Over the last year, I have been responsible for growing 7 Instagram accounts (including my personal IG @debbiediscovers, the Instagram accounts for ColorMeHappy Cosmetics @colormehappycosmetics, @colormehappyambassadors and the official account for the national athletes at the Singapore Sailing Team @singaporesailingteam).

One of my best performing accounts is the Sailing account – in September 2017, we launched the account with 300 followers. As of 28 April, we now have over 7,200 followers, a 23X increase in 6 months.

Here are 13 of my best Instagram tips that I give to my sailors, and that can be applied by anyone who wants to grow their Instagram accounts or look for sponsorship / sponsored products.

1. Set your account to public.

Seems obvious but most of my sailor accounts are private.

2. Optimise your bio for keywords, hashtags and account mentions.

Mentions and hashtags in bio are now clickable. My sailors should use words like: #TeamSingapore #OneTeamSG #AsianGames2018 @singaporesailingteam #Windsurfing #Sailing

To optimise for sponsorship, there are a few ways I look for girls to sponsor on Instagram for ColorMeHappy:

a) They have keywords in their bio (e.g. lipstick, makeup, beauty, makeup artist, MUA, blogger)

b) They use hashtags in their post (e.g. #lipstick, #beautyblogger, #sp, #lbootd, #clozette, #partipost, #sephorasg)

Other sponsors will do the same – we use tools like Iconosquare and Deep Social to search for Instagrammers using keywords in bio and keywords in posts.

3. Optimise your link in bio – i.e. only place you have to link out of Instagram

Use Linktree (free) or elink Link to your personal webpage and your other social profiles, or news articles about you.

debbiediscovers linktree


deborah kay elink.io


4. Use a Instagram planning app

My  #1 favourite is Preview App.  I also like using Later App. Both have free tiers. Preview is perfect for individuals, Later is more appropriate for teams who collaborate on one Instagram account. I use Preview for managing my personal Instagram account @debbiediscovers (plus a few more) and Later App for @singaporesailingteam, @colormehappycosmetics and @colormehappyambassadors. 

Both apps have their plus points: Preview gives you access to Unsplash (free royalty free stock photographs) that you can use to supplement your content.  It also has great image editing features like filters (incredibly useful for creating a cohesive theme if you use the same filter consistently), stickers, text, frames. Later gives you analytics, inbox monitoring and a useful reposting and permissions feature (great if you crowdsource your content like our @colormehappyambassadors account). 

5. Create a visual theme

When you plan your Instagram feed in advance, you can create all sorts of lovely visual themes that will help you attract more followers.

Here is what my Instagram looked like before and after I started using Preview.

debbiediscovers instagram no theme
Inspired by the posts I read on the Preview blog, I introduced a black and white tile theme, which gradually introduced more orange and blue hues.

black and white instagram tile

I then transitioned to an orange and blue theme.

debbiediscovers instagram with orange and blue color theme


For @singaporesailingteam, we post quotes in a diagonal:

diagonal instagram theme


With another account that I manage – I use a black and white theme, and quotes in a column.


For @colormehappycosmetics, we often use a consistent pastel color palettes – blue, pink, yellow.

Colormehappycosmetics Instagram Account


5. Post everyday

Post at least once a day for consistency and maximum engagement. Instagram’s algorithms are a black hole and there is a lot of speculation on how they prioritise your content and show your feed to your followers. However, in my experience, if you post everyday, you establish a rhythm and maximise your engagement. 

6. Make Custom Story Highlights

Use a tool like Canva to make custom Insta story highlights. Here are the highlights I use for @colormehappycosmetics. Each Insta story highlight features pictures of different girls wearing that particular lipstick shade. It’s a great way to showcase how the lippies look in real life, and we get a ton of DMs from ladies commenting on these story highlights on Instagram asking about lipsticks.


colormehappy insta story highlights

ColorMeHappy Cosmetics Insta Story Highlights


7. Post at optimal times – usually mornings 7-9am, noon or evenings 7-9pm.

Apps like Preview and Later will give you optimal time to post. There are also standalone apps like Prime and WhenToPost. To be honest, there are two schools of thought around this. One believes that you should post when more people are active on the platform for maximum visibility. The competing school of thought argues that you should post when there are less people on the platform (so with less competition, Instagram is more likely to show your content to followers who are online).

Whichever school of thought you subscribe to – test and see what works best for you.

8. Post more long, vertical Images

Horizontal images receive on average 9% less engagements than squares, while shots respecting the Instagram vertical dimensions of 4:5 outperform them by 13%. 😱 (Source: Dash Hudson)

9. Share Quotes

My favourite iPhone apps are Adobe Spark Post, Typorama, Legend, Over. You can also use Canva to make them. Quotes tend to get less engagement (likes) than images with faces in them. However, they get bookmarked more, and help to communicate a clear message when people visit your feed and scroll through your images.

10. Write captions that engage

Ask questions to your audience, show vulnerability, share emotions

11. Use Insta Stories to direct people to your latest post

    1. Say comment with 🤡 emoji on my latest post if you’re seeing this from Insta story
    2. Use polls to engage
    3. Create story templates – our sailing story templates get amazing engagement with young sailors in Singapore as well as overseas.

12. Use hashtags 5-30 max

Here’s a killer tip. Save the most frequently used ones as a keyboard shortcut (Go to Phone Settings, Keyboard, Text Replacement. (E.g. I use ##s as a keyboard shortcut to trigger sailing hashtags, ##q to trigger quote related hashtags, ##c for lipstick related hashtags, ##lb for ladyboss related hashtags).

Here are some examples that we use:

Singapore Sailing Team Hashtags

#SailforSG #ItTakesAVillage #MakingWavesTogether #RaisingChampions

Team Hashtags

#sailingteam #teamsingapore #oneteamSG #singaporesailingteam #sgsailing #champs

Asian Games / Tokyo2020 Quotes

#AsianGames2018 #RoadtoAsianGames2018 #EnergyofAsia #RoadtoTokyo #Roadto2020


#wordsofwisdom #SSTquotes #quotesandsayings #inspiringquotes #quotestoliveby


#inspiremyinstagram #meetthemoment #seekthepositive


#sunset_ig #sunrise #instasunsets #sunsetoftheday #incrediblesunsets #sky_perfection #naturesbeauty#sunsetlover #sunsetsniper #enjoythelittlethings


#fitspiration #fitnessgoals #nopainnogain #iworkout #findyourstrong #beastmode #fitnessSG #activeSG #motivation


#sailingphotography #sailingstagram #visualoflife


#sunshine #sunshinetherapy #beachvibes #endlesssummer #oceanvibes #vitaminsea


#saveouroceans #savetheocean #saveourseas #globalgoals #turnthetideonplastic #cleanregattas

Day of Week Hashtags

#MondayMotivation #TuesdayThoughts #WednesdayWisdom #ThursdayThoughts #FridayFun #FridayFeeling

13. Don’t use shadowbanned hashtags

Check for banned hashtags using Ritetag’s free tool. See full list of banned hashtags in Preview’s blog post.

Examples of shadowbanned hashtags include #asia #beautyblogger #iphonegraphy #goddess #ig #sopretty

banned hashtags ritetag tool


That’s it! Those are my 13 tips for optimizing anyone’s Instagram accounts, such that you will get more followers and ultimately sponsors!

Let me know in the comments if you agree, disagree or have any other tips and be sure to check out my Twitter tips too!

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