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10 ways to grow your Instagram audience organically

How well is Instagram working for your business? The platform is a powerful marketing tool for building stronger connections with your audience, when used correctly. Although Instagram followers should never be your main goal, growing your followers does mean your message can reach more members of your target audience. So if your followers are languishing in the low hundreds, read on for our top 10 tips to grow your Instagram audience organically.

Use relevant hashtags in posts and stories

First things first: hashtags are essential. When you use hashtags on posts and in stories, you allow users to find you. How do you know which hashtags to use? It’s time for a little research. Start with a word that’s clearly connected to your product or business. Let’s say you’re a shoe company. You might pick the word “shoe” (duh!). Open up Instagram on the app or your desktop, and type “#shoes” into the search bar.

The most popular posts using that hashtag will show up. Click on relevant images and see what other hashtags they are using. Maybe you make women’s high heels, so you click on an image of heels. You see the post used tags like “#heelsaddict” and “shoestore”. Repeat the process with each new hashtag and you’ll have a list of hashtags that your customers are using to post and find content. The best hashtags will have at least a few thousand posts, which indicates that enough people are using and search for the hashtag.

Tip: try to find a mixture of tags with smaller numbers of posts and 1 million+ posts.

Aim for 12 – 14 hashtags. Once you’ve completed this process, you’ll end up with a list of tags looking something like this:

#shoes #heelsaddict #shoestore #shoelovers #heellover #heelsoftheday #iloveheels #highheelslover #instaheels #highheels #stilettos

Find the best times to post

Developing great content is meaningless unless the right people are seeing it at the right time. So, when’s the right time? It all depends on your audience! Yes, morning before work, lunchtime and evening are generally the highest activity times. But beware anyone telling you there’s definitely a best time to post on Instagram.

Your account’s audience will have their own patterns of Instagram usage. That’s why it’s so important to check your Instagram analytics. Instagram offers free, basic analytics for Business Accounts. You can access your Insights on the Instagram app. You’ll be able to see when your followers are most active, broken down by day and blocks of three hours. If you’re just starting out, this level of insight might be fine.

If you really want to optimise your posting schedule, however, you’ll need to upgrade. Later has a Best Time to Post feature, which automatically calculates the top times to post for your account. Tailwind and Hootsuite also have powerful analytics. Once you’re pinpointed the times with the best engagement, update your posting schedule in your social media scheduling tool. It’s worth checking your best times to post every month or so, as your highest engagement times can change over time as your audience grows.

Take advantage of your competitors

When looking to increase your following, it’s easiest to find and attract people who are already interested in the products or services you’re offering. Your competitors, for instance, may already have a large following of people who have demonstrated their interest in your niche. This is a goldmine for your business. To take advantage of your competitors’ followers, try engaging with them by either following them, liking a photo or commenting on one of their posts. The rule of thumb here is that the more you engage with a user, the more likely they are to follow you in return. 

Collaborate with influencers

Working with related influencer accounts can increase brand recognition and entice new followers to jump on board. To start off, do a little research into popular accounts within your industry or niche and make a list of the ones you think best fit your brand.

Not sure where to start? Try exploring accounts using the hashtags you identified in Tip #1. You can also use a variety of tools to find accounts. These include Influence.co, Tribe, and many others. After you’ve compiled your list of potential influencers, reach out, explain your brand values and enquire about working together. If you have a physical product, consider sending free samples for them to feature within their post or review.

Tip: The influencers with the highest followers aren’t always the most effective; look for the ones with the highest levels of engagement, which indicate a loyal following.

Create story highlights

 While stories are a great way to engage your potential followers and educate them on what your page is about, the fact that they only last for 24 hours limits the number of people who are likely to see them. With hundreds of millions of Instagram accounts now in use, you have limited time to persuade new users to follow your account, so you’ll want to make the most of every bit of content you create through Highlights. Use your Story Highlights to showcase your best content, answer FAQs about your brand, promote new product launches, and positive reviews. Categorise each Highlight, using clear and obvious names.

For a clean, professional look, create branded covers for each Highlight with icons depicting content. Check our Instagram for an example.

Hop on board trends and key dates

Is there a holiday coming up that aligns with your brand? For example, a pet store could post about #NationalPuppyDay the same way a Mexican restaurant could take advantage of #NationalTacoDay for their social media content. Posting on these types of days helps get you in front of new followers.

The same goes with any trending content. Whether there’s a meme that ties into your niche or big celebrity news, if it’s related to your brand post about it and use any related hashtags to join in the conversation. Though it can be tempting to jump on every trend or national day, you’re only likely to see results when you limit your participation to hashtags that actually relate to your brand. Here’s a list of key dates for retail, like Valentine’s Day, Easter and the AFL Grand Final, plus a list of hashtag holidays, including Star Wars Day, International Bacon Day and National Book Lovers’ Day.

Tip: To keep track of hashtag holidays for your social media strategy, download and print out this beautifully designed calendar by Sprout Social.

Use geotags to connect with local audiences

In research compiled by Go-Globe, 89% of participants used their phone to search for a local business at least once a week, and 58% at least once daily. If you have a local business, take advantage of geotags to connect with the people around you. You can geotag posts by city or venue, and doing so will make your content searchable by location. 

Get followers to share with their connections

One of the easiest ways to tap into new followers on Instagram is to get your current followers to share with their friends. Try to encourage followers to tag their friends in the comments on posts. As well as exposing your account to new followers, comments also increase engagement, signalling to the Instagram algorithm that your content is high-quality.

There are two primary ways to encourage your followers to tag their friends in your posts: through asking them to do so (for example, posting a photo of a share plate at your restaurant and asking them to tag a friend they’d love to share it with) and through running a competition that requires tagging for entry.

Stick to a consistent theme 

Think about all the accounts you love on Instagram. What do they have in common? In general, the most popular Instagram feeds have a specific and consistent theme that is demonstrated throughout all aspects, including colour, imagery, tone of voice, emoji use, content type. Aside from the visual appeal, having consistency can be a massive drawcard for encouraging new followers as it demonstrates the kind of content you’re likely to post in the future. To determine your theme, think about your brand colours, brand personality and your ideal customer. You want your imagery to visually represent your brand. Stick to a consistent colour palette, photography style and tone of voice.

Need some inspo? Three of our favourite feeds that have mastered a consistent theme are @gotoskincare, @bear.ltd and @jasminedowling. For more ideas on theming your feed, Preview came up with 21 Instagram theme ideas.

Tip: Create a backlog of posts so you can lay them out in grid format to get a feel for the feed you are creating and to preschedule at the optimal times for your account.

Measure your growth

While growing your following is the idea behind this exercise, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Track your follower growth over time so you can see what works and what doesn’t. It’s also important to track your engagement rate. A plummeting engagement rate might indicate you’re attracting the wrong followers or that you need to switch up your content strategy. Using your Instagram Business Insights, you can also track how people are finding your account, how many people you’re reaching, and what types of posts perform best.

Getting Instagram to work effectively for your business takes a little time and careful planning. If you’re struggling to master Instagram, or if you just don’t have enough time to dedicate to doing it right, let us help! We love social and know what it takes to maximise Instagram as a marketing channel.  Get in touch with our team via email hello@lemontreemarketing.com.au.

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