I’m not going to lie, I was always pretty reluctant to use social media for business, partly because I didn’t think it would help and partly because I wasn’t sure how it worked! I’ve always had a Facebook account and I come and go on Twitter. I was usually fairly active on Pinterest but the one platform I hadn’t even ATTEMPTED to master was Instagram.

It wasn’t until late last year that I got on board with Instagram and I went all out. My goal was to get 500 followers in the first month- and to my surprise- I ended up doubling my goal! I got 1000 followers in 4 weeks. Not only that, but I noticed a significant increase in my website traffic and opt ins for my website freebies.

I never thought I would be so active on Instagram but now, I am a believer (#instalove)! It can be a huge support for your business and a great extension of your brand.

Now, I’m going to share how I went from 0 to 1000 followers in 4 weeks! I also think it’s super important to say, I did not buy any followers or use any questionable techniques. I’m definitely no Instagram guru. I just wanted to share some tips for anyone who’s feeling stuck!

1. Create an awesome bio

This pretty much goes without saying, but I noticed a lot of people don’t take full advantage of their bio space. Make sure you think of how your bio will look to others. Try putting your title, company or passion FIRST  before your name (ie. “Entrepreneur” “Branding Expert”, “Online Marketer”).  This way, people will not have to actually click on your profile to open it before knowing if they want to follow you. This can make a BIG difference when Instagram includes you in “recommended” people to follow.

There are only 150 characters in your profile so make them count! Including a call to action (click here, sign up, follow, etc.) is really important along with a link to your site or product.

I use a photo of myself for my picture, but I also tested using a photo of my logo for a week and there was no difference in my follower count or rate of engagement with my photos. If you have a really clear, visually appealing logo, then go ahead and use that for your profile picture! The faster someone can identify what your account is all about, the better.

2. Post RELEVANT content

This is a huge one and should be what us Instagrammers focus on! I see a lot of pages with so much potential but they’re either all over the place with inconsistent, poorly defined content, OR they are over-branded. Yes, I totally think it’s possible to over-brand. These are the pages with too must repetitive content being posted too often. Even loyal followers will get bored with a selfie 3 times a day or the same image/logo with slightly different wording. From what I’ve seen, the best pages keep a consistent brand (ie. colours, posting scheme, message, etc.) but change up the content to keep everyone interested.

The other thing to keep in mind is that timing does actually make a difference with your posts. The best days to post tend to be weekdays over weekends, and people report some of the highest engagement rates on Mondays, There seems to be a consensus in the Instagram universe that the best times to post are between 8am-9am and again around 5pm-9pm.

With my Instagram posts, I always get the highest engagement rates between 8:30pm-9:30pm. I get significantly lower engagement when I post in the morning around 9am-12pm. The days and times may vary for everyone, so experiment and see what works best for you!

3. Don’t skimp on the hashtags, but use them wisely

For any given post, aim to put anywhere from 10-20 hashtags. Using hashtags is identical to trying to rank on Google for a blog post- too popular and your post will be drowned out. Not popular enough and you won’t get any views. Try to put a mix of really popular and less common hashtags. Anywhere from 10,000-50,000 is good for your more niche categories, and some popular hashtags like #business, #instafollow, #instalike, #selfie, #quote, #foodporn, etc. have well over one million tags. Make sure to have some consistency with your tagging so you’re targeting the right kind of audience to follow you. For my brand, I always include tags that will appeal to my target audience including #bizbabes, #blogginglife, #blogger, #businesswoman, #bizbosses, etc.

What helped me was making a list of all the hashtags my target audience uses. I spent a few hours looking through the Instagram profiles of everyone with a similar brand and found out what they were tagging in their images. I came up with 40 hashtags to use regularly, and I don’t stray too far from this list. This will help you stay consistent and your followers will know what to expect.

4. Follow, follow, follow!

One of the most important elements of Instagram is user engagement. In order to have more  users to engage with you, you must engage with them- which means following! I hear mixed opinions about following many people at a time on Instagram but I see nothing wrong with it, as long as you’re not unfollowing them right after! When I started my account, I followed people because I genuinely liked their profiles and wanted to see their pictures in my feed. It wasn’t until my following count started getting a little too high that I had to begin paring down. My strategy is to follow 100 people a day for 3 days, and then do one day of purging where I will unfollow the people who don’t follow me or engage with my content.

Please, please, please don’t use the follow/unfollow tactic to get people’s attention and gain followers when you have no intention of ACTUALLY engaging with them. It’s SUPER frustrating and unprofessional to use Instagram in this way.

5. Engage with other users

This is so important! If you’re ever looking to get into branding  or working as an affiliate with a larger company, you will definitely want to keep an eye on your average engagement rate. To calculate your engagement rate, divide the number of comments and likes on any given photo by your total followers then multiply by 100 to get a percentage. Try to aim for 5% or higher.

Looking for new accounts to leave comments and likes? Search for different hashtags in your field and you’ll find thousands of new pictures to check out. I’ve made a habit of going on Instagram 3-4 times a day for about 10 minutes and I will like/comment on around 100 photos a day. Some days it’s a little more or less, but 30-40 minutes each day and 100 contacts seems to be the perfect amount for me.

Any other tips or tricks that work for you? I hope this helps you grow your Instagram following! And speaking of Instagram, find my profile by clicking the link below or search mint.glow.blogging.

I can’t wait to meet you!