Instagram has consistently risen in popularity since the moment it exploded on the scene. Today, it’s home to more than 500 million users, and is the second-most popular social media platform in the world, next to Facebook. Clearly, there’s a huge marketing opportunity here; if you can capture even a fraction of those 500 million regular Instagrammers, you can easily boost your reputation, traffic, leads, and sales. But how do you get those followers? Where do you start if you’re reading this and haven’t even created an account yet?
Fortunately, there’s a step-by-step process you can follow to get to that point, and start earning the benefits that Instagram has to offer.
Step 1: Find Your Niche
Believe it or not, the first step of the process isn’t creating your account. Before you download the app, before you create an account, and before you start posting pictures, you need to figure out your niche. There are millions of user accounts posting images all the time, and the only way you’re going to be successful is if you one, stand out, and two, provide something valuable and relevant to a specific target demographic. Think carefully about what you want your niche to be, and how you’re going to angle to your target customers. Peruse existing Instagram accounts for inspiration, but don’t copy anyone’s strategy.
Step 2: Claim Your Account
Now you can do the fun work of claiming your account. You can opt for either a personal account or a branded corporate account, but in many cases, a personal brand is better. Download the app and create a username that’s short, memorable, and relevant to you — try to avoid numbers and special characters if at all possible. Then, fill in your profile as much as possible. Be sure to choose a unique, captivating-looking profile image for yourself, describe yourself, and connect any other social media accounts you have. Be detailed and thorough here.
Step 3: Post Something New Once Per Day
If you’re going to attract a following, you’ll need a consistent stream of new material. Otherwise, people won’t have a reason to keep following you. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to post on Instagram once per day. If you skip a day here or there, that’s fine, but try not to miss too many in a row or post too infrequently; you need to keep the attention of active users. You also shouldn’t err on the other side by posting too frequently. Fast-paced platforms like Twitter support lots of posts, but Instagram is a different animal.
Step 4: Attract Initial Followers
Next up, you’ll want to gather some initial followers. If you’re a personal brand and you’ve connected your account to Facebook, you’ll have the option of following everyone you know; many will return the favor. Beyond that, you can ask people you know to follow you, or start building a following based on your niche. Having “more” followers isn’t always better, but you’ll need to meet a certain minimum threshold of a following if you want to attract a bigger audience. Think of it as your Instagram following starter kit.
Step 5: Perfect Your Photography and Hashtags
The better your posts are, the more followers you’re going to be able to attract, and the better engagement you’ll see from them. You don’t have to be a formally educated photographer to post great Instagram photos, either — you just need to know a few basics, like effective framing, the rule of thirds, and the right and wrong way to use colors. For example, images that have a single color dominating the image — like red — tend to attract far more interactions, simply because they stand out in a newsfeed more. You’ll also want to use hashtags on all the images you post, logically describing them or giving a shout-out to specific trends. Users rely on hashtags to find new material, so it’s a good tactic to get in front of new people.
Step 6: Follow People in Your Niche
Next, start following people in your niche or industry. First, this will give you an opportunity to expand your audience (as many people you follow will follow you back). Second, this will give you an opportunity to peek at your competition, and learn from the types of posts they make. You can even work together to mutually expand your reach if you’re so inclined — there’s no better way to build a following quickly than by engaging with other influencers.
Step 7: Engage
One of the most important aspects of Instagram marketing success hearkens back to the real reason we have social media platforms in the first place; engaging with each other on a social level. If you want to maintain an audience, you have to keep them engaged, informed, and entertained. There are many ways to do this, and they’re all important for building and maintaining a following. For starters, you’ll want to like and comment on images in your own newsfeed, and respond to people who comment on your images.
These seven steps alone won’t guarantee you’ll be able to build an Instagram empire — for that, you’ll need amazing content, consistency, and engagement — but they will help you build a strong foundation if you haven’t yet gotten involved on the app. I highly encourage you to sign up if you haven’t already, as Instagram is poised for even more growth in the future. It’s quickly becoming a necessary addition for modern businesses; especially as visual content continues to grow in popularity.