Instagram has over 1 billion active users, of which 80% follow at least one business account; over 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories daily. This is huge. No wonder Instagram has grown into one of the most powerful marketing platforms.
You may have also experienced difficulties in growing your audience. It can be discouraging to see so many accounts that post mediocre photos but score hundreds of likes and can brag about having tens of thousands of followers. The good news, all of their achievements may be bot-generated and worthless.
I want to share some ways to grow your audience meaningfully through organic reach.
To me, Instagram is more than just a platform to please my eyes with some stunning photos or share content with my audience. It’s, first, a social media platform, and we are expected to socialize. The people behind Instagram want us to stay on the platform for as long as possible, and most importantly, they want us to socialize and communicate with each other.
I’ve been working with many clients who are looking for ways to increase their Instagram performance. Many face the same issue – they don’t know how to grow their account organically. Instead, they turn to ads and spend money without achieving their goals.
It’s surprising that very few would advise taking a more proactive role in engaging with others. To me, spending time interacting with others who share similar interests was the best way to grow. I discovered that communication is very important and that it can help grow the accounts of my clients.
Let me share an example of my passion – a foodie account where I share my discoveries of restaurants and foods whenever I travel or go out at home.
So, how do I grow my Instagram organically?
I interact with other accounts
As strange as it sounds, we are expected to communicate on Instagram. Not necessarily in a verbal way, but by double-tapping on posts, following other accounts, taking part in polls on Insta stories, and, of course, commenting under photos.
I noticed that by spending 1 hour a day on the platform and engaging with other similar foodie accounts within my target location, I significantly improved my reach and the number of followers. In the end, my name is more accessible to their audiences, so it makes sense to grow, right?
Leaving an honest comment under someone’s photo makes an impact. Think about how you feel when someone compliments your Insta-post. Most likely, you are happy and have this sense of approval that you did a good job. The same feelings are evoked in others.
It’s important to be genuine; don’t sound robotic or too generic. I normally do not interact with accounts that comment “thumbs-up” under my photo, as I think they are bot-generated comments. I may be wrong, but that’s the perception, and I’d rather spend time engaging with someone real.
Instead, I compliment their work or give an opinion. I love discovering posts from people who went to the same restaurants as I and wrote a review of the food that they had. It’s a great ice-breaker to share my experience in the comment section and start a conversation. You will notice that this leads to more permanent communication. I was surprised when accounts having tens of thousands of followers commented back and followed me. I noticed that some of my followers also came from them.
I always reply to comments
Firstly, it’s just a common courtesy to acknowledge the comment by at least liking it. But, in most cases, it’s not enough. I believe that if someone spent time commenting on my photo, I should do my part by responding. Who knows, maybe this person is going to become my top follower.
I will never understand brands that do not acknowledge customers’ comments or, even worse, their posts. It has happened to me so many times. I posted about a restaurant, praised how great the food was, and that I’d love to come back. In return, the restaurant didn’t even like the post. I’m not talking about commenting or sharing the post, as yes, there may be some limitations. But liking the post is something that any brand should do.
To me, such a lack of communication is a big turn off, and I doubt I’d try to engage again. If I don’t get any reaction from a brand, it means the brand does not care what I have to say. And it’s just pure bad marketing.
The same goes to my foodie account – I always respond and engage in a conversation with anyone who comments and shares their experiences. It’s just like having a conversation with another person.
Such interactions are important to Instagram as the platform wants its users to communicate and engage. The more comments, the better the engagement rate. The better the engagement rate, the higher the reach of the post. And we know that the more eyes see the post, the higher the chances of getting more new followers.
I show the human side
As humans, we cannot live without socializing. It’s also very important to know who we are socializing with. Nobody likes talking to an imaginary person; that’s why, if possible, you should share human photos on your account.
If you’re a corporate, you can share photos of people in the company. If you’re a blogger, add photos of yourself.
It was scary to upload the first face photo on my foodie account. It was scary, firstly, because the work I was doing suddenly became real; it’s publically associated with me. But the first photo of me eating noodles had the highest engagement at that time.
I do add photos of myself from time to time. What I notice is that their engagement rate is higher than “no-human” photos.
I interchange my hashtags
I’ve noticed that if I use the same hashtags for multiple posts, my reach and engagement rate plummets. I discovered that Instagram actually drops your exposure if you keep using the same hashtags. It is very healthy to relook at the list of the hashtags you use and interchange them frequently.
I have a list of multiple hashtag variations on my phone, and I keep interchanging them in my posts. I also started adding more hashtags relating to different elements in my photos rather than some more general ones.
Instagram has been very particular in ensuring the highest relevance to its users. Therefore, if you keep on using the same set of hashtags, in Instagram’s eyes, it may be perceived as a poor content strategy.
Are you ready to grow your Instagram organically?
I know I don’t have tens of thousands of likes, but what matters is growth. Some six to twelve months ago, my engagement rates were much lower. I was barely reaching the 30 likes mark. I’ve been using this organic communication technique, which has been paying off. I’m sure it will help me grow further.
Communication is pivotal on social media networks. Too bad many brands forget about it, but it can come as an advantage to growing your Instagram brand. Most importantly, remember to keep it natural and honest.
Oh, and remember your hashtag game. It is the easiest way to get organic exposure. Try using hashtags that have between 10K and 50K posts. In this way, your content will not get lost.
I guarantee you that if you adopt these four tips, you will see organic growth in your account. Most importantly, organic growth ensures engagement, which is very important.
Today, my engagement rate on Instagram is somewhere between 8–10%, which is great! You can check it up using this awesome tool – Instrack.
My experience has shown that by interacting with other users, I was able to scale up, gain more followers and increase reach. Instagram is complicated, and growing your brand is indeed difficult. Allow some time and be natural, and you’ll be able to get your audience. Remember, it’s constant experimentation, and by exploring, you’ll be able to find what works and what doesn’t.
Published: 26 November 2021
Last updated: 21 September 2022
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