Instagram isn’t just pretty pictures and seeing how many hearts you accumulate under each image. If using Instagram for your business, it’s about creating an authentic presence through storytelling, engagement and honesty. If you’re wanting to build your following, then it’s time to start using Instagram effectively. Here are five ways to grow your Instagram following on a platform that now has more than 500 million active monthly users.

1. Get discovered

The whole point of Instagram is be discovered and in turn, build your following. Why else are you there? But just like any social media platform, the point is to be social. It isn’t a one-way street. No social platform is. So put yourself out there.

Use hashtags, geo-locations and tag people who are connected to your photo. Do it right and your Instagram business will start to appear in the “Explore” section for users who are likely to appreciate you.

Hashtags

Without them, you may as well have Harry Potter’s invisible cloak on. Hashtags are the first place to start when it comes to getting more likes for your photos. Trust me, I’ve experimented with my own accounts, both personal and business, when you don’t use them and the results aren’t pretty. The more you use hashtags, the easier it is to search for your content. They can seem confusing and unnecessary, but they are integral to the way we communicate online.

A hashtag is simply a word or phrase preceded by the # symbol. If using Twitter, three to four hashtags are all you need. Instagram, on the other hand, can be up to 30 so make sure you research hashtags relevant to your business or product, and maximise this feature. Hashtags are also great for adding tone and crafting your voice in the social media world.

Which characters can you include in a #hashtag?

Spaces are an absolute no. If your hashtag contains multiple words then group them together. If it just looks like a mess of jumbled letters than differentiate between words by using capitals instead e.g. #RamblingRangaInstagramTips. Though keep in mind using uppercase letters will not alter search results and so #RamblingRanga will yield the same result as #ramblingrangainstagramtips. Numbers can also be used, but not punctuation marks so commas, fullstops, apostrophes, exclamation points and question marks won’t do nothing but void your hashtag.

To add hashtags to your post

Once you have finished the upload process, tap the speech bubble under the image you want to add hashtags to. Type your hashtags into the text box and click “Post”.

Geo-locations

Add your location on Instagram. Tell people where your business is, where your product is being featured or where you are currently offering your services. For example, your business has a stall at HandMade Markets. When you post to Instagram add your location as “Handmade Markets” and tell people where you are. Recently taken on a new stockist? Post an update to Facebook and “check-in” to the stockist’s shop by adding the location into your post. It’s just another way to connect with your followers and promote your business.

2. Create or Credit

Tagging

Knowing when to tag someone (@mention) into your Instagram post can sometimes be a little confusing. Particularly if you’re unsure how they will respond. The best advice? Always tag them. I know several businesses who often find it rude or disappointing when their product is featured in an image only to see that they’ve not been tagged or credited for their product.

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If there’s anyone participating in your loop giveaway, promotion, is a stockist or recently signed up as a new client, make sure to tag them into your posts. If you use content created by other users (e.g. reposts or screenshots), then definitely make sure you give that person the appropriate shoutout by @mentioning them in your caption (see above image). Using @mentions can actually double your engagement.

How to tag someone during the upload process

It’s pretty simple. When you upload an image, just beneath where you’ve typed your caption, there is an option to “Tag People”.

  1. Tap this option and you’ll be taken to a new screen (within Instagram) where you can tap anywhere on the image to place a tag.
  2. Once you tap the person/thing/product/specific area in the image, a little tag with appear that says “Who’s this?” and a search bar will appear.
  3. Start typing the name or username of the person or Instagram account.
  4. Select the name from the drop down list and their name will be populated into the tag.
  5. If you want to remove the tag, simply tap the tag once and an “X” will appear. Tap the “X” and the tag will be deleted.
  6. To confirm the tag(s), tap “Done” in the top right-hand corner of the screen. You will return to the upload screen.
  7. Continue your upload and you’re done!

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How to tag someone after you have already upload a post

  1. Go to the post you where you would like to tag someone
  2. Tap on the 3-dot button in the top right-hand corner of the post.
  3. Select “Edit” from the pop-up menu.
  4. Tap the little black and white icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the image. You’ll be taken to the tagging screen as described above.
  5. Follow the same process as above for finding and selecting those you wish to tag.
  6. Tap “Done” in the top right-hand corner of the screen once finished.
  7. You will be returned to the Edit screen for further changes, otherwise just tap “Done” in the top right-hand corner of the screen save the tagged names in your post.

When you or another user tag someone, the tagged person receives a notification that someone has tagged them in a post. To view this notification, go to your regular Activity notifications feed.

3. Engage

The more you interact and give time to other users, the more they will do the same for you. It’s finding that balance of give and take. Because let’s face it, we can easily lose hours scrolling through our Instafeeds as we fall deeper down into the rabbit’s hole of Instagram. Rather than just liking the photos of others try leaving a thoughtful comment. The more you like and comment on photos shared by people outside your circle of friends or business community, the more you’ll gain both followers and likes. But only engage with content you are genuinely interested in. Don’t just go on a tapping spree for instant “like” gratification.

4. Be honest and authentic

Following on from above, honesty and authenticity are the two biggest factors when it comes to building your brand. Don’t just follow a brand in the hope they will follow you back. Same can be said for celebrities, people with huge followings or trends. Post content that is a true reflection of you and your business. Engage with people whom you are genuinely interested in. Follow only those who you can offer value to and who can offer you value in return. Avoid imitation and instead, opt for your own voice. Hot tip: It’s going to be a huge trend in 2017. Raw, candid, emotive behind the scenes content will be big. So start now.

5. Tell your story

There is a reason why you are in business. There is a reason you love what you do. So tell that story. Believe it or not, people want to learn more about you. They want to know the inner workings of your business. How you find inspiration to make the things you do. Your passion for Fairtrade or organic products. Interesting and quirky facts that relate to your products.

Find a way to create engaging content that reflects this. Being a visual platform, you have the perfect opportunity to tell your unique story on Instagram. Start experimenting with video. Show your brand’s versatility. Decipher elements of your story and use them to create images that your followers will want to engage with.

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