Instagram is a visual platform, and therefore, you need to ensure your content engages your audience. If people like your content, they can give you a ❤ on your photo or video (there are rumours that this feature will soon be removed; then it may be only you that can see how many likes your photo receives). Users follow each other, and comment, like and/or tag each other in pictures.
As of today’s date, there are 112.5 million people actively using Instagram on a monthly basis. Of course businesses want to reach as many of these users as they can.
One way to reach them is to grow your account and increase the number of followers you have. It’s important to remember that, even if you have a large following, this doesn't automatically mean each person will convert into a lead or a customer. Numbers are largely irrelevant and businesses can become too hung up on the amount of likes their content receives, rather than focusing on the social side of the platform.
So, don’t worry if you only have a small following. Concentrate on creating and posting quality content your audience would want to see. If you have a professional account (i.e. a business or creator account), you can evaluate your insights to find which of your photos are performing the best and enjoying the most engagement.
An Instagram business account’s analytics show the following, in relation to each post in your feed:
Accounts reached from that post
Followers from that post
Impressions, and where these came from (i.e. Home, Hashtags, Profile, Explore, Other)
You can then use this information to ascertain which type of content and which hashtags work best with your audience.
Set realistic (SMART) goals
Firstly, you need to assess what you’d like to gain from using Instagram. To increase your brand's exposure? Selling your products via the platform?
Once you know what you want to achieve, you can set your goals.
S - Specific
Choose a goal
M - Measurable
How will you know when you’ve achieved success? How will you measure your goal?
A - Achievable
Don’t be too ambitious - choose a goal that’s within reach
R - Realistic
Be realistic about how you will achieve your goal and what this will entail
T - Time Bound
How long will it take you to reach your goal?
So, how do you grow your Instagram?
Schedule in your diary/weekly plan when you will upload content to Instagram, and remain consistent. Many people choose to post once a day, to remain in front of their target audience and remind them of their products or services. If you take the time to understand your analytics, you can actually find out when your followers are online and post when you know they will be active on the platform.
Here are a few simple tips to help grow your account:
1 - Post multiple photos
Here’s a tip that not many people know: if you share multiple photos in one post it will be shown to more people!
Instagram will repeat your post and show it to people who didn't like it originally; however, they will use one of your alternative images the second time around. Let’s say you post images of a finished product and its concept drawing in the same post, but as two separate photos. If your audience is shown the finished product photo first and they do not like the post, later in the day, Instagram will show them the post again but use the concept photo instead.
This method works well, as many people scroll through their Instagram feeds quickly and posts are easily lost.
2 - Check similar account suggestions.
To be able to do this, you need to view Instagram on a desktop PC, or via your mobile’s browser.
This feature allows you to be ‘shown’ to potential followers when they follow an account that’s similar to yours. This is handy if you’re looking to increase awareness about you, your brand, or your product/service.
Most accounts already have this set up; however, if you want to double check this, or to disable the feature, here's how:
Log into your Instagram profile on your desktop or mobile browser
Select the ‘edit profile’ button
Check or uncheck the box that asks if you wish to be found this way or not
3 - Meaningful engagement
Meaningful engagement isn’t just liking someone's photo, it involves commenting and actively engaging with them.
You should be leaving meaningful comments on posts from the people who follow you, as well as those who don’t follow you. This helps people connect with you, as they get a feel for your personality. People who don’t follow you may also be interested enough to check out your profile.
Example of a meaningful comment:
‘Hey, *name*, I absolutely love this photo!’
‘It would be great for us to follow and support each other.’
‘Your content is amazing! It would be great to work together.’
The individual will likely reply with a thank you or a reply to your question; they’ll like your comment and will probably visit your profile to see who you are and what you do. Try to avoid adding bland, generic comments, such as ‘Nice!’ or typing a row of emojis – it looks spammy and will just be ignored.
If you want to grow your following, comments are a good way to do this. Let’s say you leave 50 meaningful comments per day on people's photos who don’t follow you…even if only half of these people follow you back, that’s 25 new followers per day. Not only that, but Instagram rewards people who are sociable on the platform - your content may go out to many more people as a result.
You may be thinking that you don’t have time to do this. Simply dedicate a little time regularly, towards actively engaging with those who follow and don’t follow you…it’ll be worth it if you remain consistent.
*TOP TIP* How to find people you SHOULD be interacting with
You should be interacting with people who represent/mirror your ‘ideal follower’, but how do you find them?
This is far easier than you may think. Find someone with authority in your particular niche, and interact with their audience. Their audience will be your ideal audience.
4 - Growing a consistent feed
When someone clicks on your profile, you want to keep them there. Developing a consistent feed, therefore, is crucial. This can be as simple as posting in a pattern, or having the same filter on all of your photos.
Photo-editing apps are like cars, they all get you from A to B, it’s how they get you there that differs. Try a few and see which ones work best for you.
You can also add ‘story highlights’ to your profile. This means saving your important stories for anyone to view when they visit your profile. Having a consistent, recognisable cover photo on these stories can help pull your profile together (although this isn’t essential).
5 - Finding and using the right hashtags
In each Instagram post you’re allowed to add up to 30 hashtags. Hashtags are used to categorise content and they can increase your discoverability.
Let's say you add the hashtag #Marketing to one of your posts…anyone who types ‘marketing’ into Instagram’s search bar will be shown your picture. Some of the best posts include a mix of generalised and specific hashtags.
How do you find hashtags?
A simple method is to find your competitors on the platform or the people in your niche. Look at the hashtags they use. You could use a mix of these, or you could type these hashtags into the search bar and find more hashtags that are related.
Now you have a set of hashtags you can use…that's it, right? WRONG!
Instagram doesn’t like it when you continuously use the same hashtags on all of your photos. Tweak them or swap them round often, or even try some brand-new tags.
6 - Do more than just post
If you want to stay in front of your audience and customers, you need to do more than post one photo per day. Ways to increase your activity and visibility include using Instagram Live, Instagram Stories and/or IGTV.
This is a feature on Instagram Stories that allows the user to stream a video in real-time, which means their audience can engage with them instantly
The feature alerts your followers when you’re about to go live
Allows users to capture/post related images and videos to their Instagram account without the content taking up valuable space in their feed. In Stories you can add text to your images, as well as emojis, quizzes, GIFs and more
The feature also includes filters and Augmented Reality, just like Snapchat
In your feed, you’re allowed to post videos that last no longer than a minute. In IGTV, you can upload videos of up to 1 hour long! This is great if you’re trying to showcase a brand-new product or service to your audience
With IGTV you don’t have to worry about filming vertically or horizontally, as it’s optimised for both
7 - Give your bio a makeover, as this is the first thing people see
When someone clicks on your profile, your bio is what they see. You need to make sure it’s engaging, so that people go on to follow you.
Your profile photo should reflect your personality and be related to your brand and feed. It must be a high-quality image. If you’re a business, this should be an image of your logo
Optimise your name for search:
This is really important, as this is how people will find you
Users search for other users in two ways: by who they are, or by what they do. Try to include both in your bio. This is the most commonly used format: *Name* | *Job title/What you do*
In your bio, you have the option to add an external link - this could be to your website, your blog, or other social media platforms. Redirect your audience to where they can find out more about you
Add your email:
Always add either your personal or business email to your account – should people want to contact you, there’s no other option for them to do so
Add personality to your bio!
Add a bit of personality to your bio, but still make it clear who you are and what you do. A good layout to follow is: who you are; something you love; a fact about you
Other things to include in your bio
Your own hashtag
Your address (If you have a shop/business premises they can visit)
Your business’s hours
8 - Tag relevant brands and people into your photos and stories
In every post you add, you can tag up to 20 people. Make the most of this feature and tag relevant accounts into your post. This will help your posts to become noticed by the brands you’ve tagged; they may even repost your photo onto their story or feed.
Don’t tag irrelevant brands or people in your posts as this will be seen as spam. It may even lead to people unfollowing you.
9 - Respond to comments on your posts
This point is really important if you want your audience to engage with you. If someone has taken the time to write a meaningful comment on your post, reply to them. This could be with a simple ‘Thank you’, or you could write a few sentences in response (if relevant).
If you don’t have the time to go through every comment, at least ‘like’ them and acknowledge that you’ve seen it.
If you find that you’re frequently asked the same question(s) within the comments, take to your Instagram stories to answer it – you could even add this to your highlights.
Instagram isn’t just something people use to relax during their downtime – it’s a genuine tool that could really boost your business.
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