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With over 25 million business Instagram profiles we can find more and more success stories, brands that have taken over their social media game to another level. Nowadays, to gain real followers on Instagram isn’t as easy as before when you could simply target a very broad audience and expect to see great results. Now, you have to target very niche-specific profiles to help your brand grow on Instagram. 

Having followers on Instagram has become as important as having a great product. With an audience on social media you can prove way more. On the other hand, your competitor could even have a greater product than yours, but a lack of social media presence could be driving in way fewer sales for them. Social validation, especially on Instagram, helps your brand to build up a very necessary social proof. 

We are going to talk about 11 very important topics that are going to maximize your exposure, help you to understand how Instagram works and most importantly - how to get real Instagram followers in 2020. 

Instagram Bio

Imagine you are going over Instagram profiles, you make an impression and a decision within a few seconds. First of all, you quickly look at the profile image and suddenly after comes the bio. This is your perfect opportunity to make a great first impression, to introduce your profile, to explain what your brand or personal account does and why someone should care about it.

Name

State your personal or brand name, use a keyword that perfectly describes who you are. Name your headline to something that helps your targeted audience to identify what you have to offer. It could be an interest, a job title or simply your niche. 

SocialStud.io Instagram profile

We at SocialStud.io named our headline “Instagram Management & Growth” to show our main service/product and pick up some traffic from someone who might search for this targeted keyword in Instagram. Keep in mind that the name is searchable, be sure to pick your main keyword and use it as your headline to find a relevant audience.

Body

Keep your body clean and well-organized, most successful brands are using bullet point format to describe and introduce themselves. Don’t try to copy others, only use examples for inspiration and not stealing their format and brand-voice. Pick something that would help your audience to identify you. 

SocialStud.io Instagram profile

As you can see with SocialStud.io we explain who we are, what we do and then point our visitors to our main website. Also, you can use some of the eye-catching emoji just to make a whole picture a lot better.

What is more, we have included some of the “call to action” buttons, you can choose from:

  • Email
  • Message
  • Call
  • Book
  • Reserve

By using a call to action button we help our visitor to easily contact us by private message or via email. Lastly, we have used our story highlights to post some of our clients’ reviews. This social proof gives a boost to our service credibility. If you have a feature in a blog post, publication, article, a certification or anything related to social proof then showcase it on your Instagram profile either in highlights or bio itself. 

Link in bio

The one and the only section on Instagram where you can input a link. Most of the businesses provide a direct link to their website or blog, straight to the product. But we would suggest pointing to a pre-lander with some kind of call to action which captures emails, provides free guides, etc. The easiest and the most popular way is by using Linktree, there you can insert multiple links and showcase them in your Instagram profiles’ bio. 

Linktree link in bio of Expedia


Quality Instagram Content

We all know that Instagram's intention is to become the number 1 visual platform and we can easily say that they have achieved it. Every piece of content that you share should be high-quality and relate to your brand or personal profile. You don’t want to be posting puppies on the Instagram profile which bio states “cute pictures of kittens”. But also, today it is not enough to only post quality pictures, your content grid has to have a pattern, style and be beautiful well put together

Content style

Whether you are a personal or brand profile, you have to make sure that every picture or video you post reflects what you have to offer to your audience. It is enough to post one out of context image to jeopardize your whole Instagram grid. Except, of course, if the purpose of your profile is to post out of context content. 

  1. Filters - if you are using or intend to use one, then pick the best one (or a few) for your niche and stick with it. We don’t want your content to be shining in a different colors like crazy. 
  2. Colors - don’t forget that lighter images get a lot more likes.
  3. Variety - no one comes to your Instagram page to look at the products you offer for sale. Be sure to add some lifestyle images to your content grid. That way every post will feel new and your content palette wouldn’t be boring.
  4. Be authentic - tell your story through the content, use only relevant quotes and never use someone else strategy or content style. 

Organize your grid

Alright, you have ready to use content with captions, but not sure how to schedule them ahead while consuming less of your time? Simply use scheduling applications like Later or Planoly. By using one of them (doesn’t matter which, both are great) you will be able to preview what your feed will look like before posting them. 

Later dashboard - organizing your grid


Remember that your Instagram grid shouldn’t be only about you or your brand. Make sure that at least 60% of your content includes what is your brand offering and the other 40% should be lifestyle pictures or quotes. 

Instagram Captions

The main message is always on your Instagram post caption. It should give a more deeper context, insight, and value what is happening in the image. Don’t just simply describe what is happening in the picture. Try to tell an interesting story, report news about your brand or simply crack a good joke.

Authentic captions

Your captions should reflect your brand’s voice. Follow your story and make this experience very personal for your Instagram followers. 

Call to action

Always encourage your user-base to comment, like or express an opinion. The more comments you get, the better it is for Instagram to rank your content higher on the explore page. Try asking a question or tell your followers to tag their friends in the comments section. All that will bring more traction to your post which leads to more engagement to your Instagram profile.

Instagram Hashtags

Did you know that a post on Instagram with at least one hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement than a post without hashtags? That is why you shouldn’t be missing out on them when posting your vacation picture. It is one of the best ways to expand your reach on Instagram. 

Research & strategy

Start with your competitors, make a list of their hashtags. Our strategy is quite simple - to include small to medium and semi-popular hashtags in our Instagram posts. One of the biggest mistakes is when someone includes hashtags that are way too popular or the opposite. Try to find hashtags that have about 4 to 800 thousand posts with them. The ideal is when people are searching for your hashtag, but it is not so big that your post is lost among all the others that have also included this certain hashtag. 

Instagram Tags - Hashtags


The magic happens when your small to medium popularity hashtags start to gain traction, then your post starts appearing at the top of the explore page for your semi-popular or popular hashtags. This beautiful effect can make your content go viral. 

Popular hashtag - #dog

Semi-popular - #dogfunny

Medium popularity - #dogfunnybarks

Small popularity - #dogfunnybarksgoesforawalk

After coming up with your list, store your hashtags somewhere from where you can easily access them. You can make a lot of sets with different hashtags combinations. Our research showed that it is the best to use from 5 to 12 hashtags per post. We can say that 8 of them could be small to medium popularity and 4 semi-popular. 

Best Time To Post

It is very essential to pick the best time to post, you have to pick the time when your audience is most active, so they would see your post in their feed. Not only that, you have to pick the best time to post to be discovered by the hashtags. Of course, there are standards for every country when it is the best time to post on Instagram. But you should spend some time learning your own analytics as your audience could differ a lot from another profile in the same niche.

Best global times to post on Instagram

How To Use Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are becoming very popular among influencers. You have to be able to use them effectively and find the best tricks for maximum awareness. Remember what we have talked about your Instagram grid? Well, the same goes for stories. Your IG stories should have a consistent style and brand voice. Keep in mind that your stories only stay up for 24 hours, which means this is your chance to be more open and authentic to your audience. Use stories to show your loyal fans behind the scenes of your brand or personal profile, be real, be you. 

Maximizing exposure

Use the “Stickers” feature and add a certain location or hashtag. This allows your Instagram story to appear on the explore page, that is how you can increase and maximize your story exposure. 

Highlights

Instagram Highlights can be very beneficial to showcase your potential new audience what your personal or brand profile is all about. Highlights are shown right under your bio and they don’t disappear after 24 hours. There is a lot you can do with Instagram Highlights, but some common uses are “about us”, “how it works” or “why you should work with us”, “reviews” or “testimonials”, “clients”. Be sure to make your highlight covers matching, so your brand looks clean. 

Instagram highlights

IGTV

When IGTV first saw the daylight Instagram users weren’t excited about it, only a small number of people were using it. But after a short period of time IGTV became very popular and valuable among Instagram brands. If you are looking to gain more followers then IGTV should be included in your growth strategy.  

IGTV videos could range from 10 minutes and up to one hour. It is a great tool to recycle your content from YouTube, Facebook or you could even create a short video from your blog post. When you publish your first video on IGTV then make sure to gain all the possible exposure to it you can - create Instagram stories, post a brief of the video on your feed or even start a live talking about your IGTV video. 

  • You can create behind the scenes clips.
  • Create tutorial to showcase your service or product.
  • Talk about a topic that is closely related to your niche.
  • Explain a new feature of your product, a new move or something that is important to your brand. That would be highly appreciated by your audience.
  • Educate your loyal followers.

If you still have no idea on how to start with IGTV then don’t worry about it. Just go out and produce a piece of content, you will figure it out while in the process. Because IGTV isn’t very saturated yet and if you have an established fanbase they would appreciate a longer format video from you on Instagram. They might even share this video with their friends or someone else. All in all, IGTV helps you to grow your Instagram followers.

Instagram IGTV

Instagram Giveaways

If you want to achieve a faster growth you should hold an Instagram giveaway. Not only you are going to reward your existing fan-base, but also gain some new followers. Start with the budget, pick how and when you want to start your giveaway, and most importantly set goals. Most of the time the main goal of a giveaway is to bring attention, reach a new audience and gain followers.

Tag a friend to participate

This type of giveaway requires your current audience to tag friends in the comments section. Winner is chosen randomly from the list of comments. And then you start getting a lot of exposure as when someone tags his friend, that friend sees a notification and also participates in the giveaway if it interests him. A lot of content went viral just like that. Imagine hundreds of comments only with tags. 

Follow in order to participate

This type of contest requires you to collaborate with another brand (or a lot of them). Just make sure that these brands are in your niche category. User has to follow all of the profiles involved in this contest, only then he enters the giveaway. Other brands have to do the same giveaway including your profile in theirs. This helps to bring on-board a lot of new faces, when picking brands to collaborate with make sure they have your perfect audience. Otherwise, after the giveaway a lot of Instagram users might unfollow you simply because they have no interest in your brand. 

Instagram giveaway - follow, tag and comment

Post in order to win

Users have to re-post a picture that you provide or create their own content and post it to their feed. Consider that as a small shout-out, your loyal fan posts a picture on his feed with your brand tagged in it. Also, you get a lot of content that you can use for your brand. Embed that content on your site to show authenticity and build more brand awareness. On the other hand, if you don’t have a great followers base with decent engagement you shouldn’t go with this type of a giveaway. As most likely no-one is going to participate. 

Successful giveaway example

One of the most successful giveaways on Instagram is when Sunny Clothing Co made a “post in order to win” contest. You simply had to re-post the picture and you would receive a completely free swimsuit. Sounds like a great deal, right? The picture shown below was everywhere and this little trick skyrocketed the Sunny Clothing Co brand. Downside was that they weren’t ready for that much giveaway entries. Their inventory of swimsuits ran out pretty quick. Now you can only imagine what this type of contest could bring to your brand. But be prepared, don’t run out of supplies. 

Sunny Clothing Co viral Instagram giveaway


Influencer Marketing

Some time ago influencer marketing was limited to celebrities. Nowadays it seems that the influencer market is very saturated and you can find many possibilities for a decent shout-out in your niche. The best thing is that you don’t need a big budget in order to receive a shout-out from a profile with great engagement. Finding influencers is quite easy, here is a short step by step guide. 

Budget

First of all, you have to decide what level of influencer you need. Rates differ a lot, but standard is somewhere around 500$ for 100.000 followers influencers who have fantastic engaged audiences. Of course, we don’t want you to go around spending 500$ for a big influencer like that. You can start with 50$ and micro-influencer, who might have less followers than 100.000, but if you pick a niche specific influencer then this shout-out is going to be very beneficial. 

Niche

Find relevant influencers in your niche. They can be your competitors with lots of followers. Also, you can simply search Google for the best Instagram account in “your niche”. If that is still not helpful then you can use an influencer marketing platform like Shoutcart, Heepsy, Upfluence or Tribegroup. These platforms help you to find relevant influencers by niche, interests, followers, engagement rate and more. What is more, you can contact them directly in these platforms, negotiate a deal or place a direct order by providing your post, caption and other instructions. 

Reaching out

Once you have your list of possible influencers to collaborate with or simply buy a shout-out, start building your trust. Engage with their content, get familiar with them. Once the relationship is established reach out with a friendly message and offer to collaborate with them. Try to explain how working together would benefit both of you. On the other hand, if your audience size is very small and you don’t have much to offer for that influencer go straight for the shout-out. Most of the time you would get a response from them with a pricing. Post or story shout-out for 2 hours, 1 day, permanent, etc. Additional charges for including a link. Always try to negotiate a lower price. If your selected influencer wants 100$ for a one day post shout-out then ask for 1 hour shout-out for 10$. Tell them that you are looking forward to working with them in the future.

Instagram Private Messages

One of the best ways to build a personal relationship, introduce yourself and bring attention is Instagram Direct Messages. Reaching out on Instagram is very popular nowadays, a lot of well-established influencers are using this tactic to greet their new followers, to announce a new product, discount or something similar. By sending a quick DM to someone you make this matter personal, it helps to build up a real and loyal follower. 

Engagement tips

  1. If you see someone constantly liking or commenting on your content then send him a personal message, thank him for his support, maybe even ask him a question and show that he is an important follower. 
  1. Another good method to engage with your followers is through the Instagram stories. Ask your followers to reply to your story. Use Instagram Polls and anything else that helps to get conversations going.
  1. Make sure to contact your new followers, greet them with a personal message and tell them how happy you are that they have decided to follow you. Introduce them with your profile, but don’t start selling immediately. This will establish trust between you two. 
  1. If you have an announcement, a new product launching soon or a discount code for your service then DM your most loyal Instagram followers. Tell them that you appreciate having them on board and want them to know first about this. They will feel special and most likely respond with a big thank you. Also, that is how you can gain your first paying customers. 

One of the best ways to engage is talking to your followers directly. You can learn what kind of things they wish to see from you, what products they need and how you can help them. A lot of social media is automated these days, talking with a real person could be very exciting for your followers. 

Paid Promotion

Advertising on Instagram helps to drive awareness, increase customer or sales, and share your brand story with a highly engaged audience. If you decide to run ads on Instagram then make sure that your ads look real and natural. While advertising on Instagram you might see more reach, impressions, clicks and overall engagement. While not every brand should choose Instagram as their advertising platform, a lot of brands find huge success by running creative campaigns that grab attention and convert regular Instagram users into followers or even paying customers. 

Instagram Advertising

Ads types

There are several advertising options on Instagram. First of all, you can choose from running an ad either on story or your feed. Make sure that your advertisement has a very compelling look or ad visitor might just skip your creation. So, we have these types of Instagram ads:

  • Stories Ads - are 15 seconds long, so you have a limited time to grab attention.
  • Photo Ads - use clean, beautiful and simple photos.
  • Video Ads - videos up to 60 seconds long.
  • Carousel Ads - people can swipe to see additional photos or videos.
  • Collection Ads - helps your audience to browse and purchase products. 
  • Ads in Explore page - you can reach people who are looking to find more interests, not only from the profiles they follow.

Which type of Instagram ads you have to use depends a lot on your profile, what kind of product or service you offer to your audience. Try experimenting with all of these and find the one that best suits your needs. 

How to buy Instagram ads

Buying Instagram ads is very easy, here you can find several ways of doing it:

  1. Within the Instagram application - simply promote your already shared content. By tapping “View Insights” you can learn how many people are seeing your ad. 
  2. Ads manager - is a very powerful advertising tool from Facebook. From there you can set up your campaign and make all the changes. It is available on your desktop and mobile phone. 
  3. Instagram partners - if you are short on time and want someone to manage your ads then you can team up with an agency. They would help you with running ads and creating content. Make sure that they are indeed Instagram partners, meaning that they are experts in this field. 

Ads budget

Your budget can vary a lot, depending on which type of ad you are using, who you are targeting and where your targeted audience is located in. Start with a low budget and scale it as you learn more about your audience, costs and which type of Instagram ads perform best for your profile and niche. 

Targeting

You can make your Instagram ads to reach the exact audience you need. There are a lot of targeting options to choose from, the most important ones are:

  • Location - target specific location like state, province, city or country. 
  • Demographics - narrow your audience based on age, gender and language.
  • Interests - target people based on what apps they use, profiles they follow and more.
  • Behaviors - define your perfect audience by their favorite past or current activities.
  • Lookalike audiences - find profiles that are similar to your current followers.
  • Custom audiences - run ads to followers that you already know based on their email addresses or phone numbers. 

That is all you have to know about advertising on Instagram. Create your business profile, set up an ad, determine budget and publish your first ad! 

Final Message

Use these easy steps to optimize your Instagram business or personal profile. By implementing just a few of these suggestions you will be gaining more targeted and organic followers, increasing your engagement and overall Instagram skills.


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