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Grow Your Presence on Instagram: Expanding Your Reach

In Part 2 we talked about how to create good content — both in your captions and your images. Now let’s discuss how to expand your reach.

Expanding your reach

So you’re posting great stuff on Instagram. Now what? How do new followers find you? How do you keep them? And how do you keep them engaged?

Using hashtags on Instagram is vital to reaching more users. // Source: Baschz Leeft via Pinterest
Using hashtags on Instagram is vital to reaching more users. // Source: Baschz Leeft via Pinterest

Find new followers with hashtags

Even if you haven’t used one before, you’ve seen them. Hashtags are everywhere in marketing these days, from billboards to television ads. They’re a method of organizing key topics, kind of like how tags are used on a blog post. And on Instagram, hashtags are one of the best ways to reach new followers. But you have to do your research first.

People don’t use Instagram like they do a search engine. You can’t just take the terms that bring traffic to your website, remove the spaces, and stick a hashtag on the front. Instead, use your keywords as a starting point to find the hashtags people are actually using.

A lot of third-party tools help you follow trends and identify popular hashtags. Hashtagify.me features realtime related hashtag charts as part of its free tool set, and you can also search top influencers for certain hashtags and usage rates. Statigram, in addition to providing key metrics if you sign up, has a solid search function that shows you users, hashtags, and photos related to your query — I use this a lot when I’m looking up options.

If you just need a straight-up, no-nonsense way to look up users or hashtags, another option is to use the built-in “search users and hashtags” function in the Instagram app.

Hashtags are your friends — don’t abuse your friends

#Ever #seen #a #post #that #read #like #this? No. Just, no. Be choosy when it comes to hashtags. A good rule of thumb is to use 2-4 hashtags that support your content. Anything more and you just look desperate and/or spammy.

You can also invent hashtags to use in conjunction with contests or campaigns, or to simply keep your content organized. I could probably write a whole post about custom hashtag best practices, but in short:

  • Make sure your custom hashtag is related to your brand or marketing strategy.
  • Keep the hashtag as short as possible — it’s easier for users to remember and type.
  • Do your research fully! Make sure no one else is already using the hashtag or a very close variation thereof, and make sure it doesn’t have negative connotations.

Lean on trends and recurring favorites

A great way to reach more users is to take advantage of current hashtag trends centered around popular events and topics of conversation. Is it Grammys time? Did baseball season just start? As long as it’s happening, it’s fair game. Simply chose a relevant hashtag and add it into your post — just make sure your content is aligned as well!

Another incredibly fun way to reach people is to take advantage of Instagram’s revered themes, such as #tbt (#throwbackthursday) or #ootd (#outfitoftheday). As a brand, the possibilities are endless — I’ve seen companies share old photos of offices and products, or of the staff dressed in silly costumes.

Engage and interact

Once you’ve got followers, you’ve gotta keep them. Here are a few good methods to drive engagement with your posts:

  • Ask an open-ended question. “Which color product is your favorite?” “What are you doing this weekend?” “Any good recipes to share?”
  • Seek recommendations. Give followers an opportunity to mention a friend — think, “Hey, @soandso, I think this is what you’ve been looking for!”
  • Join the discussion. Where applicable, reply to followers’ comments and leave comments on feeds you follow. You’re on a social media platform — be sociable!

Track your progress

Whether it’s by hand in an Excel spreadsheet or using a third-party system like Statigram or Nitrogram (for larger brands), make sure to measure your metrics. Keeping track of your progress not only lets you see how far you’ve come but allows you to adjust your strategy on the fly.

Experiment

Experimentation is key to maximizing your engagement — not just on Instagram but across all channels. For example, you may find that morning posts on Instagram reach a wider audience whereas on Twitter afternoon posts reign supreme.

Master Instagram knowledge will come with time. Until then — happy ‘gramming!

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