Instagram, and social media in general, gained phenomenal importance in business and, for some people, life. Here are some strategies and principles that helped me establish my own, and several other, social media presence.
When it comes to Instagram or any other platform, it’s important to first define its purpose. If you don’t care about numbers and just want to share your life with friends and family – then don’t overthink. But if you use social media for work or business, or to serve your audience and to expand it, it’s not about you anymore. Put their interest first. And here’s how.
1. Define what works and repeat it
Look at which of your previous posts have received the highest engagement: likes, comments, shares, etc. Do more of these. The three reasons why people go to Instagram are connection, entertainment and inspiration. You will notice that the best performing posts fall into one of these categories, if not into all three. If you don’t have a post history to look back at yet, take a few successful accounts in the niche you’re targeting. Things that work for them are what people need, so give them what they want.
For the reasons stated above, my best performing posts on Instagram are selfies and close-up face shots (connection) with short or no caption at all, and shirtless fitness and underwear photos (entertainment or inspiration). But because we are all unique, and attract different audiences, the most popular content doesn’t have to be the same.
2. Be relevant
Next, look at the least performing posts. Ask yourself why people don’t care about them as much. Stop doing these at all. It’s not about you or your product, it’s about your audience and their need and interests. Between the top and bottom of your list, you will often find a pattern. Your followers don’t need to think about why they leave you a like, but you have to. Everything that is irrelevant will turn your audience away from you. So cut the lowest-engaging content and make a rule to avoid it in the future.
On the other side of my most popular content, an unprofessional photo of me, surrounded by a group of people, standing backward, or without my face in it (the scenery, food or even a quote) barely interests anyone, regardless of how much this post could mean to me personally.
3. Focus on engagement
Engagement rate, and not the number of followers, should be your primary metric. If you have 1m followers but only 1k like on what you share, something is wrong. It’s true that a larger audience is much harder to keep engaged than a hundred followers, but set a goal to maintain and increase your connection. If you are really good at hitting their spot, your people (and social media platforms’ algorithm) will help you grow organically.
After I noticed a pattern, except for publishing high-quality content I made no additional effort to grow my Instagram from 25k to 250k in 2 years. And if I posted more frequently, this number would be much higher.
4. Don’t try to be everything
Social media platforms are constantly enrolling new features, followed by a wave of articles on how important it is to become a pro in boomerangs or stories. But the truth is that you don’t need to use every tool on the market to stay relevant. This is not what people follow you for. Be good at a few things, and that is enough to succeed. If you feel that you are best at photos, or videos, or writing captions, or talking to them live – keep doing it. Try new things to see how they work for you, but always focus on your strengths first.
For me, especially when I didn’t speak good enough English, the biggest struggles were captions and hashtags (which everyone suggested using excessively). Until one time when I got so tired of it that I posted a one-word caption with no hashtags at all. To my surprise, it worked better than any of my more time-consuming posts. Ever since I don’t worry about captions as much, and my engagement only improved. So take it easy, consistency is better than perfection.
5. How I grew my Instagram
For every media, at any time, there are multiple ways to make a breakthrough. I bet many influencers will have a different story or their success, and you will find yours by researching, trying and finding what works. But at the end of the day, a stable success comes down to the rules described above, consistent work, experimenting, high-quality content, and engagement.
What worked for me to help me hit my first 10,000 followers – the most difficult to achieve – was reaching out to relevant communities and asking them to feature me. Some didn’t respond, others asked to pay, but the rest agreed to give me a shoutout for free. I’ve sent a couple hundred messages, paid where I could (I developed a system of calculating the rate vs their following/engagement to make that decision worth it) and eventually, got about 15-20 features that helped get the ball rolling and start my “Instagram career”.
Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help!