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Before starting Humble & Whole, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Instagram. With our first blog, we hardly used it. And I just thought of it as the platform filled with endless selfies and pictures of food. But now, Instagram is one of my favorite social media networks, and it is one of three that we use for the blog. So, after falling in love with Instagram, my question became, “how do I grow our following?” And I thought, there has to be some secret that I’m missing. I was tired of seeing blog posts about being successful on Instagram that gave the same points about writing a killer bio, cultivating your insta aesthetic, and that darn follow-unfollow method (can you sense my eye roll?). So today, I’m sharing with you the six Instagram secrets that other bloggers hardly share. Keep reading to find out the practices that have helped us grow our account organically.
If you haven’t noticed, engagement is everything on Instagram. With the new algorithm, posts are ranked according to the comments that they receive. Comments are now more valuable than likes. And Instagram is incredibly particular. Comments are only factored into your post’s ranking if they are longer than three words. So if someone leaves their favorite emojis or “Love this!”, it’s as if you didn’t receive a comment at all.
But why is post ranking important? Well, you’ve also got to keep in mind that a user’s Instagram home feed now mimics Facebook. Posts aren’t appearing in chronological order anymore. The feed only displays the content that it feels the user has taken interest in. The new algorithm affects the ability of both your followers and non followers to find your posts. However, there’s no need to fear. Here are three great strategies to help boost your engagement:
1. Ask a question in your caption, or request some information from your audience. It’s a no-brainer that people enjoy talking about themselves. With your next caption, take the time to construct an easy-to-answer question, and you should definitely see an increase in comments. Take a look at how Kendra and I recently did this recently on the following post:
Bonus tip: Respond to your comments in a timely manner. If you can respond immediately to the comments you’re getting in the first hour of your post, that helps Instagram realize that your post is pretty important due to all of the activity.
2. Engage with your current followers just as often as you seek potential followers. Ok, remember how I just said that Instagram’s algorithm will affect both your followers and non followers? Your posts will not show up on your followers’ home feed if they do not regularly interact with your brand. So, if you work on getting new followers all the time and never interact with your current following, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice. Keep your brand on your followers’ minds by regularly liking and commenting (can you guess which is more important?) on their posts.
Bonus tip: If you have some down time before your post is scheduled to go out, spend that time interacting with your followers. When I did this before posting as usual, it doubled our engagement.
3. One of the absolute best ways to increase the amount of engagement on your posts is with comment/engagement pods. A comment pod is a group of Instagram users who agree to like and comment on any of the user's new posts as soon as they see them. Comment pods are helpful because with them, they help encourage other users (outside the pod) to leave comments of their own if they see that other people are already interacting. More people are starting to learn about comment pods, but it can be hard to find a pod for your specific niche. Don’t be afraid to take the initiative to start your own (that’s what we did and it really is rewarding). This can be done by direct messaging other account owners that post content related to yours and asking if they would like to join your comment/engagement pod. Keep in mind that if you host your engagement pod on Instagram, it will only allow you to add 15 pod members. If you would like to host a bigger pod, your other options are to create a Facebook or Slack group.
Building Your Following
Now that we’ve covered how to increase your engagement on your posts, let’s discuss how you can grow your following.
1. Follow active users. If you are already looking at accounts similar to your own for followers (and we hope that you are), take it a step further than randomly following people on that account’s followers list. Instead, follow the people who have already demonstrated that they are active. Meaning, you would follow the people who are actually liking images and/or leaving comments. These people will be more likely to also show love on your posts once they are following you. And whatever you do, please don’t resort to the follow-unfollow method. It’s just plain icky. People catch on quickly to what you’re doing, and it gives your brand a bad impression.
2. Explore relevant hashtags. One strategy that we love to use to find new followers is by exploring hashtags. This method, when done correctly, offers a great return. Choose a hashtag that you normally place in your post’s caption or comments, and make sure it is one that actually attracts your ideal audience (we’re talking more about this next). Like any pictures that catch your eye and leave genuine comments when you can. Try to set aside at least 30 minutes a day to explore hashtags (and when we say explore, we mean typing that hashtag into the search bar and looking through the images that come up). This strategy alone is what helped us to start increasing our following quickly.
Finding Your Target Audience
Now you know how to get more engagement on your posts and how to grow your following. But how exactly do you find the audience that you’re looking for on Instagram? You can find your target audience through hashtags. Here is our best tip for utilizing hashtags:
Use hashtags of moderate popularity for your posts. A mistake that we see bloggers and business owners make countless times on Instagram is using hashtags with well over a million lifetime posts. For some reason, people believe that using those immensely popular hashtags will help them grow their following quickly. And actually, the opposite happens. When you use those mega hashtags like #love, #peace, #Jesus, you’re making it much harder for people to find your content, because thousands of people are using those hashtags the same moment you are.
PRO TIP: If you want to know the exact hashtags that you need to use to get noticed on Instagram, check out Zoe Linda's Ultimate Instagram Hashtag Database.
A better way to use hashtags is to have the majority of your hashtags between 80-500K lifetime posts. These are large enough to know that they are being searched/used regularly, but also small enough for your content to stand out and for people to find your posts before they are lost in the feed. We recommend dedicating about five of your hashtags for less than 50K lifetime posts. Especially if you are utilizing our tips for engagement, you will see that with these smaller hashtags, your post remains in the top posts for longer.
That gives people the opportunity to find your content easily. Please don’t think that people on Instagram aren’t searching hashtags to find content. We started Humble & Whole’s Instagram from zero, meaning that the only way people could find our content was from hashtags. And they did.
We hope that you learned some new tips from this post, and that you’ll begin implementing them today. Which strategies have worked the best on insta for you? We want to hear from you! Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out the six additional Instagram secrets we have for you by clicking on the button below!