You’ve probably heard that Instagram is “the” platform to be on in 2017.
It’s visual. It’s engaging. And it’s huge: there’re over 600 million active users and potential loyal fans of your brand.
So, why aren’t they following you yet?
Succeeding on Instagram isn’t quite as simple as posting your content day after day.
Maybe you’re even using hashtags with little response, while your competitors seem to be gaining thousands of new followers every week.
What’s the answer? Should you bite the bullet and buy followers?
Buying followers is never the answer. Bought followers add to your numbers, but are ultimately meaningless because they won’t engage with your content. Real followers are worth far more than artificial followers could ever be.
And to get real followers you need to grow your Instagram organically.
Here are the six steps you need to take to get there.
1. Have a Game Plan
First and foremost, you need to have a plan for your Instagram strategy. If you’re just throwing every tactic and idea at the wall at once, you’ll have no idea what works and you won’t be able to repeat it.
Here are three things you need to become more consistent on Instagram:
Know Your Niche and Focus
In the same way you wouldn’t try to sell televisions in a bookstore, you need to have a focus for your Instagram feed.
For example, Meowbox is a monthly subscription box service for cat owners and their Instagram feed is incredibly popular with over 650,000 followers. One of the secrets to Meowbox’s success is its focus. Meowbox only posts cat pictures and cat videos on its feed. It’s 100% on brand and focused. There are no random pictures of food or nights out partying.
Organize Your Week With Themes
It’s easy to fall into a rut posting the same type of images over and over. One way to keep things fresh – and your ideas flowing – is to use daily themes. For example, you might start with a Throwback Thursday, where you post a nostalgic image, or Tips Tuesday, where you post a helpful tip for your readers.
Theming your days helps guide your content and adds variety.
Brand strategist Rosemary Watson regularly uses daily themes like Mood Board Monday and Friday Happy Hour in her Instagram feed. Most Mondays, Rosemary posts a mood board that sets the colors and mood of her images for the week and on Friday, she posts a photo of a cocktail.
Video, Stories, and Instagram Live
Video content is rising in popularity. It’s been predicted that 80% of all internet traffic will come from videos by 2019.
If you’re only posting still snaps, you’re missing out on a lot of potential engagement.
2. Keep Your Feed Consistent With Filters
Instagram gives you many filters to choose from. Which one should you use? Should you use any at all?
Data from a recent study by Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs shows that filtered photos are 45% more likely to get engagement than unfiltered photos. And the best filters to use were those that gave higher exposure, warmer temperatures, or higher contrast.
So, take this into account when choosing your filter.
How many filters should you use? Sixty percent of the top brands of Instagram consistently use the same filter for each post. Keep it simple, be consistent, and limit yourself to one or two filters.
Here’s an example from Aleksandra Zee of how using one distinctive filter can help brand your Instagram feed:
3. Promote Your Content with Hashtags
How do you get your content seen? If you’re trying to build your following, you need people other than your current followers to see your content and follow you.
You need to use hashtags. Posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6% more engagement on average, and Instagram gives you room for up to 30 of them.
But what kind of hashtags should you use?
Popular Hashtags for your niche
You can search on Hashtagify.me to find the most popular hashtags in your niche. However, you might find you have better results choosing slightly less popular hashtags that are more tightly focused on your niche.
For example, if you’re posting a picture of your cat and you use the hashtag #catsofinstagram, your post is likely to be quickly buried by an avalanche of new content. However, if you use a breed specific hashtag, you’ll likely find a smaller audience of diehard fans who love your type of cat.
Have you checked out your competitors on Instagram recently? Chances are they might be using some of the same hashtags you’ll want to target. They might even have their own branded hashtags.
A branded hashtag is a hashtag that was created by a brand or business to promote its products or services. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it.
In fact, it would be hard to avoid using branded hashtags since, of the most used hashtags, 70% are branded. Use branded hashtags to connect with a pre-existing audience, and consider creating your own.
4. Engage With The Community
Instagram users are more engaged than any other social media platform’s users. Instagram posts typically get 58x the engagement of Facebook and 129x the engagement of Twitter.
To encourage engagement on your posts, engage yourself and be active on the platform.
Here’re some ideas to get you started:
Tag People in Your Posts
Posts that include another handle gain 56% more engagement. You could call out one of your followers, or someone you follow, to answer a specific question – or you could “regram” a post like Buffer does.
If you’re regramming, make sure you follow best practices and ask permission first. You should also credit the source in your caption by tagging them.
A recent study found that a whopping 50% of Instagram posts contain emojis. And Instagram now treats emojis like hashtags so that you can search for them.
Emojis are being used increasingly frequently online as a kind of universal language that adds meaning and emotion to text in a way that’s easily understood. So, to make sure you’re understood and searchable, add emojis to your content.
Ask People to Like or Tag Others
Want more likes and engagement. Why not ask for it?
Foundr does a great job with strong calls-to-action to get its followers to like and tag others in its posts. Here’s an example:
With over 4,500 likes and 1,100 comments, that’s a lot of engagement. Another useful tip from Foundr is that they often make a statement in their caption and tell their followers to “double tap (like) if you agree”.
5. Do More of What Works
Are you measuring the success of your Instagram posts? Measuring your success means you’ll know what works so you can do more of it.
A simple formula for tracking your post’s success is to calculate your engagement (likes and comments) in relation to your follower numbers.
The formula is:
(Number of Likes + Number of Comments) / Number of Followers
The number you end up with is the percentage of engagement your post received.
Use this engagement formula to work out your top performing post types – and also your lowest performing post types. You’ll know where to focus your efforts and what you should stop doing.
6. Use an Instagram Account Management Tool
Entrepreneurs can’t be on Instagram at all hours of the day, although many of us would like to be! And since social media marketing can take up a ton of time, it’s best to invest in an account management tool specifically for Instagram.
One popular tool that can manage your account on autopilot is Instamate 2.0. This tool is the first web-based software that allows you to automate your entire Instagram business.
- Has a built-in editor
- Is capable of scheduling and posting to multiple accounts or Instagram stories
- Can find, edit, upload, engage and monetize viral content
- Makes it easy to acquire leads and convert them into customers
By automating your Instagram strategy for your business, your organic reach will skyrocket in no time.
Grow Instagram Organically
Growing an organic Instagram following is not as difficult or time-consuming as you might think. It simply takes a plan – and sticking to that plan.
This means narrowing your focus so that each Instagram post is truly valuable for your audience. Do you have a core theme with your posts and are you using the power of Instagram Live and video to grow your following?
You also need to be consistent; Instagram is highly visual and your profile should have an aesthetic consistency that aligns with your brand.
Part of a successful Instagram strategy includes engaging with your followers and others. One way is to tag influencers or even do some regramming to grow your brand.
Finally, you also need to know how to promote your brand on Instagram. Unlike Pinterest and Facebook, Instagram relies heavily on hashtags, so finding popular ones and even creating branded hashtags will help you grow your following.
Add in a handy tool like Instamate, and you’ll find that running your Instagram account – or multiple accounts – takes very little time out of your day.
If you follow the steps outlined here, you’ll be well on your way to building an engaged and organic Instagram following.
Over to you – what’s your plan to grow your Instagram account?
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Also published on Medium.