But Isn’t It Just Another Selfie Platform?
Instagram is one of the most powerful and influential social media platforms available at the moment. At present, there are over half a billion active Instagram users every single day. That’s a huge amount of people! You have the potential to reach all of these people at one point or another during your time on Instagram, but you can’t just expect that to happen overnight.
An Instagrammer’s Biggest Enemy…
I’ve been using Instagram for years, and I’ve seen the algorithm change and the app develop countless times. One thing you need to know is that you’ll never be ahead of the game, so ensuring you keep up with updates is vital.
How to Defeat the Algorithm
Instagram is an amazing tool, but it likes to make you work hard to make a name for yourself. There are lots of little tips and tricks that can help your account to flourish, but the one main thing you can do to grow your account and start to generate sales is to engage. This often comes as a surprise to people as they think that creating good content, or always posting at a particular time, or including certain hashtags in their captions is what makes a successful Instagram account. Sure, all these things are very important, but there’s no point in doing this unless you create an audience to see your amazing content!
Now you know that engagement is key – and I’ll take more about that later – let’s take a look at some of the other important things you can do to help grow your Instagram account.
Make a Name for Yourself
Find an Instagram handle that’s short, snappy and relevant. This enables people to find you and have an idea of what your account is about before they start to follow you. Having a relevant Instagram handle helps you be shown higher on the list when someone searches for a related topic which means you’ll get more people visiting your account. It will also help you to build a community as people with shared interests will be able to find you more easily.
My Instagram account used to just be my name, which was fine until I wanted to start growing my account into a vegan recipe page. I would engage and follow lots of people, but didn’t notice much response until I realised people didn’t understand I was a vegan recipe page. They just thought I was someone that liked their brownies, not someone that liked their brownies but also had my own brownie recipe to share. I decided to change my Instagram handle to @plantbased_chloe and I saw a difference almost immediately. People started to follow me back who had previously ignored my follow, and I was getting new followers that I hadn’t engaged with, all because they now knew my topic of interest and wanted to invite me into their community.
First Impressions Count
Bios are another really great way for people to get to know who you are. Clearly stating your company name, what you do, and having a link to your website lets people that find your account, have easy access to your website (which could quite easily lead to sales), and gives them a brief overview of what you do. If you have multiple links you want to be shown in your bio, create a free Linktree account. This will allow people to see all the different links you have at once, and even if you just have one website, you can create links directly to different pages.
Often enough, people decide whether or not to follow based upon your bio. Using relevant emojis in your bio can also encourage people to stick around. Instagram is a fun and exciting platform, so adding some lightheartedness no matter what industry you’re in will immediately make people more interested in your account.
Get Your Head in the Game
As I mentioned previously, Instagram likes to make you work hard for success. When I first started my Insta journey, it was much easier to post, engage and grow your account than it is now. This is because Instagram has implemented new rules to prevent things like spamming, abuse and impersonating.
When engaging on Instagram, there are certain things you need to be mindful of. There are only so many times you can like, comment and follow, and if you overstep the limit, you’ll end up with a 24 hour ban on engaging. If this happens repeatedly, you can end up being locked out of your account so it’s really important you’re careful and don’t go too crazy! Liking and commenting on about 100 posts each hour is probably the safest level of engagement, but only once you’re an established Instagram account.
Instagram’s limit on commenting also means that it’s difficult to comment repeatedly in a short space of time. This can be a bit irritating if you’re trying to hold a giveaway or other contest which requires people to tag friends. These are really great ways of building up your Instagram account as you gain followers quickly and new people become aware of your account through being tagged. However, when I first started holding giveaways, there was no limit on how many times you could comment under a post at once so I would receive several thousand comments. Now, Instagram gets a bit funny if you comment more than four times in a row under one post, so my giveaways now only receive a few hundred comments. They’re still really great ways to increase your social media exposure though, especially if you ask people to share the post to their story to enter the contest as you’ll be reaching their entire follower base.
See Who’s Watching You
Instagram insights for business accounts is one of the most improved tools Instagram provides. It’s super helpful and gives so much information to help you optimize your account. You can see what time of day your followers are most active, and whether there’s a specific day of the week that is best to post on. Posting at the times identified by your insights is likely to increase the engagement you receive on the post, and how many people will see it.
Your insights also show you how many likes, comments, website clicks and the number of people that saw each of your posts. This is a really great way to try and spot which posts your followers are loving the most. For example, the posts that I get the most likes on are Follow Back Fridays, so I try to post these each week as I know they’ll get high engagement, and in turn introduce my account to new followers.
Utilising your stories and using the ‘Poll’ tool is a really great way to create your own insights. You can ask questions about what people want to see on your account and how often they want you to post. For example, when I first started my vegan recipe page, I was posting a lot of reels and every so often sharing photos of my meals. Filming and editing reels took me a long time, and I always seemed to get more likes on my photos than on my reels. I put a poll on my story asking whether people preferred my recipe reels or meal photos, and over 100 more people said they liked my photos more.
Share The Drama!
There are lots of other amazing things you can do with Instagram stories, but before I get technical, they’re called stories for a reason. People absolutely love real life! They want to see who’s behind the account, what you ate for lunch, go canoeing with you. Even if your stories sometimes don’t completely relate to your business, that’s totally fine! People want to see everything that happens behind the scenes, and sharing more intimate parts of your personal life with them – no matter how small – will help them to develop a relationship and trust you, which is vital for making sales, especially to new customers.
Instagram also has so many tools that you can use to amplify your stories. Making interactive stories is such a great way to get the community you’re building to start engaging more with your account. Use the ‘Quiz’ tool to get people involved in answering questions about your business, the ‘Countdown’ tool so people can save the date for your next product launch, or use the ‘Questions’ tool so they can ask you queries about the services you offer. Always add in some music, change the colour of the background to match your branding, and stick to a certain font to make your stories exciting and relevant. If you’re struggling or stuck for ideas, search on TikTok or Youtube for ‘Instagram Story Hacks’ and you’ll find loads of videos showing you creative ways to use your stories!
Make story highlights such as ‘Our Services,’ ‘Our Prices’ and ‘Behind the Scenes’ so people can see exactly what your small business has to offer without even having to click through to your website.
Are We, Like, Engaged?
As mentioned before, the most important thing that you can do to grow your Instagram account is to engage. This means you need to follow, like, comment, share, message… do everything you can to start getting noticed.
One thing I like to do is scroll through hashtags that relate to what I do. For example, I’ll search for ‘#vegandinner’ then spend half an hour liking and commenting on all of the recently uploaded posts that fall under that hashtag. I then like to look at who liked those posts, and give anyone with the word ‘vegan’ in their username a follow and like some of their posts. Liking more than one post on their account, or liking and commenting is more likely to get you noticed as they’ll receive notifications of all the actions you’ve taken, so completing more actions on their profile, such as following, liking, commenting and even sharing one of their posts to your story all at the same time is more likely to get you noticed by them, and earn you reciprocated engagement.
I also like to reply to people’s stories and try to initiate a conversation with them as this shows that you’re interested in their account. The thing with Instagram is that everyone wants to have ‘The Account.’ They want their photography to be the best, their caption to be the funniest and by showing you’re interested by sending them a personal message, it makes them feel as though they have achieved that. Therefore, they’ll want to follow you and engage with your posts as a sort of thank you.
Make Some Pals
Engagement links straight into building up a community. This is my favourite thing about Instagram! It’s absolutely incredible and so, so special that you can build up relationships with people from halfway across the world that you’ll never meet. I’ve formed some of my best friendships through Instagram which is just amazing!
No matter what industry you’re in, there’s a community for it. The only way to discover that community is to engage – and never be afraid to make a move and send a similar account a message complementing their recent post! You’ll find that you soon develop a little group of people that you start having frequent discussions with, who you can always trust to like your posts or give you a shoutout every now and then. The Insta Community is the best! And remember… your vibe attracts your tribe!
Let Your Creativity Shine Through
Now engagement is very important, but if you’re not posting frequently, your posts are questionable, or they simply just aren’t looking too hot, then you’re not going to get back what you give.
Make sure you take good, high quality, relevant pictures that aren’t going to cause offense to anyone. You need to spend a little bit of time thinking up the caption because what you write in there is often what people will comment about, so you don’t want it to be irrelevant or boring as people will completely skip past it. Never leave it too long between posts as this will make people think you’re inactive, so you’ll start to see people unfollow you if you haven’t posted in a month. Aim for every three days, but if you can’t do that, then at least once a week so people have something to look forward to!
Last but not least is hashtags. Now I always put hashtags in my captions, but I never realized just how important they are until I used #veganbiscoff and received 2,500 likes within 24 hours! Creating a list of topic-generic hashtags to copy and paste in every caption is a really great idea – such as ‘#vegan, #veganuk, #veganfood’ – but adding in a few more specific hashtags that don’t have as many posts is vital – such as ‘#veganyorkshirepuddings, #veganoreocheesecake, #veganbirthdaycupcakes’ – as it’s these topic-specific hashtags that will really make a difference to who sees your posts as it won’t get lost down the page as quickly. Be mindful, though, that you can only include 30 hashtags in your caption!
Now It’s Your Turn
As you can see, there are loads of ways to try and boost your Instagram, but the basics are: create a stunning and informative profile, build up friendships, create good content and utilise your insights, and engage! You’ll soon see a big difference in your engagement and your follower count creeping up!