I’ve spent hundreds of hours testing different Instagram growth hacks. For most accounts — at the current state they’re in — the hacks are a waste of time.
What you should be focusing on first and foremost is the foundation for your Instagram strategy. That’s what makes the difference.
Stop obsessing over timing your posts and using the correct hashtags. They won’t make or break your account. Growth hacks start mattering when your core strategy makes sense. For most accounts, it doesn’t.
I didn’t know anything about Instagram when I started with The Minimalist Wardrobe. I had simply stumbled upon something people wanted. That’s why it was successful right away.
Later I used different strategies to grow the account faster, which worked like gasoline on fire, but that was because I had a fire in the first place. Pouring gasoline on a wet rock isn’t going to light it on fire.
Ok, so what’s a good core strategy for Instagram?
Provide value, primarily through photos and videos, in a way that’s relevant to your business.
That’s it. That’s the magic formula. Apply it correctly and you’re golden. As a bonus for you, Instagram will be fun again.
What’s the Value You Should Provide?
You’re already making people’s lives better somehow. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be in business.
You should extend that value on Instagram. Give more of what your product gives. Help people get more out of your service. Motivate people to keep using your app.
And do it all primarily with photos and / or videos. Instagram is not the correct platform for long-form text.*
(*Yes, some people and businesses do it successfully, but that’s not going to work for 99% of you.)
Mattress shop — helping people sleep better.
- Motivate by sharing research about the importance of sleep.
- Show calming photos or videos to help people fall asleep.
- Educate about getting a good night’s sleep.
Productivity app — organizing people’s workflow.
- Share success stories to motivate your users to be more productive.
- Give examples on how your customers use the app.
- Highlight tips and tricks for power users.
Furniture shop — making homes beautiful and practical.
- Inspire with decor ideas and tie them together with a certain mood.
- Teach people how to properly use the space in your home.
- Educate about maintenance of furniture.
Gym / personal trainer — helping people get fit.
- Share motivational progress pics.
- Show recovery tips.
- Teach proper form.
Don’t lie to yourself. Posting about the quality of your mattress is not valuable. It’s an ad. Showing a celebrity working out in your gym? Also an ad. (I’m not saying these can never be posted, just don’t build on these.)
You need to be strict about the value. Ask yourself how your followers will benefit from your posts. Ask it every time before publishing.
Focus on Quality
Unlike growth hacks, the quality of your posts has the power to make or break your account.
The value needs to be real, your photos and videos must be of high quality, and the caption has to support the post. You don’t need to reach perfection, but anything under an 8 out of 10 in terms of quality is too poor to thrive on Instagram.
Once you’ve figured out what your account’s purpose is, most of your effort should go into making your posts as good as possible. Focus on value, media, and caption.
Keep it Brief
People scrolling Instagram want to see pleasant photos and videos. They want instant dopamine hits.
When people are in Instagram mode, they don’t want in-depth content. This is a generalization, but if you build a strategy based on this, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding.
You want content that deliver value in a heartbeat. This means that if you’re educating, you need to simplify many concepts. Sometimes you should skip it altogether.
If you’re telling a story, get to the point fast.
And once more: The photos and videos need to be high quality.
You need to be able to compress the value into something digestible, and the media needs to be relevant and the main part of the post.
It’s fine to expand on the topic by driving people to a blog post or video about it. There just needs to be value in the standalone Instagram post too.
An Easy Test to Validate Your Strategy
“You need to follow Billy’s Bikeshop on Instagram. I’ve learned so much about maintaining my bike that I could set up my own shop.”
Replace Billy’s Bikeshop with your business, and replace the second part with the value someone’s gotten out of following you. If you’re unable to come up with anything for the latter sentence for your business, you have a problem.
Open your mind. You don’t have to educate anyone. You can inspire or motivate. You can entertain. Value comes in many forms.
Design your Instagram strategy so that the sentence can be applied to your business.
What’s the value your business is providing? The answer to that is closely tied to what your Instagram account should be about.
Once you have a few ideas, come up with a few posts that fit the strategy. Are you able to make media a central part of your messaging?
Lastly, think about how you can come up with high quality photos or videos to your posts. Are you going to do produce it yourself, pay someone, or get user generated content?
Forget about growth hacks for now. Those can be learned later. Take this approach of getting the core strategy right, and you’ll start seeing results fast.
Results that matter to your business.