Boost Your Instagram Growth Organically
Instagram has over 1 billion active users of which 80% follow at least one business account; over 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories every day. This is huge. No wonder, Instagram has grown into one of the most powerful marketing platforms.
You may have also experienced difficulties in growing your audience. It can be discouraging to see so many accounts that post mediocre photos, but score hundreds of likes and can brag having tens of thousands of followers. Good news, all of their achievements may be bot-generated and worthless.
I want to share some ways to grow your audience in a meaningful way, through organic reach.
To me, Instagram is more than just a platform to please my eyes with some stunning photos or share the content with my audience. It’s, first, a social media platform, and we are expected to socialise. The people behind Instagram want us to stay on the platform for as long as possible and most importantly they want us to socialise and communicate with each other.
I’ve been growing my foodie Instagram account for over a year. I’ve done lots of research on how to grow my engagement rates and how to get new followers. It is true that the content is key to success on Instagram, but only having nice photos makes it hard to scale up. BUT, in my experience, all follow-to-follow, organise content, post content at the right time tips are secondary.
It’s surprising that very few would advise taking a more pro-active role in engaging with others. To me, spending time interacting with others who share similar interest was the best way to grow. I discovered that communication is very important and that it can help grow my account. Maybe I was lucky, or haven’t scaled up to an extent where this stops working, but it’s worth giving a shot.
So, what did I do differently?
I interact with other accounts
As strange as it sounds, but we are expected to communicate on Instagram. Not necessarily in a verbal way, but by double-tapping on photos, following other accounts, taking part in polls on Insta stories, and, of course, commenting under photos.
I noticed that by spending 1 hour a day on the platform, where I look for other foodie accounts within my target location, and by interacting with them, I significantly improved my reach and the number of followers. In the end, my name is more accessible to their audiences, so it makes sense to grow, right?
Leaving an honest comment under someone’s photo makes an impact. Think about how you feel when someone compliments your Insta-post. Most likely you are happy and have this sense of approval that you did a good job. The same feelings are evoked in others.
It’s important to be genuine; don’t sound robotic or too generic. I normally do not interact with accounts that comment “thumbs-up” under my photo, as I think they are bot-generated comments. I may be wrong, but that’s the perception and I’d rather spend time engaging with someone real.
Instead, I compliment their work or give an opinion. I love discovering posts from people who went to the same restaurants as I and wrote a review of the food that they had. It’s a great ice-breaker to share my experience in the comment section and start a conversation. You will notice that this leads to more permanent communication. I was surprised when accounts having tens of thousands of followers commented back and followed me. I noticed that some of my followers also came from them.
I always reply to comments
Firstly, it’s just common courtesy to acknowledge the comment by at least liking it. But, in most cases, it’s not enough for me. I believe that if someone spent time to comment under my photo, I should do my part by responding. Who knows, maybe this person is going to become my top follower.
I will never understand brads that do not acknowledge customers’ posts. It has happened to me so many times. I posted about a restaurant, praised how great the food was, and that I’d love to come back. In return, the restaurant didn’t even like the post. I’m not talking about commenting or sharing the post, as yes, there may be some limitations. But liking the post is something that any brand should do.
To me, such lack of communication is a big turn off and I doubt I’d try to engage again. If I don’t get any reaction from a brand, it means that the brand does not care what I have to say. And it’s just pure bad marketing.
I show the human side
As humans, we cannot live without socialising. It’s also very important to know who we are socialising with. Nobody likes talking to an imaginary person, that’s why, if possible, you should share human photos on your account.
If you’re a corporate, you can share photos of people in the company. If you’re a blogger, add photos of yourself.
It was scary to upload the first face photo on my foodie blog. It was scary, firstly, because the work I was doing suddenly became real; it’s publically associated with me. But the first photo of me eating noodles had the highest engagement at that time.
I do add photos of myself from time to time. What I notice is that their engagement rate is higher than “no-human” photos. As you can see, out of the top 5 photos with the most engagement, three contain humans.
I interchange my hashtags
I’ve noticed that if I use the same hashtags for multiple posts, my reach and engagement rate plummets. I discovered that Instagram actually drops your exposure if you keep using the same hashtags. It is very healthy to relook at the list of the hashtags you use and interchange them frequently.
I have a list of multiple hashtag variations on my phone and I keep interchanging them in my posts. I also started adding more hashtags relating to different elements in my photos, rather than some more general ones.
It does help to gain exposure. Once I changed my hashtag strategy (after my discovery) my reach grew more than double.
I know I don’t have thousands of likes, but what matters is growth. Some six to twelve months ago my engagement rates were much lower. I was barely reaching 30 likes mark. I’ve been using this organic communication technique and it has been paying off and I’m sure it will help me grow further.
Communication is pivotal on social media networks. Too bad many brands forget about it, but it can come as an advantage to growing your Instagram brand. Most importantly, remember to keep it natural and honest.
Oh and remember your hashtag game. It is the easiest way to get organic exposure. Try using hashtags that have between 10K and 50K posts. In this way, your content will not get lost.
I guarantee you if you adopt these four tips, you will see organic growth of your account. Most importantly, organic growth ensures engagement, which is very important. Today, my engagement rate on Instagram is somewhere between 8–10%, which is great! You can check it up using this awesome and free tool — Tanke.
My experience has shown that by interacting with other users, I was able to scale up, gain more followers and increase reach. Instagram is complicated and growing your brand is indeed difficult. Allow some time and be natural and you’ll be able to get your audience. Remember, it’s constant experimentation and by exploring you’ll be able to find what works and what doesn’t.
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Edgaras Katinas is a marketer who currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He loves writing and discussing human rights, language, history and culture. His passion is food and he hopes to live in a world where any kind of discrimination is eliminated. You can follow him on Twitter.