So you want to get more followers on Instagram because followers = customers and customers = sales. Right?
The role of social media in the marketing mix is changing, but it is still as critical as ever to ensure your social media channels are active, optimised and engaging. But the importance is no longer placed on the number of followers you have (it hasn’t been for a while now). Instead, it’s all about the community, no matter how big or small it is.
Sure, it would be great to have 50,000 followers BUT if they are not engaging with your content, don’t receive value from you and have not purchased from you in the past nor do they intend to in the future, they are pretty useless. 3,000 followers that see, engage with and love every post are the types of people you want in your community.
Remember this: it so much easier to sell to people who are already listening than people who don’t even know you exist. In fact research has shown that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%.
It’s easier said than done though.
So, how do you grow your Instagram community and focus on building a two-way relationship with them? Here are the Instagram best practices you need to know if you want to grow your audience and build your community on Instagram.
Setting up your account:
Before you start sharing any content, make sure your account is set up properly. This helps in the brand awareness stage and when Instagram users first land on your page, your account set up helps convert them to a follower.
Here are some things to audit:
- Your profile image should be your handle, and it should be sized to a perfect square with the dimensions 110 x 110 pixels.
- Your handle should be your business name, or as close to it is possible
- Your bio should explain what you do in clear and concise language and should include your unique selling point, or what makes your business different from competitors.
- Your profile should include a link to your website (use LinkTree to add multiple links to your bio) and if you have switched over to a business account, all of your contact details (especially email!) should be listed with an Action Button.
There is a lot of debate around whether switching your account to a business account on Instagram actually impacts your organic reach (we think it might!) but the benefits of the business account are that you can have contact buttons on your profile, and free up more space in your bio. We’ve got our account on a business profile, and it seems to be A-OKAY for the time being.
Consistency is key. We recommend posting once per day, or every second day if you don’t have a truckload of high-quality content to share. Of course, that depends on your brand, business and social media strategy, and whether Instagram is your primary or secondary social media platform.
For Instagram Stories, we recommend posting daily, as long as the quality of the content is consistent. Quality over quantity is critical, so don’t post for the sake of posting.
Even if you only post twice a week, posting consistently is important so that the Instagram algorithm knows to expect your content and can then display it to your community. Inconsistency can reduce the organic reach your content receives which ultimately impacts the reach of your content and your engagement rate when you do post.
If you don’t post consistent, you will find it hard to grow your community further and keep your current community engaged and active.
When to post:
While strategic posting times went out the window when the Instagram algorithm changed from chronological order to “most relevant,” it’s still important to think about when you are posting. As a general rule, you should be posting at a time when your community is active and on Instagram to ensure your content is seen not only by your followers, but other members of your target audience too. You can’t reach new people if they don’t see your content!
For example, if your target market is young women who work in the corporate space, posting before 8am and after 5pm is best. If your target market is stay-at-home Mums, posting during the day is best, because the morning and afternoon are quite busy getting the family out the door and back home for dinner in the afternoon and evening.
If you’re not quite sure when your target audience is going to be most active on Instagram, make some assumptions based on your target personas and start posting at these times so you can track how posts at different times perform. It’s all about using your Instagram analytics and persona insights to learn more about your community and then test, measure and optimise (and test, measure and optimise again and again) to do more of what works.
Style, Vibes, and Colours:
Use a consistent filter and colour theme to make sure all of your posts work well together. Instagram is a visual platform, so be selective in the content that you post and make sure every post aligns with your branding and style guide. If your primary branding colour is pink, try to incorporate some pink into all of your posts, whether it is something small in the foreground of the image or a bright pink backdrop.
Not only will it help your images look more on brand, but it will also help your community recognise your content at first sight when they see it in their newsfeed and stop scrolling to read and double tap. Once they become familiar with your style, vibe and colour theme on Instagram, your community will form a strong and more personal connection with the business.
Plus…. A consistent style, vibe and colour theme helps elevate your Instagram content as a whole, making it more attractive and engaging to newcomers too.
Instagram needs to be more curated than other social media platforms, so don’t create content in panic mode and think about what you are going to post in advance.
Instagram Story Highlights:
Save your Instagram Stories to a category-specific Story Highlight on your profile so they are permanently available and new members of your Instagram community can see all of your old content, quickly learn what you’re all about, and immediately get value from content they may have otherwise missed. This helps create a great first impression for people who land on your Instagram profile and is how you turn “another Instagram user” into a member of your community.
This also helps increase the life of your content!
Each Instagram Story Highlight should have its own profile image, which should be consistent across all Instagram Story Highlights (check out our Instagram @freefolkagency for an example).
Be an active part of the Instagram community:
Instagram is a social networking platform, so you need to be social. There is no point in being on Instagram if you are just going to open the app, post and close the app until your next post.
You need to engage with your followers - if you want them to listen to you, you need to listen to them. Reply to comments on your posts as soon as possible, answer DMs, like and comment on content from accounts that follow you.
But it doesn’t stop there. You also need to engage with other accounts on Instagram, whether it is the people or brands you genuinely love and follow or content and accounts you discover on the platform. Make it your goal to spend 30 minutes on Instagram every day (at least!) if you really want to grow your Instagram community.
Use all of Instagram’s features:
The Instagram algorithm favours accounts that actively use all of Instagram’s features. Which means the algorithm priorities accounts and shows their content to more of their community when the account is actively using the platform how it is intended to be used.
So our advice? Experiment with different forms of content on Instagram to discover what resonates with your audience. Try Instagram Stories, IGTV, Polls, IG Live, video content and Carousel Posts to increase the visibility of your content in the Instagram newsfeed.
This is particularly important for new features. When a new feature launches on Instagram (we’re looking at you IGTV!) jump on board and experiment with it - Instagram loves it when we play with the features they have developed and joining the bandwagon early means your content has the potential to reach more people in your target audience who are not yet in your community.
Engagement is key:
Instagram is all about engagement, but it has to be genuine. We’ve mentioned it a couple of times already #sorrynotsorry but pleeeeeeeasseeee don’t worry about how many followers you have. The key metrics are engagements, engagement rate and the quality of the engagements.
So, how do you increase these metrics… have an engaged, loyal COMMUNITY!
A good engagement rate on Instagram is 3% and an engagement rate that is more than 3% is considered high. To help your content reach more people regularly, encourage your community to engage with your content and Instagram profile. When people engage with your content the algorithm deems your content relevant and valuable and therefore shows it to more of your community (your followers) as a result. This is so important because nurturing and maintaining your existing community on Instagram is just as important as growing it, but if your followers don’t see your content, they can’t engage with it.
Hashtags help people find your content even if they aren’t following you, so it’s a great way to grow your Instagram community and reach like-minded people who are looking for content just like yours.
When using hashtags in your posts, either add them in a comment below your post or in a new paragraph at the end of the caption. You can use up to 30 hashtags, but make sure they are specific and in line with your niche (don’t use generic hashtags as these are spammy and will attract the wrong audience!).
While Instagram supports, square, landscape and portrait images for posts, we recommend using square images with the dimensions 1080 x 1080 pixels to ensure your imagery is not compressed, cropped or stretched once uploaded and displayed in the Instagram newsfeed. Square images also take up more real estate in the Instagram newsfeed and help capture attention, which is critical to growing your community and using your content to attract new people to your community.
For Instagram Stories, we recommend resizing your content to 1080 (width) x 1920 (height) pixels to take up the whole screen during an Instagram Story. Larger images will be cropped to fit and smaller images will have a border around them.
There is a rumour running around at the moment that longer captions on Instagram are helping increase the visibility of a post in the newsfeed AND are a great way to add value with your content. So, join the club and jump on board (we’ve been experimenting with this too) to test what type of content your community is most engaged with and how the content performs when compared to shorter captions. When you find what content your audience is most engaged with, do more of it!
Instagram captions have a limit of 2,200 characters, however, keep in mind that they are truncated after 125 characters (which means people need to click “more” to see the full caption) so if using a longer caption, keep your important, attention-grabbing information at the start. For long captions, format the text into paragraphs and use emojis or bullet points to make the caption easier to read.
Storytelling, not selling:
One thing we can’t stress enough is that Instagram is all about telling a story, sharing experiences and insights and adding value to your community, and the Instagram community as a whole. It’s not a platform where you push a hardcore sales message in every post, as this will bore your existing community and won’t impress potential new community members either.
Focus on storytelling and don’t be afraid to add a personal element. Instagram doesn’t have to be formal and corporate, you can still be professional, communicate your message and add value in a fun and casual way. Plus… storytelling builds strong connections and relationships, which is what you want to have with your community.
Test, measure and optimise:
While Instagram best practices are important, at the end of the day every Instagram strategy will be different, because every Instagram profile and community of followers is different.
Test different ideas, experiment with new content formats and keep refining your content strategy to find your own recipe for success. Once you’ve nailed that, you’ll find it easier to grow and nurture your community.
The first nine images:
On Instagram, it’s important that the nine images that appear at the top of the Instagram grid at any point in time tell your story and represent your brand perfectly, as these nine images are the first pieces of content new members of your community will see when they land on your profile. If they aren’t blown away, they won’t follow you. It’s as simple as that.
Instagram, and social media, is a great way to drive brand awareness and reach new people, so the channel always needs to be optimised to make a good first impression in seconds. If it’s not, people will click off your Instagram profile and move on - That’s a new member of your community and a potential customer gone in the wind.
While pre-scheduling your content and automating your Instagram posts saves time in the long-run, it might actually be having a negative impact on your organic reach and engagement, so we recommend native content.
Instagram wants people to use the platform how it was intended to be used, which is not as a set and forget marketing channel. Posts need to be organic and authentic and pre-scheduling bulk content is not organically social and the algorithm knows it. So, if you really want to grow your community on Instagram, post straight to the platform from your mobile device or tablet.
Don’t get us wrong, we DO recommend planning your content in advance and investing time and effort into your Instagram strategy, captions and grid, we don’t recommend automating the entire process. For us, planning includes sourcing, shooting and creating content, drafting captions, organising the order which posts are published in and developing key themes for our content so we can add value every time we post. Great content is what grows the community on Instagram, so invest in it!
The Instagram algorithm is not out to get you
And before we part ways, it’s important to remind you that the Instagram algorithm is not out to get you. Sure, it’s harder than ever to reach new people and heck, it’s hard to reach the people who have already opted into your Instagram community and actually want to see your content. But the algorithm is not out to get you and Instagram is still a very valuable piece of the digital marketing puzzle for a lot of brands. You need to play by the rules and employ these Instagram best practices in your Instagram strategy so you can nurture your existing community and grow it.