Updated: Jul 17, 2020
If this is your question, it seems like the answer is constantly changing or completely out of reach. And let's be honest... there's a million different techniques and strategies that will help you grow your Instagram organically (Organically is always the magic word we like to use isn't it?) Instead of writing a never-ending post with all of the tactics you can use in achieving your social media dreams, I decided to generalize some key points below and future blog posts will break down each point in more detail.
So I'll skip all the BS and get straight to it: whether you're looking to grow your business's Instagram or your own personal account, here are the first steps to efficiently using your platform to increase engagement and a loyal following.
1. PICK A NICHE.
This is something I personally struggle with, maybe you can relate. I want to post about so many different things because I have so many interests. This broadened content approach might have worked 5-6 years ago, but if you want to grow in 2020 you've gotta stick to a specific niche.
After a lot of research, analytics have shown that choosing a niche, regardless of the social platform you're using, attracts a loyal, more engaged audience that can relate to you and your interests. This means they are way more likely to hit the follow button.
E X A M P L E:
A young couple is researching destinations for their honeymoon and falls upon your photo backpacking in Europe. If you're a travel focused Instagram page, browsing through your Bali sunset photos or the best Italian Vespa rentals gives them lots of ideas. But imagine they click on your profile and all of a sudden it's a picture of yesterdays brunch, your home decor, and a video of you dancing at the club... chances are they'll be confused on the consistency of your travel photos and not rely on you for their destination decision.
But maybe you're thinking, how do I know which niche to choose?
When choosing your niche, choose something that you have a lot of knowledge on and that you enjoy. What can someone learn from you? How can you inspire someone with that knowledge? One focus doesn't have to be forever. Once you start to grow and maintain an interested audience, you can think about branching out to some other creative content ideas you're interested in that relate. But at the beginning, stick to few similar topics. Here are some thought starters to help:
2. STAY CONSISTENT.
Living in an instant world means our attention span is approximately 6.2 seconds. We are getting bored quicker and quicker, meaning we move on from what doesn't interest us just as fast. This digital age has us consuming information constantly, so we often forget half of the things we saw or heard just minutes ago. All this being said: DON'T BE FORGOTTEN.
Here's the thing -- if you are sporadic with your posting, you won't grow as fast, or even much at all. Your audience's attention span is just as short as yours and they'll continue scrolling forgetting you and your post if you only pop by once in a blue moon. Studies show that the more often you post, the faster your grow. And beyond that, Instagram's algorithm may feature your post at the top of a followers timeline with more frequency and consistency in posting.
Stay consistent with your posting, and remember it takes a lot of time and patience. (Yes, this includes utilizing stories and IGTV!)
3. POST RELATABLE CONTENT.
STAY RELEVANT. Staying on top of trends and what's relevant nowadays will keep your audience engaged and excited, having found someone they can relate to. Aligning your content with trending topics can improve discoverability and ultimately, growth. You can join in on a trending topic, an event, a holiday, etc. in a relevant way to boost engagement. When choosing trending topics to explore, ask yourself if the audience you're looking to attract would pay attention to that specific trend.
E X A M P L E :
Remember when Tiger King was introduced to the world and had everyone talking? Beauty/Fashion accounts were recreating Carol Baskin's style, food profiles baked Tiger King themed cookies, and even travel accounts were inspired by the Big Cat enthuse!
BE. YOU. Copying someone else will only get you so far in the creative world. Using social platforms and others' profiles to inspire your content is always smart, but make sure you find your own voice. Show your personality in your content and don't take yourself too seriously. It is so refreshing to scroll across an authentic profile in a sea of clones. Put the work in: focus on your content, plan out your feed, don't get lazy with it, and don't get discouraged! It takes time and patience.
4. CREATE AN AESTHETICALLY PLEASING PROFILE.
Instagram is a visual platform. So yes, there's a huge focus on the appearance of your account. You know those profiles that look effortlessly beautiful and consistently cohesive? If you want to turn visitors into followers, having a well curated Instagram aesthetic is key. Not only does it help grow your account, it is a great way to show off your unique style and tone.
And here's the best part -- to make an aesthetically pleasing profile, you don't need much experience in photography or crazy expensive gear. Smart phone cameras these days are unbelievable and free editing apps do the trick incredibly! If you're looking for a good way to get started on this, create a mood board that you'd like to replicate. Focus on similar colours, editing styles, presets, quality of photo, etc. to create a cohesive tone. The more your followers see similarities in your photos, the easier it will be for them to identify you while scrolling in their feed.
Presets are really great for creating these looks. You can find tons online, etsy has a lot, or even some of your favourite content creators might be selling or giving away theirs. Perfect for the free download mobile Lightroom app.
If your photo is Tinder, then your caption is Hinge ;) Captions are a GREAT opportunity to open up and relate to your followers. Your writing tells a story and piques the interest of your reader.
My understanding of the Instagram algorithm right now (let's be real it feels like it changes daily) is that the more time you spend on someone's post, the more likely it is for Instagram to push that content out to profiles who aren't following you.
So you know that "...more" button that pops up after 150 characters in your caption? THIS IS VALUABLE REAL ESTATE. Think of it as your hook - what's going to prompt people to either keep reading, or keep scrolling. When someone clicks to continue reading, it forces them to stop their scroll and spend more time dedicated to your post. Chances are more likely for not only engagement, but for Instagram to push your content onto the explore page exposing you to new audiences.
Remember your audience and what they would be interested in reading!
6. COMMUNITY BUILDING/ENGAGE WITH OTHERS.
Not only is Instagram a visual app, its a social app. So get social! Follow and engage with others using the platform, specifically accounts similar to yours. Get to know those people in your niche and create an online community. This is such a good way to grow your account and meet really cool people along the way.
Collaboration > Competition ALWAYS.
Reply back to comments on your posts and initiate conversation. People want to relate to you, be inspired by you, and know you.
Hashtags can be super annoying in the comments, I get it. But they actually are a great way to get discovered by new audiences! Your goal on Instagram as a whole should be to inspire, motivate, or entertain your current audience on a regular basis. Posting new, unique and interesting photos will achieve this, but growing outside of your audience that already follows you includes making good use of hashtags.
Be specific and relevant to your brand and posts. Hash-tagging #KylieJenner or #Love on the photo of your OOTD isn't the right move. Although these might be popular hashtags, using them won't lead to long-term engaging followers. If you want to utilize hashtags to the best of their ability, find relative hashtags to your niche, while also using tags that are searched often on the platform.
8. JUST START.
You can give yourself 82 different excuses a day to justify why you're stalling on starting. And I get it. Knowing exactly what will work for your growth is impossible, and to be honest, sometimes it's just trial and error. Posting every day can be tough, and sharing with people that you don't know can be a bit weird, but if you stop the excuses and commit to finally prioritizing your creativity, I guarantee you'll see a positive outcome.
I hope these points helped, and I always welcome suggestions and comments! :)