Instagram routinely finds a top 5 ranking for social media sites. That level of popularity makes it a very attractive platform for businesses and individuals to build a brand.
Like other major social media sites, though, you’re competing with millions of other users to snag a meaningful audience. Many people find it a seemingly impossible task to break through into the ranks of major Instagram brands.
If you’re struggling to build your Instagram following, don’t give up just yet. Keep reading for some key tips that will help you gain followers and establish your brand.
Define Your Audience
Defining your audience is one of the most important steps you can take in gaining social media followers on any site. It holds as true on Instagram as it does on sites like Facebook or YouTube.
So, what does it mean to define your audience? It means you must figure out key facts about your ideal audience, such as:
If you know that your ideal audience is made up of college-age women working part-time jobs and interested in fashion, it lets you fashion content that speaks to them. That’s a group that will likely be pop-culture savvy, use a fair amount of slang, and is up on recent trends.
If you know that your audience is made up of young professionals, that’s a group that will still have some pop-culture savvy, but you can probably do away with things like bleeding-edge slang.
Set a Posting Calendar
Figuring out a posting calendar is tricky right at first. You may not know how often you can produce on-brand content for your account. When it doubt, start small. Aim for one on-brand post each day.
The amount you post at first sets the expectation moving forward. Most people can generate at least one post daily. If you figure out you can do more as you go, you can always up the number. You never want to drop the number.
Make a note of when your target audience is most active on Instagram. You can access activity information for your audience on Instagram if you run a business account.
If you run an individual account, you may need third-party software to help you pin down those numbers. You can also test it out old school by simply posting at different times of day and seeing which posts generate more traction. It’s imperfect but gives you some data.
Do put yourself into your audience’s shoes, though. When do you think they’re most likely to hop onto Instagram?
Stay Brand Consistent
For many Instagram newbies, staying brand consistent is one of the most difficult tasks. You look around and see your friends posting pictures of everything from their cats to their meals and vacation photos. That approach is fine for individuals who use Instagram to interact with their personal social network.
If you want to build a following and a brand, consistency is a huge factor. Achieving that consistency calls for you to figure out what your brand is all about.
Are you the funny fashion maven? Are you a serious finance guru? Are you the offbeat author?
Once you settle on what your brand is, you must filter all of your content ideas through that lens. Is that picture on-brand for the specific brand you want? If not, ditch it.
Also, consistency must extend beyond the content to the visuals. Is the look of the pictures consistent? Do you stick with the same two or three filters?
You should also take some time to optimize your profile. Don’t rush through the setup process for the account.
If possible, get a username that’s close to your personal name for individuals or is close to your business name.
Pick an image that is brand consistent. Think through your bio information and include some relevant hashtags. You’re allowed to post a link, so that’s a chance to send people to your website or a link collection for your other profiles.
Don’t confine your optimization to your profile. Pay attention to trending hashtags and incorporate them when appropriate. If you stuff your posts with hashtags that aren’t really relevant, you’ll run afoul of the Instagram algorithms. So make sure that your post is relevant to the hashtag.
Engagement is a two-way street on social media. Audience members like it when accounts they follow engage with them. While responding to every comment may prove impractical, you should make a point to respond to some comments with a few words or a like.
Look for ways you can engage with existing communities on Instagram. It can take a little digging, but you’ll start seeing patterns of related hashtags and accounts.
Pick out a couple that dovetail with your brand and comment on them. That helps you establish yourself in the community and also alerts community members that you post content they’ll care about.
While most of your work will happen on Instagram itself, there are some off-site options as well. You can talk about your Instagram account on other social media sites. That can help draw in people who only know you on that other site.
You can also use services like StormLikes to boost your audience numbers. Some people won’t follow an account that has a small number of followers. While artificially boosting your audience numbers isn’t a long-term fix, it can help get the ball rolling.
Building Your Instagram Following
There is an organic component to building your Instagram following. You can never fully account for what will go viral or tap into the groupmind’s interests. That said, the most effective strategies come out of careful planning.
Define your audience so your content appeals to them specifically. Figure out your brand so your posts stay on-brand. Decide on the visual look for your posts.
Optimize your account. Engage with people who comment and with relevant communities.
Looking for more social media marketing tips and ideas? Check out the posts over in our Tech section.