Growing a healthy, engaged Instagram following can feel like a slow process, but the good news is that just a little time and consistency can achieve a lot on this particular platform. As with any social network, some trial and error might be necessary to really learn what's working, what content your fans respond to, and what post frequency keeps you steadily gaining new followers.
Whether you're just starting to establish an Instagram presence, or need a few new ways to jazz up your existing strategy here are 8 quick tricks to explore.
CONSIDER HOW OFTEN YOU'RE POSTING
Up until about a year ago, posting frequency was a much different discussion. In June 2016, Instagram adopted Facebook’s news feed algorithm, transforming how content was distributed and recycled in the feed. So, instead of being able to scroll through your feed in reverse-chronological order, Instagram now ranks all posts based on the “likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting, and the timeliness of the post.”
That means, the more likes and comments (engagements) your post gets, the more of your follower's feeds it will appear in, which means Instagram's algorithm will assign it a higher value, thereby distributing it further. It's like a whacky snowball effect!
The takeaway: Quality over quantity, my dears.
MAKE THE MOST OF NOTIFICATIONS
Like all social media platforms, engaging with your followers and industry influencers’ content helps to establish recognition of your brand, and build associations to grow your audience. This means that you should spend as much time (or more) liking, commenting, and following other people and their content as often as you do posting. I recommend finding a person/industry influencer that reaches the same people you’d like to connect with and getting active interacting with them consistently. However, due to the algorithm described above, once you start to follow more than 100 people, it gets pretty hard to make sure you see all your target influencers have to post.
To make sure you aren't missing important and relevant updates, set up post notifications. You’ll get a little memo bubble on your device every time your favorite followers are active.
HASHTAGS = HAPPINESS
The search function on Instagram helps people to find photos based on a search topic. But how does Instagram know what to offer up as the results of that search? That’s where hashtags come in!
Hashtags are essentially categories you assign to your post to describe the subject (ie; #dogphoto). It’s important that you add several hashtags to your post to give a vivid description of the content so that people with similar interests can find it in a search (ie; #dog #dogs #germanshepherd).
You can also add hashtags to draw attention to the information you’re sharing in the caption. For example, it is important to note that you can #adopt the dog in the #cutepic above at a #humanesociety in #browardcounty #florida. It does not matter where in the caption you add your hashtags. You can integrate them into a sentence like I just did. Or, you can add them all in one big clump at the end.
Pro Tip: If you really want to kick butt at Instagram, make sure you’re using popular, regularly-used hashtags that are relevant to your post. RiteTag is a pretty solid free service for finding hashtag suggestions based on your content. You can also download this helpful cheat card with some categorized hashtags that work well for me at the Humane Society of Broward County.
Click to download:
TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK: CROWDSOURCING PHOTOS
Social media is a full-time job. If you had the chance to divvy up some of the work to others, wouldn’t you? So, why not ask your fans/followers/adopters to send you their own photos for you to post! They love having a moment in the spotlight, and it provides you with relevant, highly engaging content to share with little effort.
I particularly like to ask new adopters to send photos of their fur baby settling into their new home along with a caption. I then upload the photo, edit the caption, and tag the person… and voila! A quick and easy post full of the warm fuzzies people love!
PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
Thanks to the algorithm (yet again), Instagram takes into account how many likes and comments a post is receiving when determining their placement on a user’s feed. Posts that receive more likes and comments by mutual followers will rank higher than others. So, on top of posting “like-worthy” photos, you’ll want to encourage commenting as well. Ask your followers for their feedback, or ask them to submit their own captions. I can guarantee many of them would love to chime in!
“Stories” is Instagram’s way of keeping up with the Jones's, AKA Snapchat. When you post on Stories, not only can you secure prime placement at the top of the feed, but (if you post a live story) your followers will also receive a push notification to their mobile devices stating that you’re online and they should check out your live video. So, if you are enjoying a play session with one of your shelter pets, having a photo shoot, or teaching a training class, share it live!
Stories is also a great way to give your fans a behind-the-scenes look at the fun, day-to-day magic happening at your shelter — which, on top of highlighting available animals, helps to transform the way the public feels about shelters and pet adoption altogether. Powerful stuff!
INSIGHTS FOR INSIGHT
Instagram Insights is a relatively new feature that allows you to see how well your posts are performing. Their data on follower demographics, post popularity, and scheduling can help you refine your posting strategy, too!
Set aside 5 minutes every week to go over your insights. You might find that some content is performing unexpectedly well, or you may see that you need to reconsider certain types of imagery, or themes. Perhaps your audience is younger or older than you originally thought? Tracking your insights helps you optimize the time you spend posting.
DITCH THE URL
Finally, although most people who have spent any time on Instagram already know this, it's good to remember that URLs included in your caption or comments will not be hyperlinked (ie; clickable).
If you want to drive people to your site from Instagram, you’ll need to put the URL in the bio of your profile. Then direct your fans to the ‘link in profile' within your caption.