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13 Expert Tips to Help You Build Your Instagram Following

Instagram influencers give their best advice on how you can follow in their footsteps.
13 Expert Tips to Help You Build Your Instagram Following
Image credit: Paul Mango | Instagram
Guest Writer
CEO • C-Suite Advisor • Speaker • Life Coach • Lumix Photographer
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Instagram has recently undergone dramatic changes in the way it operates recently. On the positive side, you can now post pictures that aren’t square, you can like comments, added Instagram stories and improved their editing tools and filters and you can also go live. On the negative side, they have disabled the ability of many third-party utilities that can help people manage accounts. Worst of all, they have changed the way their algorithm works, and for many, myself included, engagement (likes and comments) has been diminishing.

I was an early adopter of social media and have used social media to build a powerful personal brand. As a result, I am not taking the decrease in my Instagram engagement passively. So, I sought some tips and tricks from other Instagram experts so I could get back on the right track. Here are 13 tips from six successful Instagrammers that will help you build a powerful and engaged Instagram:

Pablo Arias

Arias is a former Nickelodeon star who appeared on the TV Show ‘Marvin Marvin.' He has worked with P Diddy, Tai Lopez, Fashion Nova. His public Instagram page, couplesofsociety has over 3 million followers.

1. Creative content

Being creative and original is the best way to gain a potential follower’s attention. Initially appealing to a specific demographic or area of interest will allow you to get your foot in the door and begin the process of trial and error. Your content's creativity will always be the deciding variable in your ability to get a post to go viral. Content will always be king. 

2. Cross-promoting your brand

Find accounts that do similar things to what you are trying to do with your brand and help each other. For example, if you are building a fashion blog, find other bloggers in that space with a similar following and promote one another. If you both have 2,000 followers, the goal would be to both attain 5,000 followers. Then, you can make another partner -- this time, one with 5,000 followers, just like you. And so on.

3. Show you care

The small act of following someone back or responding to a post can go a long way. Engaging with your followers -- and making an authentic effort to show that you genuinely care about them -- matters. It shows you are indeed a real person with similar interests as your audience, and it gives your followers the chance to truly connect with you.

4. Hashtags

Posts with hashtags perform a little better on average than ones without. As simple as it may sound, hashtags do make a difference -- just make sure to avoid the banned ones. 

Related: 5 Social Media Rules Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Allison Mayer

Mayer is a humanitarian photojournalist. She has 13,000 Instagram followers, and her engagement rate is particularly impressive.

5. Call Ghostbusters

Locate the people who follow you, but don't interact with you -- also known as your ghost followers. Some of these may be spam or inactive accounts, but a lot of them are real people who just don't see your content anymore because of the algorithm. Interaction with these accounts will remind them why they followed you in the first place and bring you back into their feed.

It's a lot easier to convert engagement from existing followers than it is to get new followers or chase engagement with hashtags. A higher engagement rate from those who follow you will increase your credibility within the algorithm and your likeliness to hit the explore page, leading to more followers.

Irina Smirnova

A New York-based photographer working with entrepreneurs on their branding portraiture, Smirnova has 5,000 Instagram followers and runs a nationwide Instagram POD.

6. One theme only

Pick a theme for your account, focus on it, and don't just jump all over the place. If your Instagram feed has food pics, memes, dogs and images of a sunrise over Detroit, people won’t know what you stand for and won’t be as attracted to you.

7. Educate your audience

Don’t be afraid to tell your followers and the people you follow exactly how they can support you better. Let them know how meaningful their comments are. Remember: There’s (usually) a real person behind every Instagram post.

Related: 10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

Arias, Mayer and Smirnova

8. Join a POD

All three experts recommended joining an engagement pod, which is simply a group of 10 fellow Instagrammers who agree to like and comment (with five words or more) each other's posts within the first 30 minutes This, according to most sources, accelerates the Instagram algorithm and boosts your post to more people. I’m in a pod, and we share our Instagram links via WhatsApp, but most pods use Instagram messenger to communicate.

Paul Mango

Mango is a banking executive who is passionate about photography, his family and the outdoors. He has 4,600 Instagram followers.

9. Edit your photos

To post your best work, edit your photos with a more sophisticated editor than what is in Instagram itself. Snapseed by Google and Photo Editor by Aviary are excellent free editing apps.

Rick Gerrity

Rick is a New York- and New Jersey-based professional photographer. He is known for chasing pictures everywhere in his Nissan Xterra, which has 400,000 miles on the odometer.

10. Be original

I like to see what everyone else is doing and try a different angle or perspective. It’s why I enjoy Instagramming close-up portraits of people in interesting places. It’s is a one-of-a-kind moment. And,, don’t forget black and white is sometimes better than color.

Related: 12 Social Media Mistakes That Entrepreneurs Make

Me

11. Quality photos

Maybe it's because photography is in my DNA, but it irks me when people post poor quality images. How can you expect someone to like something on social media that they don’t actually like? Poor quality pictures are the surest way to get low interaction. Take your time, use a real camera if you can (it’s no longer taboo) and post attractive images.

12. Don’t be like Google

Arias’s point about being creative and Gerrity’s point about originality. If you can find the picture you are posting on Google, you are not going to get a lot of engagement. If you take a picture of a common place or thing, make sure it’s amazing.

13. Work at it

Social media is not something you do for a little while. It’s a lifestyle. That means posting at least five times per week and liking and commenting on other posts every day.

The path to Instagram success may travel through an underground world, but you now have a map to navigate it. 

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