5 tips for Instagram success

Yesterday I was chatting with a potential customer. He started a photography business and has great imagery to use on social media. His budget was limited, so we were discussing which channel would be most beneficial for him to hand over to me. He claimed that he didn’t need help with Instagram, because he had been posting images almost daily and it was really straightforward, so there was no point in paying someone to do that. With only 80 followers after months of work and over 200 posts, I slightly disagreed with him. 

Great results on Instagram

I would be the last one to pretend Instagram marketing is difficult. It’s not. Once you get the hang of it, you can achieve great results without having to take expensive courses. However, the first step is to decide what those ‘great results’ exactly are. Determine your goal and keep track of the corresponding KPIs.

Instagram goals and KPIs

Your Instagram goals may vary depending on the stage your company is at, as well as how long you’ve had a solid social media strategy. Let’s take a look at two major objectives and their KPIs.

Brand Awareness
Instagram is absolutely great for brand awareness. By using strategic hashtags people who have never heard of your brand can now find you. In addition, on Instagram it’s very easy to reach out to potential customers and engage with them. Again, thanks to the hashtags, which we will discuss in more detail later in this article.

The KPIs that give an indication of the level of brand awareness on Instagram would be reach, profile visits, followers and engagement rate. I mentioned them in order of relevance and importance. Reach simply means in front of how many pairs of eyes your posts have appeared. Of course, the higher this number, the more chance people will notice you. However, this number does necessarily mean those people actually paid attention to your content.

Profile visits and followers are more interesting for that. Profile visits mean that your content made people curious enough to check out what you’re all about, while an increase in followers means that people want to stay up to date about what you have to say.

The engagement level is already a step beyond that. They want to interact with your company and this shows that brand awareness is growing into brand interest or even brand loyalty.

If you’re an established brand and you’ve played the Instagram game for a while, it might be time to change your focus from brand awareness to conversions. If you set up your Google Analytics correctly, you can track which percentage of your traffic coming from Instagram makes a sale, signs up to your newsletter or performs another action. However, without using Google Analytics, Instagram offers a few metrics as well.

The KPIs to look for inside Instagram could be for example ‘Website clicks’, or ’emails’. There are more options, depending on how much information you set up in your Instagram profile. The way to find these stats is via the menu, then choose ‘Insights’ and then you’ll find it under ‘activity’.

The way to get traffic

Reaching those goals would be great! However, you will only get there when you attract the right people, convince them to follow you, and build a relationship with them. Instagram provides just one place for a clickable link and contact button, which makes that relationship perhaps even more valuable than at any other social network. People won’t take the effort to find that one link if they don’t believe it’s relevant and valuable. 

Attract relevant followers & build valuable relationships

Those are the two most important aspects; relevancy and value. That holds for both you as a business owner and for the regular users. You don’t want to spend time or money when the followers you attract aren’t valuable because they’re not relevant, for example because they’re not the target audience. For them, they don’t want to be following you when you’re not relevant to them and they won’t engage or follow your call-to-actions if it doesn’t bring them value. So, here is what to do. 

1. Have a clear username & biography
Don’t try to be creative, this is all about clarity. Use the name of your company as your username (‘@tvbonlineservices’), or your own name when you’re the face of the company. This is the easiest way for people to find you and recognise you. When your desired username is already taken, try to separate it with dots or with underscores (@studio_james_gray). When those are taken, don’t go for a random number, but add something relevant, like your region (‘@homemade_pizza_nyc‘) or your field of work (‘@ChefMattMoran‘). In your bio, clearly explain in two sentences what you do and why people should follow you.

2. Keep your profile up-to-date
If you decide you want to be on Instagram, you have to commit to it. This doesn’t mean you have to post ten times a day, but at least make sure there is something new several times a week. When people discover your profile, but see that your last post is two months old, they won’t be very interested in following you.

3. Research your hashtags
I sometimes see people make up the funniest hashtags. That’s fine of course, although not very valuable. A hashtag is basically a label you give to your photo or video and it creates something almost like an index. So when someone is looking for ideas to decorate her new house, they might look for #InteriorDesign and #HomeInspiration, so these would be great hashtags for lifestyle bloggers, designers and furniture stores. The chances that someone would look for #GreatRedCarpet are  slim. 

My way to find relevant hashtags is by finding some big names in the industry and then look at what they’re using. Another way is by typing in some hashtags I believe could be relevant, and when you type them into Instagram’s search bar, it will show you how many items there are. The more popular, the higher the chance someone will look for them, but also, the more competition there is. You have to find the sweet spot! Fortunately, you can use many hashtags, so I would recommend a mix of niche hashtags and more general ones.

4. Reach out to potential clients
‚ÄčThe quickest way to gain more followers, is by reaching out to your target audience. You can find them by using hashtags and by looking at the followers of the industry’s top influencers. Don’t be a boring spammer by just sending them a thumbs up emoticon, but take the time to write something sincere. I tend to look for something in a photo that I personally appreciate and comment to that, or when people took the time to write a little story with the photo, I refer to that. When the accounts seem interesting, I don’t only comment, but also follow them. 

It won’t give you a 1 for 1 result, but if you spend 15 minutes each day doing that, you will definitely see an instant increase in new followers and engagement. 

5. Don’t try to sell
Even if you ignore all the previous advice, make sure to remember this one: don’t try to constantly sell on Instagram. People who just discovered your profile aren’t ready yet to buy your products. They want to get to know you and your brand before they will even consider giving you their money. Besides, how interesting is it to have a feed full of sales messages from all the companies you follow? So don’t make that mistake. The only exception I would be ok with, is announcing your sale season, preferably with special discounts for Instagram followers. 

So how do you make money from Instagram followers? By giving them a good reason to visit your website. This could be an interesting, valuable blogpost, a freebie, or something else. Once they’re on your website, you can start selling. 

Bonus tip: test it out
Instagram seems to be adding new features every month. Whether it’s a new option within Stories, a new way to discover accounts, or something else, there is always plenty going on. Don’t be afraid to test out these new features! Especially inside the Stories, it’s like a testing playground. Try polls, ask questions, work with location stickers and everything else the platform offers. Have some fun!

As you see, it’s not difficult to have a good Instagram strategy, but you have to keep in mind to be social. If you do that, you’re on your way to Instagram success. 

Are you using these techniques yet? Got another tip? Share it with the world via a comment on under this post. 

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