Instagram continues to dominate the social marketing scene in 2018 and brands, influencers and Jo Public continue to find ways to grow their follower count and engagement rate. Growing your Instagram profile is time-consuming work, especially if your business or lifestyle doesn’t necessarily lend itself to “viral” content.
We won’t go into much detail on content in this post – that’s because content is unique to you and your brand and there are plenty of articles out there on great Insta content. We’re going to be laser-focused on tactics you can employ right now to supercharge your profile (without even creating a single post!). These tactics are tried and tested and are very effective so keep reading!
Instagram profile tips
It won’t surprise you to learn that Instagram is tight-lipped on how to grow your presence, other than basic advice. If everyone knew how to ‘game the system’, the platform wouldn’t be as fun for users (which is bad news for Instagram). Furthermore, Instagram is constantly changing its platform and its algorithms so tactics that worked six months ago might be less effective today. This means we have to continually test to see what works and what works for you.
This results in a lot of anecdotal evidence and conclusions drawn from small studies being published in forums and blogs all over the internet. Where appropriate, we’ve referenced them but it’s always advisable to use Google for the most specific and recent articles relating to your queries. The following tips will help brand accounts and ones that are more personal.
Here we go with something super simple and something you can do immediately:
1. Archive old Instagram posts
Instagram allows you to go through your posts and archive those you no longer want to show publicly. You should archive posts that you now deem to be off-brand, low-quality or that performed poorly by way of likes or comments.
This has two major benefits. Firstly, it makes your ‘follower to post’ ratio better. It is way more impressive to have 1000 followers having only posted 200 times as opposed to having posted 500 times.
Secondly, by removing posts that performed poorly, any new visitors to your profile will only see posts with good engagement. This indicates to them that you post high-quality content that’s well received by your followers (boding well for them!).
Going through this process also enables you to do this:
2. Analyse trends
Which posts are you archiving and why? What is it about those posts you no longer like and/or why didn’t they resonate with your audience?
If you’re able to extrapolate trends based on the actual responses each post received from your audience, you can better shape your content strategy moving forward. This means your content is actually based on evidence of your own account, not on the thoughts or small case study of another marketer.
3. Pick a niche
Common wisdom in the Instagram marketing world dictates an account should focus on a single niche topic. Having one interest area that informs content, hashtagging and the accounts followed is generally the most effective way to grow an account.
This is because it is far easier for a potential follower to decide whether or not your posts will be of interest to them moving forward. If you post about 4 or 5 different topics, a large proportion of posts might be of little interest to an audience member.
It is important to know the extent to which your audience is interested in you and your lifestyle or interested in the subject you tend to post about.
It’s advisable to choose one core niche with one or two side interests. The niche doesn’t need to be super specific – your personality and unique style will make your account appealing to a subgroup of that niche’s enthusiasts. When we say niche in the context of Instagram it means; “tennis” or “gardening” or “entrepreneurship” – fairly broad areas – and these will pick themselves for a brand account.
Remember – this does not just inform your content. It informs which accounts to follow and engage with.
Here are some tips on building your niche.
Yes, yes, this is super old school, but you have to do it:
4. Follow and unfollow accounts
The tactic of following and unfollowing accounts to grow your follower count does still work. For those of you unaware of how this works; you follow, say, 500 Instagram accounts and wait to see who follows your account back. If you’re lucky, 100 will follow you back over the course of a few days and you unfollow the rest. Repeat many times and you’ll grow your audience. Simple.
When Twitter was in its infancy, following and unfollowing accounts was a sure-fire way to grow your account to tens or even hundreds of thousands of followers in a matter of months. This is because the follow-back culture was rife and there was software available that put this process on steroids. Instagram isn’t quite the same (and the tools have stricter limits on them).
However, the tactic is still super effective if done correctly. Note that it works better in some sectors and with certain types of accounts so it is important to keep an eye on your progress. For example, if you follow 100 followers of account X, record the follow back rate over a period of 48 hours. How does this compare to following 100 accounts that used a certain hashtag?
Interestingly, follow back rates are higher with an automated system, possibly because they follow someone immediately after they use a hashtag or follows an account – so timing is key – this can affect it by up to 2.5x!
Make sure you follow relevant people or they won’t engage with your content. If you grow your follower count by 50% but get the same number of likes per post, your engagement rate has effectively dropped so you’ll be stung on the algorithm.
How fast you unfollow accounts that have not followed you back is up to you. The majority of people will follow you back within 24 hours, but some may take 48 hours or longer. If you unfollow someone prematurely, they’ll see a notification that you followed them but if they check your account out they see you no longer follow them, thus reducing the chance of a follow back.
If you want to grow the account quickly, following and unfollowing on a daily basis will be the best option. This is, of course, if you’re not using an automated tool to do this for you.
There is a limit on how many accounts you can follow and unfollow over a given period. Instagram’s developer tools API says 60 likes, 60 comments and 60 relationships (following or followers) are permitted per hour, but this is just guidance for tools – not a hard limit. There is also speculation as to whether these limits are implemented on 1 hour, 6 hour and 24 hour bases. These limits also seem to depend on the age of the account and number of followers and its engagement rate.
If you have the time, be active when it comes to engaging with accounts you want to follow you back. Liking a few posts of an account you’ve recently followed guarantees they’ll see more notifications from you. Commenting on posts has also been shown to be very effective at gaining followers if they’re genuine (non-spammy!) comments.
5. Use hashtags wisely
Undoubtedly, hashtags have a vital role to play in increasing post reach and, therefore, growing your following. However, using the right hashtags is key if you’re to achieve their potential.
If you want to grow your influence rapidly, the bottom line is that you need to use a lot of hashtags. There’s a limit of 30 hashtags per post and there’s a good argument for using that number because every one of them represents an opportunity to reach an audience.
More importantly, however, you should use a range of hashtags in terms of their popularity. All of your hashtags should be relevant to your niche and the post shared but you can be savvy with their popularity.
Ideally, your posts appear amongst the most popular and most recent posts for each hashtag used. However, being the best post of one of the most highly contested hashtags is near impossible (unless you have millions of followers) and you’ll only be one of the most recent for a matter of seconds. Therefore, only a small portion of your hashtags should be one of the heavyweights.
The majority should be much more niche. How niche depends on the size of your following. This is because your follower count is a good judge of how ambitious you can be when targeting hashtags. This post explains that a good methodology is using hashtags that have only ever been used 100x your follower count. I.e. if you have an account with 2000 followers, you should use at least some hashtags that have been used 200,000 times or fewer. With 2000 followers, there’s a good chance you can make the most popular list for a hashtag of this size.
Start employing these five tips today and watch your Instagram account grow!