These days it seems like everyone on social media is on a mission to get as many followers as possible, but is that really the goal? Even if you’ve managed to gain a ton of new followers, if they aren’t part of your target audience then they won’t actually contribute to your business. This only creates the illusion of success rather than the real thing.
Growing an organic Instagram following requires two phases of action. The first involves creating a beautiful space that people will actually want to be a part of and follow. The second phase requires that you put yourself out there in order to increase your social visibility.
With Instagram in particular, it’s crucial that you complete these steps in the correct order, since attractive visuals are a major component of growing your audience. Remember, paying for followers or likes won’t get you the new clients you’re looking for, so focus instead on growing a real and engaged audience organically by following these 12 steps.
How to create a beautiful & welcoming space
Step 1: Write an informative bio
Prospective clients are going to want to learn more about you through your Instagram profile, so it’s important to include a bio on yourself and your business. Write a description of the products or services that you offer and who your target customer is, but make sure to keep it short, sweet and to the point so that readers don’t get bored or overwhelmed with too much information.
You want people to be able to contact you if they’re interested, so you need to provide basic information in the description, such as your email address and the city where your business is located.
Tag lines can also be used to give this section a little extra flare, so feel free to include it if your business has one.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to get a little personal. People enjoy learning cute little facts about you, like if you’re a dog lover, recently engaged or a coffee addict, so feel free to include anything that really resonates with you, your lifestyle or personality. These kinds of details make you seem more relatable and approachable for potential clients and gives them the impression that you have something in common.
Step 2: Have a Theme and/or Colour Palette
Whether you’re creating your Instagram presence from scratch or just revamping it, it’s important that you make a decision on the subjects you’ll be posting. Will you share aspects about your business, lifestyle, fashion, travel, recipes, inspiring quotes or some combination of these topics?
I use Instagram as a part of my business, so I make sure that everything I post relates back to it in some way. If your business is the focal point of your social media presence as well, then you want to make sure to focus on it as much as possible. In my case, I post client work, but I also share photos of myself, quotes and mood boards that inspire me and photos from my stock shop.
Because Instagram is such a visually-dependent platform, choosing and sticking to a colour palette will also be a significant factor in your success. This helps to keep everything looking uniform and makes your content look more visually appealing when someone scrolls through your feed.
You can use other colours outside your palette, but generally speaking, try to keep it looking fairly consistent and balanced. For instance, my feed is bright and colourful, but fuchsia tends to recur throughout my photos. To balance this out, I try to include white images more often to make it easier on the viewers’ eyes.
Step 3: Post high quality photos
Quality communicates professionalism. Don’t bother posting any poorly photographed or blurry images. Maintaining a high standard of quality is especially important for businesses, as they need to be taken seriously by current and potential clientele.
You can take high-quality images on a professional DSLR camera or even a cellphone with a high resolution camera. Whatever equipment you choose, just make sure that the photo is well lit and properly composed, the focus is sharp and that there is no grain in the image.
Step 4: Curate feed to be balanced and cohesive
Managing the quality of your photos is a basic rule for success, but quality alone is not enough to grow your following. You must always keep in mind the appearance of your feed overall, since that will be the first thing users see when they visit your account. To create a visually-appealing Instagram feed that creates a positive first impression, you need to check for errors or inconsistencies in your posts.
Avoid posting overly similar photos next to each other and make sure that your colours, compositions and subject matter are evenly spaced out. For instance, don’t post three photos of yourself in a row, or place multiple images of the same colour right next to each other. Colours and the brightness or darkness of images all carry visual weight, so they need to be distributed evenly and strategically. You can use apps like Planoly or Plann to help you plan out the arrangement of your feed before you post it.
Step 5: Write meaningful captions
Captions are a great opportunity for grabbing the attention of users and turning them into fans of your business. However, it’s not enough to just post any caption.
Provide added value to your audience with helpful tips or advice to help them out in their own businesses and daily lives. You should also try to be as authentic as possible. Social media users, and millennials in particular, can see through insincere marketing attempts in an instant and they reject them entirely, so don’t let this be you.
Make yourself vulnerable by speaking about your obstacles and experiences. Sharing this kind of information about yourself makes you more relatable and gives your audience a more personal impression of you.
Now, as relatable as sharing your challenges can be, you don’t want to be totally down on yourself either. Be inspiring and share a positive story or message which has helped you to grow and become stronger. You also want to mention your business occasionally, so weave in aspects about it without making your captions all about selling either.
How to increase visibility & engagement
Step 6: Use Hashtags
For those of you who are new to hashtags, they’re basically how Instagram users search for specific posts, accounts or topics. For example, I use #torontophotographer and #brandphotographer on all of my posts so that when people who are in need of a photographer are searching for one using hashtags, I will instantly pop up in their search results.
Think about who your target audience is and what sort of topics or services may interest them. Once you know what they are likely to search for, you can use these topics or key words in your hashtags to bring these people to your account.
If you’re not sure where to start, try looking at the accounts of popular people within your niche and see what kinds of topics or hashtags they use to increase viewer engagement. Once you’ve got the hang of using hashtags, you’ll probably realize just how useful they can be in growing your following. They’re especially great because they help to bring your target audience directly to you!
Step 7: Ask your audience questions
One new challenge that Instagram users are facing is the platform’s change to a different algorithm, altering the way that users see posts. This has made it so that users will only see the accounts on their home feed that they are most interested in. In this case, interest is gauged according to accounts a user likes or comments on.
Therefore, moving forward, it will be crucial for businesses and bloggers to find new ways of getting users to comment as much as possible on their posts, if they want to remain visible. One way to accomplish this might be to ask a question at the end of your caption in order to encourage your readers to leave a comment. Whatever question you choose, try to pick a topic which is highly engaging and likely to generate a response.
Step 8: Reply to all Comments
Another simple way to increase reader engagement is to reply to comments left on your posts. If your readers have taken the time to leave you a thoughtful comment, then you should try your best to reply to as many of them as possible. This kind of attention to followers on an individual basis makes your audience feel special and as though their thoughts are actually being heard. This also encourages other users to comment and helps you to connect with your audience as well as foster a sense of community.
With that said, not all comments are worth responding to. For instance, don’t bother with any spam items posted from bot accounts as these will be of no benefit to your business.
Step 9: Post consistently
The best way to stay relevant and maintain your brand awareness is to publish new posts consistently. Only the users who can maintain this level of activity will be able to build their own tribe of followers. You need to give your audience a reason to visit your page again and again, so you’re going to have to share fresh, new content on a daily basis if you want to keep people interested in what you have to offer.
Step 10: Leave genuine comments
While replying to people’s comments on your own posts is helpful for creating close connections between yourself and your followers, this alone isn’t enough to get your brand out there. A great way to increase your brand’s visibility is to comment on other people’s photos, especially if they happen to be someone you want to foster a business relationship with. Doing so also opens you up to their unique group of followers and makes it so that they can easily access your profile with the click of a button. Liking photos is fine, but keep in mind that you’re not as likely to get people to notice you and click to your account as if you leave a comment.
Step 11: Post on Insta-stories
Insta-stories are the perfect place to be real and unscripted with your followers. They give you the opportunity to share your story without having to worry about details like whether the photos or videos you’re using are well curated or high in quality. This casual storytelling medium is an excellent way to show your followers the behind-the-scenes details of how you run your business as well as show off your unique and quirky personality.
Step 12: Cross Promote with related accounts
Sometimes it’s useful to reach out to others within your industry and team up in order to work towards a common goal. Giving other businesses a shout-out on social media gives you exposure to their audience, making it an excellent way to gain increased visibility. You can do this quite naturally by simply tagging them in a caption and talking about the details of your meeting or collaboration. This could be as simple as mentioning a meeting over coffee, a project you’re both working on or the story of how you first became acquainted. I like to think of cross promoting as ‘spreading the love’. This is because if I know an amazing business owner, I want to share their awesomeness with everyone I know!
What are your tried-and-true strategies to grow your Instagram following? Comment below!