When you first get started with your social media strategy on Instagram, it may seem pretty straightforward.
You create an image with a caption, find a couple of relevant hashtags to tack on to it, and post it. Wah-lah! You get thousands of likes and start attracting a huge following.
I mean, isn’t that how all the picture-perfect influencers with millions of followers do it?
Well, not exactly. If you want to learn how to grow your Instagram, follow these best practices.
Grow Your Instagram With These 7 Best Practices
1. Craft a Bio that Draws in Your Ideal Audience
Your Instagram bio is the first thing someone reads when they click on your profile picture to go to your profile. It’s like an elevator pitch to your audience. It tells folks who you are and what you do.
If you craft it wisely, it will drive them to click that follow button.
Every Instagram bio should have these elements:
- A clear description of who you are and what you do
- Something about your mission that speaks to your ideal audience with a touch of personality
- Any proof of credibility like awards (this is not “a must” though)
- A call to action with a link
For a great example, see the below Instagram bio from @vixmeldrew who devotes her account to helping others grow their Instagrams and has a wealth of information.
2. Identify Content Pillars for a Consistent Posting Strategy
Before you hit the ground running and start posting content, you will need to devise a strategy with the content you post and find ways to be consistent.
A great place to start is your content pillars and content calendar. Content pillars are a set of topics, usually 3 to 5, that you will consistently create content for.
Content pillars for a financial Instagram account could be something like:
- Saving money
- Paying off debt
If you have a blog, YouTube, or other platforms that you already create content for consistently, you should reuse those same content pillars but for Instagram, you will take these content pillars a step further.
A great way to make planning and creating content for Instagram a breeze is brain dumping lists of post ideas in each of your content pillar columns on a spreadsheet and saving it. Set aside a cadence that you will sit down either every week or couple of weeks to revisit this spreadsheet and create your content from your previously dumped lists. Then use apps like Later or Buffer to schedule out your posts.
This will help you stay organized, consistent, and on-brand.
Related: How to Create a Content Calendar
3. Learn About the Instagram Algorithm
The Instagram algorithm is tricky and is constantly keeping creators on their toes with how often it updates. The more you stay in the loop with the updates that are happening on Instagram, the better and you can do so on their About site.
Also, be aware that the algorithm has been proven to have bias towards certain accounts. Several BIPOC and LGBTQ+ creators have voiced that their content’s reach has been shrinking and Instagram has continued to get more and more strict with entire profiles being shut down without notice or explanation.
Instagram even cracked down on their sensitive content control setting all accounts to limit sensitive content by default but can be changed by going into your Instagram account settings under “Sensitive Content Control”. The intention of this feature was to limit violent, sexually suggestive, and illegal content which is absolutely necessary to protect their users. However, after the update went in, several LGBTQ+ accounts’ content was no longer being seen by their followers.
Most of the algorithm’s inner workings are out of your control but the more engagement you have on your posts the better. This will help boost them and let them be seen by your audience. Your followers also want to naturally support you, so if you guide them on ways to engage in your posts the more likely they are likely to take action. Ways to do this might be asking for them to like and comment on a new post in your stories or giving a call to action of engagement like “Comment a ? if you agree” in the caption of a new post.
Most importantly, don’t get too caught up in the algorithm but make sure you are educated on how it works and what to expect will help guide you through your Instagram growth.
4. Research Hashtags
Hashtags have a huge potential to increase the reach of your profile and your posts. Users often search Instagram via hashtags and if they see your post after searching, they are likely to follow to learn more.
To research the best hashtags to use to grow your following, start searching keywords on Instagram and see the different hashtags that come up. You can also use a tool like the Keywords Everywhere hashtag tool.
Instagram has recently come out and recommended that users only use 3 to 5 hashtags which is a huge change from the previous 30 hashtag limit. I suggest you experiment with different amounts of hashtags on different posts and see which ones are getting the highest reach from hashtags by looking at your analytics.
5. Experiment with Different Content Types and New Features
There have been more updates to Instagram in 2021 than any year prior. With the rise of TikTok, Instagram had to up its game and find ways to keep its users engaged on the platform.
These updates included new content types like Reels that is Instagram’s own version of TikTok videos and features like the new link sticker in stories so all accounts can now include links in their stories.
The more you experiment with these different content types and use the different types and features, not only will the app reward you but you will get to see what your audience best responds to.
6. Engage with Your Audience
Do you think your followers are the most important metric on your Instagram account? It’s not.
Your engagement is.
The more engagement your content has, the more Instagram will show your content to both the folks that already follow you and potential new followers. This means how many likes, comments, saves, shares, and story interactions you have.
You don’t want your audience being the only ones engaging though. It has to be a two way street where you prompt for their engagement and are constantly engaging back with your audience.
7. Review Your Insights for What is Working and What Isn’t
After you’ve set up the foundation of your profile with an on-brand picture and bio, created a social media content strategy, and experimented a bit with different posts and pieces of content, it’s time to go into a small review period.
In your Instagram account, you have an Insights area. Instagram provides these insights to show you progress on reach, engagement, and other items. You can see your audience metrics of who you are reaching to make sure you are reaching who you want to reach, who is engaging, and the top posts they are engaging with. You can also see insights on each individual piece of content you post on Instagram whether that is a post, story, reel, or video.
Use these insights to guide you forward with growing your account. Think of ways you can recreate top-performing content and look at the lower-performing posts to note what to stay away from.
Be Yourself and They Will Come
Whew! You made it to the end. I feel like we covered a lot in this crash course on how to grow your Instagram account but there is one important thing you should remember above all else.
This may sound like a cop-out but it’s true: be yourself and they will come.
No one wants to follow a generic talking head that they can’t relate to or a faceless account that only copies others.
They want to follow a real person.
They want to follow YOU.