For each and every social network, one of the first and most important questions is: How can I grow an audience? And by now you should know enough about us, that we will never tell you „Pay for ads“ without telling you some other methods to grow a targeted audience, first.
That is no different for Instagram.
Of course, you can go the easy route and pay for advertising on Instagram. And I am fairly sure that you will be able to attract at least some followers that way. But…
I strongly advise you to „learn“ a little more about Instagram, your options to grow an audience without advertising – and about your target audience, before you jump on the „pay for it“ train.
Instagram is a very open and engaged community. It is easy to talk to strangers, and it is also fairly easy to get strangers to follow you – and to engage with you over your shared photos.
Here are 16 inspiring ways to grow your audience on Instagram:
1. Post regularly – and more often
Nothing is more boring and more invisible as an Instagram account that does not post. If you want to grow an audience, you have to publish photos, and you have to publish a lot.
As in many other social networks like Twitter or Facebook, it is a fatal mistake on Instagram to post too few updates. Data shows that the most successful accounts on Facebook and Instagram tend to post many more updates than the smaller accounts.
Image Source: Buffer Blog
2. Do some homework: Research and use hashtags from your niche
While in some social networks like Facebook hashtags don’t play a very important role – on Instagram hashtags are your key to success. Find the best hashtags for each niche and post on Instagram is a science.
Not researching hashtags can easily kill your chances of Instagram success. The best hashtags are used frequently but not overhyped. They need to strongly relate to your image and niche.
To find the best hashtags, you should use Instagram and the data it provides when you search for a keyword directly on Instagram. You can also use some tools to help you with your research. In addition, you should keep your eyes open and see what other people from your niche post and what hashtags they use on their most successful images.
Image source: Top Hashtags
3. Stay consistent with your goal, niche and target group
If you want to build an interested, engaged and targeted audience on Instagram you need to keep your posts consistent. Depending on what you want to achieve with your activity, you have to post accordingly.
If you want to get your foot into the fashion industry, you should post about fashion. To connect with dog lovers, photos of your favorite dogs will be a good idea.
Your activity is key to building a targeted audience!
4. Like Other People’s Photos
There are some activities that can get you in front of people from your target audience. Liking other people’s photos is one of them.
Some of the most successful people on Instagram admit that in the beginning they simply like tons of photos from other Instagrammers.
I myself have noticed people who repeatedly like some of my images, and I can remember some of these people. This method works even better, if you like more than one photo from one person. Come back after a few days and like another photo and people will start noticing you.
5. Comment on photos
Keep in mind that commenting means more thatn saying: follow me or like my photo. Commenting should also be more than just saying something generic like „beatiful“ – although this is at least a start.
The more thoughtful your comment the more likely it will be noticed. And often people will answer you.
Liking and commenting on other people’s photos works better for small accounts. If you comment on photos from influencers with millions of followers, your comment and like is much more likely to get lost in the cackophonie of millions of fans.
6. Follow people from your target group
If you want people to follow you, you need to be willing to follow some people, too.
Since Instagram recently blocked some efficient tools to help you unfollow inactive accounts and people who are not following you back, following larger amounts of people on Instagram and unfollowing the ones that did not follow back will not be a very efficient method to gain followers.
(some black hat tools may still be able to help you with the follow-unfollow routine – but you take a risk using them)
Still, following some accounts from your niche can help you get those precious first couple of hundred followers. Plus, following these accounts will help you get more interesting images to your feed and make it easier to connect with likes and comments)
7. Cross Promote your Instagram
If you already have a social media presence in some social networks it certainly help to let your audience know that you also are on Instagram. And since a call to action always gets better results: Simply ask your followers on Twitter or Facebook to follow you on Instagram, too. You may even want to consider to cross promote your instagram images to Facbook or Twitter.
Image Source: Twitter
8. Ask for likes and comments
Instagram uses an algorithm similar to the Facebook algorithm to determine which photos will appear in your feed. Most of you will probably know that on Facebook engagement is key to more visibility. That also holds true for Instagram: More likes and comments increase your chance of reaching an audience with your images.
You can actively inspire comments and likes by asking your audience a question. A simple example would be the following: If you post a photo of your sunday morning coffee you could ask your audience: What is your favorite beverage to start your sunday morning? Let me know in the comments!
A call-to-action at the right place can boost your engagement on your photos
9. Make your photos awesome with filters
I once talked to a friend and said, your photos are awesome. He answered: You know, even if your photos are mediocre, the Instagram filters help you turn a mediocre photo into something eyecatching and outstanding.
And it is true: There almost always is an Instagram filter that will let your photo seem like something special.
And that shows in some numbers. Filtered photos are
- 21% more likely to be viewed
- 45% more likely to get a comment
(Source Buffer Blog)
10. Use quotes
Motivational quotes often get a ton of likes, shares and comments in social media. They often work well on Facebook pages, they can inspire millions of retweets on Twitter. It certainly is one type of content that you could try for your Instagram account.
However this tactic works better in some niches than in others. You should be careful that you still target the right audience with your quotes. All the engagement on your images won’t get you far if the audience that you attract does not correspond to your target group.
11. Geotag your photos
Geotagging means you add a location to your photo on Instagram. It is a simple way to increase exposure for your image as photos with a location see 79% more engagement than those without.
Image Source: The Social Ms
12. Test what your audience likes – post that more often
Different niches react in different ways. I noticed that while motivational quotes work well for the marketing niche – in some other niches they don’t inspire the same amount of engagement
It all depends on so many factors that the simple answer is: try it out and post more of the type of photos and videos that your target audience reacts to.
13. Use Instagram Stories
Instagram stories is a format of Instagram updates that vanish after 24h.
Instagram stories get additional exposure while they exist, as they are shown prominent on top of your Instagram feed:
Image Source Buffer Blog
14. Ask followers to tag a friend
Asking followers to tag a friend is a great way to make your photo spread – but you have to use it with care or it becomes either boring or spammy.
A great example is promoting an event or special offer and asking your followers to tag friends for whom this could be of interest.
Image Source: Buffer Blog
15. Use Emojis
Emojis are still on the rise. A ton of comments on Instagram include nothing but emojis. They are a great way of showing compassion without having to write lengthy text.
But there is a lot more to emojis than you might think.
Image Source: Sprout Social
In fact, you can search for emojis on Instagram. And that makes emojos an additional means to get more attention to your instagram account or some photos you share.
For instance, a photographer could use the camera emoji in his Instagram profile to make it instantly clear what he is about. A sarch for the camera emoji would then also list his profile right between some other photographers.
Don’t simply post and then sit back and wait for comments to come. You can actively inspire comments and engagement.
- Ask a question – you can even tag one person and pose the question explicitly to him/her
- Always react to comments and answer them
17. Monitor and Learn what your audience likes
As it is often in social media: you have to take courage and simply start posting. Once you have posted some photos, take a step back and analyze what works well and what your audience does not like – or at least not respond to.
Instagram is a very open and engaged social network. If your activity does not inspire engagement and new followers, you should take a deep breath and rethink your activity. Visit the profiles of som people from your niche and take a look how they act on Instagram and how their followers react. Can you learn and copy some of their activity? IF it works for them, it may well work for you!
Always be open to adjustments and be willing to learn.
And share more photos!