Growing Instagram accounts is not easy and requires strategy and perseverance.
Below we have assembled data-driven and battle tested practical ideas, DOs and DON’Ts that will help you grow your Instagram account.
This is not meant to be a complete guide and will never be. There are many details and tactics that work in some situations and fail in others. However we tried to keep this guide as objective, honest and universally applicable as possible.
Asking yourself this question is good step before deciding to invest your time and resources into growing an Instagram account. Are you looking to:
Growing Instagram accounts is no joke and might feel like a full-time job. Success does not come overnight. There could be better ways of reaching your goals. Or an end result might not worth an effort.
Make sure you’re motivated enough to take this journey.
Before you begin, you will have to decide how much time per day or week, and resources you can allocate, how to measure your success and when (if) to stop.
Just keep in mind Follower Count is not the best measure of success. Account engagement (saves + shares + comments + likes) is generally a better metric as it shows how engaging your content is and is a key metric that companies look at when selecting influencers.
Getting a high Follower Count might look as a matter of buying fake followers. However, fake followers won’t engage with your account which is a red flag for both Instagram algorithm and sponsors.
Do not buy fake followers. And if you did, remove them to improve your account engagement rate.
Instagram algorithms are complicated and evasive. “Hacking” them rarely works, however “working with them” does. Instagram makes money from Ads. The more engaging a content on the platform, the more people use the app, the more ads can be served. Instagram will do everything in their power to improve engagement and client retention.
Social Networks can be perceived as “Attention Markets”. User attention is a limited resource and billions of posts, including yours, compete for that simultaneously.
Instagram algorithm works as a referee which decides which posts get shown more. It makes decision by looking into how much time people spend and how many actions they take on your posts, and compares those metrics with posts in your Niche.
People have widely ranging needs and interests. Instagram groups interests into Niches and Niche Trees. For example: a root niche Travel has a branch niche Outdoors which has a leaf niche Outdoors Equipment.
It then assigns niches to posts and accounts and matches users with interests in a particular niche with accounts in that niche — under hashtag, explore and account recommendation pages. Instagram will also sort the user home feed based on their niche interest, popping posts for the most engaging niche for that user first.
Instagram will use a number of factors to understand what niche(s) your account belongs to: account BIO, post captions, your follower interests, following interests, and computer vision to scan your posts for clues.
This sounds complicated, but the key rules to follow are:
Make sure to know your audience: demographics, geographic, what interests do they have, what cultural influence are they exposed to? Answering these questions is important to tailor your content.
Nothing beats stunning, high quality content. Such content is hard to come by, so you need to ask yourself how you are going to get that. Basic options are:
Research top accounts in your niche to find out what they post and what works. You can use Inssist Insights module to find out top performing posts and hashtags of your competitors as well as their posting times.
Then prepare your content strategy. Content strategy should answer the following questions:
Write your answers to these questions down. This will help to create a consistent, easily recognisable Instagram profile. You can find more info on Content Strategy in these handy guides:
Convert your Instagram account from Personal to Business or Creative. Business profiles have extra features such as Instagram Insights, Ads, Shopping, Message Inbox, Scheduling etc.
Write and rewrite your BIO. In 150 characters, your Instagram BIO needs to make a great first impression, convey your brand personality, tell people why they should follow your account and provide a call-to-action, a way for Instagrammers to interact with you directly from your profile page.
If you are getting stuck at this, find successful accounts in your niche, study and apply their ideas to your BIO.
Create a memorable and sleek profile picture. Do not try to put too much into your profile picture. Try to keep it minimalistic, handy and easily recognisable even on high scroll speeds.
Post the first 12 to 24 posts. Make sure to fill your profile with a visually consistent and eye-popping content and the best you can create or get your hands on.
While you are at it, create extra posts for the next few weeks of posting and schedule them upfront. There are dozens of post scheduling apps for Instagram. Find the one that suits you the most.
Craft post captions. Every post caption must be unique and engaging. Make sure to include the following into your caption:
Select the best time to post. Here is a data for an Instagram as a whole:
The most consistent engagement can be found Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Engagement goes down every day before 6 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
Try to stay consistent with your schedule and post content at certain times a day and avoid posting content over weekend when engagement is low.
Hashtags are important to get right. We’ve assembled a separate guide on using Instagram hashtags properly. Make sure to check it out. Here is a short version:
Inssist Hashtag Analytics can help you build a hashtag ladder.
Engaging with your audience is the key to growth on Instagram. Engagement is the primary metric Instagram relies on to rank content. The more you engage with your audience, the higher your account engagement.
Engaging should take 80% of your time on the platform, remaining 20% should go to research and posting. Here is a list of what you may consider doing to rank higher:
Make sure to allocate 10-15 minutes before you post to engage with your audience in a meaningful way:
Engaging with people before you post guides them to your profile.
This boosts your post engagement in the first crucial hour. Instagram gauges post popularity by the number of actions it receives in the first hour.
This in turn makes your post rank higher among the top posts for hashtags and explore page in that niche.
Here is a checklist:
Repost your post to your story, add a mention and hashtag stickers if possible. You can “hide” them under the post image if you want to. Repost your post to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks if you have relevant account.
Come back an hour later to engage with your audience and answer their comments on your new post.
If your account is fresh, you may grow it to the first 500 to 1000 followers by finding relevant accounts in your niche, commenting on their post and liking and following hundreds of their followers per day until you get action blocked and then repeat.
This takes a couple of hours a day to do and works because action limits are higher for fresh accounts in their first 2 weeks.
This strategy works only after you optimise you profile by posting a great content at least 12 times and filled up your BIO (see Content section).
Continue to post consistently, focus on engaging people before you post and collaborating with other accounts. Here are the things you might do:
Posting photos of people and personal stuff gets twice the engagement over business related topics.
Monitor engagement on your posts to see what works and what does not. Rotate post formats and topics. Track engagement on your hashtags.
Stand out from the crowd by using a consistent visual theme, photo setting, filters, colour palette.
Find influencers in your niche (use hashtags, manual searching or Instagram analytics tools) willing to promote your content, pay to get featured in their posts. This is the fastest way to boost your profile. However make sure the influencer is in the same niche and has an engaging audience.
Some studies show that brands that run contests grow their followings 30-70% faster than those that don’t.
Stories, IGTVs, Guides, Videos & Carousel posts, Reels, Going Live — try to use as many format as you can and experiment with them. Instagram promotes accounts that use the platform to the fullest.
Do not neglect the potential of paid promotion on Instagram and Facebook. A paid campaign might be a push your account needs to get to a new level.
This may sound counter-productive, but removing certain followers has a positive effect on your account and business.
Ghost followers do not engage with you or your content. They do not watch your stories, they do not like your posts, do not leave comments and do not send DMs. Ghost followers bring your engagement down.
Instagram algorithms rank your content based on your engagement. Removing ghost followers who do not engage with your posts at all will shoot your engagement through the roof and get you a new authentic and engaging audience.
There are Instagram products and services that can scan your account for ghost followers (INSSIST team is also working on one as you read this guide) and then slowly and gradually remove them for you.
If you decide to remove followers manually, make sure to hit “Remove follower” button and not the “Block” or “Report” buttons. Reporting multiple accounts will get you under an Instagram radar.
The tips and practices highlighted above were assembled together from online guides, marketing vlogs, influencer podcasts, Instagram data crunching researches and our own experience with the platform.
From optimising your profile to engaging your followers and beyond, knowing what clicks with your audience is a matter of consistency and experimentation.
We’d like to hear from you. Do you use any of the ideas above? Have you made any changes to your Instagram marketing strategy? What works for YOU and how do YOU grow your Instagram account? Hit us at @inssistapp on Instagram and let us know.