I started my Instagram project on March 21. By June 16, I had 500 followers and a ton of engagement thanks to my hashtags and engagements with other travel enthusiasts. Two days later, the Instagram algorithm blessed me, and somehow I gained 800 followers overnight. My account then quickly gained momentum and has 9120 followers at the time of writing — all in just six months.
Sure, my following is nothing compared to mega influencers, but my Instagram account is so low maintenance that gaining this following in such a short space of time feels like an achievement worth celebrating.
Building a social media presence is not something that everyone wants to focus on, but I believe that it can help your business. If you’re curious to learn how to bulk up your profile, read on to learn exactly how I did it.
Knowing Your Audience and Community
I have been lucky to travel to some beautiful places over the past five years and also have a large backlog of content that is ripe for Instagram and my particular interests.
The Travel Photography community on Instagram is highly active and engaged, which is ripe for acquiring a following within. But this method could be repeated within any niche, as long as there is an active community.
A few notes about understanding your community and preparing your account:
Identify hashtags relevant to your community. There’s a reason Instagram is rife with hashtags, they are a great way for you to increase the reach and exposure of your content – understand your niche, and choose hashtags that have plenty of activity. There’s also a fine line between identifying a hashtag that has
There’s also a fine line between identifying a hashtag that has too much activity, which might cause your posts to be buried. For instance: #wanderlust versus #traveldiary while both have over a million pieces of content on Instagram, the #wanderlust stream is updated multiple times a second, where #traveldiary is only updated a few times a minute, meaning if people are out searching for new content with new hashtags, there is a higher chance your content will be closer to the top of the #traveldiary feed than the #wanderlust feed.
Quick tip: You can also use the suggested hashtags at the top of the feed, to discover new hashtags.
Determine how you will identify an influencer. We’re not just looking for accounts that have high follower counts, we are looking for accounts that have a highly engaged following. Meaning someone with 5K fans who averages 200+ comments/likes per post is more valuable than someone with 10K fans who averages 150+ comments/likes per post.
Make a short list of these, and start to follow them, view their posting schedule, their comment structure, and how they engage with their followers. For the Travel Photography community, I noticed many of the most popular accounts contained quite a few emoji’s in their bio description and even in their name – so I edited my bio to reflect the new focus of my account and also to include additional emojis.
Set up a consistent posting schedule. This goes for any social media platform, you must have some sort of content posting schedule that keeps new, fresh content in your followers’ feeds, as well as your targeted hashtag feeds. I have also always been a proponent of a ‘slow and steady’ approach that is easy to maintain, than something that will burn you out.
In my case, since this is a personal account, I settled on a schedule of posting one picture per day, in the morning between 7:30 am – 9:00 am. This creates a consistent, predictable feed of new content on my page and is something I can easily manage.
Activating Your Growth
The overall strategy to growth that I employed was simple. I identified a handful of influencers – emphasizing quality of following over quantity of following as mentioned above – and followed them. Once one of my targeted influencers followed me in return, I would visit their most recent content posted on the page, and follow all of the people who liked that particular content.
The reason to wait until an influencer followed me was simple, when viewing a new profile, you can see the “Followed by” accounts – these are accounts that you share in common. In this case, having an influencer listed in this ‘Followed by” section creates additional social proof that your account has valuable content.
As you continue to find new accounts to engage with, you may begin to stretch your definition of an influencer. But continue to stick to the general concept that the number of followers doesn’t matter – it’s the number of engaged followers.
Engaging with followers is one of those things that seems like extra work, but I’ve found it an excellent way to connect with potential followers. After all, it’s not exactly fair to want to take from a community without giving back.
While it’s hard to prove whether this has helped my following grow, I believe my interactions have helped retain followers and better establish my profile.
This tactic is at the core of why this strategy works for building an actively engaged Instagram Account. The reason being is two-fold:
- These followers are actively engaged on Instagram
- They are also interested in engaging with the type of content that you are posting on your account.
Managing Your Growth
The useful tool that I use is “Iconosquare” which is a paid app but has a 14-day free trial. Iconosquare helps measure account growth, engagement, and allows you to build feeds, manage comments, and plenty of other useful tools that I haven’t fully explored. This tool is likely much more robust than the hobbyist needs but is worth exploring the 14-day free trial to see some very deep analytics and insights into your account.
- Understand your audience and your niche: The most important piece is understanding who your target is, and what type of content they engage with. Identifying influencers within your niche and learning from them can be the best place to start.
- Be consistent with your approach: Whether it’s your posting schedule, your commenting/liking approach or the number of new followers you engage each day, just be consistent. Make it something you can manage.
- Track your results and make adjustments: If you find that you’re not getting results, adjust your content, the accounts you’re attempting to follow or the influencers whom you are using to identify trends.