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January 11, 2018

One of the things I’ve been asked about a lot lately is how to generate Instagram growth. With changes in the algorithm and the introduction of new products like stories and live streaming, the platform has certainly evolved.

It’s also become a leading platform for both brands and influencers alike as a way to connect and discover in a visual way. But to have any clout and be taken seriously, both as a brand or an influencer, you need to have some critical mass of followers. There’s no magic number, but let’s face it. Having a larger follower count helps brands build credibility and helps influencers put a price on what their work is worth. This is in by no means an endorsement to purchase followers, the authenticity of real followers is what will begin to let the account start to exponentially grow.

Over the last three months, I put my theories to the test using a brand new influencer Instagram account,LovingLifeontheRun. Here’s what I learned:

1. Generate valuable content.

It comes down to more than just having good photos (although those completely help), your Instagram tells a story. Why should people want to follow you? What is the value you’re providing? Generate your content from the answers to those questions.

  • Use tools likePlanoly to visually plan and schedule out your content and ensure that the story you want to tell will come to life when people look at your feed as a whole.
  • Add content that doesn’t fit with the look and feel of your feed to your stories. And, let your stories show a behind the scenes look at your life or brand that might not come across in your curated feed.
  • Use your bio to set the stage. Your Instagram bio is essentially the cover of your book. What story are you committing to telling your followers through your Instagram account? Why should they follow? 

2. Build relationships.

Social media at its core is a mechanism to build relationships, so let that be your focus as you grow. Get involved in conversations with both people you follow and people you want to be connected with. Find those people through hashtags and set a goal of liking 100 photos per day. Comment on the ones that are most impactful to you. To experience even more growth, follow these top tips.

  • Use a third party app likeHootsuite,Buffer orSprout Social to take commenting and liking posts off the mobile app for more ease. Additionally, some of these apps allow you to search based on location and hashtags which makes engaging with the people you want much easier. Many of these apps are free if you’re only adding a few accounts!
  • Join a pod.Instagram pods have been popping up with bloggers over the last few months as a way to “beat” Instagram’s algorithm. There are definitely positives and negatives to joining each pod — some can be cliquey and others may not be effective due to a lack of reciprocation. But overall, what I found by joining a few was that it was a great way to discover new accounts I may not have otherwise. Additionally, joining localized blogger groups can turn into “real life” friends, too.
  • Follow like-minded accounts and people. The best way to grow your brand or influencer account is to follow people you want to follow you back. Your Instagram account is an ideal way to get in front of people or brands you want to connect with. Follow and engage!

3. Hashtag.

This should come as a no-brainer, but hashtags are a must if growth is what you’re looking for. When curating your hashtags, keep the following in mind

  • You can use up to 30 hashtags in each post. Maximize that real estate by strategically choosing hashtags that allow you to show up in highly trafficked conversations and in the “top posts” of others.
  • Constantly mix up your hashtags to avoid the dreaded “shadow ban” from Instagram.
  • Keep aesthetics in mind. It’s a totally personal decision whether you choose to put your hashtags in the comments or the post itself. I found that the highest engagement came from putting a couple of key hashtags in the post and following it with a comment with more.
  • Curate your own story using a branded hashtag that sets you apart from others. By creating a branded hashtag, you’re expanding the brand equity you have on the platform.
  • If you’re an influencer and want to get noticed by a brand, use their branded hashtag in relevant posts! Get noticed!

4. Partner up for giveaways and promotions.

Collaboration is something that is huge on social media. Partner up with bloggers or brands in similar genres to share the love by giving followers a chance to winandincreasing both parties social following. It’s a win/win for everyone involved!

Note: if you’re an influencer being paid to promote a brand, be sure to disclose properly according to FTC guidelines. Check thispress release for more details.

5. If it’s not working, try something else.

If there’s one thing I learned in my quest to grow, it’s that if something isn’t working. Don’t force it. Test things out and see what sticks!

Just like everything in social media, there are no hard and fast rules. The platform and user behaviors are changing more often than we as marketers can keep up. The best advice I can give is to stay in it. Keep exploring and above all build relationships!

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