either a funny or a nutrition/science-related meme, a group picture every now and then, a pic with something cool like an animal or a trip, a competition pic, and a gym selfie. I try to keep a rotation so my audience doesn't get bored and unfollow me."

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To get followers and engagement you need to figure out your message. Helene Sula, a teacher on the art of instagraming told me, "Find out your why. Why should someone follow you on Instagram? If you can truly answer this you will be shocked at the direction it takes your account. You'll discover your "sweet spot" and start gaining engagement and followers when you have this nailed down." 

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"If you're a business, a personal brand, or using your Instagram page for business of any sort, know that your followers expect some consistency," Zenkina told me. "Just as a business in real life is expected to be consistent in its colors, fonts, and images, your Instagram should too. Don't go overboard with this, but do keep in mind that if your logo has the colors pink and white in it, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have lots of images with pink and white. If you're a quote-based Instagram profile, keep in mind your fonts. Be consistent in as many places as possible to create a visually appealing theme that your followers can expect to find when coming across your posts."

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Martin advises using Instagram's Lux tool, which is the black-and-white sun icon in the middle of the top of the screen. "Just taking it either up or down is a great finishing touch, but not all pictures need it. My editing is fairly simple, and I think that less is really more. When someone can tell right away that a photo has been edited, it makes you lose credibility. It shows that you're either not really good at improving the quality of your photos or that you don't care what they look like." 

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Sophia Chang teaches people how to master crafting your digital presence on Instagram. She says that hashtags are a great way to put yourself on the map. If you're posting about a brand, make sure to include their hashtag in your post to get noticed and followed.

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Chang also says that it's important to communicate with your followers and others on Instagram, even if it's just with an emoji. Then again, don't be too thirsty, either. Don't go on other people's pages and act needy. Keep it cool, but friendly, and people will follow you and stay followers. 

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CNET's own Sharon Profis, likes to upload images from her dSLR camera to Instagram using a little trick with this little workaround. Using images from your camera instead of your phone can give your IG a professional look, especially if your phone's camera is crap.

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Most of the Instagramers I talked to keep typically keep their Stories short. "I keep my Stories under five posts long," said Martin. "No one wants to click through 20 pages of chatter, so always make it interesting!" For more tips on using Instagram stories, read Instagram Stories: Tips for using Instagram's photo story feature.


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