Instagram isn’t as easy to grow as it once was. With the new algorithm making it harder for your Instagram posts to get seen, people are finding that their engagement is dropping off and they are losing rather than gaining followers. So what can we do to grow our Instagram accounts? Well there are still ways, I’m still managing to grow mine and my client’s Instagram accounts, without doing follow/unfollow, paying for bots or followers. It takes a bit of work, but it’s definitely doable. I gain about 100 followers per week, more if I put more work into it. Mine isn’t huge, it’s currently at 6.6k. I’m aiming for the holy grail of over 10k by the new year. Here are the strategies I use that work for me and they are adaptable for any niche.
Switch to a business account
If you haven’t already, make your account public and switch to a business account. There’s been talk about possible benefits and drawbacks of both personal and business accounts but really, if you’re running a business or a blog as a business, you need a business account. It’s free, you get analytics with it, and you’ll have the opportunity to promote posts if you want to. Use the analytics to get your best times to post, experiment with times and find when your audience is most engaged. Once you get to 10000 followers, you’ll then be able to add links to your Insta stories.
Of course your content has to be good. That goes without saying, but what is great content? Well, for this you need to dig down into who your ideal reader/ customer/ client is. Be really specific. Gender, age, location, likes, dislikes, needs, wants. What is it that you answer? Generally speaking, here’s your checklist:
- Make sure your images are clear, not blurry, clutter free (unless your niche is mums who like keeping it real and relatable).
- Use the same filters or presets, same look to all your pictures
- Add pops of colour, preferably your brand colours
- Consider a theme, for example alternate quotes and pictures, always in the same place, just your children, bright colours, black and white, white backgrounds
- Consider stock photos when appropriate
- Make your own Flatlays
- Use natural light
- Always have your phone or camera to hand for when inspiration strikes
There’s a great free app called Preview, which allows you to add images in grid form to your current IG content, so you can plan out content. You can’t schedule directly to Instagram, but you can use Instagram itself. Add a photo, edit it, caption it and then use the back button until it says Save Draft? Say yes, then it’s there ready for when you want to post. Set a reminder alarm on your phone and when it pings, it’s all there ready. Tailwind has a scheduler that works with an app alarm and it has a hashtag finder for you.
Start them! Keep at it and do at least one a day if you can. If you’re not sure what to do, check out my Insta story hacks. Why do them? They keep your profile up at the top in those red circles, so even if people don’t watch them, they might check your profile out. Once you get to 10k, you can use the swipe up feature to direct people to whatever page you like! I get more views on my stories than I do on my pictures most of the time.
Make your Bio Work For You
You only have 150 characters in your Instagram bio, so use it well. Work out whether you want to be quirky, factual, funny, relatable, informative or a mix. Add emojis for pops of colour and to break up text. Add your email and/or phone number so people can get in touch. Your link, most importantly, get it to work harder – use linktr.ee, a free service which enables you to have more than one link. When people click on your link they get transferred to your profile with buttons to whatever you like!
Use. All. 30. Every. Time.
Hashtags do work, but if you use the same ones over and over mindlessly, they don’t. You have to make sure they work for you. I’m always on the lookout for new ones I haven’t tried or seen. Put them in the caption or first comment, it doesn’t make any difference, but if you go back and add hashtags to old pictures, it doesn’t work. If you don’t like them directly after the caption, use full stops (periods) and the enter button and you’ll get a space. When you’re looking for hashtags, start with your niche, so if you’re a Vegan Mum, search #veganmum or #veganfamily #veganrecipes for example. When you’re looking at those hashtags, Instagram will give you related hashtags, like #veganumums, #veganmummy #veganmumtobe with how many public posts have used that hashtag. Use a mixture of big numbers and small (under 10k). The larger hashtags will give you more exposure but are faster moving, the smaller ones are often more engaging and you’re more likely to rank higher. Once you have some related hashtags, click on them to find more related hashtags and to niche down further. It can be a real Instagram rabbit hole and you can get a long list very quickly. Look at your competitors who are doing well, what hashtags are they using? Consider starting your own hashtag – whilst nobody technically ‘owns’ a hashtag, if you make one up and no one has used it, it’s OK to claim it as your own. Invite people to follow you and use the tag, and every week or two feature some pictures (with the account’s consent).
Make sure there is a descriptive element to the image, Instagram’s algorithm likes to relate words to pictures, so without being too obvious, talk about what’s in the picture and it will rank higher. Thoughtful, inspiring captions work well, often including a quote or a story related to the picture. Some of the best IG accounts I follow, their pictures and narrative have a natural, relatable or inspiring flow, and I feel like I know them just through their Instagram. The pictures don’t have to be flawless or feature a perfect life and house, just be you. Emojis can add interest, use the return key to add breaks.
Growing your Following
Once you’ve got your quality content out there, at least 12 posts following all the suggestions above, you will naturally gain followers, but due to the fickle nature of a lot of business and marketing Instagrammers, you will also lose followers. It’s a bit like taking 4 steps forward and 3 steps backwards and can be annoying. To grow followers you have to be proactive and spend time on the platform. It’s a social network, so you have to be social.
- Follow others in your niche, particularly competitiors
- Go into your competitors with large followings posts – like and comment which will gain you visibility, and look at who liked and commented on their posts, consider following them, as they are already engaging with similar accounts and may like your content
- Follow accounts that are your ideal client/consumer type
- Follow accounts who are using your keyword hashtags
- Before you post, like and comment on some home page posts (people you follow)
- After you post, go into each hashtag and like and comment on some of the top 9 posts and some of the recent posts. Follow if you like them
- Look through explore feed and like, comment, follow
- Follow up to 100 per hour (if you have that sort of time!)
- You can follow up to 7000 depending on how many people follow you
- Once a week use an app like Unfollowers to unfollow any recent unfollowers (people who followed you then unfollowed) and consider unfollowing some people that don’t follow you back. This is so that you don’t have too high a ratio of following to followers
- Consider joining an Instagram pod, which is a group of online friends who agree to like and/or comment on each others posts as soon as possible to the posting time, to boost the algorithm. The more likes and comments you get as soon as you post, the higher Instagram will rank it. I’m in a like only pod which suits me. There are also Instagram Instant threads in Facebook groups, where you post at a specific time and everyone has to like all the other posts in the thread within a specific time period, usually 20-30 minutes. It isn’t genuine likes, but it can give a boost. I don’t do them currently, as it’s too much work for me and once you start, if you then stop you get a drop in engagement.
Please note these points are not using follow/unfollow, it keeps your mutual followers, and you can star accounts that you are a fan of and want to stay following, even if they don’t follow you. You can do as much or as little of these tasks as you like alongside regular (daily at least, but no more than 4 times a day) quality posts, and you’ll soon see your numbers rise. It can be disheartening if you notice people unfollowing you, but they’re usually businesses and brands that are unfollowing you, as you haven’t followed back, or they’re not your fans, so don’t take it personally. We’re all in it together!
If you’d like some help growing your Instagram, I offer competitive packages to grow your Instagram, plus you get a personalised plan with hashtags and an Instagram audit. Contact me via the form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
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