Over the past couple of years, Instagram has established itself as the hub for small businesses and new brands to make a social name for themselves. From interaction to business profiles to sponsored posts, if you do not have your business and brand on Instagram, you’re missing out big time.
People have asked me how to grow an audience on Instagram. The good news is that there’s no secret; the bad news is that there’s no secret.
Social media has conditioned users to get what they want quick. Patience really isn’t a thing when it comes to social media. We see posts and accounts with tons of interactions and, for some reason, we tend to assume that the users of these accounts flipped a switch one day and had a viral following.
Incorrect! Well, for the most part. There are exceptions to everything. However, the way to build your Instagram account is plain and simple: Choose a target market and interact with those users in a variety of ways. Here are some of the top ways to build your Instagram following overtime:
Ensure that your account reflects your business and/or personal brand and target an audience based on that. I started to gain a large following (I have over 7500 followers right now) when I started targeting. No one really cared about my general, everyday life enough to start following me just to see Tupperware reorganization or piles of folded laundry. Hell, people didn’t even care enough about my really cute kids to follow me!
But then I started targeting the running community, and my following exploded in a relatively short period of time. Running is a huge part of who I am, and runners are who I truly enjoy interacting with and who I connect with. Therefore, the running community was the perfect choice for my target audience. By choosing this audience and tailoring my Instagram activity to it (hashtags, who I interact with, when I post, etc.), I was able to gain a lot of followers who I truly connect with. It is crucial that you figure out what you are doing on Instagram in the first place so that you can target an audience that connects with that.
Like/Comment On Photos. I know; I know – duh. But people want to think that hashtagging and geotagging is enough to get a crap ton of followers. It helps, but you should remember that it’s called “social” media, not “passive” media. You have to be social for social media to work for your business and brand. You should consistently like and comment on posts made by members of your target audience, and the comments should be legit. “Cool pic” isn’t sufficient.
Back to the running example: A target audience is important for this step because I can connect with the questions and comments people post about. I honestly don’t have much to say about men’s fashion, so…trying to interact with those accounts would be silly. I’m not saying that your Instagram interaction is bound solely to a target audience, but keep in mind that you are using it as a business tool.
Use the “follow hashtags” feature to meet new people. Instagram is making it easier and easier for users to network with others. By choosing hashtags that connect with your business and brand, you can see the posts in your Instagram feed. The old method was to search for hashtags and like photos. Now, it’s all in one place.
I encourage you to add 3-5 hashtags that connect with what you do and your purpose for networking. Using typical hashtags (such as #instagood and #love and #bestoftheday) will give you the equivalent of standing in a junk yard. Make sure the hashtags are targeted, and like/comment on the photos! Simply interacting with the users who you follow and who follow you isn’t going to get you the kind of growth you are looking for. It’s a great idea to create loyal followers, but don’t forget to make new friends.
Use the “stories” feature to post your daily life posts; the Instagram feed is meant for stunning and relevant photos – not a picture of your sink full of dirty dishes. Gary Vee nailed the whole “native content” thing. Native Content is the content that the social network is made for. Instagram was created for editing and posting amazing photos, but not the same kind of photos you’d find on Snapchat. Snapchat is more “snapshots” of your daily life. I mean, come on – have you ever seen a bagel look better than it does on Instagram?! Pretty food; pretty landscapes, pretty everything – Instagram is meant to showcase amateur photo skills. So keep your feed topped with those types of photos.
It can be temping to use the Instagram feed for relentless photos of your daily life (the laundry, your new hair care line, a note you wrote to your spouse, etc.). This isn’t native content. These are the snapshots of your life, and people want an inside look at what you do all day…but the Instagram newsfeed isn’t the place for that. Use your Instagram feed for the best photos you take; use the Instagram Stories feature for your pissed off videos about being stuck in traffic and more.
Those are my top tips for building a real, lucrative Instagram following. There are a few things to be careful with, so hear me out a little longer:
Do not use bots. I tried it so you don’t have to go through the misery. Bots like, comment, follow, and unfollow for you. I have yet to find one that appears 100% reputable. You should be extremely careful of who or what service has access to your Instagram account, and bots need access to your account to start the automation process. The truth is that building an Instagram following takes time and consistency. The best way to do it is to stay current with your activity. If you use a bot, you run the risk of temporary or permanent Instagram account bans. Why risk it?
If you DO use a bot, do not perform any activity during automation. Doing so can cause Instagram to flag your account for engaging in activity that is too fast, flagging your account as a bot account.
Do not post comments that seem quick and irrelevant. Commenting just to comment isn’t cool. Comments should be meaningful and should add something to the post. What question did someone ask in his/her post – are you answering it, or are you disregarding it and simply commenting something like “awesome!” Plus, if you post “awesome” too many times in a row, Instagram could flag your comments as spam and could shut that ish down.
Remember that people who succeed in business do so because they add value and make friends. A one-work comment that could be posted on any photo isn’t anything of value, and you lessen your chances of building a relationship with users if that’s your style.
- Do not access Instagram’s private API by any other means than the app. This means no bots.
- Do not submit unwanted email and comments to any Instagram members. This means don’t spam people with stupid comments that don’t mean anything anyway.
Keep the following guidelines in mind:
- You cannot follow more than 7500 users max.
- Posts with over 30 hashtags will post, but the caption will not appear. Do not use more than 30 hashtags.
- Do not follow/unfollow more than 20 people per hour.
- Do not like more than 350 photos per hour.
Happy Instagramming! Note: This post is not associated with Instagram; these are my own thoughts and may not reflect the thoughts of the company.