For many of us, social media can seem equally alluring and evasive. On one hand, online success seems easily tangible by posting content. On the other hand, there’s no guarantee you’ll gain traction or followers, even with planning, time, and hard work.
If you find yourself wondering why your Instagram account doesn’t seem to be growing, you’re not alone. In fact, there are endless articles and tutorials written about growing traffic, buying followers and comments, and marketing yourself and your brand. Over time, a huge variety of people become Instagram influencers, with influencer posts reaching 1.5 million in 2017 alone. This growth can be both inspiring and frustrating. If they can do it, why can’t you?
So, how do you gain a following? How do you fix the issue of an Instagram that isn’t growing like you’d hoped? There are endless reasons your Instagram account may not be growing. You may notice one or more of the following issues applies to you.
1. You Don’t Have an Established Identity
Having an established identity online is just as vital as having one in person. An online identity provides people with a sense of who you are, what your brand represents, and what your platform endorses. In short, people want to know what they’re getting when they follow you.
Let’s say you begin an Instagram that only posts photos of sleepwear. People know exactly what to expect when they follow your account. An identity has been forged, and by posting consistent content, you’re earning your followers’ trust. If you suddenly began posting pictures of a miracle weight loss regimen, however, you could lose that trust. You could lose many of those followers. Why? Because it’s not the account they followed.
This doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with your Instagram. It just means you need to cater to your followers’ interests. So, you might post a meme that directly relates to your content, post a tidbit about a favorite sleepwear brand, or link to a tutorial that will enrich your followers’ experience in some way.
2. You’re Trying to Reach Too Broad of an Audience
Maybe you feel you’ve established an identity among a successful target audience. Your sleepwear Instagram account, for instance, targets people who love comfort. So, why isn’t it gaining traction? This is a question that perhaps every other Instagrammer in your niche is asking. The fact is “comfort lovers” is a difficult niche to define: it’s too broad; it encompasses too much. Although attracting everyone you can seems lucrative, going too broad may attract fewer followers.
So, how can you tailor your account to a more niche audience? Perhaps instead of sleepwear, you should post about a certain type of sleepwear for a certain type of audience, like designer sleepwear for women. Now your account isn’t just for “comfort lovers”: it’s for women who love comfort and style.
Take a brand like Doug the Pug, the dressed-to-impress pug with a sassy personality. This brand targets a specific niche: pug lovers. But more specifically, Doug the Pug targets young pug lovers who can relate to Doug’s persona. The meme-like captions on each post and the youthful outfits cater to a youthful audience, an audience that finds these aspects of the brand relatable.
3. You’re Using Ineffective Marketing Techniques
If you’re trying to grow your Instagram following without using other marketing methods, you may be moving in the wrong direction because social media should be a supplemental feature to your website.
Consider fleshing out your brand in blog posts, educational articles, and free or paid content. Once you’ve built up your brand, you can use marketing techniques, such as SEO, guest blogging, and keyword targeting to bring traffic to your site. Encourage your site users to follow your Instagram and encourage your Instagram followers to subscribe to your site. Because you can earn followers and potentially earn revenue on both platforms, this is a win-win situation for you.
4. You Haven’t Found Your Target Demographic
Perhaps you’ve spent time and resources catering to a niche audience, both on and off social media, that just doesn’t seem to grow. Maybe the niche is too small. In this case, it’s okay to go back to the drawing board. Consider your skills, hobbies, and knowledge. Do you know how to travel on a budget? Take boudoir photos? Easily make gluten-free lunches for kids? Maybe it’s not your skills that are the star of the show but your knowledge. If you’re a bird enthusiast or a scholar of art, for instance, consider how you can take that specialized information and pursue it online.
In the early stages of your brand, it’s okay to have several projects at once. You can toy with a few brands, as long as you’re building your brands slowly and consistently with quality content. Notice the projects to which you naturally gravitate, and pay attention to the projects that seem to gain the most followers.
5. Your Images Are Missing the Mark
Although good branding, marketing, and understanding of your demographic are important elements of your brand, nothing beats a quality image. Instagram is a visual platform, meaning your images have to leave a mark on your audience. Airbnb founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia certainly found this to be true. The entrepreneurs doubled their New York City revenue in just one month, simply by replacing low-quality photos with beautiful ones.
Don’t have access to an expensive camera? Consider ways you can work around this. Perhaps you can use your smartphone or simply take photos in the best possible light. (You can easily learn photography tips and tricks through free online resources and tutorials.) Consider planning ahead: you can shoot a number of posts in advance simply by renting equipment or hiring a professional for only a few hours.
What’s more, many Instagram accounts are not exclusively made up of photographs. If you’re a designer, for example, you may wish to devote your brand to graphic designs. If you lack professional equipment but have a specific style in mind, you may be able to use your distinctive look to separate your brand from the crowd. Your unique look may be the key to getting noticed.
If you want to gain followers on Instagram, consider treating it like a business or side hustle. It will take time and work, but in the end, it can be extremely lucrative.
There are a number of free and paid resources that can teach you about marketing on Instagram, developing your voice, building and growing a site, and establishing a look. And while educating yourself may seem daunting, remember that Instagram is for your enjoyment. If you feel stressed, take a break. Just take things one day—and one follower—at a time.
Kaitlin Westbrook is a content writer for Vecteezy. Kaitlin covers business, creative content, professional writing, and more. When she’s not writing, she enjoys movies, baking, and her Pomeranian. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.