Grow your Instagram account with these 6 proven growth tactics
71% of small businesses in the US use Instagram. So, if you’re not on the visual-first platform, you’re probably missing out.
While this stat spotlights Instagram’s usefulness for small businesses, it also makes one thing clear: with so many businesses using Instagram, standing out on the network can be challenging.
Let’s look at how you can grow your account to attract, engage, and convert your target audience on Instagram.
1. Post valuable content
Good content sits at the heart of an effective growth strategy. But, what is good content? It’s content that is relevant to your audience and aligns with your business values.
Epic Reads, for instance, shares all things novel-related, including updates on new releases, authors, and book reviews.
To start planning content for your Instagram account, take the following steps. Follow the same steps if you already have an account, but need to refresh your content strategy.
Revisit your buyer’s persona or target audience profile
This will help you understand their demographic, pain points, language, and so on. If you’re only starting out, you’ll also need this information to determine your posting time.
Determine core topics
By digging out your audience’s pain points and interests, you’ll have a handful of topics to address on the platform. For example, a content marketing agency could talk about the following topics: content ideation, strategy, and distribution tips & tactics. They could also cover blogging tips.
Settle on ideal content formats
Next, list out all the content formats you’d like to explore on Instagram based on what will resonate best with your audience. Make sure the formats you pick don’t clash with your brand personality. Try memes, videos, live streaming, branded graphics, carousel posts, ephemeral content (Stories), or Reels.
Decide the type of content you’ll post
At this point, you’ll also want to ask yourself if you want to post original content only. Remember, a content mix is ideal so that both you and your audience don’t get tired from the monotony of your posts. Other content types to consider here are: curated content, user-generated content, & behind-the-scenes content.
Pro tip: Keep up with trending content by curating your IG account using the curation feature in ContentStudio, a social media scheduler. It identifies trending content for you across the entire web.
But that’s not all, you get an idea of how much engagement each curated piece can bring based on the public sentiment around it. Ultimately, this helps you diversify your content pool and better engage your audience.
Start creating your posts
Now, start executing your strategy. It’s best to create Instagram posts in bulk. This makes the most out of your creative mode and saves time in the long haul. Each time you create a post, be sure to preview it to spot errors and/or any missing elements. While this isn’t natively possible on Instagram, you can use a social media scheduling tool’s Preview feature to do so.
Polish content as you create more of it
Once you get into a regular posting cadence on the platform, we recommend taking the time to optimize your content and make it more engaging. How? By studying which of your posts achieved the most engagement, then doubling down on creating more similar content.
Collecting these analytics and using your scheduler’s analytics should make the process easy. Look at where most of your audience comes from, their age, and the content that appeals to them.
While you’re at it, also look for posts that got the least engagement. Try and identify why those posts didn’t do as well. Did you post them at a time when your audience wasn’t active? Or was the topic not interesting enough to them?
Use all this insider info to create another batch of refined content. Then, repeat.
2. Maintain a regular publishing cadence
Creating a well-defined content strategy helps you maintain a regular content stream. This consistency is crucial for staying on your audience’s radar.
After all, aren’t they going to remember you better if you engage regularly, instead of posting once in a blue moon?
Consistent posting doesn’t, however, mean that you post daily – even though that’s not a bad idea, considering that most brands post in such a manner.
Posting several times in a day can tank your engagement. Here’s the best way to go about it:
Plan a publishing cadence to develop your audience’s expectations
Do you want to post once daily, or is thrice a week fine? Also, decide how often you want to share Instagram Stories – regularly is best, since 70% of IG users consume Stories daily.
When we say show up consistently, this is what we mean: leave thoughtful comments, respond to mentions, get back to messages – more on this in a bit.
Always focus on quality over quantity
This stands true for all the comments you make, posts you publish, and Stories you share.
Now, the million-dollar question is: how do you maintain a regular publishing schedule?
Admittedly, this is easier said than done. But it’s not impossible, especially if you’re using a social media scheduling app. First of all, we recommend publishing directly through ContentStudio. Today, you can plan, create, and schedule posts – all within one app.
One, you can publish directly with ContentStudio. This wasn’t possible previously. You could only post directly on Instagram. Or, you could add your content to a scheduler, then use push notification or Zapier integration to approve the post at the scheduled time.
Two: coordinate with your team on creating Instagram content. In fact, you can even create workflows within the app.
Then, assign roles – get the designer to create the graphic, the copywriter to write captions, and the social media manager to approve it. The admin can manage as well and view assigned tasks straight from their dashboard. Simple, isn’t it?
And three, you can also maintain publishing consistency by bulk uploading your posts.
This is possible with the bulk upload option. Use the shared CSV file template to fill out post and media details. Create a schedule and upload the file to the app after that. The scheduler automatically manages the rest.
3. Share content when your audience is most active
This is the key to driving engagement on your content.
If you’re only starting to post, do research to identify the best times to post on Instagram. The general consensus is that posting between 9 am to 11 am on workdays, and 2 pm to 3 pm on Thursdays drives engagement.
Now, check if this time suits your target audience.
For example, if you’re targeting stay-at-home moms, posting early around 9 am might not help. But, if you’re targeting agencies, 9 am is a good time.
Once you start posting on Instagram, you can get a better sense of when your audience is more active. Simply look at your analytics dashboard to identify the time your audience is most engaging.
4. Use relevant hashtags
Instagram hashtags help you reach a wider audience on the platform. So, it’s essential that you remember them as an easy, must-follow growth tactic.
But, here’s the thing: simply bundling together a bunch of Instagram hashtags won’t help. Instead, using hashtags strategically helps garner engagement.
Follow these tips:
Be specific with your hashtags
For example, if you’re targeting freelance writers, you’ll want to use the ‘freelancewriting’ hashtag instead of the broad ‘writing’ hashtag
Find out the hashtags your competitors are using
This helps you pin down the hashtags your competitors leverage to reach their audience. You can use them too. And, to use audience-relevant hashtags, consider peeping at your target audience’s profiles to understand the hashtags they use
Identify high volume and trending hashtags
When adding hashtags to the post you’re creating in the Composer, you’ll see recommendations for high-volume hashtags. This way, you don’t need to be looking for them manually and wasting precious time.
Want to save more time? Save hashtags within the app so you don’t have to look for the right ones every time you post.
Don’t go overboard with the number of hashtags you use
Although Instagram allows you to add up to 30 hashtags, using all of them can come across as spam. Research also suggests too many hashtags can reduce engagement.
Add hashtags to your first comment
A study reveals adding hashtags to the first comment increases the post’s reach. Fortunately, adding hashtags this way can’t disturb your posting rhythm if you’re publishing using ContentStudio. In fact, you can also schedule the first, hashtag-bearing comment from within the app.
5. Consistently engage with your audience
This is the single, most important Instagram growth tactic that you can’t afford to push under the rug.
The reason? Engagement begets engagement.
Thanks to the law of reciprocity, a psychological phenomenon, people feel obligated to return what someone does for them. Put simply, when you interact with your audience on IG, they return the engagement. This, in turn, drives more engagement.
What’s more, engaging with your audience positions your brand as approachable. It shows a brand’s human side, which is being open to talking and learning about their concerns.
So, what are some effective ways to engage with your audience? Follow these tips:
Post user-generated content (UGC)
This is content that your followers create for you – product unpacking videos and product reviews are two examples.
If posting UGC content disturbs your Instagram grid layout design, consider creating Story Highlights featuring all posts from your audience, as Miro does under the Miro Love Story Highlight.
Not enough engagement for you to post UGC content?
Consider running a UGC-generating campaign using a dedicated hashtag. Trello did that with the help of the #WhereITrello hashtag. Users shared their workspace featuring their Trello boards, and the project managing software was able to generate lots of user content.
Proactively reply to comments and DMs
78% of Instagram users prefer active businesses to those that are slow to respond. Meaning: it’s critical you get back to comments and messages as quickly as possible.
This can be easy to do on your own if you’re only starting out. But, when your engagement grows and more customer inquiries pour in, consider using a shared Social Inbox to manage everything better.
Essentially, the Social Inbox is where all your social media messages, comments, and DMs reside (it’s not limited to Instagram messages, so you can manage other channel queries as well!).
This way, you and your team can interact with your audience from a central hub – all while keeping track of everything that needs answering.
Here’s how: the Inbox has six columns, which help reduce workload and create a workflow around audience engagement. These are:
- Unassigned. You’ll find all unresolved messages and comments here.
- Mine. This tab displays all the messages and comments that you, as the admin of the workflow, will be addressing. At any given time, you can easily see what needs answering.
- Assigned. Here’s where all tasks you assign to teammates appear. For example, you could assign a sales query to a sales expert on the team.
- Marked as Done. As everyone on the team answers messages and comments assigned to them, the ‘cleared’ content shows under this tab. You can easily review how conversations were resolved to improve your customer experience KPIs.
- Archived. In this column, you’ll find all resolved messages that aren’t needed for future reference.
- All. As its name suggests, you’ll find all your messages here – assigned, resolved, and archived.
Moving from one column to another makes it simple to glance at interactions your audience is having with your business. It’s also a great way to make sure an expert is getting back to their query.
And here’s more: you can organize and filter all social messages using tags.
So, for example, you can add the tag ‘sales’ to all sales queries you get. Doing so means you can easily revisit sales messages with the click of a tag.
Similarly, add a tag to all the important responses that can be reused in the future – this is particularly helpful if you’re revisiting answers to frequently asked questions on Instagram.
Overall, the Social Inbox is designed to help you reduce your response time and provide expert answers to all questions.
Host giveaways and challenges
Everyone loves a free gift. This is why giveaways can grow your account and engagement significantly.
For example, by asking participants to tag a friend and/or repost your post, you can get more followers and increase brand awareness. Here’s a look at how FabFitFun does this:
If a giveaway isn’t on the cards for you, host a challenge. Birchbox does those:
Whether it’s a giveaway or a challenge that you host, make sure to give clear participation guidelines. Once you get the ball rolling, be sure to share winners/answers to keep it all authentic.
6. Collaborate with influencers
Last on this guide is influencer marketing that helps you leverage social proof.
When your audience sees people who influence them also trust you enough to work with you, they start trusting you more.
Adding to that, collaborating with influencers helps you get more exposure as your brand appears in front of the influencer’s audience.
A common misconception here, however, is that you need a big budget to pair up with influencers.
You don’t have to though. How? By working with micro-influencers – influencers with small (say 1,000 minimum) but engaged audiences.
But how do you find these influencers? Use the Influencer Discovery feature to hunt relevant influencers.
The discovery search bar not only turns up a list of industry-relevant Instagram influencers, but it gives you an estimated cost of working with each, alongside a list of other details. These include the influencers’:
- Total posts
- Top Hashtags
- Influencer interests
- Average views per video
Heads-up: make sure the influencers you work with have a follower pool that aligns with your audience persona. Suja Organic juice, for instance, paired with a fitness trainer for their influencer marketing. Otherwise, it’s all going to be for nothing since you’ll be attracting the wrong people.
That said, you can always multiply your chances of working with an influencer by taking it slow and focusing on relationship building.
In theory, this means that once you’ve identified an influencer to work with, start by following them.
Next, genuinely engage with their content – leaving thoughtful comments to get on their radar.
Once they start engaging back, continue engaging with them and eventually reach out with a proposal to work together.
Growing your Instagram account takes a dedicated content strategy, a regular publishing schedule, consistent engagement, and influencer marketing. With each post you create, make sure you throw in a handful of relevant hashtags. And, don’t forget to get back to comments on your posts, brand tags as well as DMs.