How to get people to follow you on Instagram? Three things: content, community, and context. You heard them a thousand times before, don’t you? However, you may wonder why you are still struggling, and people just don’t care about your posts?
Frankly, I feel guilty for not taking Instagram seriously since I started making videos on YouTube. I repositioned my focus on YouTube and neglected my own growth on Instagram. Sarcastically, I made Instagram videos. Before I start breaking things down, I want to urge you that even a little growth is better than nothing, even with just one genuine follower added to your community, it is better than none. So, take your time.
Content is king. There is no doubt if your contents aren’t competitive enough, you wouldn’t get the exposure, and the engagement etc. That’s the basic. Visuals are the main contents of Instagram. Keep in mind that Instagram is a visual app and it will always be. Videos are gaining more momentum lately but visuals still give you more likes and comments anyway. Don’t forget that even the cover of your video is a piece of visual, it is a preview of your video. Stories are no different, the content of your stories should be able to complement to your main feed. I would tell you more on this later.
The minimal interface design was a signal that your contents are ‘officially’ prioritized by Instagram. People ranted about the change of the layout, but I had a different point of view, instead. Let me remind you that human attention span is only 8 seconds. The decrease in our attention is an evidence of the increasingly digitalized lifestyle. That’s a brutal truth for humanity but here’s why changes are needed to maintain the app’s longevity, and to get more people’s attention on your contents, getting more traffic to Instagram.
Videos are 60 secs max, while IG stories are 15 secs max, which I believe they might do the multi-snaps like Snapchat in the future. They have live stream already, though. When people visit your feed, the first thing they look at are the photos and videos, the ‘visual content’, then most likely your profile picture along with the bio description, then they may click on your profile picture for your stories. If you created highlights on your feed, people may check them out as well. Attention, attention, attention! Getting the right attention would boost your overall presence on Instagram.
How To Content
Good content is certainly not enough for leveraging your presence on Instagram anymore. What you need here is to have a chain of great contents that are both aesthetic and stimulating, this including your Stories. Don’t just create but also document what you are doing in life. I’m not telling you to take a video when you’re in the toilet, nobody wants to see that. Cringe! People want to see what it is like behind your career, the real, and unedited you… working on your things.
I have been creating contents on YouTube since September 2017 and I always love to share my daily hustle on Instagram. Yes, I am turning my followers into viewers, and hopefully, make them subscribers. Ask questions, you can now use the poll sticker, use location tag and hashtag for more exposure to Stories. Do live stream, get people listen to you! Don’t be lazy. Stories are the huge deal in 2018! And here’s why. For video creators, create another account so you can put your short teasers or anything relevant to your YouTube channel. Cross-promoting is key! Having to say that, having a curated feed is extremely important, especially if you are in the creative direction.
Community. This is the exact notion of Instagram. Numbers only matter when it comes to proportionate engagement rates to proportionate followers. Pursuing ‘perfection’ should be a taboo on Instagram, and frankly, perfection never exists. Be connective, be authentic. Show your community the personality behind this handle, and how you can bring value to them. Some big accounts don’t bother replying to the Direct Message. They ignored, there are a few exceptions, though. Even a ‘thank you’ can bring a different experience to that person who tries to get a response.
If you think people are consuming your contents because they are fantastic, please leave that idea behind the door. Most people consumed your contents because you’re connecting with them. If you are not providing anything valuable to your community, you basically tell them ‘I don’t care’. If you are one of those who doesn’t connect, stop complaining about low engagements, because you are not making any effort to grow.
How To Connect
Visuals of Julius, with nearly 100K followers (He now has). Julius Kahkonen is a young artist from Finland and he is popular with his dynamic editing skill with Photoshop. Below are the screenshots of his Instagram handle, stories, posts and a response to my DM. (slideshow)
Frankly, there are plenty of great visualizers like Julius but what makes him stands out are:
1. His visuals are extremely good.
2. He is connecting with his community.
There’s once I sent him a message after watching his YouTube tutorial and bam! He replied. Okay, it might just be a short reply, but one could imagine how many DMs Julius receive every day! The point is he replied. He took his time to make an effort to show his appreciation. Whenever I mentioned him in my stories, he always replied. He even went to tell people to resend him any message that he missed, it shows he cares about his community. The most important thing is to remain valuable to the others, regardless of how many followers you have versus theirs. Sincerity is your first force for success.
Gary Vaynerchuk said that if the content is king than context is the god! I completely agree with the statement and here’s why. You might be capable of creating amazing contents over and over again, but you will never succeed if you don’t understand the ecosystem of Instagram. I hope that you can take some time and look at how Instagram has been changed tremendously since its inception in 2010. Instagram is not the baby visual app we once knew, it grew up, and it hit puberty like real quick!
Last year, Instagram pushed Stories to a great extent. You can now archive your stories so they won’t go away after 24 hours lifespan, and it also allows you to create stories highlights on your page. There’s just more to come. And guess what? You can now follow hashtags, something which I believe they will even expand it furthermore. Don’t be delusional and think you could still apply the same strategy in 2014, it really doesn’t work anymore! If you are trying to connect in the wrong context, no one will ever read or share your contents regardless of how good or how bad your contents. It is time to switch your attention to something worth your investment.
You must constantly reinvent your Instagram knowledge. Study the users’ behaviors, the hashtag culture, the stories feature and there’s just so much more you can study. If you want to win the race, you have to run from the beginning to the finish line with no hesitation.
How to Context
Understand the Instagram culture is a long-term game, it takes your time, your energy, and tolerance. The first thing came to my mind is the use of hashtags. You post something, then you write a caption, and at the end, you add a bunch of hashtags. You know how to hack hashtags for likes, don’t you?
Ask yourself, are you using hashtags for the sake of using hashtags? Have you done any research that which hashtag is relevant to your content? Have you interacted with people using that hashtag before? Do you know what is the purpose of the hashtag? Or you just simply don’t care, you just want to get likes and comments. It is the same for the follow and unfollow method, this is just not right, to begin with.
You have two options here. One is to continue being ‘yourself’, continue spamming… and the other is to hit the right spot and win the game! Which one would you choose? If you’re the latter, I want to applaud you for the determination to change and remember, be patient over time.
Start searching hashtags that are relevant to you, to your brand, to your interests, and in your area. Since I settled down in Kuala Lumpur, my contents are mainly located in KL, thus my hashtags would be something between Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. This is where I started my research. If you are a relatively small account like me (no shame), hashtags with million posts are way too hard for you to handle, then it is time to move on to smaller hashtags with lesser posts. Remember, your intention of using hashtags is to land yourself in the Top 9 posts of each hashtag for as long as possible, it is about leveraging your presence. Besides, try to connect with these accounts using this hashtag and understand why they are using it. Go micro, then macro!
Connect and Provide Value
To sum up everything in this article, the only way to build your influence through Instagram is to connect and provide value to your community. No one would discover you unless you finally take a step to expose yourself to the public (It sounds naked). There are 800 million monthly active users and 500 million daily active users as of November 2017. The growth is skyrocketed, it is a competitive platform. If you can’t manage to stand out, you are drowning in the middle of the sea. Friendly advice… Don’t use bots and try to cheat the system, hack the culture, though. Now, go do things.
Connect with me on my Instagram @mikewenjinsoo (travel & discovery) and @mikethedopetoast Send me a DM on any account and we will talk! 🙂