7 Ways To Increase Your Chances of Getting Followed Back on Instagram

Following Symbol InstagramOne thing that’s intrigued me since I started on Instagram is the sheer number of follow/unfollows that flood through my account on a regular basis.  I’m not talking about the ones that retreat gracefully after a few months, but those that bail after a couple of days and I find myself asking the question – what do these users want? Connection? Numbers? Recognition? I’m sure that these experiments work occasionally, but the people fly in and out of my page so quickly that I don’t even have time to notice them.  And I’m not someone who only connects with big accounts – for me quality counts over quantity. I’m just as likely to follow someone with 300 followers as 100K although I admit it’s rarer for me to commit these days as I struggle to keep up with my current follows.

So what makes me want to follow back?  A combination of factors – some less obvious than others, but there are certain elements that make me more inclined to hit that button:

A Public Account

This is essential for me – and I’m guessing for many others too.  If I can’t see what you’re posting then I’m highly unlikely to follow even if your numbers are stellar (exceptions for family & friends of course).

Consistent Interaction

I’m primarily on Instagram for the community and I try to be a pretty loyal follower (although it’s not quite as easy with the new algorithm) so this is really key for me. If someone follows me and then interacts over a period of time then I’m more likely to follow them back. In my first year, I could see engagement through likes, but comments are more visible these days.  We’re not talking stalker-territory here – just the occasional meaningful response which shows that we share common ground. I’ve been caught out by professional follow/unfollowers (including sizeable accounts) in the past so I’m pretty cautious about jumping in quickly.

Quality Content

Beautiful and creative photos always catch my eye, but the caption is important too. I love it when a kind voice shines through or gives me a new angle of life/books/art/creativity/nature. The same goes for good business, travel, lifestyle or social media advice – I like to learn from others and find out more about their unique take on a range of subjects. It has to be gentle though – hard sells are a no-no.


The comments on people’s posts are often revealing as they give me an idea about how they interact with their own followers  – whether this is a social space for them or just a place to grow numbers. I realise that not everyone has the time to chat so it’s not a deal breaker especially if the content is exceptional, but it’s definitely a consideration.

Similar Connections

When I first started out, checking mutual accounts wasn’t as important because I was still feeling my way with the platform and actively looking for people to follow, but as my circles have widened, this is something I take notice of. If an account follows similar pages to mine then it suggests that we are more likely to share the same values and aesthetics.  I trust the people I already follow so if there’s a link between us, however small, I’m more inclined to think that we might be a good match.

Additional Online Resources

Blogs, courses and podcasts always make me sit up as long as they’re not too salesy. They show that the person takes their online presence seriously and is striving to offer useful information to their audience.

Adverts and Business Accounts

The controversial one! There’s been a lot of backlash against ads but as a part of the bookstagramming community, I’ve been used to them from day one as most bookstagrammers post gifted books on their pages.  I also follow lots of mums who make extra money from influencing so this isn’t an issue for me unless an account is overtly promotional.

For business accounts it’s harder.  I rarely follow these unless I really love the brand or the product/service.  I could write a whole post on this subject – lots of businesses miss the mark which is a shame as they could maximise their accounts quite easily.

As I spend more time on the platform though,  being followed back isn’t the number one concern. I subscribe to accounts without any expectation of reciprocation because I love their content and in my eyes that’s the only way to find real satisfaction on Instagram – not through numbers, but through careful curation.  In the words of William Morris “If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.









Elephants on Tour Book Review – a Q&A with Guillaume Cornet

Elephants on Tour

From the skyscrapers of New York and Tokyo to the jungles of Peru and Madagascar, the elephants are off to see some of the most amazing places in the world – discovering famous buildings, food, transport and activities in each destination along the way.

A puzzle book with travel, food and elephants? Yes please!

We were thrilled when Laurence King Publishing asked us to be part of the Elephants on Blog Tour -not only does it involve many of our favourite things in life, it’s also filled with the most amazingly intricate illustrations by Guillaume Cornet.  We’ve spent the last week huddled over the pages, trying to spot the elephants and their signature objects in the detailed landscapes.  Little M’s been obsessed with finding the Foodie’s tiny pink cupcake and I’ve developed an eye for tracking down the Athlete’s skateboard among the city streets, but despite some dedicated time with a magnifying glass we’ve only uncovered a fraction of the hidden items.  There are twenty spreads of famous locations to explore, each with bonus finds and mini fact files.  We were astounded by the level of detail in the artwork – you could spend hours just looking at the pictures – so we jumped at the chance to ask Guillaume few questions about his process and inspirations:

What inspired you to write the book?

My previous work often features Elephants, but the idea came after a Solo show I did in Hong Kong in March 2016 called Elephants in Hong Kong. Taking a group of Elephants through the Hong Kong skyscrapers and busy streets. After a meeting with Elizabeth Jenner at Laurence King Publishing, the idea grew from one city into a World Tour!

What’s your favourite place in the world?

Any French cheese shop. 

How long does it take you to complete an illustration?

Each double-page (A2 format) from the Elephants on Tour takes around 200-250 hours.

What’s your typical day like?

I cycle to my studio around 8am and start the day with a coffee going over admin while sorting any visual research/inspiration for the day. Then I like to get in the zone and focus on one illustration for a few hours. I will typically work until 7 or 8pm.

What tips would you give to budding illustrators?

  • When using Ink, always try to incorporate your mistakes. It will save you time and will make the artwork more unique.
  • Get to the studio early and you will get more done!
  • Don’t be shy to follow up with possible commissions, often clients simply forget to get back to your quote but it doesn’t mean they are not interested anymore.

For a better look at Guillaume’s art, you can download colouring sheets on the official Elephants on Blog tour page. You can also follow the rest of the tour on social media via the #ElephantsonBlogtour hashtag.

The detail in the illustrations, together with the fun travel facts on each spread makes this a truly special book with lasting appeal.  Ideal for 4-7 year olds with curious minds!




My 5-Step Process for Making Creative Photographs

Disappearing into the libraryPeople often ask me where my ideas for creative Instagram pictures come from – a question that I haven’t been able to answer fully.  I’ve always had an interest in the world of imagination – mainly through stories and art.  I drew a lot as a child and have written a number of unpublished children’s novels so making stuff up comes quite naturally now (I’m still a terrible liar though). But if you ask me to put my finger on where that spark catches, who knows? Much of it is subconscious – a sheet slowly unfolding until I see the final picture, but I do follow a rough process. I’ve shared the steps I generally take here:

Choosing My Own Path

My number one driver. My best ideas have mostly come when I’ve followed my instincts even if others have said that my designs probably won’t work.  At the inspiration stage, I stand completely back from all platform considerations such as feed and audience and think about what I’d really like to make. I have zero strategy when it comes to my photography because I want the experience to be playful rather than a means by which to gain followers and influence.

Let the Sparks Fly

Broccoli Hair

What do I love? What stirs me up – for good or for bad? How do I feel? I let these influences shape my creativity.  Often I can’t quite see the connections that have inspired my pictures until afterwards. For instance my broccoli hair photo not only came from finding out that my hairdresser had left the salon and The Hobbit book cover, but also from a growing interest in veganism and a liking for autumnal greens.  I also have a thing for colourful stripes and play that out in re-occurring rainbow motifs and bookshelf shots.

Gentle prompts are great too. Instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Challenge (#WHP) is one of my favourites as it makes me see the world in a different way.

Drafting It Out

Rough FacepaintingOnce I’ve hit on an idea, I’ll try to manifest it.  Often my first attempts don’t work out and that’s fine. I’ll either let them brew for a while longer or if I’m fairly close, I’ll try out a few more versions.  At this stage, I work fast because of time constraints.  If it’s not working then I’ll park it and trust that a solution will come later.  Here’s my rough attempt of my face painting photo – wrong in so many ways but enough to tell me that the crazy thought had wings.

Sometimes I get frustrated if stuff isn’t coming together but I’ve learnt to let this go pretty quickly by reminding myself that it’s just an art project. If something wants to get made, it will happen eventually.

Focusing On The Details

I begin to refine once I have a workable canvas. I don’t post that often because I like my images to be as well-made as possible and also because I don’t want to overload my family.  As an amateur with basic equipment (a Google Pixel 2 phone and VSCO editing software), I have to work hard to get the fundamental structure right. That usually means harnessing the most effective light, lining up angles properly and placing models/props in the best positions.

I add details to enhance the layers in this last phase too. The R on the teacup was a last-minute decision to make the surface more interesting.

A teacup pouring rainbow booksEditing

The edits sprinkle the final bit of magic on the photo. I’m a colour fiend so I generally turn up the brightness, contrast and add a dab of saturation. I use VSCO most of the time and am relying less and less on presets. Occasionally I use Photoshop to make something but find I’m veering towards using perspective and props to achieve unusual effects.

Overall it takes me from around an hour to five hours to complete a photograph depending on the level of complexity and I fit this around my working day.  Content creation has become my main hobby – something I never planned to do – but I see it as an alternative to drawing or painting and if it makes others happy too then that’s a real bonus.

A Literary Stay at Gladstone’s Library

reading rooms gladstones library

A stay at Gladstone’s Library has been on our wishlist for a long time and last week we finally spent a night there to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.

Founded by William Gladstone himself, Britain’s only Prime Ministerial library is situated near Chester in the Welsh village of Hawarden. The Grade I building has 26 bedrooms, a bistro – Food for Thought, and the famous historic Reading Rooms which residents and day readers can use between 9am and 5pm each day (up to 10pm in the Theology Room for residents).  Although very welcoming, this literary sanctuary is definitely an adults-only destination – a place for quiet contemplation and study.

Booking and Checking-In

I booked our one night stay at Gladstone’s Library via it’s online booking system about 8 weeks in advance and most of the rooms had already been taken so if you would like to stay over, then I advise planning ahead.  2018 room rates range from £66 for a standard single room (not en-suite) to £100 for a double en-suite – all including a continental breakfast.  There are discounted rates for students, clergy and members of the Society of Authors.

We arrived at lunchtime, two hours before the 2pm check-in, but it’s fine to leave your bags at reception and explore the building in the meantime.  I’d mention that Gladstone’s Library isn’t a hotel though so don’t expect lots of amenities, room service or luggage assistance. I’d describe it more as a luxury hostel or a retreat centre – simple with added comforts.


Our bedroom was small, yet light with mullioned windows and a compact en-suite.  There are no TVs in the rooms, but they all have a Roberts Radio so we happily tuned into that and stacked up our books on the lovely Melin Tregwynt blanket that covered the bed.  You can also access free Wi-Fi during your stay and if you’ve brought a laptop, you can borrow DVDs from the extensive collection at the top of the main stairs.

There’s no need to take towels or toiletries as Myddfai Trading Company miniatures are provided. This social enterprise supports local young people with learning difficulties and gift sets are available in reception.

The Book Collection

With a collection of almost 150,000 printed materials, we definitely weren’t going to run out of books! The historic Reading Rooms house the main collection. You have to obtain a pass to enter and once inside, there’s a code of complete silence. Non-residents can catch a 5 minute Glimpse by joining sessions that start at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm (bookings at Reception).  There’s also an annex joining this section which contains titles on a range of subjects.

If silence isn’t your thing then you can find a more relaxed area in the Gladstone’s Room, a communal lounge with lots of comfy sofas, an honesty bar and a library full of recent fiction which can be borrowed.  There’s also a garden with picnic tables and benches if the weather is fine.  This place specialises in book nooks of all kinds!


All that thinking stirred up a healthy appetite so we were glad of the licensed onsite bistro, Food for Thought. It’s open 10am – 5pm seven days a week for snacks, lunch and afternoon tea (check specific times when you arrive).  Dinner is served between 6.30pm and 7.30pm although you can remain in the dining room for a few hours afterwards.

The standard continental breakfast is laid out in the main dining room (8am-9am). If you want a hot dish then you can order it from the counter for an extra £2 per person. The hearty food was tasty and the chef was able to cater for Al’s gluten and dairy-free diet so it suited us perfectly.  We didn’t try any of the pubs or cafes in Hawarden, but there were several options available.

Further Afield

Hawarden is a pretty village and it’s worth exploring.  We were particularly taken with the Hawarden Estate although parts of it were cordoned off for tree-felling so next time we’ll go when all the paths are open and will also check out the Farm Shop.  If you’re staying at Gladstone’s Library for a while then Chester is very close by and you can reach Liverpool fairly easily too.

Staying at Gladstone’s Library was just the tonic we’d hoped for and I’ve only just covered the basics in this post.  Aside from the colossal collection, the library also hosts numerous workshops and events as well as an annual literary festival, Gladfest. If you’d like to see a video tour then I highly recommend watching the Live in A Library Vlog by SavidgeReads.

Forget 5 star hotels, this is the dream ticket for all bibliophiles out there. Comfortable, quirky and with the nicest staff – oh and enough books to last one hundred lifetimes. Maybe we’ll see you there next time! x