Followers are not always a true north, we all know that. It’s not an accurate indicator for the quality of the actual work or accountability of a professional. But what is undeniable is the fact that having a good amount of followers certainly helps with your chance of being discovered and getting more clients. So even though that it is kind of annoying that you are not judged solely based on your work, it is, after all, smart to play by Instagram’s book.
So if you decided to put the efforts into growing your Instagram game, there are essential points that you should bear in mind. We compiled the most relevant tips for you follow, that will help you gain more relevant followers.
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How to increase your follower numbers organically (and what not to do).
1 Timing is key. When does the majority of your target customers wake up? When do they get off work? When do they go to bed? These are the best times for you to post your content. Do more research to find out where the majority of your audience lives and schedule the post accordingly. According to studies the best times to post are around 7am, 5pm, and 10pm.
2. The timing of engagement is also key. Your engagement with other accounts is most visible when it is done anti-cyclic. Meaning, avoid commenting at the peak of a post’s engagement. One smart way is to look for the lack of activity of your targeted accounts. It can be a few hours or even days after the last post was published. This is the time you should engage with them. Typically a post receives 80% of its engagement within the first five hours of posting. So if you drop a comment during that time period, you have to compete for the attention with a lot of people. It is smarter to engage outside of that time frame. Moreover, commenting on older photos instead of recent ones will also help you increase your visibility, especially when commenting on accounts with low activities.
3. Engage with your existing audience at least 20% of your time. They are valuable. They already like you enough to follow you. Posting photos without engaging with your existing followers is like putting up products on the shelf, and not trying to actively sell them to the people who are already in your store! And when you engage with them, go for quality instead of quantity. Put a little bit of time and thoughts into your comments, making sure that they are related to your audience and their specific posts you chose to engage with. Ten good interactions with the right people are better than hundreds of engagements with random ones.
4. Be consistent with your content. Just like a TV channel, people usually watch it regularly when they know what to expect. The same logic applies to your Instagram profile. Your followers will subscribe to your account if they know what to expect. This can be the profile’s central topics, themes, image quality, color temperature, filter, the tone of voice, and attitudes. Also, make sure to post regularly and be consistent with your posting schedule. Actually, there is a study suggesting you should post every day.
5. Only go for good photo quality. Not only that they must not be pixelated or blurred, the photos should also go well with the captions and the overall grid look and feel. Also, don’t use the Instagram filters for not so good photos. Save the not-so-brilliant photos for your Stories.
6. Use relevant #hashtags. It’s not the best acquisition strategy but hashtags can still bring you new followers, especially if you know how to use them. Think about what your target audience is looking for. If you are a wedding photographer you might be tempted to search #wedding. Nice try, but the party is already over. Instead, search for hashtags like #heproposed or #justengaged.
7. Check the hashtags’ density. When choosing a hashtag to post, remember that the popularity of hashtag matters. Choose more specific hashtags that best describe your niches. For example, #designer will be much more crowded than #motiondesigner or #giftcarddesigner. Use the hashtags in the post, not in the comment section, otherwise it will hurt your accounts reputation.
8. Try DM Groups. Create groups in the direct message channel and share your recent post with your group members directly. This strategy is aggressive and not without risk. Nevertheless, it will help you with engagement rate. The moment you post a photo you send it to your DM group and ask them to engage with it (and vice versa). Early engagement with the post will help getting more future engagement -> and more views.
9. Share other peoples’ content, collaborate. Giving fellow Instagrammers genuine shout outs is not only a great way to network with other people on the platform, but it is also a nice way to gain more reach through your curating skills. And once in a while, “Check out my friend Julie’s work, it’s fantastic!” will actually give you Insta-Karma. Other people might decide to return the favor which means more traffic! On our Cherrydeck account, we often share our users content and many people like it. Be sure to always get their consent for reposting and treat other people’s content with respect. Give them credits and don’t just copy and paste. You are 99% of the time better off when the interaction is genuine and meaningful.
10. Use a call to action. Try adding a question if it’s fitting and appropriate. This will increase organic interaction.
11. Use Instagram Stories to share your personality. Instagram stories are usually more casual, and it is perfect for sharing humor or behind the scene stuff. If you are really good with Stories, you will trigger reactions, which is the perfect door opener for a good (professional) conversation.
12. Use location tags in your stories. This will help you be visible to Instagram users who are checking out a specific area. If you don’t want the hashtags to ruin an image, try to be creative and hide them behind an emoji or GIF, for example.
13. Use Instagram Live. Instagram live will create alerts on the screen of your active followers and push your account to the beginning of Stories feed. This means you will be immediately visible! Because live videos get more attention than Stories. It’s important to make sure your content offers good values to the audience. Don’ take too long before you get to the point because if people get bored they can skip away from your video in one click. Inviting another person into the Live and have a good conversation is one way to be more interesting, for example. Maybe a live interview?
14. Old, but gold: host a contest.
15. Make your content recognizable to people outside of Instagram to bring more external traffic into the profile. Look for legitimate third-party services that allow you to share your content outside of Instagram, so people can actually see your photos on “the open internet” and not just in the Instagram app. Cherrydeck does this for photographers for example.
What you shouldn’t do.
This list is as equally important as the Do’s above. If you want to avoid being punished by Instagram and get yourself shadow banned, always keep in mind the following points.
1. Don’t use bots, traffic increasers, mass-following/unfollowing apps, and the likes to increase your follower numbers. Just don’t. It will backfire on you because Instagram doesn’t like them. If you have ever subscribed to one of these services, sign out or delete the apps are not enough. You should also make sure you have deauthorized the access that they may still have to your account. To do this, log in to your Instagram account via desktop. Go to Settings> Allowed Apps> and then remove all the suspicious third-party apps from the list.
2. Don’t allow “Mass followers” on your account. Mass followers are accounts who follow 1500+ other accounts. They usually follow people so that they can get followers back on their end. Instagram doesn’t reward this kind of behaviour. You can use tools like HypeAuditor to understand the percentage of Mass followers you may have on your account. The best way to deal with these followers is to delete them from your list. If you have a business account, you have to switch back to private in order to do so. Bear in mind that if you go back to private, you will lose all of your previous insights and statistics. Read the IG help section for more information. If you want to keep your business account and still want to remove the Mass followers, you have to block them one-by-one which is more work, but it will do the trick.
3. Don’t use banned hashtags. It will disable the visibility of all the other hashtags in the same post. For example, if you are using #goodhashtag and #badhashtag , Instagram will still ban your post from the #goodhashtag posts search. Instagram does this to ensure people can’t search for sensitive content. You can find a list of banned hashtags here.
4. Don’t use too many hashtags. Everything below 30 is OK.
5. Don’t act like a bot. Activities like following or unfollowing too many accounts in a short period of time are ones of the bot-like behaviors. Try to engage with the audience naturally and avoid repetitive patterns. Otherwise, you might be mistaken as a bot and your reach will be decreased significantly.
6. Don’t edit your captions after posting if possible. The Instagram algorithm will have to reevaluate your photo again and you will lose the momentum of reach.
7. Don’t try to post an image that resembles a website link or write caption or comment with website links. Instagram is famous for its external link austerity so any attempt to cheat the system can cost you your reach. We have seen some accounts trying to get around Instagram’s radar and write things like WwW.we8s1te.kom. We highly recommend against doing it.
For some of you who are new to Insta, the lists above may not be the shortest or easiest one to start with. But any seasoned Instagrammer can confirm, there is no magical shortcut or overnight solution that will help you gain meaningful reach or build follower numbers. On top of creating great content, putting in the time and the right kind of efforts are the actual tricks. If you have any more tips that we should include in the post, please share with us in the comment below. We will update this post regularly!