Growing your audience on the ever-popular image sharing app Instagram is getting increasingly more difficult. Thanks to changes to the way Instagram shares your posts, it’s become less “one step forward, two steps back” and more “four followers gained, fifteen followers lost”.
It’s aggravating, and it means that growing your Instagram in a way that is meaningful and organic (aka not giving into temptation and buying 5k followers for $5 after a quick Google Search) requires a lot more input on your behalf than it did just a couple of years ago.
So what can you do to turn the tide and reach the people you want to in a meaningful way?
Sorry to break it to you, but a posting schedule of “throwing up the last thing on your Camera Roll whenever you remember to” does not a compelling Instagram Feed make. Maybe you don’t have the resources to post three times a day, every day, and that’s fine, but you do need to be consistent with your posts.
If you can post every day – great! If you can post at approximately the same time every day, even better! Over time, your followers will become accustomed to seeing you pop up in their feed at a certain time, and you’ll become familiar to them.
Chances are that the more you post, the more you’ll be noticed, and the more followers you’ll gain – as long as the posts are appealing and high quality.
Hashtagging is the most vital tool you can use to get your posts seen by others. With a few well-chosen hashtags, your brand can be exposed to potentially thousands of Instagram users. With the ability to use up to 30 hashtags per post, you’re frankly wasting your potential if you don’t use them all.
It can be difficult to land on the perfect hashtags for your brand, but a bit of market research into the hashtags that similar brands use will quickly give you some great ideas for your own posts. By using a mix of high-volume hashtags such as #instagood and #happysquares and smaller, niche hashtags such as #perthisokay or #coffeesceneperth, you’re maximising the amount of relevant accounts you’re putting yourself in front of.
In 2016, Instagram unveiled their Business Insights feature, allowing all accounts, business or otherwise, to transform their account to a business profile. This doesn’t change anything about the quality of your posts, nor does it boost your followers or engagement, but it does give you handy insights into your current audience, such as their gender, age, location, and what time they’re typically online on any given day.
Armed with this information, you can tailor your posts to both target the audience you already have and appeal to a wider audience. It also shows you which of your recent posts have performed well, so you can aim to post similar content in the future.
Recently, there has been an upsurge in automated comments on Instagram posts. The thinking behind these mass-manufactured comments is that an account will be seen to be engaging with all of the users in a specific hashtag, and in return for their consistent engagement, the followers will flock to them.
This might seem like an ideal scenario – all the gain with none of the pain of manually scrolling through and commenting – but as an Instagram user, let me tell you that it’s not ideal: it’s bloody annoying. Really, incredibly, astoundingly annoying.
As an alternative, I’d suggest dedicating time to searching a few of the hashtags that are relevant to your brand – most likely the ones you used to promote you post – and engaging genuinely with other posts there. Like posts that you enjoy, follow accounts that are relevant or appealing to you, and comment insightfully, because a couple of thumbs up and a smiley face doesn’t mean anything, and it won’t reflect positively on your brand. Instead, answer a question that has been asked, or strike up a conversation about something similar in content to their post.
Building honest relationships with other users will take longer, but will also take you and your brand further.
You’d think it would go without saying, but blurry, grainy, over-filtered images are not going to impress. And you’d be surprised at the high quality of some of the photos that are uploaded to Instagram daily.
The long and short of it is that no one is going to follow an account that posts photos that they don’t like, obviously. The best way to avoid this is to post photos that are clear, bright, and well-arranged. Whether it’s a flat-lay, a product shot, or some scenery, try to make one aspect the focus of your photo, and if half of the bottom corner is obscured by your thumb – don’t post it!
(image from @leighcampbell on Instagram)
(Image from @misskatyenglish on Instagram)
A handful of black-and-white images jumbled together with some over-saturated photos and a few frames, because you felt like adding a frame, looks downright messy and extremely unappealing. To curate a feed that people are going to be compelled to see more of, find a theme that you like and stick to it. This goes for both the content of your images and how they’re edited.
For the content, choose a selection of posts that you feel reflect your brand, and try to stick to these choices as much as possible. If your brand is fashion, product shots, model shots, quotes, and user-generated content might be your main focus when posting.
For the editing, there are a number of apps available, from Instagram’s native editing features to VSCOcam. Personally, I think VSCOcam provides a better service and allows for a more precise edit, but that’s just me!
The real goal is to choose a filter and stick to it. Whether it’s a muted filter than downplays the colour or a vibrant filter that plays it up, there are all manner of options to fiddle around with until you find the tone that fits your brand perfectly. Once you’ve discovered that filter, stick to it and your images will be presented uniformly, and attractively, across your feed.
As an extra little step, you could choose to plan your feed in advance. This can be done on VSCOcam, or on dedicated apps such as UNUM and Latergramme. Planning your feed allows you to see in advance how your images will look when they’re next to each other – which means you get to control exactly what potential followers will see when they click through to your page.
Having a following is great, but it’s pretty useless if they’re not engaging with your content. Luckily, there are ways to encourage engagement that can be pretty effective when done correctly. One way is to host a competition or giveaway that requires people to comment on a certain image to be in with a chance of winning. Obviously, this can’t work for every single post, but it could be a good way to ramp up support for your page when it’s only just starting out, or has hit a milestone.
Another good way to invite engagement is to ask questions – posing a question at the beginning of your caption with each new post is an immediate invitation for people to interact with your brand directly. It doesn’t have to be anything insightful and time-consuming, it could be something as simple as ‘doughnuts or ice cream?’, but it is still letting your audience know that you are open to conversation.
(As an aside – this is why you shouldn’t purchase 5,000 for $5, for example, because the followers you gain are often false profiles, so while your account may look popular on the surface, you may still only be receiving 15 likes per post, and it is easy to deduce from there that your followers aren’t genuine, which puts the trustworthiness of your brand into question.)
(Image from @thefoodcollectiveblog on Instagram)
And that’s it for our tips on how to give your Instagram the boost it needs! Have you tried any of these tactics before, or do you have any other tricks of your sleeves that you want to wow us with? Drop a comment below and let us know! (We promise to respond with more than a thumbs up and a flame emoji!)