There are approximately 94,000 articles on the Internet about how to maximize your Instagram usage, how to get new followers on Instagram, how to find new audiences on Instagram, how to build your business with Instagram, and other similar topics. Actually, that 94,000 figure might be a low estimate — the search term “how to build your business on Instagram” has 49.6M results, including Social Media Examiner offering 26 tips for doing just that.
This is important. You can insert the old Oscar WIlde quote here: “Be yourself, because everyone else is already taken.” One of the bigger problems with a lot of marketing consultants/experts is that the people and brands they work with are unique, but they traditionally tell everyone similar things to do. You’re unique. Your business is. You do funny stuff. You have a cute dog. You dress up like Spider-Man. Whatever it is, be yourself. It goes further than trying to fake it, which people can usually sniff out on social.
Tag people and locations
This is one of the easiest ways to get found, and you can interact with a lot of local people just by consistently tagging photos as “[whatever city you live in].” If there are Instagram accounts that curate your city in some way — beautiful photos, food, landmarks, etc. — follow them and tag them in posts. Those sites usually have decent follower counts and they’ll periodically spotlight you, which will help with new audiences.
Don’t chase likes
If you’re building a business out and using Instagram as a part of that, don’t chase likes. We all love it when we put up a photo and it has 100+ likes. It’s a great feeling! But in terms of helping you pay bills and grow a business, it means very little. A “like” is a very passive action in the social media world; it takes a few seconds and then the person keeps scrolling. What you’re looking for is engagement. Engagement takes time. Very few people meet, go on 1 date, and get engaged to be married. (It happens, but it’s rare.) More people date for 2-3 years before getting engaged. It’s the same with social media. It might not take 2-3 years, but people need to see your posts, get what you’re putting out, get your vibe, get your voice, etc. Once they’re into it, they’ll start to engage — and message you/reach out to you off just Instagram. The engagement leads to the business, but the engagement takes time to get. In short, though, you’re not chasing likes. You’re chasing connection.
Yes, this will cost you money — but doing a sponsored post and being put into algorithmically-relevant Insta feeds will definitely get you some new potential audience. Before you buy an ad, though, you should make sure you have a specific value proposition (what would someone seeing the ad take away from it?) and a striking visual style (why would they stop scrolling at that ad?). If you think you have a value prop and a great image, go forward with the ad. If you have 1 or neither, hold off on buying an ad.
Here’s a fun fact: the guy who invented the Dyson vacuum cleaner, whose last name was unsurprisingly “Dyson,” did over 5,100 versions of it before he got to the one that started to sell. J.K. Rowling was rejected by about 27 publishing companies for Harry Potter, which became one of the best-selling books AND movies of all-time. The point is: sometimes you post something and no one likes it, shares it, or seems to interact with it. You think to yourself, “What I posted was bad.” No. Sometimes people don’t know what they’re seeing, and all it takes is one or two visionaries you’ll engage with for Instagram to start paying off for you. Think about those 27 people who rejected Harry Potter. How do you think they feel now? Probably pretty dumb — and not as rich — compared to the 1 person who decided to accept it. There’s a ton of pictures put on Instagram every day. You’re not always going to stand out. But keep trying different things and keep moving forward. You will get there.
Ted Bauer is a freelance writer, editor, and marketer based in Fort Worth, Texas. He’s originally from New York City but has lived in many different U.S. cities. He’s worked for companies as diverse as ESPN, PBS, the Houston Independent School District, and McKesson. He blogs daily at The Context of Things.