13 Tips for organic Instagram growth

It’s hard to believe that Instagram primarily used to attract younger Facebook users who would filter pictures of their food. Today, businesses have adopted Instagram as one of their main revenue generating tools. Now Instagram has over 1 million advertisers and 8 million business profiles. This is because Instagram can have monumental effects on your engagement and marketing strategies. However, your Instagram best practices shouldn’t include uploading photos and videos without a sales and brand awareness plan.

In 2016, Instagram made significant changes in its algorithm. Instead of showing photos in the usual chronological order, it switched things up to follow Facebook’s algorithm of ordering posts based on the viewer’s presumed level of interest.

Today, if your followers are not engaging with or showing interest in your content, your images  are likely to be pushed to the bottom of feeds regardless how often you post about your brand.

In other words, brands that aren’t strategic or creative in their posting disappear in the noise.

If you find that your brand likes and engagement are not as expected or wanted despite your regular posts, this algorithm is likely to be responsible.

Here are tips that will help you benefit from this algorithm rather than suffer from it.

1) Bios

Craft a bio to clarify your purpose. It’s important to create an Instagram bio that tells people why they should follow you and what they can expect to see.

Make sure your  bio is clear, concise and neatly sums up exactly what your account is about.

Instagram of Mind Charity
Don’t get too caught up in trying fit all the things you do in 150 characters allowed for a Instagram bio. Focus on your most important USP (Unique Selling Point) or your next big thing.

Since the only clickable link is in your Bio section (right under your name), make a habit of updating it frequently. It’s a shame that most brands use it only to link to their website, but it could do so much more. Think, driving event registrations, app downloads, even purchases.

You can set up a business profile to add a phone number to your bio and gives access to extensive analytics data that wouldn’te otherwise be available.

2) Add Emojis

Emojis are the universal language on Instagram. Did you know that emojis are searchable on Instagram just like a hashtags? or People can even find you based on which emoji and/or hashtag you use in your username and/or bio.

Instagram reports that nearly 50% of all captions and comments on Instagram now have an emoji or two.

The example below shows how both emojis and hashtags can be related to a brand message. Then, the second image below shows how emojis are used in captions.

3) Create Quote Graphics

Sharing quotes in images on Instagram isn’t an unheard-of tactic, but it’s still very effective if it’s done well. People love quotes on social media. They love sharing them and they love commenting.

Your brand should inspire people. However, when using quotes, it’s important to post only high-quality pictures and take time to select quotes that are relevant and meaningful to your target audience. Choose a visual that elicits an emotion central to the theme of the quote. and remember to give attribution if you take the quote from someone else.

When your quote resonates, the shares will grow and you’ll reach new users.

4) Add Hashtags

Instagram hashtags are your best friend as they help you get discovered, archive content and participate with other trending topics.

Choosing relevant hashtags are essential if you want to see the likes rolling in.Once you start typing a hashtag, you can see the most popular ones from Instagram’s suggested lists. You should avoid long and nonsense hashtags like #omgthisnotebookisamazing

Not sure what hashtags to use? Think of basic keywords that relate to your brand, products and/or services. Also, if you are trying to target a specific region, consider using location-specific hashtags too.

Still unsure? Simply enter in a hashtag relevant to your post in the free tool online called Webstagram and it will generate a list of popular, related hashtags, and the number of times that they’ve been used.

Another way of using hashtags is to build a community around an actionable Instagram hashtag. Branded hashtags can do wonders for your marketing strategy.

The great thing about this strategy is that it can be leveraged across Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest but it is great on Instagram and is the perfect way to get your audience to engage with your brand.

At Notebook Love, (you can see an example below), we just started using unique branded hashtags: #NotebookLove is the brand name, #PurePaperPassion is related to the brand value and #ShareTheLove is the actionable tag.

Notebook Love Instagram

It’s best practice to use between three to five hashtags, despite the fact that the maximum you can add is 30 per Instagram post. Use your own, campaign-specific hashtags as well as the more popular hashtags to increase the discoverability of your content.

5) Captions

To help making your caption engaging you can ask a question, include emojis to make it fun and/or write something emotive. Doing these things makes your post more likely to be shared and engaged with.

Also remember emoji and hashtag are both searchable on Instagram.

6) Tagging

I’m not comfortable with this strategy but some are using it to the best effect by tagging accounts with a large number of followers in their photos. This approach helps your posts to be seen by more people.

BUT, firstly these accounts need to be relevant to your photo if you want to attract an engaged audience. Also make sure that you do it in line with Instagram’s guidelines. Instagram has issued guidelines for businesses and publishers on promotion, warning: “You must not inaccurately tag content or encourage users to inaccurately tag content (ex: don’t encourage people to tag themselves in photos if they aren’t in the photo).

It’s better to tag people involved or who participate in your campaign. If you use USG content, give the person an appropriate  credit and mention that person, which can spark a chain of events for friends of friends to notice your content.

Also remember to tag your friends to make sure your posts appear in their ‘photos of me’ section.

7) Use of Filters

Instagram filters are used to enhance photos, to give them that extra edge or just set the mood.

Adding Instagram effects and filters on your posts can transform photos from bland and boring to bright and beautiful.

Using a filter could be an opportunity for you to create your own signature style and ensure your content stands out. Being consistent with the filter you use can help to brand your Instagram content in such a way that people should know they’re looking at your content even if they don’t see your name.

Not sure which one to use? I’d say that it’s better just to play around with them and try to see which one gets the most attention. However, in terms of the distribution of filter popularity there is a clear winner. Clarendon is in the lead with 25% followed by Juno which is used 8% of the times a filter is applied:

  • Clarendon – This filter adds light to lighter areas and dark to darker areas, while also making the shadows a bit bolder. Colours stand out, which makes it the perfect filter for sunset posts. Clarendon is most used probably because it’s an all-purpose filter that brightens, highlights, and intensifies shadows for colour that pops. Its popularity might also be down to the fact that it’s typically the default filter after the Normal option in the editing.
  • Juno – This filter intensifies red and yellow hues in your pictures, making them stand out more than the blues. It’s the perfect filter for creating a feeling of depth. This filter is great if you’re looking to brighten shots with lots of oranges, yellows, and reds. This popular filter lends colour intensity and brightens warm hues; many favour its effects for adding richness and authenticity to urban photos. The filter makes the grungy look grungier, and gives photos a rich, deep tone. 

While Clarendon is the uncontested winner, the battle for second place is fierce between Juno, Gingham, and Lark. At the bottom are Willow and Perpetua.

Some Instagram filters are certainly preferred over others. As mentioned earlier about the filter Clarendon, its popularity is also due to the fact it’s the default filter after the Normal option in the editing. This phenomenon might just be the laziness of many users, so please don’t mistake to let this knowledge stifle your creativity. Other filters might work best for your photos, brand and make you standout from the crowd. At the end of the day, the best filter for your photo is the one that complements it…and if that happens to be one of the most-liked filters, so much the better. Remember, it is also about branding your Instagram content. Aim to have your own style.

8) Post consistently and frequently

According to Buffer, “major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram. While posting frequently is important, make sure that it doesn’t compromise the quality of your post. In other words it’s always quality over quantity because it is predominantly quality content that keeps your audience coming back.

Frequency will encourage your followers to keep on returning to your profile for updates. The more posts you do, the more exposure your account will get.… Building your brand and increasing likes will not happen if you leave weeks between posting your updates. On the other hand be careful that you don’t want to bombard your users with content. Test to find the magic number that works for your brand.

Also, make sure that you are consistent in the content that you post. Think about everything from the captions, the filters, the angles, the colours, the lighting…develop a unique visual identity, so that when users see your photos, they will immediately recognise your brand.

Today, if your followers are not engaging with or showing interest in your content, your images  are likely to be pushed to the bottom of feeds regardless how often you post about your brand.

In other words, brands that aren’t strategic or creative in their posting disappear in the noise.

9) High quality photos

Having a strong and consistent theme will also help attract more followers in your quest to get more likes.

As much as you can, post high-resolution, professional images and that are related to the last post.

It’s better not to market on Instagram at all than to share content that makes you look bad by uploading a photo with wrong aspect ratio, is pixelated when users click on it, or looks like it was taken from a phone made in 2005.

This so important because a boring product can actually be made desirable if you know how to take a photo.

10) Stories

Instagram gives you the unique chance to tell great stories through visual content. Instagram videos are highly effective at telling your brand’s story within 60 seconds. Storytelling is an amazing way to market your brand and create engaging images or videos.

Instagram launched a Snapchat-style Stories feature in 2016 and they feature prominently in users’ feeds. Instagram Stories is a feature that lets users post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours. The photos and videos shared in your Instagram Story are ephemeral and can’t be viewed once 24 hours have elapsed.

Stories also appear in the Browse section of the app, which has a huge reach, while users can now search Stories using hashtags and by location.

Here are some of the benefits of using Instagram Stories for brands:

  • Stories are prominently displayed at the top of follower timelines just under the Instagram logo.
  • They can be used to capture behind-the-scenes content that doesn’t have to be as high in quality as regular posts.
  • Stories make it easy to experiment with different content types: photos, short video, Boomerang (GIF-like image), video filmed backwards (Rewind) and live video.
  • Tagging other accounts, e.g. @instagram in Stories is ideal for collaborators and influencer marketing.
  • Fun additions like face filters, text and stickers help you edit images on-the-go.

To know how it works read “How to use Instagram Stories like a pro”.

Or you can watch this – 8-minutes video with 10 Instagram Stories tips, tricks and hacks:

Finally, you can also check out Single Grain’s ultimate guide to running Instagram Stories Ads for a full step-by-step guide to creating your first one .

You can become a great storyteller by giving new and exciting vantage points to your product.

Being authentic on Instagram is what users crave, so use this channel to engage and inspire your audience through attractive and interesting visuals.

11) Use Geo Locations

Instagram users use geo locations to find content tagged at that specific location so it’s a great feature for getting discovered. Always use your geo-tag features from wherever you’re posting to boost your audience’s size. Also, adding locations to your posts will ensure your photos appear whenever another user browses the same destination in the app.

12)  Post Unique, Quality Content

You might say “yes, of course!”, but this is now more crucial than ever. To be heard with all the noise out there, your brands can no longer get away with publishing something that is below average or unoriginal content. It’s essential that you find a unique voice for your brand. How are your photos and videos different from others and competitors?

Give your followers something that they will want to share. Show them something that will make them want to come back for more. A good rule of thumb is to always ask yourself: “is this something that I would want to share if I was someone following my brand?.

13) Like, follow and comment

Finally, and you may already do this but it’s still good to mention that another way to get more followers is to like, follow and comment on other similar accounts, this could encourage other users to follow you back. Brands can also attract new customers by following and interacting with competitors’ followers. Taking the time to write a worthwhile comment on an influencer’s  page can also pay dividends.

Conclusion

While gaining followers on many social platforms can feel like an uphill battle, Instagram is a surprisingly easy place to create a quality following no matter what type of account you manage.

Instagram accounts can be vastly different from each other, but they can all manage to build large, engaged audiences of loyal followers. When you help other people, they’ll tell their friends to follow you.

Bottom line is, if you post high-quality, relevant content, while finding a way to connect with your users, the Instagram algorithm will reward you in the end, and your brand visibility will skyrocket.

Start by adding one or two of these tactics into your own Instagram marketing and see what works for you… And please let me know if this article has be useful to your and how I could be more relevant to your questions.