Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Posing in a San Diego alley, yoga and breathwork instructor Ava Johanna quips on Instagram: “Will the Instagram Yogi Gods shun me for not being on a picture-perfect beach?”
We’re sure she’s absolved; her Handstand in the photo is impressive. But, she raises a good point: When it comes to appeasing the Instagram gods—a.k.a. the all-important algorithms responsible for prominently placing you in followers’ feeds—what works? Nailing this is important because social media done right can help yoga teachers make a name for themselves and engage with their students, all while announcing class schedules and demonstrating techniques.
For Ava Johanna, who has amassed nearly 28,000 followers on Instagram, harnessing social media goes beyond pretty photos posed on beaches. She’s authentic with her followers, sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses into her own life. There’s the ups, like her recent bachelorette party in Tulum. And, the downs, like a post in which she shares what it was like to be homeless as a teenager.
“While imagery is always important, vulnerability has been the greatest asset in connecting with my followers and growing a following on Instagram,” she tells us. “I share the good, the bad, and the ugly in an effort to remove the veil of the ‘highlight reel’ that social media can often create.”
Ava Johanna also shares yoga tutorials and videos, re-visits yoga philosophies through captions, and has an overall goal of empowering students outside the studio. Essentially, she says, her IG feed is a just one more way she can show up for her followers.
Looking to grow your own social media following? Here, we’ve got tips from Ava Johanna, other yoga instructors killing it on Instagram, and digital strategists to help you become successful on social media.
Tip No. 1: Post a few times a week.
First things first, there’s no magic formula that works for everyone on social media because you’ll develop your own brand and audience, says Valentina Pérez, who works in an influencer marketing agency, oftentimes with wellness and lifestyle brands. But, you should be posting at least three to four times per week, says Pérez, who has also built a large following via her online presence as Break Con Valen. “People want to see new content all the time, so being present is extremely important on social media,” she says.
Tip No. 2: Remember to interact with your audience.
The goal is to craft a great post that generates discussions and prompts questions. Then, be sure to answer those questions and respond to comments, Pérez says. Not only will your audience appreciate it, but it also helps the algorithms work in your favor, she explains. Simply put: The more you interact with your followers, the more you’ll show up in people’s feeds.
Tip No. 3: Create a consistent color scheme.
Have you ever looked at an influencer’s Instagram feed and noticed how cohesive the color scheme looks? This is definitely intentional. Ava Johanna suggests using apps like Lightroom to create a preset (which is Adobe’s version of a filter) that you consistently apply to your photos. Doing so will help you develop a consistent aesthetic and color scheme that makes your grid look beautifully curated.
Tip No. 4: Buy a tripod for your smartphone.
You can find some for less than $20 on Amazon, says Ava Johanna. That way, you aren’t dependent on having a photographer. “Set your phone on video,” she says. “Then, record a video and flow through different postures. Watch it back and pause in different poses so you can screenshot photos.” She also likes to make videos of the yoga flows she teaches in class so followers around the world can practice along.
Tip No. 5: Be real.
The most important piece of advice we heard is that you’ve got to keep it real with your audience. Kino MacGregor, an international yoga teacher and author who has garnered 1.1 million Instagram followers, says it’s crucial to not just do things for “likes” or get caught up in gimmicks. Rather, be real, she says: “The thing that you think is too real to share—share that,” says MacGregor, who writes often about her own struggles with body acceptance on Instagram.
Tip No. 6: Add value to social media feeds.
In addition to connecting with your audience by being your true self and being relatable, it also helps to create content that’s shareable, says Erin Motz, the co-founder of Bad Yogi, which offers online yoga classes. Posting something that’s educational and super-cool to know can engage your audience. For example, in her highlighted videos on Instagram, Motz answers questions from her audience, shares stretches for runners, and points out a common mistake people make doing the Cobra Pose. Bad Yogi’s largest social media following is on Facebook, with 122,000 followers, but the most engaged audience is on Instagram, with 45,000 followers. It took her three years to build up those audiences.
Tip No. 7: It’s OK to ask for shares.
Your best bet is to be direct with your audience, says business consultant Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré. “You want shares? You want links? You want people to read your latest post because it’s the best thing you’ve written this year? Then it’s OK to ask, just not all the time,” DeMeré says. You’ll be amazed at how many people are willing to show their appreciation of your work by sharing it—but the key is to ask nicely.
Tip No. 8: Avoid stock art.
You know the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” It can also be worth a thousand page views, if you choose wisely, says DeMeré. So, don’t settle for stock photography. So many businesses do this, says DeMeré, which means you won’t be able to catch people’s attention. You’ll gain far more shares if you use your own images in a how-to post or to help illustrate a story.