Instagram has been huge for my business this year. I use it to market and promote my business, as well as document my personal life. In March, I had about 200 followers. Currently (January 2015) I have 3,400 followers and am continuing to grow daily. I get asked frequently how I grew my following in such a short amount of time, and I thought it would be useful to share here. These are a few things I've learned this year.

1. Take better photos.

Stop using the built-in Instagram filters and start editing with VSCO. This is a free editing app that will allow your photos to look much more visually appealing. Read books/blogs/articles, whatever you can get your hands on to become the best iPhone photographer you can be. This is the first step in growing and developing your Instagram presence.

2. Develop a style/theme/brand.

This sometimes happens naturally, and you can look back to what you're already posting to give you some clues as to what you like and the types of photos you're interested in. Post what you want to post, not what you think you should be posting or what someone else is posting.

You don't necessarily have to edit every single photo in the same way, or only post photos within a certain color scheme, but it's nice if you give your followers some sort of consistency, so they know what to expect from your feed. Lately I've been drawn to more de-saturated photos, neutral colors, the top-down angle, and lots of marble backgrounds. Experiment and see what works for you and your style. 

3. Interact with other Instagrammers.

Follow other people and like and comment on their things. Think of Instagram as a tool for connection. Search hashtags you're interested in, chances are you'll have something in common with whoever else is posting about that too, and you'll naturally like other photos on their feed.

4. Learn the art of the hashtag.

4a. Use them strategically. Hashtags are a way to link up your photos to other people's photos. Research and see which tags fit with your brand. Think creatively about how you can add multiple tags that relate to the photo you're posting.

4b. Develop hashtag series. I'm a big fan of the hashtag series. I use them for everything from documenting seasons/holidays (#seidelsgettinfiggywithit) to remembering outfits I put together (#alliewearsthat) to grouping my favorite products and things (#allieshomefaves). I like the organization they provide and the encouragement to take photos that fit within a theme. Plus, followers have an easy way to scroll through like-photos. The one that I am most excited about adding to for next year is #seidelsonthedancefloor ;) 

5. Have fun with it. I use Instagram both for business/brand promotion and as a creative outlet. If you prefer words over pictures, Twitter may be more your style than Instagram. There is no "one size fits all" for business promotion, creativity, or online presence. Develop your own style and see what works best for you.

If you'd like to follow along, you can find me on Instagram @allieseidel