7 Ways to Grow Your Instagram Today (apart from hashtags!)

Apart from the obvious tips to increase your engagement such as post high-quality content, write captivating captions and use relevant hashtags, there are SEVEN other things you could be doing to increase your engagement.

One of my good friends runs an online shop and she knows that her customers are on Instagram, but they aren’t using the community hashtags as they are there to share content with friends and family. They might be adding the odd generic hashtag but she hasn’t got time to sift through the billion of posts under #love to find some people that might be interested in her gorgeous homeware. 

I have no doubt as a small business owner, you to are in the same situation. 

So, here are 7 different ways to reach your target audience…


Despite having hit 700 million users recently, it’s really easy to end up cycling around the same group of people on Instagram and it can be really hard to break out of the same cluster of users. Working on the six degrees of separation theory, your new followers are closer than you think; you just need to engage with them.

Six degrees of separation is the idea that all living things and everything else in the world are six or fewer steps away from each other so that a chain of “a friend of a friend” statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.
— Wikipedia

Look at the people who have recently liked/engaged with your most recent post. As well as giving some love back to those people to keep them engaged and coming back for more, have a look at who has engaged with their posts. You may well see a cross over of users you're already familiar with but there will almost definitely be new accounts that you don’t follow and who don’t follow you. Have a look at each of the accounts and if they look like your target audience then give them some insta-love. Don’t bother going down their follower list, as they may have some SPAM and bot follows; it’s better to review the likes and comments as you can tell if its a genuine interaction. 


Much like reviewing the engagement of each of those who have engaged with you, do the same with your competitors or accounts that have a similar theme/aesthetic to you, as again these people are interacting with this person’s content so they may well be interested in yours. 


The Explore tab (the magnifying glass) is often overlooked but you can pick up followers from this tab. Despite popular opinion, the Explore tab is not exclusive to huge Instagram accounts! The Explore tab is different for everyone and it is based on content that Instagram believes that individual will engage with. If you are engaging with the average-Joe then Instagram will show you more accounts from people of that size audience and genre. If it’s showing you content you don’t like (even algorithms make mistakes) then click on it and the three dots in the corner and click “see fewer posts like this”. Refresh your Explore page by pulling down and you’ll have a bunch of new photos to engage with!


This tab is probably the most underused tab as it’s often dismissed as why would I want to know what the people I follow are up to? Well if you’re following your target audience and your competitors then you’re going to find this super useful. 

When you click on the heart at the bottom of your screen you’ll see “Following” and “You”. You will always default to “You”, but if you click on “Following” you will see, in real time, what the people you follow are up to! The comments they are leaving, the likes they are giving and the accounts they are following! 

Sadly this is also where you find out some accounts that you might admire are using poorly targeted bot activity, this can be identified by the generic comments (“great shot”, “nice pic”, “love this”) and liking the most random selection of pictures! Steer clear of these posts and instead look for what appears to be genuine activity, have a look at who they are commenting on, what they are liking and who they are following. If you like what you see, then bingo, you’ve just found yourself some more accounts to engage with. You'll also get an insight to your audience by seeing what gets them double tapping!


"Discover People" are accounts that Instagram is recommending for you to follow. You can access this by the little person with the plus in the top left corner of your profile. When you click on it, you will open the “Discover People” tab. If your smartphone contacts or Facebook accounts are connected, you will be shown people you know in “real life” that you don't yet follow. If you’ve followed everyone you want to in your address book and Facebook, then switch these off by tapping on them to disconnect. (A little tip from me is to have an entirely separate Facebook profile for connecting to your Instagram and cross sharing to your FB Business Page.) Instagram will then show you people who follow you that you might like to follow back and then a selection of accounts based on your activity and that of those who have engaged with you. Don’t feel you have to follow everyone, but it’s nice to take a look at those suggested and engage with some of their posts. If you're not interested then click "Hide". There does seem to be a bit of a glitch at the moment in that they reappear, hopefully, Instagram will fix this soon.

The other suggested user tip is using the little drop down arrow next to a user’s blue “Follow” button. Instagram will show suggested users based on the similarity to the account you’re currently viewing and this can be a great way to find new people to follow and/or engage with.

suggested users.jpg


If you have a good understanding of the demographic of your customer base then you will be able to think like them. Make a list of all the places you think your customer may have visited.

For example, let's say you sell cashmere wraps and your target customer is an affluent woman 30 plus. You need to think like her. Perhaps she enjoys spa weekends at Champney’s? Go to PLACES and type in “Champney’s”, there are multiple Champney Spa locations so you can work your way through each of the different spas and each of the people who have tagged themselves at these locations, engaging and/or following people who you believe are your target audience.

In my experience, the “friends and family” Instagram user, doesn't tend to use a lot of hashtags but much like the check-in feature on Facebook, they do geotag themselves at a location.


Following on from number 6, think about where your customer may shop - not necessarily a competitor of yours but other places and things they may like. Write a list of them and start to look them up on Instagram. Let’s say your target customer also shops at TOAST. Go to TOAST’s profile and click on the “Photos Of” tab (the person in a speech bubble). This will show you everyone that has tagged TOAST in an image. Again, these are new people to engage with who have tagged TOAST because they own items of clothing from the brand and want to show it off. Tap Tags tend to be used by the slightly more advanced Instagram user, so this won't necessarily work for every demographic. 

I hope you find these six steps helpful. If you haven't already then you can sign up to my newsletter and receive my 20 page e-book filled with Instagram tips and a simple workflow to improve your engagement in just thirty minutes per-day.

If you'd like to learn even more ways to use Instagram to target your customer, you can click here.

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