Instagram tips: how to be a suggested user

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Last Saturday, rising at dawn to head to Sisterhood, I was greeted by the most coveted of all Instagram messages. The suggested user email. Squee!

instagram suggested user tips

If you can remember back to when you first signed up, Instagram made a few suggestions of accounts to follow to get you started. Most new users click a few that appeal to get a feel for things, and as IG is currently attracting 2.5 gazillion (estimated, by me) new members a day, suggested users tend to see their follower count grow pretty rapidly.
Most Instagram accounts with thousands upon thousands of followers have been a suggested user at some time; originally people were featured for months, even years at a time, but now it’s generally just for a week or two.

For some people it’s the ultimate in recognition, but for others it’s all a bit overwhelming. Here’s an inside view…

The good

  • It is SO MUCH FUN! Your notifications go crazy & checking your ig becomes a bit like Christmas morning every time. Yipee!<\li>
  • A high follower count is generally perceived as a good thing in our Internet age; we all want to engage with and reach as many people as possible, and it’s gratifying and flattering to get lots of likes on something you share. Being a SU definitely brings you this! During my first feature I rose from a few hundred to 35k followers, & this time looks set to have a similar effect.
  • All that extended reach means you can connect with followers and ‘grammers you might otherwise have never found.
  • A high follower count means you’re more likely to be approached by brands to feature products or experiences in your photographs, which can be a lot of fun.
  • Once you have a certain amount of followers, new viewers are more likely to click ‘follow’ too. It gives you a sort of instant validity, I guess.
  • SU’s get a little thank you gift from Instagram – a much-coveted insta-book & sticker pack. Periodically there are other goodies too, like the ‘daily fluff’ calendar for 2015. I’ve also had my username supplied for a few press events, and was even invited to the supercool Instagram Christmas party in London! I count myself insanely lucky to have had these opportunities.

The not-so-good

  • While you’re a suggested user you’re likely to attract more spammy followers, comments & direct messages. Lots of teenage boys will send selfies of their face and messages in different languages – I have no idea why, but they will!
  • After your feature ends, there’s a pretty harsh attrition rate – either as Instagram remove some of those spam accounts, or as people decide they don’t want to follow you after all. It can be a bit of a stinger, especially after the dizzying growth ride of the previous weeks.
  • Many of your legit new followers will never log back into their account. Your follower count looks high, but your engagement rate is much lower in comparison.
  • After the initial elation at getting a SU email, it’s easy to get ‘stage fright’ – suddenly thousands and thousands of people are viewing your photos, where previously it was just people you sort of knew. It can be hard to post anything, for fear of getting it wrong & ‘putting them off’, or it can feel too public and awkward for some.
  • Ultimately some people never really warm to that change, and regret the shift in the dynamic on their account. It can be hard to find time to respond to all the new comments, and keep track of individual people who are interacting with you. It can all feel a bit impersonal in comparison.
  • The good news is that Instagram are aware that insta-fame isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and provide details in the SU email on how to opt out.

instagram suggested user message

How do I become a suggested user?

  • The Instagram team chooses users by hand, so there’s no magic formula. They’re pretty open about what they’re looking for though – their guidelines referencing “beautiful, original images”, “a unique perspective” and “community ambassadors”.
  • The most important thing is to strive to share your best images – if your photographs are strong enough you will eventually be recognised for it.
  • Think about what you post. Take photographs in natural light. Post consistently and often, daily if you can. Use your caption to engage with your audience and share a story or perspective. If you’re a maker or a creative, don’t just post photos of work or products; share your life – that’s what it’s all about! Follow accounts you love, and tell them why you feel that way.
  • Community is at the heart of Insta, and the team are looking for users who reflect this. Get involved with hashtag projects, the WHPs, instameets or groups and challenges that appeal to you. Starting your own hashtag project or ‘call to action’ can be a great way to connect people together and strengthen the community. Respond to comments. Make friends. Be a valuable member of the community, & let other users influence and inspire you.
  • I’m not necessarily saying you have to buy into the Instagram trends to be featured, but I do think there’s something suspicious about an account that has never posted an #ihavethisthingwithfloors. I mean, who doesn’t have a thing with floors? – but the point is, if you’re engaging with others it’s going to show in your feed one way or another.
  • Don’t neglect the bit about “exemplary posts and conduct in line with our Community Guidelines.” Read the guidelines, and the guides for brands. Don’t spam, don’t go overboard with the hashtags or post photographs that aren’t yours (unless you’re crediting, & have a good reason).
  • & finally – and I hesitated about mentioning this – previous suggested users can recommend people to be featured in future. It doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be selected, & I definitely don’t recommend asking big account holders to nominate you – but it seems like a lot of big users don’t realise they can do this, so it seemed worth including here.

What do you think? Would you like to be a SU, or is slower, organic growth more your bag? Have I missed anything off here? & most importantly, do you think Instagram will be ok with me writing all this?!

If you liked this, you should definitely check out:

  • First, congratulations on your feature!! Your feed is definitely one of my favorite, so I’m not surprised that the instagram team also love it too!! ^_^ Your tips are very important and I’m pretty sure that Instagram will be OK with your post 🙂
    This social network is by far my favorite and I tried to post everyday, but failed :/ There are some days when I just can’t get the right photo or I spend the day studying/working and when I notice that I didn’t shoot anything, daylight is already gone :P. One friend adviced me to take as many pictures as I can one free day, Saturday or Sunday, for example, and spend the week posting one at a time. I’ll try to do this, who knows?? Even though I think it’s cheating, but I’ll give it a try.

    • Thanks Andrea!
      I would definitely say to go easier on yourself! Posting everyday is great, but it’s not essential for growth or for your enjoyment of instagram. Much better to just post your best stuff in a way that feels natural to you – even if that’s just one or two a week!
      I have the problems of daylight in winter too. It’s also worth taking a fresh look at your day and experimenting with photographing your study and work. You might surprise yourself! 🙂 x

  • mia

    Congratulatios! Your account is definitely without fail beautiful; it makes me happy . Thanks for sharing your tips again! Have a lovely weekend!

    • Oh thanks Mia! What a huge compliment! Have a lovely weekend too xx

  • Congratulations from me too. Can I ask just a quick question… although I’ve been on instagram for a while, I’m pretty new to the blogging (I’m more about photographs than writing). Can I ask which came first, your blog or you instagram account?

    • Hi Fiona! Thank you so much.
      Like you, my instagram really came first – I started this space as a bit of an overspill for my instagram thoughts! Photographs are almost a blog post in themselves, so I definitely think you should give it a go! X

      • Thanks very much Sara. Keep up the good work. xx

  • Gem Davis

    Great post, I didn’t really know all that much about suggested users, so this was really helpful! And congratulations on becoming one.

    I don’t see why Instagram would have a problem with you writing this, if more people try to post better photos and be a part of the community that’s got to be good right?

    Thanks for sharing :).

    • Thanks Gem! So glad it was useful. I like your thinking & hope you’re right – I’m such a big instagram fan, & hope that comes across! 🙂

  • Rachael Smith

    So great to get a bit of insight, I’ve seen it happen to quite a few of my insta-friends now and often wondered what it would be like. I always feel a bit sad when they stop posting or post way less, but I’m not convinced I’d be any better! Glad you are enjoying it though! It’s well deserved xxx

    • Perhaps one day you’ll find out for yourself Rach! Glad my bit of insight was useful x thanks for the comment – always lovely to have you here! x

  • Annetta Bosakova

    It depends on what account. If my personal when to the suggested list, not my cup of tea, but if my ‘creative’ account went on the suggested list of be over the moon! It seems like all my IG friend got suggested but me. Makes me feel left out, lol. I’m still happy with my 36k without being on the list so can’t complain! Plus, we’ll be traveling in an airstream next month so I know my followers will skyrocket on their own. I just truly enjoy Instagram.

    • 36k without being on the list is immense! Perhaps Instagram think they already featured you & don’t realise? 😀 Agreed that the airstream will be a big crowd pleaser – looking forward to seeing more! S x

  • Esther Pulcipher

    Of all the instagrammers I’ve come across, you remain one of my favorites. 🙂 Your photos are always so inspiring to me and I appreciate the honesty in all of your blog posts. I’ve definitely appreciated all of your tips. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your insight and tips!

    • Awe Esther, that’s really made me smile! What a compliment. Thanks for your lovely words xx

  • I am so glad I came across your instagram and blog! Its so inspiring…for the longest time I was just using my instagram to make my pictures look prettier! But after coming across people like you…I’m trying to make a story on my feed of my life…Thank you again for all the tips you post! 🙂
    Do check my feed whenever … https://instagram.com/thefashionmommy/ Would love to hear how to get better feedback from you! Have a great day 🙂

    • Oh thanks so much for all your kind words, Sumedha! A story of your life… that’s the perfect way to describe it! I’m loving the little glimpses into your world on your feed – especially those gorgeous littles! You have a really nice mix of subjects too. Have you seen my post about using VSCO to curate your gallery? I think you might find it really useful to match your tones this way, so all your whites match and make your gallery look really cohesive 🙂 Sara x

      • Thanks Sara…for stopping by on my feed! 🙂 I’m waiting to get my new Iphone soon to start working on VSCO…
        Keep up the wonderful work and keep inspiring!Sumedha.xx

  • Happysnappynappydays

    Thank you for this post. I’ve been following this series (and your instagram account) avidly. Love your work! If you get time (and I know you are crazy busy, so no pressure!) and only if you dont mind, I’d love some feedback on how I could improve my account aslo. Eeek. I’m embarrassed to have asked! But I really do value your insights https://instagram.com/you_me_and_two_shorties/

  • Wow well done! I’m sure I’ll never be one as it’s mostly photos of my daft cat Percy (@izzieobrien if it’s your sort of thing haha) but I love instagram just for sharing and seeing lovely photos. x

  • TheDaydreamerDiary

    Congratulations dear Sara! Such a pleasure to see your talent and dedication rewarded. I have to admit, it sounds daunting to be a suggested user… But that’s me being scared of pretty much everything around me, right…?! 😉 Have a beautiful, creative week!

  • Awesome distinction, congrats!!! And great write-up about the value of community and how to create stand-out content. Being on the other side (I work at FB), I think that your post is perhaps the most valuable, most genuine one I’ve read about how to be recognized on the IG platform. Kudos!

    xo,
    lauriel
    https://instagram.com/EyeForEleganceOfficial

  • I was just searching about SU and came across this post. Congrats, well deserved and your honest experience on being a SU both positive and negative is really helpful. I’m hoping one day to get on the list as well 🙂 http://instagram.com/sametomorrow

    Best,

    Adam

  • I hadn’t even really realised that this was a thing that could be had! I’m never quite happy with my instagram but hopefully someday I’ll find my groove and it would be fabulous to be an SU!

    http://www.hollysparkle.co.uk

  • In my dreams…I am obsessed with Instagram but don’t get many followers. I shed a tear every time I lose one D-:

  • Jeanne’s Stylebook

    thanks for the post. I’m a fashionblogger and for me it’s quite important to get many followers, because of the reason you wrote in your post 😀 and well..it’s just awesome having many followers 😀 So I’d love to be a SU! Would you maybe suggest me? 🙂 instagram.com/jeannesstylebook/

  • Rida Suleri-Johnson

    I’ve only just seen this!

    Yay for you for being an SU!!

    I totally get what you’re talking about now having been sent that super exciting message from the Insta team!

    I’m finding it a strange experience and amazing but a little bit disconnecting too.

    But I’m planning to get who I follow under control so I can gather my thoughts and ideas together and connect with amazing people better again.

    I find it hard and feel bad when I can’t reply to every comment on every picture anymore because of being so busy with Zora or just wanting to do nothing when she’s asleep! Hehe.

    But I love the community and I’ve made friends through it. Most of all I have met amazing mamas and women! Inspiring, talented, funny, wonderful and it’s helped me to connect with the creative side of me that I love!

    I do feel a bit daunted by the new followers but also a little freer! Strange! Xx

  • I’m so happy I found this post, Sara! I woke up this morning to the suggested user message & thousands more followers than I’d had the night before (my account was in the hundreds last night) – it’s surreal! But I didn’t really know what it meant or what to expect, so I did a search & happened upon this post (though I already follow you on twitter & LOVE your blog). I’ve loved reading your insight & it’s great to know that I’m not the only one who gets a bit jittery when this happens to them! Thanks for keeping it real with us. (& your photos are stunning! Always.)

  • Hi I’ve just been featured a second time and wondered how long your recent SU experience lasted. Back in 2013 I was featured for 2 weeks but not sure if this is always the case. Loved this post and your honest insight . X Becky

  • Love these kind of posts! 🙂 every instagrammer’s dream! Although I sometimes think my account is too much my blog to get featured if that makes sense, perhaps not enough a story of my life if that makes sense! 🙂 Julia xx

  • Thanks for the great tips! I had no idea that there were WHPs and instameets! I would love to become a featured blog, but I probably need to work on my account a bit more.

    Anne-Sophie – City Cookie x

  • Sara,
    your Instagram feed is one of my favourites ever. I adore that you share your knowledge and abundance with others. Such an honour to be a suggested user! Congratulations xxx
    @sangthebird

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  • I just read through all of your Instagram posts and signed up for your hashtag newsletter and the Insta retreat. Thank you so much for putting in all the effort and time to share all of your insider information! I found your Insta first (linked to by Yes and Yes) and was instantly pulled in by the simple beauty of your gallery. So, so peaceful. Then I saw you had a blog, too, and I’ve been reading for over half an hour now!

    Just thanks! Keep up the great work, and congrats on being totally booked for Instagram mentoring till April! That’s awesome!

    • Thanks Lindsay! Such a lovely comment, and it means a lot. I’m so happy you’re enjoying my stuff – it’s lovely to have you here 🙂 xx

  • Portland Fresh

    This is amazing, thank you so much!!! And congrats on being suggested!! Love your work x

  • Janine Ramos

    these are such great tips! Love them. Thank you. ❤ I’ve been really bummed about my IG lately. Last year I was already getting up to 800 likes and now I can barely get to 300. I know it’s not about the likes because I really just want to put myself and my story out there for inspiration, but the drop does make you think you’re doing something wrong and that your efforts are always never good enough.

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