I don’t think it comes much of a surprise that Instagram is my favorite social media. Being a designer, photographer, and someone who learns by visuals, Instagram just makes sense to me. Besides how visual it is, it’s also a great place for inspiration and sharing your brand’s story. The majority of the community on Instagram are a young, well-educated, and engaged audience. In fact, 80% of users follow at least one business on Instagram. But with some many users now on the platform, improving your Instagram organic reach can seem pretty difficult.
When I started my business, I wanted to post my work to Instagram as an active, living portfolio that I could use to also interact with people who may stumble upon it. I had no idea how well it would work to promote my business and find me new clients.
Despite the changes in the algorithm, constant updates, and abundance of users, I still find it an awesome place to promote your brand. There is, however, a special way to do it! It’s not just about running contests or giveaways, but interacting with your following. Growing organically is the best way to create a strong, highly-engaged following. It’s not about the quantity, but the quality of followers you have. Whether you’re an artist or product-based business, Instagram is a perfect platform to expand your brand’s exposure.
Read on for my best tips for improving your Instagram organic reach to market your business!
1. Use your posts to tell your brand’s story
The number one thing you should be doing with your Instagram is telling the story of your brand. For example, my brand is very colorful, positive, authentic, and fun—so it only makes sense that I post content that motivates, inspires, and brightens the day of those following along.
Avoid hard-selling on Instagram. That is an instant turn-off and, quite frankly, feels icky. Taking the time to craft a lovely image with a thoughtful caption does not go unnoticed by the Instagram community. In fact, it’s quite appreciated and rewarded!
It also helps to view all your posts as a whole in your feed. Is it reflecting the message you want someone to take away, in 10 seconds? If not, rethink how those images could better suit your brand and audience.
2. Be exclusive
Instagram finally revealed earlier this year what’s behind their algorithm. With so many people on the platform, it can be difficult to get new followers or reach new people. Therefore, we must treasure those that follow us.
Offering exclusive incentives as rewards is a great way to do this. Maybe you offer exclusive products or free content to your Instagram followers only. Or perhaps you run a flash sale in your stories. Show your audience some love and ask your for their opinions and listen to their suggestions so you can give them what they’re looking for.
By creating a great experience for your audience, they are more likely to spread the word about your brand and even do some of the marketing work for you!
3. Engage, engage, engage!
If someone comments on your post, be sure to engage with them. After all, Instagram is a social media that is meant to spark conversations. Not only is it a great way to connect with your audience on a more personal level, but it can even further drive more engagement! That engagement is key to improve your Instagram organic reach. A brand that responds to comments shows that they care about their audience’s time and thoughts.
Millennials prefer brands that tell inspiring stories and promote ethical values. With Millennials being the majority of the Instagram population, it’s more important now than ever to engage with them to express your brand is exactly that.
4. Interact with Stories
Show behind-the-scenes or a peek into your everyday life with Instagram Stories. People like to connect with someone real and create authentic relationships. With so many great features now available in stories, you can take polls, ask questions, go live and interact with your audience in all kinds of ways.
What’s also great about stories is the discoverability. Tag a location or drop in some hashtags and your story can be viewed by people who don’t even follow you!
Since stories are available for 24 hours, that means you have active content working for you even while you take a break. This keeps your brand at the top of your followers mind and widens your chance to be seen.
5. Use a scheduler
Using a scheduler is great way to save time, get an overview of the content you’re putting out, and it also ensures you’re posting consistently! Does the thought of trying to think and keep up with new content make you cringe a little? Save yourself time by culling, creating, and scheduling all your posts at once for a week or two in advance.
My personal favorite is Later because you get access to lots of great features, even with a free account. By blocking off an hour a week and scheduling everything in advance, you can focus more on actually running your business.
Do you want to be able to post something on the fly? No worries! Later allows you to preview all your posts in a grid as they would appear on Instagram, which is perfect for keeping your brand’s visuals aligned. So snap away and rearrange to your little heart’s desire to find that perfect, thumb-stopping grid.
6. Use those hashtags
Despite the rumor that “hashtags are dead” on Instagram, I still find them a great way to reach new people. I like to create sets in Later. For example, I have lots of color hashtags. To ensure that I don’t repeat them, I made a Color 1, Color 2, and Color 3 set. I also have a Dessert set, a Photography set, and so on. When it comes time to schedule them, I just mix-and-match and drop in a Color set, along with whatever applicable set goes with the photo.
Make sure you’re only using hashtags that pertain to the image itself. Irrelevant hashtags won’t grab someone’s attention and thus will prevent your image from gaining traction in that hashtag.
Research your hashtags thoroughly beforehand as well. Since my account is relatively small, I like to avoid hashtags that have over 2 million posts. Mix it up with a few low-traffic hashtags, some medium-traffic hashtags, and maybe one or two large ones. That way, you’re more likely to pop up in them. Don’t be afraid to use the maximum 30 hashtags, too!
Experiment with your own branded hashtags as well. Once it gains enough traction, those user-generated photos can be a great source of imagery that you can use (with permission!) for your account.
7. Drive website traffic & email signups
Instagram is wonderful, but you don’t own your audience. If Instagram were to shut down tomorrow, how would your marketing plan hold up? Relying solely on Instagram for leads is a risky business, but it is a fabulous tool to get your tribe to a platform that you do own!
Really utilize that link in your bio that leads to your website or a landing page where someone can sign up for your email list. No worries if you haven’t started one yet, I’ll go into ALL the detail in a later post!
If you have a blog that you update regularly, then that’s a perfect link to continually change out. This shows your audience that you always have juicy content that they can come back to. Make your content so good that your current followers share it with their audience and further improve your Instagram organic reach. While on your site, there should be multiple places where they can sign up for your email list.
If you want something more permanent or are wanting to drive people to your email list directly, offer a freebie right in your bio! Some things that make a great freebie are things like checklists, free photos, or designed templates. Once someone clicks your link, it should drive them to a landing page (MailChimp has great tools for this) where they can input their email to receive the freebie. This is one of my favorite and most effective ways to build my email list. With so many people on Instagram, this is a fantastic way to organically bring that audience into a place where you can keep in touch with them directly.
8. Start a conversation
Your content on Instagram shouldn’t just be posts for the sake of posts. Educate your audience in some way, whether that’s about your product or why they should use your product or service. Blume does a great job of doing this.
By educating their audience about the importance of self-care, they’re also driving their audience to their amazing, all natural products.
Inspire your audience, too. Maybe you post some motivational quotes that inspire your audience to take action (psst…here’s a great source for those!).
Ask them questions, get to know them. Would you rather buy something from a complete stranger or your friend? By sharing fun facts about you and getting to know them, you’re becoming more a friend than another stranger on Instagram.
Entertain your audience as well! Have some more light-hearted and humorous posts that brighten someone’s day. Whatever content you post, it’s always good to have a mix of educational, inspirational, and entertaining content. By providing that value, you can guarantee to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more!
9. Be unique
Think of some of your favorite accounts. Why do they appeal to you? It’s likely because they have a aesthetic that is unique to them. Whether they’re Lauren Hom’s gorgeous typography or Bando’s endless summer fun, they each have a quality that makes them unique.
Treat Instagram as a living, visual journal that reflects your brand’s voice and exclusive beauty. Finding that quality that makes your business stand out will help reinforce your brand’s identity and awareness. Think color schemes, photo styles, and creative direction. All these elements put together is what defines your brand. Keep refining your style and own it so you can create images that people love. Remember, the more someone “likes” your posts, the more likely they are to appear in their feed!
You’ve probably heard all the rage of working with influencers. It is a great way to spread your brand’s message, but there’s also other great ways to collaborate with creatives that feels even more organic.
Work with an artist to create a one-of-a-kind rendition that shows your product in a new, or unique way. You form a deeper connection by involving your followers that way and it also provides quality content that you can post to your account. Below is an example of a collab I did with Paul’s Boutique that also drove great engagement on their account.
11. Share images
Sharing images is a great way to show your product or service being used and strengthens the relationship with your audience. Before you start sharing images, make sure you ask first! If given permission, always credit by tagging them in the photo AND in the first line of your caption—not in the comments or at the waaaaay bottom of the caption. This ensures that you’re giving the creator of the photo the proper credit. If you don’t want to credit them, then you’ll need to pay them for their work.
Check to see if they have a photo store or simply send them a message asking to purchase a photo from them. Without doing this, or properly crediting them, you’re stealing someone’s work for your own profit. Not only does that look bad on your brand, but you’re also putting your brand at risk for being reported. Ew.
Sharing images is great way to show your audience that you appreciate them, further driving that brand loyalty. And who doesn’t love being featured by a brand? You may even get some stories shout-outs as a thank you, what better way to drive some Instagram organic reach? 😉
12. Have great photos
Having a feed that is consistent and filled with great photography is key to making that good first impression. Remember, your feed should reflect the personality of your brand. Stick to your brand-specific color scheme throughout your feed. Organize your photos so they flow well in your feed, too. If you need some starter pack of images for your brand, there’s a bunch of free images here and more images here, too! Unsplash is also a fantastic source for great images.
Don’t be afraid to invest in photography for your brand. By having high quality photos, you’re proving to your audience that you care about what you do. Have you ever visited someone’s Instagram that put you in awe? Or maybe even the opposite: one that you visited for a few seconds and quickly left? The reason that happens is because we’re drawn to images that look good. Proper lighting, composition, and atmosphere is what makes a great photo. Spoiler: that’s not easy to do. A picture is worth a thousand words, and with most of us on social media nowadays, it’s imperative that we’re continually putting out amazing content so our brands stand out.
No longer is Instagram the place to be worry about your follower count. Focus on engaging and interacting with your tribe with great, unique, and exclusive content. Drive your audience back to your site and to your email list where you can further connect with them. Collaborate and interact with your followers to show that your brand is authentic and caring. And most importantly, make that first impression an unforgettable one with thumb-stopping imagery. Be that inspiring brand that makes a difference to drive that Instagram organic reach you’re looking for, and don’t forget to have fun 😉