The world of Instagram can be confusing. How do I get others to engage with me? When’s the best time to post? And what the heck is the Instagram algorithm? Figuring out how to grow your brand and social media presence can resemble a foreign language. Regardless, whether you’re a businessperson, content creator, or just want to grow your personal brand, it’s important to do your research and invest time into your account.
1. Engage, Engage, Engage.
I can attest to the effectiveness of this method firsthand. I grew my account by a couple hundred in a shorter period of time than usual, just by taking time to engage.
It’s called social media for a reason. Do you fire off your photos to the newsfeed and promptly close the app, only to come back 30 minutes later to check the stats? This method isn’t an effective way to facilitate growth. Be an active participant in the interwebs by engaging with other users.
It’s a must to find ways to engage with users who are in your niche. What are hashtags that are representative of you? Is it #BlackBloggers? #DCCreatives? #VeganFoodies? Explore hashtags in your category and engage, engage, engage. I’m not saying drop a random thumbs up emoji or spammy “check out my page” comments. Make meaningful connections by truly reflecting and commenting with others. Engage with posts from users who are similar to you. When you show love to someone else, they may come back and show love to you too. And if they don’t? Maybe one of their followers will see your meaningful comment and visit your page.
Many successful Instagram accounts spend hours liking and commenting on others’ posts. Not all of us have that much time, but even 10 minutes is better than nothing. Make social media social again!
2. Post for Quality.
Think back to when you’ve visited an account. How did you decide whether to follow it or not? Outside of your friends and family, you likely follow other accounts because the quality of their posts – either aesthetically or because they pique your interest.
I’ve noticed many bloggers lessening posting frequencies from a couple times a day to every other day. However, when they do post, it’s stellar content. Many accounts also use the same presets and colors to build a feed that looks cohesive. Cocomaisonave is one of my favorite accounts because of the tones she uses.
“But, I’ve heard that you have to be consistent!” Sure, this is valid to an extent. Still, quality is more important than quantity if you’re not creating enough quality content for everyday. So next time you have that overexposed flatlay of a cup of coffee and a crepe, consider posting it on your story instead of your feed.
3. Research the Algorithm.
The algorithm is a confusing source of frustration for content creators, businesses, and socialites alike. Gone are the days where posts appear in chronological order. As much controversy surrounds the algorithm, one thing’s for certain: it doesn’t see to be going anywhere anytime soon. So, when life gives you lemons… add them into a sangria and enjoy.
I could make an entire post about the Instagram algorithm, but that’s not what we’re doing today. Instead, I’ll leave you with 3 surprising things I know about it.
- Editing your caption or location within 24 hours can mess up your engagement. Proofread before posting, or you might find yourself marinating in misery from your usage of “their” instead of “they’re.” Instagram places posts on a user’s newsfeed based on an engagement count. When you edit your caption, you’ve reset that counter. Since the post now seems less engaging, your followers aren’t being exposed to it.
- The first hour after you post is more crucial than strong eyelash glue on a windy day. Remember that shiny engagement counter we discussed? It’s counting on you (pun intended) to get strong numbers so it knows if this is a hot post, or one to be left in the dust. Any comments you receive in the first hour should be promptly responded to. Plus, it’s just a nice thing to do. You wouldn’t ignore a nice compliment in real life, so why do it on the internet?
- Beware of the Shadow Ban. There are a lot of rumors going around about this phrase, but essentially Instagram may hide your posts from users who don’t follow you. This has caused people to essentially become invisible. Actions such as purchasing likes and follows, overuse of hashtags, or using banned hashtags can land your account in hot water.
As you can see, there’s so many considerations to take with the algorithm. Do your research!
4. Reflect On Your Audience.
What does your audience want and need? I’m still pondering this, but it’s an important thing to figure out.
I’ll use a friend to illustrate this concept. We’ll call her Marla.
Marla used to average anywhere between 700-1,000 likes on her profile, and was gaining followers rapidly as her modeling photos were reposted several times. However, she started changing her account to feature recipes, makeup, photography, and her modeling photos. I’ve noticed her engagement is significantly lower than it used to be. Marla shocked her audience with content they didn’t sign up for.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t post what makes you happy, but it’s really important for growth purposes to keep providing your audience value based on what they like. If you’d like to explore other avenues for content, starting a second account for that subject could be a better fit.
5. Hashtag & Geotag Intentionally
We’ve all seen posts with a million hashtags – #love #girl #likeforlike #pretty #cute #summer… #hashtag. The list goes on and on. Are you using hashtags intentionally? Or are you throwing them on the end of a caption like a cherry on top?
Think seriously about what hashtags you’re deciding to use on each post. Consider use of niche tags instead of the most broad ones. For example, #blogger might be used for millions and millions of posts. How will you ever be placed in top posts, or even be seen amongst a sea of others? You can add your location, ethnicity, or other parts of your identity to help differentiate yourself. #Blackbloggers. #DMVBloggers. #LGBTQBloggers. These are things that will assist with visibility among other posts when using hashtags that are less general.
Geotags are also very good, as people like to observe others’ experiences in the same location. This past summer I tagged the Jiffy Lube Live concert venue for the Chris Brown Concert, and saw many people viewed my post from the location tag. The same principle applies to bars, amusement parks, festival locations, or really anywhere where things are happening.
It’s easy to get swallowed up in the world of Instagram, but hopefully these tips help to grow your account. The platform is constantly changing, so it’s always best to continue to brush up on the newest discoveries to crack the code. Regardless, especially if you’re a content creator, it’s best to be present on multiple platforms in case one unexpectedly shuts down. Happy ‘gramming!