Are you Insta-savvy? Tips from Sarah on growing your Instagram audience

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Coffee with Instagram logo in the foam

Sarah can talk for hours on what to do or not to do on social, so  she’s compiled a short list of tips that will help you grow your Instagram following and be more Insta-savvy.


Like with most things in life, it’s best to be prepared. An Instagram strategy doesn’t have to be complex, but it will help you define what you want to achieve from the start, so you can target the right audience with the right content. Here are three key questions to ask when creating or tweaking your plan.

What’s your aim?
Having purpose to your posts is key. What do you want audiences to do? Buy tickets? Go to your website? Know who you are? Your Instagram strategy should coincide with your marketing strategy, so this is a good place to start.

Who are you targeting?
Picture your audience. Having an idea of who you want to talk to will help shape the tone, message and content of your posts.

What do you want to say?
Creating narratives will give your content a sense of purpose and generate a talking point, making your account more attractive to potential new followers. What have your customers achieved? How is your work or product made? Make sure your posts are creative while your message is clear.


Always use high-res imagery that will draw attention to your account. The best Instagram channels have very carefully curated content with a clear visual aesthetic. Being a highly visual platform, bold colours work brilliantly along with prints and anything colour coordinated. Use free app Layout to collage your images into one post, Boomerang to create short looping animations or Hyperlapse to make lovely time lapse videos.

See Burberry, Air B n B or National Geographic for visual inspiration.


Engagement rates are high on Instagram, and the more socially engaged you are, the more approachable your brand appears. Top brands on Instagram are seeing engagement rates of 2.3% compared with the same brands on Facebook (0.2%) and Twitter (0.02%). Three easy ways to increase engagement with your followers are:

  • Ask questions or encourage action in your captions – ‘what do you think of this?’ ‘Watch our recent video’– if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
  • Respond to your followers. If they post a comment, reply. If they post a complaint, definitely reply!
  • Share content – see something you like? Share it! Like it. Comment. (Use free app Repost to share on Instagram).

The more users who interact with your content, the more likely you’ll feature on Instagram’s Explore tab (this tab is unique to each user but is a combination of post popularity and the users previous likes/interests).

Lastly, make sure to fill out your bio with address, website and contact details (a feature of Instagram’s analytics). Give your followers – and potentially followers – somewhere to click!


You’re missing a trick if you avoid them. Specific and relevant hashtags allow you to anchor conversations; categorise your content and engage with users on shared interests. Creating your own hashtag is great for social monitoring and for creating a community around a theme or event.

So how many? We’d recommend two or three hashtags per post. More tags don’t mean higher engagement, in fact the opposite –  studies show that engagement lowers after the use of a fourth of fifth hashtag.

With this limit in mind, BE SAVVY: specific tags work better. For example, use #socialmediatools over #socialmedia or combine #dance and #photography: #dancephotography. Hashtagifyme is a useful tool for finding trending tags related to yours. But keep hashtags to the end of posts; in the middle interferes with your #sentences and can be #distracting for readers.

Hashtags make your content discoverable, which leads me nicely on to number five…


Some very specific tips here to get your account noticed by potential new followers:

  • Announce your account wherever you are on social– pick up followers from your other social networks
  • Link to your Instagram account from blog posts
  • Embed an Instagram feed into your website
  • Follow! Find your new followers by finding them first. Follow your competitors, your competitor’s followers and followees, as well as those who fit your target audience.
  • Establish a realistic number of daily posts you can stick to. Consistently is key here. You’re the judge.


Don’t post content at 3am on a Tuesday when your audiences are asleep or 11pm on a Saturday when they’re out partying. This comes back to your target consumer: when are they awake? Are they checking their phones on a lunch break? Obviously you can’t reach all your followers with every post, but determining the best times will prevent your posts going unnoticed and potentially reach those Instagram fiends scrolling their commutes away. You can investigate optimum post times by using Instagram’s new insights feature, or by testing how your photos perform at different times of day. In general, avoid posting between 12am and 7am (dead hours) and remember to consider where in the world your audiences are and note the time differences.


You must remember to check in regularly on your analytics. A monthly report of your figures will help you track your success and checking in on which posts did well (and less well) will help you improve your engagement rates for future. Not set up with a business account? See our Analytics gone mobile! for help here.

And any help or guidance with social, Sarah’s on hand – when she’s not on Hootsuite, that is.

Feel free to tweet us any questions, or follow us for news of further posts.

Sarah - Digital Content Manager