Are you struggling to grow your Instagram community right now?
I feel you.
Instagram is a really exciting and frustrating platform to get to know a bit better. This popular photo-sharing app (that now has even more monthly users than Twitter), is simple, fun and growing every single day.
But whilst it's a really exciting tool to use to market your blog or business, there have also been new features introduced lately that a lot of people aren't a fan of. The new business profiles and analytics? Tick. The fact that posts are now in a new algorithm-style feed instead of chronological? Not so cool.
I reached out on Twitter and found out what’s frustrating you the most about Instagram right now.
But even though these new changes have come into effect, I still love Instagram and if you're reading this right now, I'm guessing you are too. Lately though, I've found myself stuck on the same number for ages, and I've not seen the results I wanted. So I implemented a strategy - a simple strategy that I've been using to try and grow my Instagram community.
So whether you're a blogger running your own race, a social media freelancer or you manage social media on behalf of a company, read on to find out the best tactics I've using for A Branch of Holly that could help you build the Instagram community you want and deserve.
IS INSTAGRAM REALLY THAT IMPORTANT?
Before we dive in, I thought it'd be great for us to get up to speed with why Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms out there. Here are some of the latest facts I've picked up:
- Instagram now has more than 500 million active users.
- Over 60% of users log in daily, which makes it the second most engaged network after Facebook
- It clocks up 3.5 billion likes every day
- Around 80 million photos are shared to the app on an average day
- When Instagram introduced videos, more than 5 million were shared in 24 hours
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE NEW FEATURES?
Let's start off with the most exciting one...
Instagram stories is basically like Snapchat - but built into Instagram. The same features apply - you share snapshots of your day in photo or video form and they only stick around for 24 hours.
You see other people’s stories at the top of your feed and you can send messages, plus add filters and text to the own content in your story too.
One of the reasons why this is so great is because you’ve already built up a following on Instagram and now you can share even more snapshots of your life with your audience. There’s a huge market for this type of in-the-moment content and if Instagram can get Stories to work alongside what it currently offers, it could be a real game-changer of an update.
Your New Feed
For as long as I’ve been using Instagram (so since 2013), my home feed has always been chronological. Until recently, when Instagram announced they were introducing a new algorithm that would put your feed into an order of the pictures you enjoy seeing the most.
But as you can see from your tweets above, this is the update you’re least excited about.
It’s not really a huge surprise as Instagram is owned by Facebook, and we all know Facebook works in mysterious ways. But the announcement of this news feature has sparked a lot of panic and unhappiness amongst its’ users. It also means there’s a change you’ll appear in your followers feeds less.
So how you get yourself to be seen?
Let’s get into the goodies, starting with this…
#1 | HASHTAGS
I’ve written a few posts on Instagram hashtags, because they really are the thing that’s grown my community the most.
Hashtags are nowhere near as important on any other platform as they are on Instagram. The right hashtags (and the right amount of them) can expose your content to a much broader audience of the people that will be able to relate to your brand.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 - you definitely want to make sure you’re using more than 11 at least.
So using them is one thing - but the other problem is which ones to actually use.
There are a few ways of finding the right ones for you.
- Type in “hashtags to use on Instagram” into Pinterest and go through some articles, finding the hashtags that are most relevant to you
- Do the same on Google
- Pay attention to what hashtags your competitors and friends are using - make a note of these
- Add a couple of general hashtags that are relevant to each individual picture you share
- Create your own hashtag! I use #BloggingBreakthrough to represent the Blogging Breakthrough community, but you can base yours on the industry you work in or blog about. So it could be “#createwithHolly #learnwithHolly #cookwithHolly” and so on. The possibilities are endless!
To get you started, I created a PDF of lots of hashtag ideas I use on a daily basis. Pin it so you’ve got it somewhere safe!
#2 | FIND YOUR EDITING STYLE
As soon as I started creating and editing my own images for my blog and sharing these straight to Instagram, my community shot upwards.
Once you find your editing style, people will begin to recognise your brand immediately. Take a look at these accounts as an example:
You’d agree they all have a certain style, right? A theme? It somehow makes people more inclined to follow you so if you find a style you love, keep it up!
#3 | INVOLVE YOUR COMMUNITY
Look at the difference between these two sentences:
“I’d love feedback on my newest product design.”
“Please could you comment with some feedback on my newest product design?”
Which one of these are people more likely to respond to?
The question of course!
It’s simple - when you’re writing a caption, ask a question at the end of every post. Take a look at this.
Three people responded to this question. You might think that’s a small number, but the more you do it, the more people from your community will start to get involved.
#4 | POST CONSISTENTLY & AT OPTIMAL TIMES
In order to make an impact and see results with Instagram you need to post consistently - by this, I mean at least once a day.
I actually try to post content up to three times a day as that seems to really give a boost to my community.
It can be hard to stick to at first, but if you think ahead and plan your content, you’ll find that it’ll start coming more naturally to you.
If you need help planning your Instagram content, you need to join me in #TheGramGang community created by Steph - more on that later!
Now I know I drone on about optimal times a lot, but it’s so important. The principle is just the same as Twitter - you want to be posting content when you know your audience is going to be most active online.
You could experiment with different times yourself and see what gets you the most results. But that would take too long, right? Or you could get a tool to do it for you!
Start a free trial with Iconosquare, head to your analytics, look at the graph and note down when your audience is most active on Instagram. Start uploading your content at these specific times and hey presto - you’re getting in front of the most amount of people possible.
#5 | ENGAGE
It’s no good uploading your own content and waiting to see what happens. To receive results you’ve got to give, give and give some more.
Dedicate some time (maybe an hour over a week, so about ten minutes a day) to go through your feed and really like and comment on people’s images. Then head through to some of your favourite hashtags and do the same whilst following new people.
From implementing my social strategy a few months ago, I’ve found one thing for certain - the more active you are on a platform, the more results you’ll see.
#6 | TAKE PART IN A COMMUNITY HASHTAG
Remember I mentioned #TheGramGang just before? That’s a community hashtag.
Steph created The Gram Gang as a community to help small business owners grow their Instagram. She created monthly prompts for people to use and it’s now even expanded into a Facebook group.
Take a look at some of the latest prompts:
So you take the prompt, create a photo around it, write your caption and use #thegramgang and hashtag the prompt too.
Then you click through to the gram gang hashtag and get chance to see the photos of everyone else using the hashtag. It’s a real community.
And then you can head to the Facebook group to share tips, get questions answered and make friends!
If you keep up with the prompts daily I swear, so many opportunities will come your way through a strategy like this.
#7 | FIND OUT THE PHOTOS THAT YOUR AUDIENCE LIKES THE MOST
Let’s talk blog posts - you check in with your audience to find out what content they enjoy the most, right? Then you go ahead and take their advice on board, and create that content.
It’s exactly the same when it comes to Instagram. Which of your images get the most likes? Here are the ones that I found when I had a scroll through my feed:
- Motivational quotes
- My cat
- My blog post photos/business flatlys
This tells me that I need to be creating more content for Instagram that fits into these categories. You can guarantee that every time I upload a scenic photo, it gets well over 70+ likes.
Iconosquare can also tell you what your most popular content is if you don’t want to go searching back through your feed.
#8 | SCHEDULE YOUR CONTENT
If there’s one thing I see on Twitter daily it’s this: “I hate scheduling social media content so much” or “I forget to schedule my social content again!”
Guys - this is a barrier we need to knock down.
Let’s say you plan to upload one photo to Instagram every single day. What if you’re having a manic day at work and you forget, or you’re in a bad mood so you think you can’t be bothered?
You miss out. And so does your community.
So why not start scheduling?
You’ve got your optimal times, you’ve got your content ideas, you’ve got your hashtags - it makes total sense.
I use Later - it saves me so much time and helps grow my community more in the long run. What could be better?
I’m thinking about doing a tutorial on using Later to schedule Instagram posts so let me know if you’d like to see that!
A FINAL NOTE
Well I planned to jam-pack every strategy I’ve been trying out into this blog post and I did just that! There’s a lot to try out here so my advice would be to just start with one tactic and work from there. But the most important thing to remember? Have fun! Really, that’s what social media is all about.
If you want to keep up with me on Instagram you can find me at abranchofholly!
What are your Instagram experiences? How do you feel about the newest changes? Have you got any top tips for growing your community on this platform? I’d love to know your feedback in the comments!