You want to build a successful Instagram account in a month or less, and it’s understandable — you want to lay the foundations of success from day one!
But is a 4-week goal realistic? How are you ever going to achieve success in a month or less?
This post is for you — it will guide you from planning to action and community building in 8 simple steps, with advice from expert bloggers and social media strategists.
1. Come Up With A Plan Before Registering An Account
Don’t start one until you have a mission statement, goals and a social media strategy ready for your Instagram account.
What are you going to use it for?
Who do you want to reach?
How many photos will you share in a day?
“Having a clearly defined niche is absolutely critical,” says Emily Crawford, blogger at Why Hello Beauty, “as it’s very easy to see an Instagram account that is messy, cluttered and full of mismatched yet pretty images.”
Having a plan also means not leaving things up to hope.
As Jessie Weatherley, Creative Director at Jork Consulting, says: “most posts are not well thought-out and there is no overall plan in people’s social media. Often we see people who post every day for a week and then not at all for months. It is a marathon, not a race. It is your connection and engagement with current and future clients so it needs to be real, planned and coordinated.”
Weatherly shares her social media plan for Instagram:
“We use a content calendar which allows us to prepare the social media posts for a month at a time. It means that we can ensure that there are meaningful and coordinated posts – so for instance once a week we post a motivational quote, once a week we recommend another business we like, we post curated content and we also post promotions of our own businesses. We post at least 5 times a week that are planned well in advance, and then we can post things that are topical as they come up, but no matter what, no matter how busy we are, there is always some activity.”
2. Set Up Realistic Goals
“In 4 weeks you could very realistically gain 500-1000 followers,” says Weatherley — make that a goal on your Instagram growth plan and work toward it slowly.
Going slow is key. “Only follow 100 people,” says Weatherley, “then have a break and then an hour or so later do the same again. This is a great activity to do on your phone in front of TV at night. If you do more than that, Instagram will give you a brief ban.”
Now matter how brief, a ban is a ban and it could severely hinder your account’s growth. That also means avoid buying followers and go organic instead.
3. Market Your First Photo Aggressively (Don’t Wait)
Don’t upload something now just to test the waters because “you can always post your branded photos later”: people finding your image will be confused and it will add noise to your overall channel.
Upload your first branded photo and market that one!
“Ensure posts are consistently of high value, and related to the brand’s service or offering, as well as looking to integrate a holistic ‘lif estyle’ approach which appears native to the platform,” says Katherine Chalhoub from WebProfits.com.au.
The ‘lifestyle’ approach Chalhoub recommends is vital on Instagram. Rhiannon Birch, Marketing Communications Executive at SocialSignIn, also agrees with that vision and shares:
“The first thing you might be thinking when it comes to posting images is that they should be serious and advertise your business. You’re only partially right. While product images are very important, so are the more casual ones. Post some pictures of customers with your products, your staff working hard to get everything ready for the working day, and even lunches with your team members. People want to see you as more than just a brand; they want to see you as an individual who is just like them. It allows them to relate to you and form a connection without having met you before. It is important to throw some fun in among all the seriousness. Plus, it’s great fun for staff as well – they love to get involved, and it can boost morale.”
Techniques are also very important. Crawford says: “[I] definitely utilise popular yet specific hashtags for my niche, along with creating relationships with like-minded individuals by following, commenting and sharing in what they post. Regramming is – for me – a great way to share other individuals work with my audience, and grow a larger community because I’m all about sharing beautiful and inspirational images! I’m not one for the F4F [follow for follow, author’s note] or shout-outs really, but if it is something I would post organically myself, I don’t see a problem with it.”
4. Use Hashtags From The Start
With your first photo, add hashtags that are relevant and highly searched (but not too much,or you will get little visibility in the stream).
You are allowed up to 30 hashtags in the caption – use them all, or just some, as you see fit, but keep them relevant! Hashtags are what gets your photos found on Instagram, but not at the expense of relevance.
“Hashtags are important as it helps Instagram categorise you and your images,” says Weatherley. “[They help] people find you. Look at hashtags that are trending if you want a wider audience. If you are looking for a very geographically local area then use your city or suburb to help narrow it.”
5. Follow And Engage With (Small) Influencers
Small influencers have more time to develop relationthiops with followers than big accounts. Follow a few in your niche and engage with their posts from day one.
“The best way to grow Followers organically would require cross-promotion via influencers or industry-adjacent brands via Instagram with similar or larger Instagram Followings which are highly engaged,” says Chalhoub.
Weatherley says: “The most effective way to get followers when you are first starting out is to find people that are most likely to be interested in your product and then follow them. A percentage will follow you back (around 20% if you have got it right). So for example, if you are a local cafe, look at other Instagram accounts that are locally based and follow their followers. Sometimes this is a competitor! If they are following a cafe a few doors down the road, then they will probably be happy to follow you too! This also means that right up front you are getting followers that are genuine and this will help Instagram understand who is interested in you and will then be able to suggest you to other people that fit the same profile. Once you have over 1000 followers then this should just improve over time and you will get followers without having to follow other people.”
Scott Purcell, Founder and Editor of Man of Many, also advises “engage with your audience by liking and commenting on their photos,” especially on relevant hashtags, and to use Instagram stories, since the Instagram audience is very active there.
6. Study Your Audience to Offer the Incentives They Want
What is your Instagram audience looking for? What do they expect from your account?
You can upload a poll photo to ask them, but that’s not all you have to study your audience. Competitions are also a great idea.
Birch says: “People want an incentive to keep following you, and maybe even to make a purchase. Run a few competitions every year on your Instagram account (but don’t overdo it or people will get bored). This really gets customers involved, and if you get them to share it with their friends you are bringing in more potential customers as well. It can work wonders and bring up your follower count.”
“Competitions which are simple to engage with and enter, are also effective,” says Chalhoub, “especially when the above tactic is integrated within the marketing strategy. (NB: A multi-social channel approach to this strategy is even better!)”
If the law forbids contests and competitions where you live, you can organize a community event for your followers and encourage them to invite their friends to join. An event doesn’t have winners and prizes, but you can still offer incentives in the form of “thank you” gifts for taking part in the event.
Crawford adds: “A valuable asset which can be downloaded via the BIO link within the platform is also helpful, especially when Instagram posts promoting the asset are marketed to target audiences via Instagram ads.”
You can also use Instagram analytics tools like SimplyMeasured, WEBSTA and Minter.io to look at the numbers and the patterns of your audience engagement.
7. Do, Assess, Repeat
This guide applies not only to your first photos, but to your entire strategy, always.
Optimize and market every photo you produce for your Instagram account.
“Consistent posting throughout the day is essential – 1-2 posts per day (at least),” says Chalhoub.
Crawford shares her posting strategy:
“Begin posting 3-4 images a day, at say 8am 11am 2pm and 8pm (this can be tweaked as you go) that are your personal images or regrams of your niche (with credit!) and utilising hashtags that you’ve already researched. Each day spend an hour or so going through hashtags you’ve chosen and like, comment genuinely and follow but also remember, I’m a beauty blogger who likes lipstick and fashion but also monogrammed leathergoods and cult magazines like Vogue, so expand your thinking and remember your target audience have many likes and places to be found.”
Chalhoub uses Plann to make the whole process easier. “If you want a little assistance to begin curating a beautiful feed, apps like Plann will help you plan out your feed in advance and move your images around before posting, to achieve that dreamy feed we all lust over.”
8. Go Ads As A Last Resort
Ads will help you reach more people on Instagram if you can’t get enough organic growth, especially if you work with a little-searched niche.
However, keep this as a last resort when you want to widen your reach anyway, as ads will appear to everyone in your demographics.
Since Instagram is part of Facebook, you can also advertise on Instagram using your Facebook account – the platform allows you to create Instagram ads the same way you create Facebook ads (easy ad creation wizard), and with the same ad review etiquette.
According to Facebook, “Your Instagram ad will appear in people’s Instagram feeds along with images and videos shared by their friends, family and other Instagram accounts they follow.”
Social Media Examiner has a nice guide on how to create Instagram ads using Facebook.
Build Success and Thrive On It
I asked Emily Crawford to share an Instagram success story with Bosmol readers, and here’s what she told me:
Through my Instagram journey, I’ve built relationships with many brands and bloggers, and have collaborated on both the Sephora Australia and Charlotte Tilbury Australia launches which was just incredible! Having a presence online that has allowed me to work on such campaigns is a dream, and can only happen on the exciting world wide web!
As Scott Purcell says, “There’s no secret to gaining a following on Instagram, it’s all about consistency and a lot of hard work.”