9 Tips for Growing Your Instagram Community and Beating the Algorithm
Instagram, the wildly popular photo and video sharing app, continues to dominate social media.
It doubled its user base in just a few years, clocking in at roughly one billion active users at last count. However, Instagram hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. When the company introduced its new algorithm a few years, marketers and business owners became increasingly frustrated. The algorithm meant Instagram would no longer display a chronological stream of content. Instead, it would decide what to show users by considering each person’s interests and social interactions. While Instagram claimed this would improve the user experience, we all know the real reason—brands and businesses would now have to pay to be seen.
Unless, of course, you know how to beat the system. Our team of social media marketing experts here at Sage Island has done the research. We’ve experimented with our accounts and found a tried-and-true method to get your content seen and grow your Instagram community, no matter what your budget may be. By employing these nine simple tips, you’ll be on the road to growing your Instagram community.
Keep the “social” in “social media.”
The keyword in “social media” is “social,” which means you can’t treat your Instagram account like a bullhorn. Make sure you give as much as you take by commenting on other users’ photos, liking their work, and following people who fall into your market demographic.
We know, we know, this can be time-consuming, but it’s the best way to grow your community organically. If you’re not sure how to find the users in your niche, check out popular hashtags, see who the big names in your business follow (and who follows them!), and spend time simply exploring the platform. Who knows—you may even have a little fun!
Share great photos that fit your theme.
Instagram is a visual platform, so you won’t gain thousands of followers unless your content is up to par. Invest in a good camera, find someone on your team who has an artistic eye, and implement these essential tips for quality images:
- Focus on content and composition – Think about the angles the photo will be taken from, your position in relation to the camera, the lighting, and the composition.
- Take as many photos as possible – Change the composition, your distance from the camera, posing, having a close-up, or changing the angle from where the image is taken – all these slight changes mean you’re getting a good variety of photos.
- Edit – Find your Instagram aesthetic and stick to it. Having one consistent look is key to helping your audience know about your brand and overall messaging.
Once you’ve got a collection of gorgeous photos, make sure they go together. Look at your Instagram account in the grid layout and see if things flow. It helps to use the same few filters for consistency and branding—if you have multiple people posting, make sure they follow a style guide. For more great tips, check out our recent post, “Create the Perfect Theme for Your Instagram.”
Instagram allows users to include up to 30 hashtags on each photo, and it’s in your best interest to use them all!
Include a mix of hashtags, making sure to employ some particular ones and other popular, more general ones. This will help your posts reach many people and increase engagement while at the same time targeting very specific users who will be interested in your business or brand.
Don’t forget about trending topics.
Humans are creatures of habit, which is why specific hashtags and themes pop up week after week. POPSUGAR has a great round-up of daily hashtags that are popular across platforms.
If you’re a business or brand, some of the best ones to include are:
- #MotivationMonday (ideal for entrepreneurs)
- #TravelTuesday (perfect for real estate and tourism)
- #WellnessWednesday (medical practices, take note!), #ThrowbackThursday (use your imagination!)
- #FollowFriday (give one of your followers a shout-out—they’ll appreciate the love!)
These themes work the same way as hashtags—when users click on them; they’ll see your posts and your personality.
Ask for something.
The more engagement your posts get, the more likely they are to show up in Instagram’s algorithm. Therefore, encourage your followers to interact with you by asking a direct question, challenging them to caption a funny photo, telling them to tag a friend, or encouraging them to tap “like” if they agree with a quote you’ve posted.
Don’t forget to respond to their replies! This shows you’re active and engaged and is a great way to form relationships with potential clients and customers.
Use the geotag feature.
Instagram has a location feature that allows you to tag your photo with the spot where it was snapped. The result? When a user searches that location, your image will pop up, thus increasing your potential reach. This feature is especially great for restaurants and real estate markets but can also be a valuable tool for any business or brand.
If you have a store with a physical address, you can tag your business’s location. If you want to reach your wider community, tag your photo with your city. Finally, if you’re a local business, searching your location is a great way to find active users in your area to follow and potentially get new leads or sales!
Change up the link in your bio.
While Instagram has made many updates, they still haven’t rolled out the one we’ve all been waiting for—clickable links within posts. The only place for a live link is the one in your bio, so make the most of it by changing it up!
If you’ve just released a new product, published a new blog post, or launched a new website, use that URL as your temporary link. Then, when you post a great image about your accomplishments, you can tell users to tap or click the link in your bio to learn more. This is an excellent way to drive traffic to a specific site or webpage and a great call-to-action for Instagram.
Leverage video content for higher engagement.
If there’s anything that the last few years have taught us, it’s that video is king. And, now that you can post short videos up to Instagram, video has become even more powerful.
There are many ways businesses and brands can use videos in their Instagram feeds. Record short videos with staff or customers or share behind-the-scenes footage from company outings (but keep it professional!). Too shy to talk on camera? Instagram’s boomerang feature will allow you to create looping GIFs that are humorous and highly addictive. Experiment with different lengths and formats and see what your audience likes best.
Don’t forget about Instagram Stories & reels.
A blatant rip-off from Snapchat, Instagram Stories are photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Rather than live in your feed, they’re found at the top of it, in small circles. This is very convenient because if you’ve updated your Stories recently, your account will show up as having fresh content, and curious folks will tap to see what you’re sharing. Because Stories are so visible, make sure yours is just as good as the rest of your content—impermanence is no reason to share sub-par content. This is a great place to share special offers, deals, and discounts (especially since they’ll automatically disappear after 24 hours), and be a little more laid back than you might on your main feed, where the content lives forever.
Reels, another stolen idea, allow you to record and edit 15 to 30 seconds videos with custom audio, filters, and effects. Seeing the surge, popular personalities, content creators, and brands have taken to it creating their content or campaign through Instagram reels. If Reels aren’t in your business plan, then you need to work on your marketing strategy. In today’s digital world, where things are changing fast, and trends explore overnight, keeping up with customer expectations is crucial to your brand.
We hope these tips help you beat the algorithm, grow your Instagram community, and build your business and brand. If you need help putting any of these suggestions into practice, don’t hesitate to let us know.