grow Instagram followers organicallyWith over 1 billion monthly active users Instagram is a promising platform for any brand or company out there. Still many face difficulties in growing their audience.
Yes, we have all been there: you got quality content, excellent copywriting but the growth of your account is not fast enough. In this new blog post, I will give you insights on how I work, what quick wins you can try and how to ‘hack’ the Instagram algorithm in your benefit to grow Instagram followers organically. Ready? Let’s dive in!
Where to start?
This blog post is for those who already have an active Instagram account. If you have at least 10 posts, been active on the platform for 30 days and have at least 1 follower you can continue ?
I want to grow my Instagram followers organically, what’s my first step?
There have been many topics about growing Instagram accounts. Most of them are right. Plenty of them are full of BS (excuse my language). One of the biggest mistakes I see on blog posts, Quora, Instagram, Facebook, and Linkedin are companies and influencers advising to post “as much as possible”. They are wrong. Some even promote to buy fake followers…
Content marketing on Instagram isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. That said, quantity is important too. Now more than ever with the current Instagram algorithm. It’s a fun game if you understand what you should be doing.
If you want to grow Instagram followers organically you should realise that it’s about quality, not quantity!
1. Understanding the Instagram algorithm to grow your Instagram followers organically
Your first step is to understand how Instagram actually works, especially her algorithm. No one exactly knows how it works, and you shouldn’t spend to much time trying to understand it to be honest (I’ve spend 1000’s of hours for you already). The only thing which is important is to understand the sole purpose of the algorithm.
The Instagram algorithm is maybe one of the most advanced systems owned by Facebook. Ask yourself this question:
what’s the sole purpose of Instagram?
…keeping their users for as long as possible on their platform.
The only way to achieve this goal is by making the Instagrammers consume as much content as possible, 24/7.
Why is their algorithm important for how to grow your Instagram followers organically?
- Because it makes sure the people who consume your content are the ones who are actually interested in it!
- It decides which post go viral via the explore page, and the consumers are actually interested in it
- The algorithm categorizes your account, which could bring extra benefits for your following
Can’t I simply fool the simple and post what currently goes viral?
Yes and no. As said before, Instagram categorizes your account. A couple of months ago I did a simple test to see what the virality of content was on a dog account. Every day I posted the best-curated content within the dog niche. After exactly 1 month I have grown the account from zero to 2,300 followers.
Exactly after 30 days, I changed the content on the account. Instead of dogs, I started to post the best-curated cat content on a daily basis. Here is what I’ve learned:
- I went from going viral every day (explore page views and followers) to a explore page ban
- My comment sentiment went from 97% positive to a whopping 12%
- Within 7 days I lost +/- 400 followers (18% of my total following)
- After 17 days my account was taken offline due to “community guidelines”. Most likely my following have reported my content so many times Instagram thought my account would do more harm than good on their platform.
Know your audience
What happened? The algorithm has categorized my initial account inside the dog niche. Via the explore page I got a lot of following who love dogs. When switching to a different niche (in this test cats) it even took the account offline due to multiple reports.
That said, I still don’t get it why dog lovers hate cats.
Here is what I’ve learned from this test:
- your first step for how to grow Instagram followers organically is to know your audience
- Instagram’s algorithm is so smart it wouldn’t let my viral cat content go viral on this particular page. I did post the same content, on the same day and time on a different (brand new account). These posts actually did go viral ?.
2. Understand your customers
You now somehow know the Instagram algorithm. And what her purpose is. To grow Instagram followers organically you need to understand your customers. A tool I love to use is the Value Proposition Canvas developed by Alex Osterwalder.
To get started with the Value Proposition Canvas, always begin with the customer. First, have a conversation with your team about who your customer is. Use the Persona Canvas to sketch the person you are focusing on.
UNDERSTAND THE CUSTOMER FIRST
Once you’ve decided which to focus on, write on post-it notes what jobs your customers have to do. Don’t just think about functional jobs-to-be-done. Also, come up with social (work with others) and emotional (feelings) jobs-to-be-done. For instance, when you consider designing a value proposition around cars, is your customer someone who needs to cover a long distance to get to work? Or is your customer someone who undertakes frequent activities with family? These are different people, with different needs, requiring different products to get their job done. Maybe they always drive alone, maybe they have a family or maybe they just want to look good. Ask enough “whys” and you’ll get this info. Pains are normally the easiest to list. What gets in the way of a person’s jobs? Gains are NOT simply the opposite of pains. Instead, gains are the hidden ambitions people have, their goals in life, things that make them successful.
It takes a designer’s mindset to uncover these. Keep asking better questions, dig a little bit deeper. What does your customer really aspire to do that they can not do now? If gains sound somewhat existential to you, that’s probably because excellent gains often are.
WHAT VALUE COULD YOU CREATE?
Finally, once you’ve completed the right side of the canvas, move over to the left side. First, list some options potentially address the job-to-be done that come to mind. You combine these ideas into a clearly defined product/service that creates gain and relieves pain such that the job-to-be-done is addressed in a unique way that resonates with your customer.
Using this canvas makes you think differently about your customers and what you offer to them. What’s more, done well, your customers will think totally different about why they hired you to fulfill their needs in the first place.
HOW TO USE THE VALUE PROPOSITION CANVAS FOR TESLA
In this example, there is a fit between the right side and the left side. Tesla understood very well the potential target audience for an electric car. You can see that the job-to-be done is to commute to work. But it is not only about that. Being different from others and convey an image of success is an important social aspect of the job-to-be-done for this customer segment. Besides that, the person wants to be comfortable while traveling long distances. The pains when it comes to electric cars is that there is a lack of charging stations. You have to search for a parking spot that has a charging point. On top of that, pains are that you frequently have to charge your car, and while driving, you can be afraid that you don’t reach your destination. Design, being recognized for good taste and getting compliments from a friend are some gains in this example. Other gains are safe travels and high-end battery technology.
If we look at the left side at products & services, we see that Tesla has understood their target audience very well. Nice design including a 17-inch screen no car has ever had such a large screen. Just a few options, which radiates exclusivity. Besides that, Tesla has 8 years of battery warranty. We can say there is a fit between the left side and right side of this Value Proposition Canvas.
What does this mean for my Instagram account?
After showing the Value Proposition Canvas, we can conclude that it is very important to know who your customer is, what his lifestyle looks like, and what his real needs are. If you don’t know who your customers are, there may be a misfit with your content. And on Instagram content is king ?.
The canvas gives excellent insights for:
- understanding who exactly is your target audience
- content creation which resonates with your audience
- combine these two and you can grow Instagram followers organically
In chapter 1 you learned how the Instagram algorithm works, in chapter 2 we explored who your target audience exactly is. We can now start to curate the right content for your audience ?.
Everyone can post, but not everyone can go viral
Want to know the secret of posts which go viral? It’s a combination of understanding the algorithm, and your audience. That’s basically it!
You can go viral via the explore page, reaching millions of people without spending a $1 on ads. The statistics of the post above is of one of my accounts with 450,000 followers. WIth an individual post I’ve reached over 850,000 unique people and gained over 1,093 followers. Please note: impressions from “other” are most likely always from the explore page (as the system cannot track it).
- Over the years I got to know my audience inside out.
- I don’t post what I want to share (something a lot of influencers do), I post what I believe my audience wants to consume.
- I know the type of content they like, and the Instagram algorithm favors.
Kind of content
Video posts are exploding for growth on Social Media in recent years. The percentage of views of branded video content has increased with 99% on Youtube, and 258% on Facebook between 2016 and 2017. On Twitter, a video Tweet is 6x more likely to be retweeted than a photo Tweet. If you haven’t taken a exact look at the power of social media and video unitedly, you’re in for a surprise. The numbers are big. Really big.
“I see video as a megatrend,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, February 2017
I could go on and on with more numbers like that, but it’s better to show you how to utilize video yourself.
Instagram recently announced a change to the algorithm, “We know that completing an extensive video is a bigger commitment than completing a shorter one… we’ve realized that we should, therefore, weight percent completion more heavily the extensive a video is, to avoid penalizing extensive videos.” Here are some more tips:
Although Instagram allows the 16:9 landscape format, I still only use 1:1 or 4:5 formats. Over 95% of the Instagram (and 92% of the facebook) users use the platforms on a mobile device. Experimenting with video format is only one of the numerous ways to deliver content in a mobile-friendly way to users. Apps, mobile-optimized websites & email, geolocation tags, and QR codes, among other tactics, are all things for marketers to consider moving forward.
One excellent way to optimize for the mobile user is through the creation and distribution of square video (1:1). Square and letterbox format outperformed landscape in just about every test I ran. With mobile news feed space at a premium, the more genuine estate on a user’s screen your content occupies, the better (that’s why I also love IGTV and Stories).
quick tip: 85 percent of videos are viewed with the volume off, according to Digiday. Make sure you use subtitles in your video if needed.
I’d recommend starting small by creating several 30-second, text-only videos that you share with your audience as mini-experiments. The ability to test quickly and often is key to understanding what works for your audience and where the opportunity lies.
Finding the right top Instagram hashtags can sound like a struggle. But it isn’t that difficult once you understand how hashtags work on Instagram.
Should I use top Instagram hashtags, and why?
Short answer: YES! You should always use hashtags with your Instagram content:
- Using relevant top Instagram hashtags will make it smoother for Instagrammers to stumble upon your content. They might come across your content when using different hashtags. It’s a simple way to gain organic followers.
- excellent impact small investment. Top Instagram hashtags are straightforward to implement. Sure, you will need to spend some time researching the right hashtags. But beyond that, they’re simple to expand your following and give your content a boost.
- Posts which have used top Instagram hashtags get more engagement. Hashtags make your content discoverable and put you in front of users you may have never satisfactorily targeted.
I dedicated a full post about hashtags right: HERE.
Do you already use IGTV?
I have never been a big fan of IGTV from the start, but with recent updates, I see new possibilities for virality on Instagram. A new feature that will skyrocket your IGTV views for free. Big news: Your IGTV videos will now appear in your Instagram feed with all your other posts. Like this:
IGTV also gets a huge favor by the Instagram algorithm. I’ve tested IGTV with feed posts and saw a boost of 100% in engagement and 1492% in views with $0 spend on ads. Would you say no to free engagement?
Learn how to skyrocket your IGTV views for free: HERE.
Call to action
Make sure you have a call to action: Give them something to do after (or during) they watched your content with an on-screen CTA in the photo or video, or in your caption. I always love to kick off with a question in my captions, to trigger my audience to engage. You can also add carousel posts (multiple videos or photos in an individual upload) where you can add quizzes (add a comment which dresses you like more: red or blue?), questions (this is my health tip for you, do you have any for me?). Be creative, but make sure the CTA is at the beginning of your caption!
I hope this post was helpful, there are still tons of methods I would love to share how to grow your Instagram organically, but I really wanted to highlight the above methods as they currently kick-ass for me personally!
Did I missed anything or do you have a recommendation for me which I should try out? Please leave a comment or send me a message on Instagram: @bramvanhoutum.nl, or reach out via firstname.lastname@example.org ?