Growing your following on Instagram can seem like a monumental undertaking that only celebrities and influencers can be successful at. For popular Instagram accounts, it seems as if their followers are flowing into their account with little effort from the account owner.
Let’s stop right there. That perception is totally false (unless you’re a super famous movie star). In fact, most popular accounts formulate an ongoing campaign that includes strategies and tactics that slowly but surely add to their follower count.
But how do they do this? Let’s find out.
Step 1: Plan and Plan Some More
Chances are, there is a copious amount of Instagram users who would love to follow you – they just don’t know you exist yet. So how do you target followers and get your name on the horizon? First, you need to do some research.
Open up your notebook and your Instagram app and start describing your ideal Instagram follower. Start by identifying some basic demographics: are they male or female? What age group are they in? Do they have kids? Are they located in a specific geographical area? What is their occupation or industry?
Next, you need to dive a bit deeper than demographics. Identify the interests that your ideal follower might have. Are they an avid beachgoer? Do they love HelloFresh? Are they a die-hard Beyonce fan? These are just a few specific examples of what your ideal follower may be interested in. Write down at least five interests that your ideal follower may have – be as specific as possible.
Add to your list to your heart’s content or until you have a full image of what your ideal follower looks like.
Step 2: Find Accounts with the Followers You’re Looking For
Now, onto your search for your ideal followers in the real world! Start by searching on Instagram for accounts that are a perfect fit for your ideal follower. Is your ideal follower a stay-at-home mom in her 30s? Maybe you’ll want to check out accounts that center around DIY home projects and parenting.
On each of these accounts, try pressing the down arrow to the right of the “Follow” button. What appears are suggested accounts that have a similar audience to the account you’re currently on. These accounts make for great suggestions that your ideal follower is likely to be interested in.
When you’ve finished your research, compile a list of accounts that your ideal follower would be interested in. And DON’T forget to click on the down arrow of your own account. Instagram has lumped you into a group of similar accounts so get to know your Instagram neighbors too.
Step 3: Find Accounts with a High Follow Back Ratio
Once you have a hefty amount of accounts to examine. You’ll need to get into full research mode.
Flip to a new page in your notebook and make a table with the following columns: Account Name, Number of Followers, Number of Following, and Average Engagement of the last Five Posts.
Your page should look like this:
List the Accounts you’re compiled that have a similar following to your ideal follower.
Next, fill in their follower and following count.
Your next step is to find the average engagement rate. But we have a little trick up our sleeves for you. The easiest way to find out each of these accounts’ engagement rates is to use this helpful engagement calculator. All you have to do is fill in their Instagram handle and out comes their engagement rate. Fill in the engagement rate for each Instagram account on your table.
Your notes should look like this:
Now that your entire table is filled out, you can identify the best accounts for you to target. Highlight the accounts that have the highest engagement – these will be the accounts you will prioritize and focus on. Remember good engagement in the Instagram world is 2% or higher which seems crazy low but it’s what major influencers are seeing with today’s algorithm.
Step 4: Start Networking!
Now that you’ve strategically identified the accounts with the followers that are most similar to your ideal follower, here comes the hard work. Instagram’s platform is all about engagement and there are so many ways to engage with your target audience. A simple follow is the first step in establishing your relationship, but then what? If you end your relationship there, you’ve missed out on the possibilities that come with forming genuine connections with other on Instagram. To finish off all of your hard work, you’ll need to engage with these newfound Instagram friends by liking their posts and commenting on their photos.
But that’s not all. Strategic engagement begins on a one-way street of likes and comments but ends with a flourishing two-way connection fueled by conversations that ignite a personal connection – and Instagram is chock-full of genuine conversation starters! We know many friends and/or clients that had made lifelong friendships on Instagram – truly. Moms that connect over accomplishments or heartaches. Entrepreneurs who no longer feel alone because they connected with other entrepreneurs online. You name it – social media can be used for so much positivity and good if you work it that way.
Step 5: Collect Data and Evaluate
Keep track of how many accounts you are following and from which account you found them. To make it a little easier to track, add two columns to your table in your notebook, labeled, Accounts Followed and Follow-Backs.
Your table should look like this:
While you’re following personal accounts, mark down the total number of the accounts you’ve followed and the number of follow-backs you’ve received from those accounts. This will help you identify which accounts have the highest follow-back rate. Identifying accounts with followers that are highly likely to follow back can lead you to a gold mine of ideal followers. Do the following game for at least 100 accounts. That’s enough to know if your follow-back ratio is good enough. What’s good enough? 10% or higher. After you identify great accounts with followers that would connect with you as well, time to be social 🙂
Step 6: Being Social on Social Media
We all get random Instagram followers on our personal accounts all the time – and they aren’t necessarily welcomed. However, you’re doing more than that. You are finding like-minded individuals who only wish they knew about your brand – so don’t feel like you’re burdening someone with a simple follow.
Kiss, Kiss, Hug
Taking a note from Hilary Rushford’s Instagram with Intention class, be friendly to people. Like some of their images, comment on a meaningful post they shared. Go the extra step and spark a genuine connection. Of course, be polite and courteous as a person’s Instagram account can sometimes be very personal to them.
Say Thank You Back
Caring for your tribe is one of the most important aspects of building a loyal following on Instagram. One of the easiest ways of feeding your tribe and connecting with them on a more personal level is by replying to every comment, mention and direct message YOU receive.
Think about it – when one of your followers takes the time out of their busy day to reach out to you, the least you can do is reply to them. This can be as easy as a simple “Thank you!” in reply to a positive comment on one of your posts. However, going the extra mile is always a good idea when it comes to your brand. Offering helpful and informative resources found through your website or email list that is an effective way to transfer an Instagram follower into your owned audience.
To get the most personal interactions on Instagram, try asking for a response from your audience on your posts and stories. Inviting audience participation is a great habit to get into because, in no time, your followers will feel just as excited to share their stories with you as you are with them. Since their release, Instagram stories have led the pack in audience engagement. New features allow you to poll your audience, ask yes or no questions, encourage direct messaging, and link to giveaways found on your website.
Step 7: Post Great Content
You’ve heard the saying before and it’s true – content is king! If you’re not producing great content, you can expect your followers and your engagement rate to take a dip. When you follow an account, they’re likely to take a look at your account shortly after you press the follow button, and what do you want them to see? An unfinished Instagram profile filled with stock photos and low-quality images? No. You want to them to be taken aback by the awe-inspiring images on your profile that relate to their daily lives.
Put yourself in their shoes. That initial stimulant of viewing a beautiful account that just followed you compels you, more often than not, to follow the account back.
Producing great content encompasses more than just the beginning stages. You’ll need to create a succinct content calendar that you can realistically follow. A content calendar is a schedule of posts that you plan on sharing in the future. Hootsuite is an excellent platform that enables you to create and manage a content calendar. You can also go the analog route and plan it on your very own dog-themed or firefighter calendar at home.
Step 8: Rinse and Repeat
Gaining new followers can be a struggle – we know. But following these simple steps can get your brand off to a great start on Instagram. By doing the work ahead of time, you are better able to systematically identify the people on Instagram that are most likely to follow your account back.
Once you complete this process, let it rest for a week or two so you can identify those accounts that lent you the most relevant followers to your brand. After you can identify those successful accounts, press the down arrow on those accounts to further explore additional accounts that can bring more followers to the brand they’ve been waiting for – your’s.
Pro Tip: Plan your feed to perfection with these incredibly supportive tools that you can use to automate your Instagram feed.
Gone are the days of forgetting to post your photos at a scheduled time. These powerful Instagram helpers enable you to plan your posts and leave the rest to the software. Not only do these tools make it easy to post on time, but they also empower you with a view of your entire Instagram profile grid – allowing you to plan out a beautiful grid of connecting images.
This pro tip comes with some caution – don’t let perfection get the best of you! Your Instagram profile should represent your brand in a genuine way, so post what you want to post when you want to post it. Your audience will more than welcome the authenticity you show them!
BONUS! Step 9: Follow Hashtags
Instagram’s new feature allows you to follow hashtags, as opposed to just following personal and business accounts. Following a hashtag simply means that posts that are tagged with the hashtag will appear in your newsfeed – giving you a steady stream of content that is related to your brand and your audience.
You’ll first want to find the perfect group of hashtags that aligns with your brand. To do that, put yourself in the shoes of your ideal follower again and identify 10 to 15 hashtags that your ideal follower would be interested in following.
Pro Tip: Since hashtags can be filled with millions of mentions and images, target hashtags that cater to your niche audience’s specific interests. Following and targeting hashtags with under 30,000 mentions is a great method of placing your posts in front of the most active and relevant audience.
Once you’ve narrowed down your group to about 5 to 10 high-quality hashtags, incorporate these hashtags into your posts and pair them with intriguing content that offers your potential tribe members a reason to follow your brand.
This addition to Instagram is extremely advantageous for personal brands like yours, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to dive deep into your niche audience to find those perfect tribe members.
That’s All Folks
Trying this strategy out for yourself? Let me know how it’s working for you on Instagram @themodernmami. Have a question about putting your best foot forward on Instagram? Reach out to me!