If you’re looking to expand your reach, get wider brand recognition, or simply open new channels to connect with your target audience, Instagram is the place to do it.
Instagram has 1 billion active users, with 500 million of them opening the app to browse and connect on a daily basis. Your users are already here, engaged, and just waiting for you to reach out, so there’s never been a better time than now to get serious about Instagram as a social platform.
Maybe you’ve been kicking around a while but haven’t gotten the traction you’re hoping for? Here are nine quick, easy steps you can use to boost your following and reach the users you want.
1) Identify Your Target User
Before you ever start sharing photos or liking posts, you need to figure out who you’re trying to reach.
Who is your target Instagram audience? What’s their age and gender? What are they interested in? And, most importantly – who are they already following? Picture this individual and ask yourself: “What will make that person stop scrolling and engage?” From now on, your job is to focus solely on posting content that will make that happen.
2) Post Frequently & Consistently
Obviously, you need to post before you can start gaining followers. Posting content is the foundation of your entire strategy on the platform, and the more often you engage, the more response you’ll see.
Top brands posted on Instagram 4.9 times per week in 2015, and as the user base on the platform has grown, brand engagement needs to grow to keep pace. For most brands, five posts per week should be the low-bar for engagement.
3) Hashtag Everything
If posting is the foundation of your strategy, then hashtags are the real bread and butter.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post, so feel free to include anything you think might be relevant. However, remember not to go overboard; research suggests that nine hashtags per post is the ideal number for maximizing engagement.
Also, be aware that your odds of trending toward the top of a tag decrease the more widely used it is. We’d recommend focusing your attention on hashtags with fewer than 50,000 posts, but ones that are still closely related to your target audience.
Lastly, remember you can piggyback on the power of hashtags by including location tags as well.
4) Post Quality Content
This seems like a no-brainer, but countless brands make the mistake of posting streams of uninteresting, poorly-shot content. Just like any other aspect of the business, you should take an active role in creating a unique identity that will stand out and draw in new followers.
Arrange each image to send a professional yet inviting vibe. If you’re planning to take photos yourself and post them on your Instagram, consider using a nicer camera rather than what you have on your phone. It may take a few extra minutes to compose your shot, but that time investment will pay off when you start picking up followers on the strength of your content.
5) Tell a (Brand) Story
Another important part of crafting your Insta-identity is explaining yourself to other users. You should optimize your bio to increase your visibility. Of course, that’s easier said than done when you only have 150 characters to work with.
Keep your bio succinct yet descriptive, trimming your message down to what potential followers need to know. Then, use keywords that will draw your target users. There could be thousands of people out there looking for you already that simply haven’t found your profile yet.
6) Like & Re-share
Engagement on any social media platform is a two-way street. To get other users to engage with your content, you’ll need to do some engagement of your own.
Start liking posts and following users who match your target profile. Reach out to people within that space and ask if you can re-share relevant content. Not only does this give you more content to work with, but it also builds a positive relationship between yourself and other users.
7) Learn When to Post
Some people assert that there are cut-and-dry “best” times to post fresh content. However, figuring out the best time for you depends on a lot of different variables, such as where your prospective followers are located, what niche you occupy, and what time of the month and year we’re in.
Consider experimenting with different times of day. Track the engagement you get from each post and try to distill down the best approach based on that data. For example, if you find that you’re getting a better response with videos around midday, then make a point of posting content at that time.
Try to leverage your Instagram posts alongside your presence on other platforms. Create a complimentary schedule so that you’re not oversaturating one platform while leaving another to look abandoned.
8) Engage Authentically
You’re going to need more than just eye-catching content; your aim is to invite users to join a conversation. You can do this by identifying profiles that you follow, are likeminded in nature, or to which you aspire, and engaging them and their users. This will build positive feelings toward your brand while helping you reach a wider audience.
Liking and commenting on posts from these influential accounts is a quick way to get on peoples’ radar. You can even like comments from their followers, which will demonstrate that you’re engaged in the community and interested in reaching new people.
This approach will pique users’ interest and entice them to visit your profile. When they see that you’re similar to several profiles they already follow, they’ll be likely to follow you as well.
Developing your social presence doesn’t happen in a bubble; after all, it’s called “social media” for a reason. Your efforts could be much better-served by reaching out to the individuals and businesses identified in Step 8—those whose followings overlap with your niche—to work toward a collaborative approach. Form partnerships, then work together to share, comment, and like one another’s content.
You should also identify and reach out to influencers within you niche and try to build a relationship. Ask to reshare content with their permission, and ask them to reshare your own. If relevant, you can also offer product samples and ask for a shout-out if they like the product. This can be a great strategy – 100% of social influencers are on Instagram, and 90% of them are looking for free stuff.
Final Thoughts: Don’t Stop Building
Remember: even after you start seeing results, you can’t kick back and assume your Instagram presence will run itself.
If your goal is to convert followers into customers, then it doesn’t really matter how many people follow you if you’re not engaging them and driving them to take action. Stick with it, stay active, and you’ll see ongoing, strong results.
Want to share your experience building an Instagram following? Have additional tips that didn’t make this list? Leave a comment below and join the conversation!