There are over 50 billion photos shared on Instagram every day, each photo fighting for that precious attention of Instagram users. In such a competitive environment, it’s challenging to build a loyal and engaged audience, even if your content is sublime. To boost your chances tremendously, you have to be really specific about the kind of audience you want to reach and tailor the content accordingly.
If you’re just starting out with Instagram content creation or have been doing this for a while with mixed results, this article will help you identify and reach the audience best aligned with your plan for Instagram.
Start with YOU
Ultimately, it’s you who’s gonna run the Instagram show. It will be your time and effort put into creating content 📸 and interacting with your followers. It’s important that what you do aligns with your goals, interests, strong points and areas in which you want to grow. That way you will stay motivated and have a lot of fun and satisfaction from running your Instagram profile.
Start by writing down, in five columns:
- Goals 🎯. What do you want to achieve short and long term professionally or personally? What do you care about?
- Non-goals 🙅♂️. What are things you’re definitely not aiming for?
- Interests ⚽️. What do you love devoting your time to? What makes you go?
- Strong 💪. What are some of your skills you have confidence in?
- Grow 🌳. What skills do you want to improve or develop?
To give you a very simple example of how the end product can look like for imaginary Jennifer:
|Share my well-earned antique findings with other people||Home decor||Good design taste|
|Become an expert in incorporating antiques in home decor||Become a professional antique seller||Arts||Haggling (antiques)||Engaging wit h people on social media|
|Earn some money to keep the antique hobby going||Reading books, especially biographies||Easily connecting with other people||Writing|
This exercise will not only force you to think a bit more about your motives and plans, but will also allow you to discover the uniqueness that will make your Instagram stand out. In case of the example above, few things come to mind:
- Jennifer loves antiques, wants to share that passion with others and be able to support it. Already makes it a decent starting point.
- Her interest in home decor is complementary to her main passion. It’s possible to combine the two together.
- She’s a bookworm and likes reading stories about interesting people. Are there any antiques that can be connected to those people?
- Jennfier is good at negotiating prices for things she buys. Maybe her audience would appreciate some tips on how to approach and talk to antique sellers?
- She wants to improve at writing, so creating a short e-book for her future audience won’t be an arduous task.
- Old items for or related to dogs (e.g. porcelain figurines) can make a great piece of content that is relatively unique.
- Including her pet in some compositions can be a nice, personal touch.
- Since she’s good at forming relationships with other people, it can be translated to the way she communicates with her future audience. Jennifer can identify her key traits (personality, demeanor, fashion taste) and emphasise them in her content. It will not only be authentic and expressive, but will definitely make her Instagram profile stand out.
Find your niche
The next step is to identify the niche you want to start with (and maybe stay in). It has to be aligned with what you wrote in the previous exercise and small enough to be relatively unique, but decent when it comes to the number of people who are interested in it. Following the example, the imaginary Instagrammer can tailor content towards people interested in antiques and show how to incorporate old furniture in modern homes. Going even further, if it makes sense (I’m not an antique expert!), he or she could narrow it down to antiques from China or even from a specific time period.
Remember, it’s generally better to have a smaller, but devoted following, than a huge audience that doesn’t engage with you or your content in a meaningful way.
There are quite a few ways to gauge interest in the niche you’re considering:
- Find Facebook groups, forums or other places, where people talk about the topic you want to post about. Talk to people!
- Look up search trends for relevant keywords in search engines (e.g. https://trends.google.com/trends). Try to start with broad terms and narrow it down.
- Research popularity of Instagram hashtags and include related hashtags in your search (e.g. through Instagram search or https://displaypurposes.com). It might be counterintuitive, but you’re looking for hashtags with decent, but not too high number of posts. It takes practice and observation to come up with a particular number that works for you, but think of it as trying to compete with a smaller number of people. Instagram’s in-app Insights for posts is your friend.
Make the content distinctively yours
When people really like the content they see in their feed, they often check out the Instagram profile behind it. The first thing they will focus on upon visiting your profile page are your photo and recent posts. Make sure the photo conveys the essence of the profile and makes people interested in what you have to share. Experiment with composition, style and decorations. When in doubt, start with a photo of yourself 👨🏻 and go from there.
The feed overview on your profile page is very important and should leave a good first impression on visitors, often converting them into followers. The pictures there should nicely blend together and share a unique “feel” (sometimes “look & feel”). In a way, they should look like they’ve been made by an artist that has an easily recognizable style and taste.
As for your posts, they can usually vary in type (selfie, flatlay etc.), but you have to keep an eye on which ones are best suited for your audience. The ones that get a lot of comments, then likes, are preferred. Remember to, from time to time, try other types of compositions, to make the feed feel fresh.
Consistency in filters used to enhance your photos is another important part of a great and distinct profile. It takes a bit of time to get it to feel right for your profile, but pays in dividends later on. The easier for your audience to quickly identify your content in their personal feed, the better. It will also contribute to good looks of your feed overview.
The consistency advice, in general, also applies to Instagram Stories, even though they have different formats and enable more types of interactions with the audience. Even a hand-shot video showing your work from the back stage or a monolog should feel familiar to your audience.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to tweak and experiment. When in doubt what works and what doesn’t, check out Instagram Insights found in the app or simply ask your audience (e.g. through Instagram Story poll).
Make it easy to find your content
Once you’ve identified your target audience, it’s time to ensure they get to actually see your amazing content. It might seem obvious, but it starts with hashtags. You may include up to 30 in your post, but what matters is their quality. Use relevant ones you’ve found when researching your niche and add hashtags that make sense in the context of the content you’re about to post. Note that less popular, related hashtags can help you reach new audiences.
Another good practice is to specify location when posting content, making it more discoverable. Like with hashtags, make it as specific to your content as possible, but avoid locations people will most likely not search for. For example, “Tatra Mountains” is generally better than “Rusinowa Polana” (a place in Tatra Mountains) for posts about hiking targeted at international audiences. You can always fall back to including the exact location as a hashtag.
Your profile name can also help people discover your content. There’s a limit of 30 characters imposed by Instagram, so you have to be concise, but you might be able to squeeze in a keyword specific to your niche (e.g. “Alteia | Antiques”).
One common mistake you should avoid at the beginning is investing heavily in paid promotion of your posts. Once you commit to paid promotion, Instagram algorithms will go to great lengths to ensure you keep spending money. Sure, you will see a boost in reach in the beginning, but the numbers will almost immediately drop once you stop pouring money into promotion.
Apart from creating great content, there are other techniques that you can use to reach new people and encourage them to become your followers. The easiest one is liking Instagram posts of people, who you think will enjoy your content. It’s likely they will, at the very least, visit your profile in return. To find those people:
- Search for posts with tags specific to your content by using Instagram’s built-in search feature.
- Identify major Instagram profiles related to your niche and look at the list of their followers (tap on the relevant number on the profile page).
- In case it makes sense for your niche, search for posts taken at a specific place using.
A bit more demanding technique is directly engaging with your future audience by commenting on their posts in a meaningful way. Try to really engage in a conversation and shy away from low-effort comments (e.g. only emoji, simple statements). It’s time consuming, but breeds great results.
Both techniques require a lot of effort on your part, but thankfully, in case of liking posts of other Instagrammers, you can use an automation tool like Followyst. It’s safe and will save you a lot of time that you can in turn devote to creating new content your followers will love.
To put your Instagram account on the right track, start with a simple introspection to get a clear picture of what makes you tick. Then identify your niche and tailor your content appropriately, making sure style and topics of your posts fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Lastly, engage with your potential audience, giving them a chance to discover your profile.
Be patient and the results will come.