You have probably heard about celebrities on Instagram with millions of followers. Did you get the feeling that you need to be famous first before you can grow a following on Instagram? That is not true. Everyone can be successful on Instagram by simply following some rules and best practices.
You do not even need a huge advertising budget for starting on Instagram. Success is there for you to grab it – if you have some images and are willing to learn.
Before you start
Instagram is not for everyone for the simple reasons that you need to be able to tell a compelling story in images or photos. Of course, with today’s tools you can create images and pictures for every niche and topic – but that may just not be your way of telling stories.
Before you start, you have to make sure that you are not only able but also willing to create and post a couple of pictures each day. Instagram is not Twitter where you can use any type of content. You need pictures or videos, and these have to tell a story.
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So before you start, make sure you have a story and know how you want to tell it on Instagram.
The same as with other social networks applies to Instagram. Make sure your account can be found:
- Choose a name people searching for you can recognize
- use the right keywords: on Instagram, you should use these in hashtags.
- Upload an avatar that is recognizable
Now you are ready to start.
I am not going to explain to you that you need beautiful images, that should be clear. Still, there are many accounts on Instagram that have beautiful images, and some are hugely successful while others do not attract the same amount of attention – and there is a reason for that. The owners of the successful accounts master the rules and tricks of Instagram and know exactly how to play it to attract followers, likes, and comments.
Here are some tips and tricks for you to get more out of your Instagram activity:
1. Do Your Research
When starting out on Instagram, many people simply use all the hashtags that come to mind for every image they post. But there are some hashtags that many people use that may just not come to mind and some that would work better than the ones we use – if we had just thought about them.
For instance, we own a Newfoundland Dog and on Instagram, we post images of our Newfoundland Dog, And there is a whole bunch of hashtags to choose from:
- #Newfoundland (808k posts)
- #NedfoundlandDog (120k posts)
- #Dog (108,531k posts)
- #Dogs (32,392k posts)
- #Newfie (265k posts)
- #Newf (103k posts)
- #newfoundlandsofinstagram (53k posts)
- #newfoundlanddogs (16k posts)
and some more
You can clearly see that sometimes one letter makes all the difference. You can also see that some hashtags are mentioned in multiple times as many posts as other hashtags. So, which are the best hashtags to use?
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The answer is not always to go for the hashtags with the most mentions, the competition for these hashtags is very high. And often the hashtags are not specific enough (in this case that is #dogs or #newfoundland). But you also don’t want to use hashtags that no one else uses. These are probably not the hashtags people look for.
You have to test what works for you – but doing your research first can help you figure out why something works better than something else.
Once you found some hashtags that work for you and that fit the stories, you tell, you should save them.
You can also use tools like Hootsuite’s Trendspottr to find trending hashtags. But when you are starting out simple research for hashtags in the Instagram app should be enough.
2. Unclutter your captions by hiding some hashtags
Unlike other networks like Twitter where you should use hashtags with care – on Instagram, you can and should use a lot of hashtags. Up to 30 hashtags are allowed. But these hashtags sometimes make an image caption rather lengthy and not so nice to read. You can hide your captions from your followers with a simple trick:
Post some of the hashtags in the first comment on your image. If more comments come in, this first comment will be hidden.
This way the hashtags do not clutter your image caption, but people searching for hashtags can still find your images.
3. Curate Content = Regram
Especially when you are starting out you may not have enough own content to post consistently. You may still be finding your way around Instagram and monitoring what others do. You can easily fill up your stream by using other people’s content. Simply Regram their images. Well, it is actually not that simple, if you do not want to use an app to regram – plus you should NEVER steal content:
- Take a screenshot of the image you want to regram
- Select the screen as an image you want to post. Crop the image so that only the image shows.
- Enter the caption. This should always include a mention of the owner of the image: Credit: @username
- Now you are ready to share the image
Note: Do not just regram random images, ask the owner for permission first!
If you have permission to regram, this can be an awesome way to connect to other Instagrammers.
4. Crosspost to other networks
You are new to Instagram, but you already have a fair number of followers on other social networks? Then you should announce your new account in these networks. You may even want to consider mentioning your new Instagram account in your bio on networks like Twitter.
But even after you announced your new Instagram account, you can remind people of your Instagram activity by crossposting some images to other social networks. This will help you spice up your content on Facebook and Twitter and can even help you increase your engagement in these networks.
BuzzSumo in cooperation with Neil Patel found that images on Facebook posted through Instagram increase engagement of 23%.
I do not recommend to share every post to another network – if people want all your Instagram images, they should follow you on Instagram. But a nice image shared to your Facebook or Twitter account can help you get some of your Facebook friends to follow you on Instagram and help you build your following.
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5. Schedule Posts
I have already written posts about the importance of scheduling for Social Media. Instagram is not so different: If you post when nobody is online, fewer people are going to see your post. On the other hand, if you post when everybody else is posting, you are competing with a ton of images flooding people’s feed at the same time.
What times are best for you to post needs to be tested as it depends on your niche, on your followers and the type of content your share (work or personal). However, you can use the recommendation from Hubspot as a starting point that says: Anytime Monday to Thursday, but not between 3 pm and 4 pm
Tools like Buffer or Hootsuite can help you schedule your posts.
6. Grow your followers
When you are starting out, you need to attract an initial following. To make your content spread, you need an initial audience. The same methods to grow followers on Instagram apply that you may already know from Twitter:
- Follow accounts from your niche – some will follow you back. The key to success is to follow the right people. A good starting point are often the followers of your competitors or role models
- Like other people’s content, they will notice you and some will follow you
- Engage with other people, comment on posts
7. Tag people when it makes sense
This is an advanced method that some of you may know from Twitter. On Twitter, it is for instance used to mention accounts that are quoted in a blog post or that have contributed to a piece of content. Mentioning these accounts helps you get retweets and likes.
There are multiple occasions where it makes sense to tag accounts on Instagram. For instance, Jonathan used it to mention Marina (@theAmazing.Life) as the author of a blog post:
8. Drive Traffic
Driving traffic to a blog or website from Instagram can be a little tricky because you cannot share a clickable link in the caption of an image. In the screen above from Jonathan’s Instagram you can see one way to do it: Mention a post in the caption and get people to click on the website link in your profile. Our experience shows: it works.
Another way to do it is to post the link in the caption of an image and ask people to copy and paste it. That is how Jeff Bullas does it. I trust Jeff enough to believe this is also working.
The second version is a little harder to track, as the links will not show as clicks from Instagram in your analytics. You need to work with campaign links or other tracking methods.
Which of the two methods work better for you, you will have to test.
If you are just starting out on Instagram, some of these tips should be useful. There is a lot more to know about Instagram: Tools, best practices, how to market a blog, and more. We will certainly cover these in one of our coming blog posts.
Do you have some more tips from your own experience you want to share? Please let us know in the comments!