The world of social media, particularly Instagram, is ever changing. We have to pay attention to these changes in order to grow our following and gain traction online.
Instagram is one of the best ways for bloggers, entrepreneurs, businesses, and anyone who wants to make a name for themselves to get noticed and spread the word about their passion, service, or product. But it can be overwhelming. And with how often the Instagram algorithm changes it can feel like nothing you do ever works.
You've probably been told to use hashtags, share quality content, and post consistently. But sometimes those tips are vague. Or just don't move the needle like you expected.
Instead, I wanted to focus on a strategy, just one simple strategy that can help you grow your Instagram followers and engagement. And it might just surprise you.
First and foremost, I no longer believe that content is king on Instagram. It's not just about the perfect image. Do beautiful images do well? Yes. All the time? Not necessarily. You'd be surprised at the struggle so many have that take absolutely stunning photos to gain organic growth and followers.
So. . . why aren't they growing?
Because Instagram just isn't about content. If it was, then the top photographers of the world would have the most followers, not Selena Gomez. What Instagram users crave are stories. We want to be entertained and we want to follow your story. That means: having a cast of characters, reminding new followers of the plot, and sharing more real and raw captions that align with your images.
As someone that has worked in social media and helped other accounts and business grow their social media presence, I know the struggle we often face to learn what works and what doesn't when it comes to Instagram. And sometimes it leaves us scratching our head. You know when you post an epic shot and it gets no feedback or you're shocked when the likes plummet compared to others? I want to help you figure this out. What I found is a simple strategy that works dramatically well for organic Instagram growth.
One thing that I've noticed, especially over the last few years, is that certain accounts grow at a rapid rate, much faster than others. Why is that? It's not just because they use strategies like hashtags, a beautiful aesthetic, or geotags. And while I do endorse those strategies, there's more to it than that.
The one strategy you need to implement to gain followers and engagement on Instagram is to share a routine that people can identify with consistently.
Basically, you need to regularly share content that people can immediately identity with.
Let me explain.
I don't mean you need to stick to a niche, type of picture, edit, or pose. What I mean is to consistently share a story that people can follow.
Think about it like this, we are creatures of habit. We want to go on Instagram and see our favorite influencers do something a bit expected. This doesn't mean you need to do and say the exact same thing. Think of it more like tuning in to your favorite TV show. The same cast of characters are there. You can expect the same sort of antics, jokes, and even setting. Sure, the plot changes, but you know the players and you have an understanding of what's going on in the show, even if you missed a previous episode.
The same can be applied to your Instagram. This works particularly well on Instagram stories.
I think people crave consistency and don't want to be thrown a curve ball when it comes to social media. Consistency doesn't necessarily mean posting every day, although I think it is good to share at least a few times a week to keep your followers engaged. It’s more about consistently sharing your passions, goals, and interests in a relatable or admirable way that keeps followers engaged and continually interacting.
So how can you put this into practice?
First and foremost, you need to dig deep on your why on Instagram. Why are you posting? What do you want to “get out” of Instagram? To monetize your business, share about a cause, gain recognition for your work? There are many options, but you need to know why you're on there so you can better serve your audience.
Then, you can start creating content on a regular basis that resonates with your followers. This can be showcasing a tutorial, a recipe, how you style clothes, travel tips, products you love, etc. I think you can consistently share the people in your life that you want to feature on social media. Let people get to know them. This doesn't mean you need to have them on camera, but you need to introduce who you'll feature prominently. Even if it's your dog!
Then you need to come up with a game plan of how you can consistently share this content. I'm going to share what I do on my Instagram @heleneinbetween. I regularly share about my travels and life abroad. When I'm home, I share daily about the ups and downs of what life is like abroad. One of my “bits,” for lack of a better term, is sharing about the stresses I deal with living in Germany. From going to the grocery store to parking and some of the oddities that come about living abroad, I update my followers with how I feel.
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It was pouring rain but I insisted we head to the palace gardens in Schwetzingen. At first Michael rolled his eyes but then we went and we were the only ones there. Our rain jackets got so wet we both soaked through but it didn’t matter because we were laughing too hard. Where is your favorite spot for spring blooms? 🌸 Mine are Heidelberg (and Schwetzingen), Paris, London, Southern England (daffodils everywhere) and now… poppies Italy! Just arrived in Sicily! #helenelovesgermany
They, in turn, feel part of my story. When I share about these details they comment and interact with what I have to say. They get to know me better and also help to fuel my engagement. Plus, it's a much more natural connection than hoping that if I comment on their post, they will comment back. This isn't sustainable engagement on Instagram. But having a group of people that know my story and care about what I say? That's true engagement.
So find your why, have a clear voice, and start consistently sharing.
Let's look at some case studies.
I want to share some examples with you of people I've watched over the years who have grown exponentially while being true to themselves. This doesn't mean you should copy them, but instead, get ideas for what could work for you to grow your Instagram.
One of the best examples of seeing this in action is fashion bloggers. Weekly, if not daily, they will share a “try-on haul.” This entails sharing different outfits along with swipe-up links to some of their favorite or new clothing. We watch this because we feel comfortable with what's coming, even if the story changes.
One that I often find myself watching is fashion blogger Emily of Champagne and Chanel. She's from Texas, a Chick-fil-A frequenter, and I often feel drawn to open up and watch what she has going on. Because I watch her stories so often, her posts tend to pop up on my Instagram feed. Daily, she shares her most used products, new outfits, and hair tips. Even though we live very different lives, I follow her regularly to see what she's up to.
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Made it to the west coast 😍😍 Linking today’s comfy travel look (yes, these jeans are SO comfy)! And this top is actually a dress that I tucked in! Love when you can get multiple looks out of one piece 🙌🏻 Details are linked in my bio! http://liketk.it/2Auhz #liketkit @liketoknow.it #LTKunder100
One of my favorite Instagrammers to follow is Indy Blue. She consistently breaks the rules of Instagram in the best possible ways and her followers love her for it. She doesn't have a carefully curated feed, but she regularly shares stories that you can't help but wish you were there for. She artfully teases out what's going on in her life and eloquently explains what drives her passions. You're immediately drawn to her after reading her playful, strong captions or watch her well-thought-out Instagram Stories.
Instagram is a great place for beauty and fashion. But Hair By Chrissy takes this to a new level. Even though my hair looks nothing like the girls she highlights, I am always fascinated to watch her transform clients and share, step-by-step, how she achieves her results. Chrissy is a hair and extension specialist based in Arizona. I will most likely never visit her salon or do an 8-step festival braid, but I am always drawn to watching how she works. Daily, she shares hair tips and tutorials, even simple things like curling and blow drying.
Giving tips along with your captions gets people to stop and read. The Instagram Algorithm takes into account the length of time someone stops to interact with your posts. Christine of Live Love Run Travel always gives an in-depth look at how she took the shot or shares useful information on the place she's touring. This not only inspires others, but increases the likelihood that they will continue to read her captions, interact, and even “save” her posts.
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Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona is a beautiful place to walk around and relax. The highlight of the park is the Cascada Monumental which you can walk up and around. Even on a Sunday afternoon it wasn’t too busy (more Barcelona tips in my blog post at the link in my bio!). I love finding quiet places in big cities or getting out of the city altogether. Being an introvert, I need to get away from the hustle and bustle and have some down time even when we travel (my husband is extremely extroverted, so we have to balance it out at home and away). Do you consider yourself more of an introvert or an extrovert or somewhere in the middle? . . . . . @nextvacay #mynextvacay . . . . . #parcdelaciutadella #discoverbarcelona #lovebarcelona #barcelonastravel #wonderlustbarcelona #barcelonacity #topbarcelonaphoto #visitbarcelona #visitspain #topspainphoto @travelbloggeres #aggielook #wearetravelgirls #dametraveler #darlingescapes #ladiesgoneglobal #sidewalkerdaily #damestravel #travelgirlsgo #girlaroundworld #sheisnotlost #teamkaptainkenny #proudoutfitrepeater #femmetravel #teamhelene #speechlessplaces #journeysofgirls #thetravelwomen #wetravelgirls
Amber Lancaster is a game show host who expertly shares behind-the-scenes content along with her beauty routine. I remember seeing her hair tutorial and immediately trying it and loving her tips. She always shares not only beauty advice, but helpful information.
Krispy Shorts is a meme account I've been following since meme accounts came out. But his is my all-time favorite. Not only does he share hilarious videos and conversations, he also shares his personality throughout. I feel like I'm following his story, intermixed with hilarious and relatable posts.
Takeaways: share consistently about your own passions, goals, and interests on Instagram and Instagram Stories. People are very interested in transformation, practical help, and advice.
How can you find what kind of content to share?
The best way to find what content is working for you on Instagram is to turn to the app itself and look at your stats. This requires that you have a business account. I highly recommend a business account to get the most out of your Instagram.
To find the information we need head to your profile. click the three bars on the top right, then click on “see all” under Content in “Feed Posts.” Now, we want to take a look first at the number of impressions we get over the past two years. To do this click on any of the blue hyperlinked words at the top to filter. We want to filter by “all” “2 years” and “Impressions.” The past two years is the farthest you can go.
Impressions are the number of times your content was shown to users.
What I first noticed about mine is that videos tend to do well. This lets me know that video content does exceptionally well so I should post more.
Next, let's filter for “Engagement.” This helps you see how your followers interact with your posts.
If you want to take a deeper look, click on a post and then click “View Insights” so that you can better understand where your reach (the number of unique users that saw your post) saw or interacted with your post.
Arming yourself with this information and analyzing your analytics helps you to understand what people want to see more of on your account.
Of course, you can also tell this when you post. You know, almost immediately, when a post does well as soon as you post. I like to use the Instagram “save” feature and save a post of mine that does well. That way I can go back and can see if people interacted with the caption, commented on the photo, or shared it to their Instagram story. This is the best way, in my opinion, to have a better understanding of what content performs best for you.
Based on this, I suggest that you take a risk. Post a caption that you might not feel 100% sure about. Share a photo that doesn't automatically fit within your perfect Instagram theme. Your audience might respond to this in a surprisingly good way.
I have a friend who always edited her photos the same way. It meant her feed was lovely. But she got tired of it. She decided to switch it up. People loved it. She definitely lost some followers over it, some people weren't comfortable with the change, but for the most part, she realized that a lot of people liked her photos but disliked her overly highlighted, pink images.
If you're really struggling with Instagram engagement start paying attention to any boost in interaction and start sharing more of what people crave. Switch it up, too, so that you can see if people are interested in new kinds of content.
Ask yourself this: who do you consistently follow on Instagram and why do you like to watch/follow their content? Chances are it's because of the reasons I just outlined above. Your growth on Instagram will vary, but I think this can work for almost any type of account.
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