We love you, but we have to unfollow you.
1. Your Photos are Too Dark, Blurry, or Poorly Angled
We're not all genius photographers, and thanks to the internet, we don't have to be! There are tons of free resources online that teach how to take fantastic photography — or, you can shell out a little for something like Lynda.com, which has video classes to teach all different aspects of phone photography and design (here's a playlist we recommend). The free VSCO app can give you stunning filters (we love a brightened version of F3 for lifestyle photos); and feel free to play around with them to adjust contrast, structure, etc. If your photo is too grainy, use a free app like Adobe Photoshop Express for their "Reduce Noise" feature and more — and that "brightness" button is your friend.
2. You're Not Using Hashtags
Pics with hashtags — or it didn't happen. Use up your 30-hashtag limit by taking time to research what hashtags work best for your theme/industry by checking out other popular photos and what they use (here's a great article from Instagram). Most importantly, add these hashtags as a separate comment (just as you would be commenting on any other photo) and don't include them in the initial photo post text.
3. Not Enough Time Spent "Liking" Others
Take some time every day to click on related hashtags and "like" photos you...well, like. Dozens of them. Be strategic — if you're a local business, search out hashtags for surrounding cities or regions. If you're an organic food brand that sells online, try #eatlocal, #eatorganic, #locavore, etc. and you WILL gain followers. Make sure to also follow people that you want to notice you or potentially do business with, and like 2-3 of their photos when you follow them.
4. Theme? What Theme?
Treat your Instagram page like a gallery. Select your photos in an order that's visually appealing and mixes up your subjects; then, use one consistent filter for all photos. Set up mini photo-shoots to stylize your photos — either with white background using some poster board or a painted piece of wood; hold up a product in bright light against a white wall, exposed brick, or reclaimed wood. Color, brightness, mixing up types of photos: this will make your feed totally follow-able.
5. Your Photos Are Not Photos At All
People use and love Instagram — in a nutshell — because they want to look at the pretty pictures. If you don't offer pictures they want to look at, then you're doing Instagram wrong. Of course, once in awhile you'll want to post an inspiring quote or share a promotional poster for an event you're doing — but overall, 99% of your feed should be comprised of bright, clean, relevant photography. Stay away from posting too many photos with text, or with too much text. And create your own pics — don't just borrow.
6. Please, Stop the Flood!
If you're posting multiple photos in a row, you're spamming people's Instagram feed — and, most likely, annoying them. Be very selective about your photos and keep at least an hour between posts, and limited to 2 or 3 spaced-out, different pics a day. In the case of an event you're covering, you can post more often, but be smart about spacing them out.