Instagram Strategy for Beginners
I created an Instagram profile last year, but had only been sporadically posting personal photos on it. About 90 people were following me. Then, 10 days ago, I decided to try to grow my account and use it for business. I did a little bit of research, implemented some simple strategies, and now @gillianzperkins has nearly 300 followers!
Is 300 a lot of Instagram followers? No, definitely not. But, it IS a lot of growth for just ten days — especially considering how little effort I put in. So, today I’m sharing with you the basic Instagram strategies that anyone who’s new to the platform could implement to see some solid growth right from the start.
Niche Your Instagram Account
First and foremost, it’s absolutely essential that you are confident of what your niche is and that you consistently focus your content and images around that topic. By providing niche-centric content, you’ll attract followers that can actually help your business grow. (We’ve all heard enough to know the power of “1000 true fans.”)
By consistently focusing on the same niche, you’ll be able to actually maintain the followers that you do gain. Think about it: you could post AMAZING weight loss content one month, but if the next month you’re talking about dog training or politics, chances are that your followers won’t stick around. Pick your niche, and stay focused.
Theme Your Instagram Images
Your followers are real people, and real people have preferences of taste. What do I mean by that? Real people like certain kinds of stuff and dislike other kinds (for relatively arbitrary reasons).
This means that it’s not enough to just consistently post about dog training. If you post girly, pink and purple images of cute dogs with dog training tips for a while, and then you switch to high-contrast, black/white and red images with dog training quotes, then chances are your audience (who liked the first style) won’t so much appreciate your new look.
This is an extreme example, but it illustrates a point: people like certain styles and don’t like others. To attract and maintain a growing Instagram following, you need to visually show up as the same person time after time.
The visual style of your images should match your company’s branding (which hopefully has been designed to attract your ideal audience). That way, you’ll be gaining followers who will also be interested in your business, and are the type of people who you want to work with.
Write Compelling Captions for Your Instagram Images
While Instagram is certainly a very visual-focused platform, it’s not all about the pictures. Your captions matter! Not only does relevant content help you show up in searches, it also is how you are actually communicating with your audience.
A picture might speak 1000 words, but they might not be all the right words to tell potential followers what you have to offer. Use the caption sections to form a personal connection with your audience. Provide content of VALUE (whether this be tips on your topic, inspirational quotes, or just your thoughts about something related to your industry) that really give people a reason to follow you.
Quotes, relevant stories, tips, musings, and even short blog posts can all be great content for your captions. You can sprinkle relevant hashtags throughout, and remember to TAG any relevant account.
How long should your captions be? Generally, longer seems to be better, as long as you make sure that your first paragraph is very interesting and engaging. Most people won’t actually bother to read very long captions, but it’s rare for someone to be turned off by them. Better to put more content out there to potentially attract more followers.
Instagram Hashtags Explained
When I started trying to grow my Instagram account, hashtags were the most mysterious part of the process. However, I quickly discovered that they were also the most important! Hashtags are how people discover new accounts to follow, which is exactly what you’re looking for.
How do hashtags help?
When people search for content on Instagram, results are primarily based on hashtags — so if you have the right hashtag then you’ll be found. Also, Instagram advertizes (for free) suggested, similar accounts. By using the hashtags of your industry, you’ll take advantage of this exposure.
Sooo…. Which hashtags should you use?
This was one of my biggest questions when I was just starting out. Here are the basics: pick hashtags that are relevant to your audience and your industry. Search a few dozen potential hashtags to discover what people are using them for. You want to choose hashtags that are being used how you will want to use them so that your results fit with what people would be looking for.
When you search for a hashtag, you’ll be able to see how many posts have been made with it. There are different theories on whether it’s better to use more popular or more niche/specific hashtags, but it’s generally best to use a mix.
Pick 26 hashtags that fit your niche and would apply to most pictures you would post. Save them all in a note on your phone (or saved on your “clipboard”), so that you’ll be able to easily access them whenever you post.
When you post, here’s what you do:
- Choose & edit your picture to your liking
- Write a relevant caption
- Add four hashtags to the caption that are applicable to that specific picture
- Immediately after you post, write a comment on your post in which you paste the 26 hashtags that you previously saved.
By posting the bulk of your hashtags as a comment you’ll make your caption look nicer (especially important if you’re sharing the post on Facebook as well). You’ll also add a comment, which gets the engagement train moving. Finally, once a few more comments have been written, the hashtag comment will disappear!
For more more a more advanced understanding of exactly which hashtags to use, watch this video:
Schedule Your Instagram Posts
Consistency is so key for growth! You need to post often enough to stay relevant and keep attracting new followers, but not so often that you are annoying the followers you’ve already gained.
While some accounts post only a few times each week, it’s best to post as frequently as is possible to do without annoying anyone. Once each day is generally very safe!
Your followers will have a preference on frequency, so this is another area where consistency is important. If you’re posting every other day then you’ll be retaining followers who like that. If you suddenly switch to three times/day, chances are those people will think that is too much! The opposite would be just as true.
Engage with Your Followers
For some, this can be the most challenging aspect of the whole picture. Engagement is important though! Not only does it give you more visibility (people see your name show up whenever you post on someone else’s account), but it also boosts your account in Instagram’s algorithms.
Translation? Instagram wants users to be successful who are interacting with the platform, and so they choose to promote those accounts more. The more you engage with others, the more Instagram wants you to succeed, so the more they put you into those lists of “recommended accounts.”
And finally, engagement is so important because, ultimately, that’s what it’s all about: engaging and building relationships with your following. Even if you had millions of followers, if you never talked to them they wouldn’t be of any value to you, nor you to them.
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