So you may or may not have noticed but just over a week ago my following on Instagram has grown significantly. Yup! I was in San Francisco when I received a private message from Instagram congratulating me on being featured on their list of Suggested Users. I couldn't believe it! In a nutshell, the Suggested Users list highlights some of the top community members on Instagram where an account is usually featured for a few weeks before it is cycled out to give others the opportunity to be featured. I couldn't believe it! And in the space of 10 days my following has more than tripled. As excited and grateful I am for Instagram's support, for recognising the hard work I put into creating original content and for being an 'awesome community member', I am still very wary of the opportunity. Mostly because I have had a couple of friends featured on this list before and their engagement has declined and after their cycle on the list stopped, they lost thousands of followers. I am currently writing a blog post on the Pro's and Con's of becoming an Instagram Suggested User, so stay tuned.

However I thought this is a great opportunity to share my five secrets to Instagram success:

1. Choose a topic you are passionate about 2. Find your niche and own it 3. Know your purpose 4. Select relevant content pillars 5. Create beautiful imagery and words that matter

Secrets to Instagram Success

The first step to creating a successful Instagram account is to choose a topic you are passionate about. Being passionate about your topic on Instagram is very important, as you will be posing photos about this topic consistently. And what’s exciting about this? You will create an engaged community of like-minded people who love the same things as you do.

You will also find over time, as your interests change and grow over time, so too will what you share on Instagram. It's about choosing a topic you are passionate about, finding your niche and owning it, knowing your purpose, selecting relevant content pillars and creating beautiful imagery.

As an example, my topic on Instagram has always been about travel. However, over the last 18 months its has changed and grown. I have a clearly defined niche of adventure and nature which I own, I know my purpose on Instagram is to inspire people to travel, I have selected relevant content pillars and I create beautiful imagery.

What you won't see on my Instagram anymore: Travel themed flat lay photos. In fact, I shudder every time I see someone post a flat lay photo of their passport, plane ticket, currency and a map. You also won't see me sharing what I wear on my travels, nor will you see me dictate a bunch of rules for what you should pack. I'm too busy adventuring, and you should be too!

So what did I do to own my topic on Instagram? I stuck to posting about travel. I cemented my adventure and nature niche. I got better at taking landscape photographs and learned how to shoot astro. I spent more time travelling abroad and maintaining my purpose. I built an engaged community.

Some of you reading this will already know what you want to share on Instagram. Congrats! If you know you want to be successful on Instagram but you haven't decided what your topic will be, don’t worry. There are many you can choose from – travel, beauty, cars, painting, finance, food, arts and craft, design, fitness, styling, entrepreneurship, pottery, parenting, architecture, health, DIY, sport, fashion, interiors, careers and more. You may even want to choose two or even three main topics – such as fashion, beauty, and lifestyle, or parenting, careers and health. And that’s totally ok!

So how do you choose your blog topic?

STEP ONE You need to ask yourself two very important questions. The first, “what am I most passionate about?” And second, “what do I love to do on weekends and in my spare time?” Write down your answers.

STEP TWO Look at your responses and you will be able to see a few common themes. It is here you will find the answer; what you are most passionate about and what you will share on Instagram. Congrats!

To give you an example - I am most passionate about travel and I would spend every weekend going on road trips. In my spare time I love writing about my adventures, camping, hiking, spending time in the outdoors, and photographing landscapes. Therefore my central topic on Instagram is travel. But how did I choose my niche? Click here to be taken to the second blog post in this series!