If you’re a blogger, business owner, or social media fiend interested in growing your Instagram following, there are several things that will separate you from the competition. Before I get into specifics, I have to emphasize how important it is to be committed to growing your Instagram and your overall brand presence because it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance.
I was able to grow my Instagram following from 0-5k in just one month before my blog even launched because I worked at it every single day. It’s so important to set aside time (even fifteen minutes) every day dedicated to growing your Instagram. Aside from the hard work and commitment, there are several other factors that will help you grow your Instagram following and boost engagement. Here they are…
1. Quality Content
The number one thing that’s going to increase engagement is creating quality content. Make people feel something when they come across your photo! Don’t just take a picture of your favorite skin care line on a white background. Take a picture of your favorite skin care line in the Amazon, with a waterfall behind it, beads of water lining the packaging, and fresh flowers surrounding it. It’s slightly impractical, but you get the point. As an avid Instagrammer trying to entice new followers, it is so important to not just convey an image, but to convey a feeling, an experience, and an opportunity.
Only put your best out there. This may mean throwing out a cute picture or two to keep your color theme intact, but shake it off. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep a consistent color theme and editing style. When people click on your username the first thing they see is a collection of your nine most recent photos- first impressions matter, people!
Not only does quality photography and a consistent theme look nice visually, but it also gives people an overarching idea of who you are and what you’re about. Show some variety in post types (aka not all flat lay or not all selfies), negative space, and color to create a cohesive, balanced snapshot of your Instagram page. This along with posting consistently will command attention not only from your current followers, but will also help attract new ones.
Being strategic with hashtags is a huge way to get your posts seen by more people. Hashtags organize photos based on categories and interests which generates search optimization and content discovery, allowing people other than your followers to see your posts (as long as your account is public).
Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags per post (although I wouldn’t recommend using all 30 because it comes off as spammy) so take advantage of it! But be smart with the hashtags you choose- try to choose popular ones that are not also oversaturated. For instance, hashtags such as #cute or #love might be at the top of the popular list, but most of the posts are probably unrelated to your niche and yours will get buried under thousands of other posts within minutes.
Get specific with your hashtags (but not too specific so that they go undetected) and be sure to avoid those that could get you shadow-banned.
3. Captivating Caption
It’s called a caption because you’re supposed to captivate people, not bore them to death. Creating engaging captions is a must to grab people’s attention so they not only want to like and comment on your photo, but they feel like they need to! If you’re posting a picture of some flowers, say more than just how pretty they are or how awesome the weather is that day. Tell a story that details why you felt you needed to stop to take a picture of the flowers, or how they represent where you’re at in life. Get creative, and if you really want to grab people’s attention invite them to engage by including a call to action (ask a question at the end).
Going off of the previous example with the flowers, ask your followers what their favorite flower is, how often they “stop to smell the roses,” or how they feel about their current situation. This will prompt them to like and comment on your photo, boosting engagement and prompting others to join in on the conversation. Every single Instagram you post is an opportunity to grab people’s attention, and a killer caption with a great image is the perfect way to do so.
Perhaps the most effective way to boost engagement on Instagram is by interacting with your followers and other accounts. What goes around comes around, and if you’re showing the love to your fellow Instagrammers, chances are they will show some love back.
I have been fortunate enough to build relationships with so many amazing bloggers through Instagram just by liking and commenting on each others’ pictures. And I’m not talking about the Instagram-pod-I-am-only-commenting-so-you-comment-on-mine liking and commenting. I’m talking about genuine interest and support for one another!
One of the first things I did as a new blogger was create a list of Instagram accounts I loved and wanted to collaborate with. For the purposes of helping each other out, try to stick to accounts with similar followers and engagement levels as you. If you have 2,000 followers and your idol blogger has 2 million, she probably ain’t got time for you… #sorrynotsorry.
Building relationships with other Instagrammers in the same boat as you allows you to promote each other by liking each others photos, writing genuine comments, and even giving each other shoutouts. Most people are happy to help and happy to reap the benefits in return.
5. Collaborate With Others
Exchanging shoutouts on Instagram is a great way to bring in a whole new set of followers interested in your brand, and most bloggers (again, stick to those with a similar following) are happy to exchange shoutouts because they, too, will gain something from it. One of my favorite things about blogging is the connections I make with other bloggers and the support we give one another!
Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone and introduce the idea of collaboration. A good place to start is to follow them and like and comment on a few of their most recent posts. Stay away from generic comments such as “love this!” or “so cute!” because it doesn’t come across as genuine. Instead, write a comment at least a sentence long that goes deeper than the surface level and establishes some sort of commonality between the two of you. An example might be, “Wow this is such a great tip! I have struggled with growing my Instagram following for so long and can’t wait to try this out!” A comment like that is way more likely to grab their attention.
And once you’ve got their attention, send them a direct message asking if they’d like to collaborate with you. Do not send a long message detailing every idea you have with 10 reasons why collaborating would be beneficial to both parties. It comes across as spammy and not many people will be into it. Keep it simple and keep it real. This is more than just business, this is about forming, building, and maintaining personal connections, expanding your network, and ultimately, expanding your following.
6. Instagram Stories
Instagram stories are a great way to keep yourself relevant to your followers and give them a sneak peek into your every day life. When it comes to posting Instagram Stories, try to post things that followers may not see on your actual feed, but still keep it niche specific. If you go too far off base you risk loosing their attention; you want to go just far enough outside of your typical posting patterns to entice them so they wanna see more. Here are a few post ideas for your Instagram Story:
7. Post at Prime Times
This is oh so important to maximize the reach of your posts. Posting at prime times (typically around 9am and 5pm) provides a better chance for both followers and potential followers to see your posts, which has a direct impact on engagement levels. Posting on Instagram during high traffic times means more people will view your post on the search page under the respective hashtags associated with your post before it gets buried underneath hundreds of others.
A great resource for analyzing the activities of your followers and seeing which posts preform better than others and at which times is switching your Instagram account from personal to business. This allows you to see demographics of followers including their location, which is very helpful because the location of your followers makes a big difference with prime times. You might think posting at 9am your time is a great way to get your posts seen, but if the majority of your followers live on the other side of the world, they probably won’t be on Instagram in the middle of the night. Pay attention to the patterns of your followers to maximize post engagement.
8. Use Other Social Media Channels
Every social media platform is different. I’ve got a whole other audience on Twitter than I do on Facebook and a completely different one on Pinterest. Use this to your advantage! Posting about your Instagram account on other platforms can draw in audiences that had no idea you existed on Instagram. This is a great way to build your following across multiple channels, and chances are if they were engaged with you on Twitter or Facebook they will be interested in what you have to say on Instagram.
9. Work the algorithm
The new algorithm makes it difficult to reach high levels of engagement, so you want to make sure you are using Instagram in a positive way that provides the most opportunity to get your posts seen. Several factors that contribute to the way the algorithm works is the amount of followers you have, how high engagement levels are, how relevant a post is to your followers, which hashtags you use, and even how many times you open the app, among other things.
(I wrote an entire post on exactly how the Instagram algorithm works so be sure to check it out!)
Basically, a ton goes into what gets your posts ranked higher, but the main thing is to avoid bot-like behavior (aka liking tons of photos at once, commenting a bunch of generic phrases such as “love this” or “so cute”, following/unfollowing large masses at once, etc.). These actions will make your posts practically invisible from anyone but your followers, and even then it’s low on the totem pole.
My advice? Stay away from Instagram pods and focus on the techniques above to grow an honest, highly engaged following- you’ll thank yourself for it in the end.