How to Grow Your Instagram Audience

Launched in 2010 and acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram has come a long way since its introduction to Social Media users. In just 7 years, more than 40 billion images have been shared on Instagram and the Social Media platform boasts more than 600 million monthly users with 50% of users logging in every single day. As the facts and figures prove, Instagram is massively relevant and this Social Media powerhouse is here to stay.

The sheer number of users on Instagram is a clear indication that, if your brand wants to get noticed and gain an online following, you will need to invest in Social Media Marketing for Instagram. With all of the noise and clatter, however, how will your brand stand out above the din of countless other brands and businesses trying to get noticed on the Social Media platform?

In this article, we will share tips and tricks that you will help your brand's Instagram account get noticed. If you want to learn how NOT to market your brand on Instagram, check out what happened when we tried Instagram automation. The important lesson to be learned by what happened to us when we tried to automate our Instagram growth strategy, is that there is no corner-cutting method to growing your audience.

Tips for Growing Your Following on Instagram

Keep Copy to a Minimum: When it comes to writing copy for the Instagram posts that you share, Instagram has a very broad character limit. Your can use up to 2,200 characters. This leads to the temptation to write long, wordy prose, however, the shorter the copy you include with each Instagram post, the better.

Instagram allows you to use 87 characters in your post copy before the reader is forced to tap the "more" button to expand the text. The thing is, most users don't tap the "more" button and most of what you write with each Instagram post that you share, goes unread. What's more, the wordier your post copy, the less likely Instagram users are to like or comment on it. The most engaging posts have been shown to include 87 character or less.

Be Clear About Who Your Are: A big mistake that many brands make with their Social Media Marketing strategy on Instagram is not being clear about who they are and what their purpose is. A lack of clear direction is perfectly acceptable for personal Instagram profiles. For your brand's Instagram profile however, it should be clear to your audience who you are and what value your brand will add to their lives.

You can add clarity to your Instagram account by having a clearly stated objective in your Instagram bio. Additionally, the images that you choose to share on Instagram should tell a clear and cohesive story. The narrative of your brand must be consistent across all digital channels, including Instagram. With each post, include a simple and clear explanation for your image so your Instagram audience will know what you are all about.

Act Natural: The top performing images on Instagram are natural and candid images. Images that aren't posed and show a clear and direct line of action perform much better than images depicting smiling faces all looking directly into the camera. Additionally, images with natural lighting, no filter and no flash have been show to perform better with Instagram audiences.

Keep it Simple: Images with a number of bright colours don't perform well with Instagram audiences. Instead, choose a simple colour palette with a single dominant colour. 

Focusing on a single, dominant colour in your Instagram posts also provides you with branding opportunities. While many people might think that our own Instagram account goes a little overboard with branding and the colours that we use in our brand marketing, each of our posts garner a significant amount of engagement despite our very lower number of followers.

Don't Post Collages: This tip is simple. Don't post collages comprised of multiple images. The images aren't clear and audiences don't like them. Do not post post collages.

Encouraging Tagging: We are often surprised by how many businesses and brands on Instagram complain about being tagged in other users' Instagram posts. We coach our clients to actively encourage Instagram users to tag them in their posts. Why? Whenever you are tagged in another user's Instagram post, it creates a link to your Instagram account and is essentially a billboard for your own account.

To encourage users to tag your account in their Instagram posts, simply ask them to do it. You can also use tagging as part of an Instagram contest. Ask users to tag your account to be eligible to win a prize.

Repeat History: Looking back at your previous Instagram posts, what posts performed particularly well? Which posts garnered the most interactions from your audiences? Emulating these successful posts and building on them will provide a blueprint for future Instagram posts.

Don't Sell Yourself: This tip is extremely important. The quickest way to turn an audience off is to turn your brand's Instagram account into a sales pitch. We cannot stress enough, how detrimental selling to your Instagram audience is. 

Instead of focusing on actively selling on Instagram, focus on adding value to your Instagram audience. Solve problems in their lives, or even just entertain them. This will engage your audience and encourage them to click over to your brand's website. Your brand's website is where you should focus on selling yourself to your audience.

Post Consistently: The number of times that you post to Instagram each day is important. Many Instagram users aren't going to want to see your content show up in their Instagram feed 4 times per day. Even 2-3 posts each day is too many for most brands. We strongly recommend limiting the frequency of your brand's posts to one HIGH-QUALITY post per day, 7 days per week. 

Posting once per day, everyday, ensures that you stay relevant in your audience's mind without annoying them. A single post also keeps you from watering down your brand's message.

Should You Have an Instagram Business Account: In 2016, Instagram introduced Instagram for Business Accounts. When a business or brand switched their generic Instagram account over to an Instagram business account, they gained access to insights and important metrics pertinent to their Instagram profile. When this update was first introduced, many Social Media Marketing professionals were quick to change their account over to a business account.

Recently, however, there have been a number of changes to Facebook's algorithms that have many marketers convinced that switching your Instagram account over to a business account is not the best thing if you want to get yourself noticed on Instagram. Since Facebook's algorithms now place a greater importance on posts from personal Facebook accounts, many marketers have wisely surmised this same change is imminent for Instagram as well and recommend that you don't change your Instagram account to a business account.

Get Noticed on Instagram

The exception to this idea would be if your business has a physical location. Creating an Instagram business account makes it easier for your customers and clients to find your location, to contact you and to make their way to you. If you think an Instagram for business account would be right for your brand or business, you can learn how to change your brand's Instagram profile into an Instagram for business account here

Use #Hashtags: Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags with each post. To increase your brand's visibility, we suggest using all 30 hashtags. 

Pay close attention to the hashtags that you are using. Don't use the top, trending hashtags on Instagram. Instead, find five trending Instagram hashtags that are relevant to your brand's industry. Next, include five location-specific hashtags. For example, in each of our Instagram posts, we include the hashtags: #Australia #NewSouthWales #NSW. These hashtags help to target a specific geographic area. We want to target users in Australia, specifically Instagram users who are closer to home and are located in the same state as us. A local audience is the one most likely to be following these location-specific hashtags.

For the remaining 20 hashtags, include ones that are specific to your niche market or industry. You can also include some brand-specific hashtags. For example, in every single post that we share on Instagram we include the following hashtags: #SoBuSocialMediaMarketing #SoBu #BeyondFollowers. These hashtags are our full business name, the short version of our business name which most of our followers know us by, and our brand's tag line.

The RIGHT Audience: One mistakes that many brands and businesses make when trying to come up with a Social Media Marketing strategy for Instagram is that they ask themselves the wrong questions. Rather than asking yourself "how do I get more followers on Instagram", we want you to ask yourself "how do I get the RIGHT followers on Instagram".  

There are a number of strategies that will effectively grow the number of followers your brand has on Instagram, crowd following is among those strategies, however, not all Instagram followers are created equally. 

Strategies like crowd following lead to unengaged followers. They are following you on Instagram because you are following them on Instagram. However, aside from adding to your brand's follower count, they aren't adding value to your Instagram in any other tangible way. They aren't interacting with the content that you share on Instagram, and with the algorithm that Instagram introduced in 2016, these unengaged followers are making your brand's account appear unimportant.

With this information in mind, it is important to refocus your efforts, not on gaining as many followers as possible, but on cultivating an engaged following who will like and comment on the Instagram posts that you share. The right following will interact with you on Instagram and these interactions are what Instagram uses to measure the importance of your posts. The increased importance placed on your posts increases your brand's visibility on Instagram. Increased visibility equates to a larger number of engaged followers and thereby increased profitability.

How do Your Find the RIGHT Audience: Now that you know to look for the right audience, rather than aiming to have the largest audience, the question becomes "HOW do I attract the RIGHT audience?"

Create an Ideal Audience Profile: The first step to finding the right audience for your Instagram account is determining who the right audience might be. Why would your ideal audience be on Instagram? How would the images and videos that you share on Instagram be of value to your audience? Where is your audience already spending their time on Instagram? What accounts is your ideal audience already following? 

Answering each of these questions will help you determine a content strategy for your Social Media Marketing efforts on Instagram that will attract engaged follower to your brand's Instagram.

Search Relevant Hashtags: Searching hashtags that are relevant to your niche market will give you a good idea of hashtags that your ideal audience is already using. Not only can you use these hashtags in your own Instagram posts, you can also click on relevant and popular hashtags pertinent to your niche market and interact with the Instagram users who are participating in discussions surrounding these hashtags.

Engage With Your Audience: Take the time to talk to your Instagram audience. When a new follower starts following your Instagram account, click over to their Instagram account. Leave a comment on one of their most recent Instagram posts and like a few of their images or videos.

The most important thing to remember when it comes to Social Media Marketing on Instagram is to be social. As you like and comment on other people's Instagram accounts, you will find that your brand's Instagram audience will grow.

To learn more about Social Media Marketing on Instagram, or to find out about the Instagram marketing services that we offer here at SoBu Social Media Marketing, please contact us here