After setting up my Instagram account for The Intrepid Guide just over 2 years ago, I had no clue how I was going to gain new followers. I thought it would be easy.
I looked around and saw all these high profile accounts with massive followings who barely used hashtags at all and had three-word captions. For a while I did the same, I emulated their formula expecting to have the same results and hundreds of thousands of followers in no time.
But nothing happened.
So, why wasn’t my account growing?
It’s important to remember that most of these accounts started years ago when Instagram was a very different place. Facebook didn’t own it, it wasn’t monetized, no one was really good at photography and accounts certainly didn’t have themes.
These days, we have to be more savvy and use a more practical approach to growing our Instagram feeds. I’ve tried many ways to grow my account, but none have worked as successfully as the ones that I’m going to share with you here.
As the Instagram algorithm changes and with the recent Facebook announcement stating how it will be prioritising family and friend posts over media outlets and brands in your feed, reaching our readers and followers is becoming increasingly more difficult.
However, it’s important not to forget the basics of how we can still reach our current followers while still attracting new followers.
We just need to put our marketing hats on and make smarter and more strategic decisions.
I grew my Instagram to 34,000 followers in 2 years just by implementing these tried and tested tips and tricks.
This practical and actionable guide is broken into two parts. Part 1 is focused on how to reach a new audience. Part 2 focuses on how to ensure you’re still reaching your existing followers and growing your engagement.
Now for the juicy details!
Here are my top 8 tips to growing your Instagram account.
How to Gain New Instagram Followers
Tip #1 – Promote your Instagram account on your blog
Sounds basic, right? You’d be surprised how few people will actually be aware of your account.
You have to market yourself!
Easy! If you have a blog, use an Instagram widget to showcase your feed in the sidebar of your blog. There are so many free widgets to choose from and getting set up is a breeze.
As readers browse your post, they will spot the widget and see a snippet of your latest posts. These widgets are clickable and will direct the user to your Instagram feed.
Go a step further and start to embed appropriate images into your posts. This is a great way to promote your feed as the image will appear larger than in any Instagram widget and will showcase the quality of your content.
Tip #2 – Tag locations and hashtags in your stories
This is my favourite and most powerful tip.
A surefire way of reaching your target audience is by adding appropriate hashtags and a location to your stories. By doing this you’ll appear in both the story of that hashtag and location and reach those who are interested in both the location and the topic of your hashtags.
When you do this, be sure to also include your Instagram handle so people can easily reach your account from your story.
Tip #3 – Make the first hour count
The Holy Grail of Instagram is getting into the top 9 grid of a hashtag. By achieving this, you’re guaranteed new eyeballs on your content. People who follow these hashtags are more liking to discover you if you’re featured here.
So, how does one get in the top 9 grid?
Since the new Instagram algorithm favours posts with high engagement, (loads of likes and comments) this lets the algorithm know that it’s high-quality content that other users might want to see which boosts your chances of ranking for that hashtag.
A post that gets 500 likes in 2 hours has a better chance of ranking in the top posts than a post that gets 5,000 likes over 24 hours.
To help with this, make sure you create a story and tell your followers you’ve just uploaded a new post and that you want them to tell you what they think in the comments section.
When they do reply, keep the conversation going, reply back and forth as much as you can. This is seen as engagement in the eyes of Instagram’s algorithm.
Note that it’s important to use hashtags with the sort of engagement you can actually compete with (ie. posts with similar amount of likes and comments to your) for this to really work.
Tip #4 – Experiment with hashtags
With each new post, ensure you’re using relevant hashtags.
I know, hashtag research is boring but think of it as the SEO for Instagram. What are people searching for? Who can benefit from seeing your content? It’s important to mix up your hashtag each time and take note of any which ones you rank for in the top 9 grid.
Finding hashtags that are relevant to your account and posts can make all the difference. If you want to get on the radar of certain brands, companies, or feature account include a select mix of their hashtags.
Remember, you can use up to 30 hashtags per post.
Pro tip: After you post, place all your hashtags in your comments section so your descriptions don’t look spammy.
How to Increase Engagement
Tip #1 – Ask your followers to turn on their notifications
Instagram works in mysterious way, but it seems to favour and prioritise those who produce video content, be it in the form of stories, videos on your feed itself, or doing an Instagram Live.
We can’t always be producing video so a great way to make sure you’re always appearing in your followers feeds is by asking them to turn on their notifications. This ensures that whenever you post something, you won’t get lost in their feed or worse, forgotten!
To do this, create a short story every once in a while as your account grows reminding and encouraging your followers to turn on notifications. Make a short and fun tutorial showing them how to do it.
Tip #2 – Encourage participation
It’s easy to forget that their are actual people on the other end reading and following your feed. So, it’s easy to fall into the trap of having a one-way conversation all the time.
As soon as you start to interact with and ask your followers questions, the more they will participate, give you feedback, and boost your account engagement with more likes and comments. Yay!
There are a number of ways to encourage follower participation.
First, don’t forget to ask a question in the description of your photos. Be sure to stick around to comment back and thank that person who has gone out of their way to respond.
A pet peeve is when a large account asks me to do something, saying they’ll comment back but never do. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, especially when you’re growing. There really is no excuse.
Next, start using the poll feature in your Instagram stories for binary feedback. Followers love to interact with these, not only to participate but also to see what the winning vote is. Over time you can use these polls to ask your followers questions and gauge what they like, dislike, and want more of.
Tip #3 – Up the quality of your content and photography
Pay attention to which of your posts perform well. Really dissect what made the post popular.
Was it the topic you wrote about in your description? Was it because you were in the photo? Did you provide something of value which helped your followers somehow? Was your description more personal than usual? Or was it that the colours and editing that were spot on?
Notice any patterns that start to form in the engagement of your feed and try to replicate that as much as possible.
Having said that, make sure you are editing your images. If you’re not tech savvy enough to use editing tools such as Adobe Lightroom, use photo editing apps like A Color Story and VSCO to help create a consistent look to your photos. Pick a filter you like and stick with it. Plan out the look of your feed by using the UNUM app.
Tip #4 – Post photos in portrait
For a quick win, do this! Post your images in portrait and see your likes grow.
Remember, Instagram is a visual platform, so the more real estate you take up on the users screen the more of an impact you will have. Avoid uploading photos in landscape mode as this has little effect on the user.
Over to you!
So, there you have it. By implementing these 8 Instagram tricks of the trade in 2018, you’ll see your Instagram account grow
Growing your Instagram account will feel like an uphill battle most of the time, but it’s important not to get disheartened and remember that it’s a marathon not a sprint.
Growing slow and steady means you’ll have a more engaged following which is better than having a tone of followers who don’t interact.
About the author: Michele from The Intrepid Guide is a travel and language blogger and author. Originally from Australia, Michele moved to Rome in pursuit of perfecting her Italian. Currently based in London, she lives by the motto “The more we travel, the more we learn.” With her blog, Michele shares her passion for bringing language and travel together through with her destinations guides, language learning tools, travel phrase cheat sheets, and more! Follow her on social media as she shares fascinating and little-known linguistic and cultural facts.
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