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10 success factors for Instagram & building your own brand

So far I have hosted 30 Instagram marketing workshops and masterclasses for more than 150 brands, companies, freelancers and ig-ers. I have written 12 blogs with Instagram tips and post weekly tips on my Instagram account to help other people with their Instagram strategy and build their own brand, like I did the past 3 years.

I really want to help others succeed on this platform, as I am so happy with everything Instagram brought me and my website. And even enabled me to start my own marketing & PR agency through which I worked with many beautiful brands already, and am now managing social media accounts for other companies on a daily basis. That is why I'm also hosting group workshops and am even organizing an Instagram inspired girls only city trip to Lisbon end of September, including photography and Instagram guidance!

Unfortunately lately I hear more and more people are in despair because of the algorithm changes and increasingly difficult character of the Instagram app. They're not growing anymore, or are even losing followers on a daily basis, their likes have sometimes even decreased with 50%, and they get less and less engagement.

With a user growth of 100% in less than 2 years it is only natural that the competition is getting harder and stronger. And yes because of this it will be more business on Instagram from now on, so you better step up your game!

However as I'm managing Instagram accounts on a daily basis, not only for my own brand, but also for many others, and did several take-overs, I can see that increasing your engagement, reach and growing in followers is still possible!

Based on those findings and analysis of other successful accounts I came to the conclusion that in general there are at least 10 factors that accumulate to Instagram success, and at the same time help build up your own unique brand. These factors are an addition to the tips I gave in previous blogs, but I hope you can use them as a checklist and will try to explain them as much as possible!

10 Success Factors:

1. Consistency & time investment

Yes you gotta work for it, opposed to what many people think or want, it just takes a lot of time and dedication to grow and succeed on Instagram (as long as you are playing fair😊).

Posting only once a week or not posting for a long time doesn’t work well for the algorithm. Make sure to post on a daily, or every other daily basis, and be active in a consistent manner to keep the algorithm happy and get the best results. I would advise dedicating at least 1 hour per day to Instagram and at least 1 hour per week to analyze and prepare your posts on a weekly basis.

To improve your engagement and increase the reach of your post it is also very important to be very active and spend at least 30 minutes on IG answering all comments and liking back just after you posted.

2. Professional approach & market research

This is also a good addition to point 1, as Instagram should no longer be seen as a hobby if you are serious about building your own brand or using Instagram for your business. See Instagram as a part of your marketing strategy and research what your competitors and similar/aspirational accounts are doing.

What works for well for them or not, which initiatives do they take, which hashtags do they use, who are they following and who's following them, who do they work and interact with?

And how can you get featured by big accounts or collaborate with them? Ask yourself and dig into this, of course it does take extra time, but if you use your time efficiently, follow # in your niche and look at the right aspiration accounts, it will help you step up your game, and you will find inspiration for your own account as well.

3. Quality pictures & critical selection

Of course this is also part of a professional approach, so only choose the best of the best to post. If you have a business account you can see which of your pictures generated the most views, reach, engagement, followers, profile visits, etc. By analyzing this you will find out what works best for your account, and can find your own unique style at the same time by selecting your pictures based on that.

But first and foremost it's important to use good equipment to create quality pictures. Make sure your camera or phone has a good lense, that it’s clean and that the pics are in focus. The newest phone models have really good lenses, so a digital camera is not always better for Instagram pictures. Also you can collaborate with professional photographers who are willing to take your pics in return for credits, like I often do, which is a fun way to broaden your network as well!

4. Relevance pictures; recognition or positive emotions

The algorithm favors posts that are relevant: posts that are connected to the moment (for example: related to current events or seasonal holidays) or a trending topic (for example tulip and blossom pictures in spring or lavender pics in the Provence at the moment). If you are aware of these trends and post pictures displaying that, you will generate recognition and get a lot more engagement in general, which will also increase your reach, as the Instagram algorithm notices this.

Another criterium to select your pictures is the question: does this image generate a positive emotion? Why do you think pics of beautiful viewpoints, sunsets, flowers, fluffy animals, palm trees and white beaches get so many likes? Try to integrate these or other popular topics into your posting strategy, if they match your style and brand, to get more engagement and reach.

5. Distinctive style & identity

But no, that doesn’t mean you should copy, paste! Integrate the things that work for others and are popular into your account in your own unique way.

You can do this by taking pics in similar locations in a slightly different way, or style them differently. But most of all be yourself and stay true to that. You can create your own distinctive style through special perspectives, unique filters, specific colors or by editing them in a way that makes them stand out.

6. Collaborate, create a community & real connections

Like in a business, also on Instagram networking really helps. Therefore being outgoing and very social on Instagram will certainly help you build a community, which will ultimately create and strong network of real connections you can collaborate with.

Setting up initiatives like give aways together, promoting each other, or working with influencers and other brands can really help grow your own account and image. After all it's still a SOCIAL medium!

7. Personality & value

Personality works, so make sure you are on the picture often, show your face, style and character for people to identify themselves with. In the end this will resonate and will help you stand out and find your own unique target group and community.

Don’t overly promote products or your merchandise, but give value as well. Instagram is not meant to be a promotional platform, people are looking for inspiration on there, that is why (catalog) product pictures usually don’t get a lot of engagement, and lifestyle pictures work much better. If you give value by sharing tips and inspiration related to your brand and products, and share the story of your brand, you will generate interest in your brand, before you start spamming them with commercial posts, which is much more efficient and natural😊

8. Be an inspirational storyteller

You can give value by being an inspirational story teller as well. This is the perfect way for a brand to generate real connections with potential customers and eventually turn them into ambassadors!

Share more about your brand, but also about the person behind the brand. Don’t always keep those captions short and statement like. But tell stories, share inspirational blogs and interact with people to spark their interest by responding to their comments and asking questions. Telling and showing behind the scenes stories, by using your captions, Instagram stories, LIVE and IG TV are perfect tools for that.

9. Research hashtags & use enough

I said this many times before, using 30 well researched # works much better in my experience than just 10, or even 30 spammy hashtags that are used millions of times. But make sure they are relevant and researched well. For more details about this you can read my previous blog: Instagram myths and tips.

10. Create a nice total overview

As Instagram is a grid app, the total overview of your account is very important as well! When people find your post and take the next step of going to your account gallery, this look will be critical for their decision to follow you or not!

If you post randomly this overview will be harder to manage, but if you schedule or select your pictures in advance it will help you coordinate the colors and style of your last 9 tot 12 pictures.

Even though I do not limit myself to certain colors, as I want to share my life and travels in full color, I usually try to create a nice total overview by selecting my pics for the coming 2 weeks in advance and combine them in a nice color scheme. You can also use the free app ''Preview'' for this, in which you can upload your pics and slide and arrange them in advance.

It's not just 1 thing that will help, it’s the combination of all of these that will make the difference for your account!

But there are many more tips I can give you, and have given already in my previous blogs which you can find here: Social Media Tips or go directly to the 6 related blogs at the bottom of this page.

I hope my tips will help you, or feel free to contact me for advice or personal consultancy through my Work With Me page, book a spot in one of my group workshops here: Workshops, or come with me to Lisbon end of September for a girls only city trip, including photography and Instagram guidance, and a 1 on 1 consult with me to help you build your own brand and account strategy. You can read all about that here: Lisbon Instagram Girls Trip.

And do you follow me on Instagram already for weekly tips and daily updates? Just click on the pic below and make sure to leave a comment, I'm always happy to hear your feedback and connect!

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