What started as a photo sharing app has become a key player for marketing and branding across the globe. Instagram has over a billion users including countless companies and brands trying to increase their ‘reach’ every day.
Instagram reach is the number of individuals who see or interact with your content.
One way of increasing reach is by paying for Instagram ads to promote your content. However, the alternative type of reach: organic reach, is harder to achieve and much more valuable.
Organic reach is based on the quality of your content and posting techniques with the aim of pushing your posts higher up in the feed. Building up organic reach takes time and skill and requires working with the Instagram algorithm.
This first point should come as a surprise to no-one. The better your content, the larger your audience.
Not only is it the most logical of ideas, it’s also the fairest, allowing people with a talent for understanding their audience and posting the content that people want to see, to receive the attention they deserve.
For those looking for a quick fix to increase their followers and extending their reach, there are many tips and hacks that will help, however, the most effective method of achieving a steady increase of followers that has longevity is to focus on the content quality.
So how exactly can you increase the quality of your content?
Well, first of all you need to define your brand, so your posts consistently reach out to specific audience and your fans know what to expect from you. The key idea here is to make your posts relatable.
Understanding your fans and posting relevant content that speaks to them will increase engagement and widen your reach. Additionally, in the ridiculously saturated market of Instagram, you need to make content that stands out and is unique to you.
Learning how to edit pictures effectively, frame them and create a stunning image is important. Unfortunately, your picture of a sunset, however beautiful, is not going to get you noticed amongst the other millions of other sunset posts on there.
More importantly, users need to focus on the creativity of the content they are posting.
Hashtags are an ideal tool to reach and new audiences.
The total audience that views your posts is not limited to your followers who can actually make up just a small percentage of said audience, especially when using effective hashtags.
With the right hashtags, your impressions can improve significantly. Instagram ‘impressions’ denote the number of times your content was shown to users. With the use of hashtags, your reach is improved dramatically as your content is shown to many more people.
First of all, you should only use the hashtags that are relevant to your niche and your branding. Finding the perfect hashtags that compliment your content and boost your reach is a learning curve that must be mastered.
If you know anything about keywords for SEO use, then you have a head-start on how to use hashtags and which hashtags to use. If not, here are the basics.
Similar to keywords, users with small or medium-sized followers should avoid using the most popular hashtags. These are often single words and extremely generic including phrases like #beautiful and #food.
With the huge number of other users also posting content with similar hashtags, your post will simply drown amongst them with no chance of ranking highly.
Instagram users benefit a lot more from using medium-sized hashtags that are popular enough to have a decent enough amount of usage, ideally on around 20,000 posts so that your posts stand out in your specific niche. Once you have found some that are perfect for your account, you can keep a list at the ready to quickly embellish future posts with reach-boosting, unique and effective hashtags.
Additionally, you should be on the lookout for hashtag trends which you can add to your posts to easily make them more relevant.
There are some important guidelines to consider when including hashtags in your posts. Instagram is largely aesthetic, using images and videos to draw in followers and promote accounts. The aesthetic of your unique brand should always be considered and how you use hashtags comes into that.
Use the hashtags in a way that reflects the energy of the rest of the account and gives viewers the correct impression. Typically, the more hashtags the greater reach you will have as your post touches on a number of niches.
However, there is, of course, a limit.
The actual limit imposed by Instagram is 30 hashtags but less is generally preferred by users.
Regardless, you should find and use the number of hashtags that works for you and your followers, there is no point throwing in anything unrelated on your posts as it will create a ‘bounce back’ reaction from viewers.
Finally, a handy way to keep your post free of hashtag clutter is to add the hashtags in a comment under the posts. This method has the same reach as leaving them in the original post but allows the posts to speak for themselves a bit more.
The Instagram algorithm makes it much harder to reach your audience. This is why it’s so important to work with the algorithm and post at the best times so that your followers are more likely to see it and engage.
Each brand will have a different optimal time to post based on their target audience due to both their location and their demographics.
To figure out the best time for you to post that gains the most reach you will first need to do a series of test posts. You can examine your past content as well as publish posts at different times throughout the day. look at your engagement rates from each of the posts to figure out which times your audience are most active and therefore which times achieve the highest engagement.
There are numerous studies that outline the best times to post on Instagram to achieve optimal engagement. These generalise across Instagram and tend to recommend posting between 8am and 9am and at 5pm Monday – Friday.
Although these guidelines are significant, the best way to increase your Instagram reach is to focus ion your follower base and find out their specific times of peak activity.
Having an Instagram Business profile gives you access to Instagram Insights: a tool that allows you to check when your followers are most active. You’ll be able to see the location of your followers at the level of which city they are in as well as what times of the day they are most active.
Once you’ve determined the best times, you can plan ahead which to posts to send out when. There is even a tool which allows you to schedule Instagram posts ahead of time, so you don’t miss out on the prime times for reaching your followers.
There are some divisive opinions on how many posts you should aim to publish on Instagram. Some say that quality is better than quantity and you are better off limiting the number of posts a week but keeping them to a high quality. Quality of course, takes precedence, but if you have the ability to increase the output of high-quality posts, should you? Reports have shown that Instagram users end up seeing only 30% of the posts that are in their feed which increases the chances of your post being missed entirely. An opposite viewpoint states that once you have found the ideal posting times, you should spam content at the optimal times. However, experience has shown that this can have the adverse effect and cause engagement levels to drop off.
The ideal quantity of posts is limited to several per day, naturally, at the optimal times for engagement. The exact number is dependent on your audience and your brand as well as how much quality content you are able to sustainably post every day. Overall, the idea is to reduce the chances of being missed without annoying your audience with content overkill.
Perhaps even more important than quantity is consistency. If you regularly post high quality content that receives good levels of engagement, the Instagram algorithm will favour your posts. This also reinforces the idea of sustainability. If you start off posting 8 times a day and drop off to a couple of posts a week, you will lose followers and see a decrease in engagement. Do what it right for your brand and post as consistently as possible.
The Instagram algorithm also works on stories. For each follower, it displays first the most relevant and engaging stories based on their previous activity. To take a spot near the top of the stories feed, you need to ensure that the content of your stories is engaging enough for viewers to see it through to the end. This shouldn’t be an issue since stories are where you can have the most fun with your audience. Since stories are not permanent, they give you a chance to showcase a more casual and relatable side of your brand or account. The images and videos you post don’t have to be filtered to perfection and can give a more realistic update on the day to day goings on behind the scenes.
“The most ideal situation to improve your organic reach is to have regular content posted on your stories that is seen all the way through by you viewers, frequent interaction with your stories including messages and reactions, and to top it off, regular shares by users,” explains Fred Hitch, a social media writer at SimpleGrad and Uktopwriters.
Stories are also a great way to back up your posts. You can remind your audience to check your feed while reinforcing the content on your main feed. For example, if you’re a brand and have a discount on at the moment, you can post on feed about it and add some images and videos to your story to boost hype around the discount and catch those that might have missed it.
Engage Your Audience
The best way to increase engagement is to directly ask for it. There is no shame is asking for shares and likes. If you have listened to your audience and have provided content they’ll like, they will happily share your posts and increase your organic reach. Additionally, you have the option of directly reaching out to your audience through your posts, videos and stories. Instagram provides you with the possibility of asking questions, replying to your viewer’s questions, running polls and responding to comments. You can boost the online community you are creating by being a part of it and showing you care about your audience.
“Another great way to interact with your audience and build up a strong, two-way relationship is to post user-generated content. This is content in the form of images, pictures or videos made exclusively by the user. Not only is it substantially more trusted than typical advertising or branding, it humanises the brand and makes it significantly more memorable,” says Hillary Wilson, a tech blogger at Assignment Help and Assignment Services.
Boosting your organic reach means finding the perfect balance between what fits your brand and what speaks to your target audience. Understanding your audience is the key to maximising reach and your Instagram strategy should revolve around how you can make yourself or your brand relevant to them. Unfortunately, a huge increase in organic reach can’t be done at the snap of your fingers. It takes time, persistence and patience as well as the ability to adapt to your audience.