With more than one-billion active monthly users, Instagram is massive, but how do you build a following of your own?
This isn’t a ‘get Insta-famous’ quick type blog. That’s impossible without buying followers or likes and what’s the point in that? A bot isn’t going to buy your product or sign up to your service.
In order to grow on Instagram, you have to put in some work.
Before you start building up your Instagram following, you should have the foundations already in place and that starts with a well-performing profile.
First, make sure to use a profile picture that stands out. Do you have a selfie with a colourful background? A professional headshot? If not, just pick your favourite.
Next, we need to change our name. This is the only part of our profile that is searchable, so we want to make sure we can be found.
To optimise your bio, you need to include a keyword or two. For example, say I was a personal trainer (don’t laugh), I would put David | Personal Trainer. That way if someone searches for a personal trainer on Instagram, I’m in with a shout of being found.
After that, make sure you explain who you are and what you do. Following on the personal trainer theme, you could say I help people become the best versions of themselves.
Also, include a link to your website or somewhere people can get to know you a little bit more.
If you have a business profile, you can also use contact buttons to make it easier for your customers to get in touch with you.
Starting from scratch?
If you are starting from zero, the best way to build up your following on Instagram is by leveraging the audience you have on other social media platforms. Tell your Facebook friends that you are now on Instagram, put your Insta link on your website, you could even put it in your email signature.
If you’re starting your account from scratch, you will want to get 12-photographs up fairly quickly, as this will make your profile look full.
So posting once a day for the first 12-days is a good idea – how many people do you follow with one photo? After that you can begin a regular posting schedule of once, twice, or three times a week. Whatever suits you best.
To create engaging content, we need to ask ourselves what does our ideal audience want to see?
If you’re a restaurant, take mouth-watering photographs of your food. You could look at your feed as if it were a menu of the food.
A good rule of thumb is to have a look at your competitors and see what is working well for them – and what isn’t.
This is your opportunity to expand on your post and to encourage your audience to take a particular action.
We can ask questions in the caption in a bid to encourage people to comment on the post. The first half-hour to an hour is the most important time. As if you get a lot of engagement in this time, you have an opportunity to be featured on the explore page and be found by people who don’t already follow you.
To give yourself the best chance of doing this, you need to reply to every comment you receive, as not only will this strike up meaningful conversations with your audience, building more trust, it will also show Instagram that people are interested in this post.
Another way to make the most of your caption is to think of Instagram as a mini-blog. You could post the first paragraph or two from a blog post on your website, followed by a call-to-action, like asking them to click the link in your bio to continue reading (you can’t post a link directly into an Instagram post).
Hashtags are essential when you are trying to build your instagram following. They are a great way to expand your reach.
You can use a maximum of 30 hashtags in a post and I would recommend getting the most bang for your buck and using all 30, but don’t clutter the caption. Instead, post your photograph and caption and then put the hashtags in the comments.
However, you don’t want to use the same hashtags every post. I know it’s easy to keep a list of your favourite 30 in your notes, but you don’t want to get flagged for spam and have Instagram decrease your reach.
A way round this is to compile five different hashtag groups from within your industry – a group is a list of 30 relevant hashtags. It will be time consuming at first, but it will save you time in the long run. Having five different groups will also ensure you don’t appear spammy to the algorithm.
You can then rotate through them.
Also, try mixing up the popularity of the hashtags you use. If you exclusively use the most popular hashtags, your post is going to disappear instantly along with everyone else’s. Mix it up – do research and find small to medium hashtags that exist in your industry. Then throw in a couple of popular hashtags, but focus more on the small to medium size ones.
Stories are a big deal. They are almost like a secondary app. If your feed is your highlight reel, your story is the behind the scenes.
You don’t have to appear as pristine in your stories, as they only last 24-hours before disappearing.
While we advise only posting a couple of times a week to your feed, it’s best to use the story feature as much as possible – unless you’re at a concert, no one enjoys clicking through a concert as fast as they can.
The more you use the story feature and the more they watch and engage with it, the more likely you are to appear at the front of the story bar. This has a knock on effect and it will also help you appear on more Instagram feeds.
So it’s a good idea to encourage as much engagement as possible and use the app’s features to your advantage. Post behind the scenes, ask questions with the poll, do a Q&A, post limited time offers, and encourage direct messages.
When someone messages you, not only does it give you the opportunity to speak directly to a potential client, it also tells Instagram that they are interested in your profile and increases the chances of your posts showing up on their feed.
Bonus tip: Did you know you can use hashtags in the story section? You can use 10 hashtags in the text section in stories and then use your fingers to make it as small as possible, so you can barely see them. This gives you the chance to appear in location based stories and increase your reach and potentially build up your Instagram following.
Gary Vee’s $1.80 strategy
This is a technique that was coined (excuse the pun) by entrepreneur Gary Vee. Essentially it’s when you find a relevant hashtag on Instagram and comment on it. Gary recommends finding nine popular hashtags in your industry and commenting on the top 10 posts on each – leaving your two cents, hence the $1.80 name.
For example, say you wanted to target people who have posted in Oban. You could search #Oban and then like and comment on a number of posts. Say you had a coffee shop for example and you liked and commented on someone’s photograph of Oban bay saying: ‘What a beautiful photo. I hope you enjoyed your time in Oban. What was your favourite part?’
You have engaged with that person and not only have you opened the door for them to return the favour and maybe become a follower, which would help build your Instagram following, but you have also made them aware of you, and your shop – and they might just pay you a visit if they are still in Oban or when they return.
You could do the same for #Argyll #Mull #Highlands to name a few and achieve similar results, but you don’t have to go as far as Gary Vee. Even if you spent 15 minutes a day engaging with potential customers, you will reap the rewards in the future when you build an engaged Instagram following.
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