Whether you're on Instagram for business or pleasure, everyone wants more followers - and it's not just for vanity reasons. A larger audience for your content is also, obviously, good for business.
Instagram has quickly become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, with over 700 million monthly active users. It can be great for networking, building a following and sharing content.
Are you stuck at a couple hundred followers and can't figure out how to grow your Instagram audience? Don't worry, I've got you - here are some basics on how to build a profile, gain followers and continue to expand your reach through your posts.
1. Building Your Profile
Create a Theme for Your Account - You can't expect to gain a large following if your profile doesn't have a clear direction. We all follow people who post pics of their kids, then post ads for their stupid business scheme, then selfies, then a million pics of their pugs. Who's supposed to follow them? Fans of pugs? People who are interested in their business? This is probably the most important thing to figure out. What are you trying to promote? Stick to that. You can have a separate account for your family and friends.
Pick A Good Username and Profile Pic - I strongly suggest using the same handle across all social channels. This makes it easy for people to follow you. I use @motdraw1 (my name backwards) for Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. Also, make sure your pic reflects the theme of your account. If your account is about fitness, use a pic of yourself at the gym, etc.
It's very clear what Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen focuses on based on just the profile image and bio
Fill Out Your Bio - Let people know what your account is about. For example: "I'm a fashionista - expect lots of pics of style, fashion and design." Also take advantage of the website link. Instagram only gives you one link to promote, so take advantage of it. Link to your store, your blog, etc. It's a great place to share content. I'm a writer and use the bio section to promote my latest article. For example, "Check out my latest article. See link in bio."
2. Gaining Followers
Alright, you've got your profile on point, your bio is looking good, and you've got a theme. Now it's time to get some attention. You'll get that blue check mark in no time.
- Like a Bunch Of Photos - A quick way to get followers is to start liking photos. Start with photos that are related to your posts. If you're a travel blogger, search for #Paris, #London, #Travel, etc. and start liking photos. Once you start liking other people's photos, a lot of people will start following you back. Another way to quickly get followers is to search for the most popular tags and start liking them. There are a ton of apps that will show you the most popular tags on any given day. It may seem a little cheesy, but it works.
Instagram's search function will give you some idea of how often certain tags are used, and related ones to also consider
- Comment On Pics - This takes time, but it's more effective. Try to comment on as many pics as you can. The less comments a pic has, the better chance that you'll get followed. Just say something nice about the pic,"I really love what you're doing on here! Keep it up." A kind word goes a lot way.
- Start Following People - Instagram does a good job of making it easy to connect with people that you already know. Use the "Find People To Follow" feature. This will import friends from Facebook and your contacts to follow. Also, go to the "Explore" section and start following some of the suggested accounts. About 1/3 of the people you follow, will follow you back. The goal is to have more people following you, than you follow, so don't go crazy.
3. Posting Content
Hey, guess what? You're starting to build your following, Now you've got to start posting pictures.
Here are some tips for posting great looking Instagram photos.
- Lighting - Use natural light whenever possible. It's best to take pictures early in the morning and before the sun sets in the evening.
- Symmetry - It sounds obvious but keep your subject centered.
Instagram uses this as an example of a great Instagram post - it's centered, focused and grabs attention as you scroll
- Background - Keep a simple background. If it's too busy, it will take the focus away from the subject.
- Filters - It's easy to get carried away with filters - some people run their pictures through so many filters that it's unrecognizable when they're finished. Try to use a couple of the same filters on your pictures to give your page a consistent look.
- Color Theme - This isn't always easy to pull off but it looks amazing if your account has a similar color pallet.
You can see how Oreo uses a distinct color palette across their images
- Add Captions - This is fairly obvious but a lot of people don't take advantage of it. The beauty of popular profiles like Daquan and Sailor Mike is their witty comments. Without the funny comment, the pic doesn't work. Take some time choosing the right verbiage before you post - it's almost as important as the pic. Asking a question is another great way to get engagement and people to comment.
- Post Regularly and at the Right Time - There's a fine line between posting too much and not enough. If you don't post often, there's really no need for people to follow you. If you post too much, you'll clog up people's feed and they'll unfollow you. Opinions vary, but posting 1-3 photos is enough to keep your audience satisfied. Don't post just because you haven't posted in a day. Also make sure that you post at the right time of day. Posting at midnight probably won't reach as many people as you'd like. Post when people are most likely to be checking their Instagram: Morning, lunch and after work. You should also use your Instagram analytics to track your specific audience trends.
4. Utilizing Hashtags
Now you've got a good profile, a bunch of followers, and you're regularly posting great content. The next element to look at is hashtags.
This could be a whole article in itself, but we'll focus on the basics:
- Use the Right Tags - If you're a travel blogger and you're posting a picture of the Eiffel Tower, you should tag #Paris, #EiffelTower, and #France. You could also consider using popular tags which might not be directly relevant to your post, but will expose you to a much wider audience (within reason, of course).
- Use a Lot of Tags - This is one of those subjects that people disagree on - some suggest just using a couple of relevant tags and others suggest using all the tags that Instagram will allow. Based on various research reports, around 11 tags is generally considered the optimal amount. It lets people find your pic, without being too spammy.
TrackMaven published a study of optimal Instagram hashtag use late last year
- Tag in The Comments Section - If you're going to only use a couple of tags, it's ok to insert your tags at the end of your post. If you're going to be using a bunch of tags, it can look bad to have them in your post. So put your tags in the comments section. For example, post your pic and then immediately comment on it with your tags.
Left Lane Digital has used the hashtags in comments approach here
That's it. Simple right?
If you're still stuck on what to focus on, look at your posts. Which ones have the highest engagement? The pics of your dogs, the funny memes you post? Start focusing on them and see where it takes you. Remember, this is supposed to be fun so don't stress out about it. It'll happen, just give it some time.