Grow on Instagram in 2021: A Guide by Charleston, SC Social Media Pros

Yes, the ‘Instagram Algorithm’ is a real thing and YES there is a way to make it work to your advantage. So how do you grow on Instagram this year? Business Insider recently reported that Instagram secretly advised creators of the best formula for growing on the platform. These suggestions clearly support the idea that Instagram is rewarding users who make use of their new features like Reels, that media trends on the platform are changing, and that it is still possible to grow in the saturated market as long as you know the rules.

We’re breaking down their suggestions to creators and giving you some solid steps to grow on Instagram in 2021, straight from the phones of Instagram HQ.

Scale Back on Static Posts and Ramp Up Stories

Instagram used to suggest that you post once a day to your newsfeed. That was before they rolled out all of their new features and introduced new forms of media to compete with their own traditional posting strategies on the platform. The Business Insider article reported that Instagram’s new suggestion is to post 3 in-feed posts per week (including Reels or IGTV) and 8 to 10 Stories per week (at least 2 a day).

In many ways, Stories are easier to produce than original in-feed content. Stories are ephemeral content, meaning that they won’t live permanently on your profile unless they are saved to Highlights, and can be curated. They are meant to be a more candid, personal form of communication. As platforms continue to scale to new heights, we’re seeing a move back to features that prioritize more personalized conversations and content. It’s a trend that will only continue to grow. Read on for our pro tips to keep your Stories engaging and optimized for the upcoming year.

Pro Tips for Instagram Stories in 2021:

  • Keep it short and sweet. If your Stories have a million frames, you’ll probably lose user interest. The exception: if your Story content is a cohesive, compelling segment you can get away with sharing more posts per day. Just remember quality over quantity is key.
  • Utilize series. Do a weekly feature of the best User Generated Content featuring your products or services that was tagged that week, or share a series of inspirations for that week curated across the platform. Just keep it on brand, engaging, and interactive.
  • Tag other users in your stories if you’re sharing content from their account or content that includes them in an image. This makes it incredibly easy for reposting, increasing your chances of gaining even more visibility.
  • Include a face on the account IF it’s applicable to the brand. Seeing human faces is typically more engaging than just sharing visuals.
  • Auto-generate captions on your stories if you’re speaking. Most Instagram users don’t use the volume to listen to stories, and captions keep them engaged with the stories without having to change their own platform behavior.

You Should be Making Reels….Like, You Really Need to.

Welcome to the world of video! Last year Instagram rolled out their Tik Tok competitor, Reels, and it certainly made a splash. These quick, 15-30 second videos often incorporate humor, feature aesthetically pleasing visuals, have a natural beginning-middle-end arc, are easy to consume rapidly, and are tracked by a sound or song which ties into a current pop culture trend. They have a high potential for viral exposure and engagement, depending on how well they tap into those pop-culture conversations.

If you’ve been holding out on including Reels in your Instagram strategy you’ve missed out on a huge window of opportunity, however, it’s not too late to capitalize on growth potential. 

Don’t hold out too long though, or your account could be penalized for not utilizing Reels. The Explore page, typically a great place for growing accounts, may turn into a page more and more dominated by Reels content instead of static posts. Be ready to continue reaching new accounts by creating content that is likely to be included on users’ Explore page as well as in the Reels tab now visible in the bottom center of most user’s app interface.

Instagram recommends that you post 4-7 Reels per week in 2021 in order to see growth on the platform.

Your Checklist for Making Quality Reels Content in 2021:

_Hook is within 3 Seconds of the Reels Start

_Includes a Song or Audio, preferably a popular or trending one

_Incorporates clever and clean transitions

_Features clean, crisp visuals

_Has a distinct value add, whether that’s just a beautiful moment/view or best tips and tricks as they apply to your brand expertise. 

Instagram’s Search Update Makes a Case for an Instagram Keyword Strategy

In late 2020 and early 2021, Instagram rolled out a new update to enhance search capabilities on the app. Instead of just being able to search for hashtags or account usernames, Instagram users are now able to search all content like they would using Google. Simply type in what you’re looking for by phrase, like ‘cute dogs’ or a more detailed query ‘pink countertops home design’ or even ‘South Carolina vacation’ and Instagram will pull posts or images that contain content that pertains to your search.

This is great for creators, businesses, and users looking to better connect with content on the platform. So far we’ve seen hashtags are still a viable part of any Instagram strategy, as they can exponentially increase your reach by showing up in the feeds of users following particular hashtags. But the new Instagram search update will also help your content get in front of new users who are searching for just the perfect product, idea, or inspiration.

Follow these 3 Quick Instagram Update Tips to make your account more searchable and to grow your Instagram audience in 2021:

1. Optimize your post captions with relevant keywords and search terms. Don’t forget to update your e-commerce listings and shoppable posts with accurate and relevant keywords, too.

Help interested buyers find your products by including details and style descriptions that link them to current trends. Social media users come up with names for home and style trends that become synonymous with certain aesthetics. ‘Cottage core’ is just one example. Make sure you know the language you’re trying to speak, then use hyper-relevant examples to reach users that are interested in both the trends your post embodies as well as adjacent trends that could draw in new users.

2. Add image alt text to every photo on your post. Write a short and accurate description of what’s depicted in your photo to make it more searchable. Use keyword-rich descriptions to help target users find your content as they explore new accounts!

3. Optimize your Profile Name and Bio with keywords and the right copy for converting on your goals once users find you. Start with your name. If your business is location-based, add your city. If you offer services or a product, use a keyword or phrase that would help users who are searching for something similar. Always end with a Call to Action like, ‘click the link below for___’, to loop them into your network.

Pay Attention To Interface Changes

Instagram has proven itself to be an ever changing platform that is eager to adopt new social media trends in order to stay competitive as an entertaining space. They owe much of their social media platform market dominance not just to their ability to introduce new features, but in their ability to make their users into early adopters of those features. By rewarding accounts that adopt new platform updates first and penalizing those that don’t, Instagram finds one way or another to exert influence over the way we create and engage on their platform.

So how do you become one of those rewarded early adopters? Pay attention to the Interface Design. As soon as you see a change, explore the change and make use of the new feature if it’s rolled out to your account. Instagram knows that interface design changes are rooted in behavioral psychology, and they use them to not so subtly engage users the way that they want them to on the platform. Play Instagram’s game by staying aware of how the interface design of your app changes, and you’ll see growth for sure.

What Brands Can Do: Focus on Engaging, Shareable, and Instant Content

The great thing about social media is that no matter the size of your brand, you have the potential to directly reach a relevant audience that is likely to become your next customers, brand advocates, and referrals. By focusing efforts on a strategic growth plan with content that keeps them engaged, your energy isn’t just going towards building a following but on integrating your product or service into the daily lives of your customers. Do this by creating content that resonates with users by capitalizing on engaging media which works with, not against, the platforms where your audience spends its time.

The goal should always be to hit the trifecta with your Instagram content: stay relevant, consistent, and on-brand. But creating, pushing, engaging with, and monitoring content can sometimes seem like a job all on its own. If you feel that running a business doesn’t leave time for social media marketing, you may want to seek out the expertise of a professional social media marketer. Our team of Charleston, SC social media marketing strategists is a team of creators, copywriters, analysts, and market researchers. We work with you to make sure that your social media content isn’t just popular with the masses, but that it’s true to you and your goals.

Follow us on Instagram for more social media tips and tricks, and schedule a meeting with our Charleston digital marketing agency to discuss the best options for maintaining your Instagram strategy in 2021.

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