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My name is Dylan O'Brien, and I'm the Founder of Ugro – a Social Media Growth service specializing in Instagram.
After working with thousands of clients and Instagram profiles, I decided to put this guide together to help solve what are, in my experience, the most common problems encountered by business owners and entrepreneurs while running their Instagram account.
My goal is simple – to provide you with all the nuggets of information you need to create a compelling, value-packed Instagram account which people can't help BUT follow.
Following the advice contained within, you will significantly increase the amount of follows your Instagram account gets, the quality of user engagement and the strength of your brand.
Please take your time to go through this guide carefully and give each section proper consideration, and as always – if you have any questions please don't hesitate to shoot us an email here.
Get Clear About Your Brand
Get Clear About Your Brand
Let’s start at the beginning.
Whether you are an individual or a business – your Instagram account represents a brand. As such, the content you post must be relevant to your audience. People need to know what to expect when they follow you. For instance, if you are a personal trainer, you should be posting content within that niche – workouts, transformation pictures, healthy foods, wellness techniques and so on. You shouldn’t be posting about getting blackout drunk or about how cute your cat is. Get really clear about what you represent.
A more challenging problem is that you need to have a “point of difference”. In some markets this is rather easy – with music, for example, every artist has a unique voice, plays their instrument differently, and it’s almost impossible to write original music like someone else.
In most industries however, this is much more challenging. In the yoga niche, for example, the market is extremely oversaturated, with hundreds of thousands of wanna-be yoga guru’s posting pictures of themselves at gyms, practicing, eating healthy foods and so on. So, to begin, you must ask yourself:
- Why am I different? What makes me special?
- Why should someone follow me?
One of my new clients, @taylorlovesyoga, had a really cool spin on this idea which I actually love. She is a yoga teacher based out of Canada and also runs yoga retreats all over the world; and in addition to being one of the nicest people I’ve ever had to pleasure to speak to, she also posts stunning photos of yoga poses in nature.
What Taylor has shrewdly accomplished here, is to capture two totally separate markets simultaneously – whilst also providing beautiful engaging content. Firstly, she is satisfying all the yogi's who love and appreciate the pictures of postures with her little thoughts on happiness, mindfulness and so on that she writes for each picture. Secondly, she's capturing the nature/photography lovers.
As a result, she is getting around 70 new followers each day.
So the first step is to figure out how can you take your content and make it unique? What will be your point of difference?
Instagram gives you the opportunity to make a personal connection with your audience and say 'We aren't just some faceless organization, we're real people too'. This is the most vital component of social media and yet an astounding number of people ignore it completely.
An audience that feels a personal connection with you is more loyal, more likely to engage with your content, more likely to spread good word-of-mouth about you – and most importantly, embrace your service/s.
However, there is a very fine line between making a given post 'personal', and making it irrelevant. So when you decide to make a more personal post, my general rule of thumb to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this relevant to the interests of the people in my niche?
- Am I sharing a personal story or just bragging?
Let's say you shared a personal story, but that it isn't relevant to the interests of your followers. Let's pretend you're a yoga teacher who's written about a falling out you had with your father when you were 9 years old, and how you haven't spoken since. Now, unless this story ends with the meaning 'but yoga allowed me to find the inner strength to forgive him', your followers will be thinking 'that's sad… but why are you telling me this?' – remember, they are following you because you represent an interest of theirs. Over time they may come to care about you as a person (if you build enough of a connection), but generally, overall – they aren't your friends or family, they don't know you, don't really care, and it isn't relevant. They expect content regarding yoga from you, and that's it.
By contrast, let's say this yoga teacher shared something related to yoga, but it was really just 'bragging' masquerading as being 'personal' – for example, posts like 'OMG, I'm soooo honoured to be flown out to Los Angeles to teach a yoga course for Yoga Inc. and be put up in the amazing 5 star Beverly Hilton Hotel'.
This is often the most difficult piece of advice for people to follow. Understandably, it is only natural to want to share your achievements with the world – however, think – 'Do my followers really want to know this? Or am I just doing it to make myself feel good?' You should never be trying to make your followers jealous of you, or be seen as trying to impress them. What it all comes down to is value.
Absolutely everything you post must provide value. Quite simply, this will make or break your account. Ask yourself – what value am I providing to my followers? Why would they want to follow me?
Unfortunately, you can't just be posting about your products or promotions and think that people are going to start following you. You also can't just be posting pretty pictures alone.
This is a concept that a lot of people struggle with – so let's examine it in more detail using some more 'difficult' examples.
The general rule of thumb is to ask yourself:
- What is my area of expertise?
- How can I use this to make people want to follow me? (i.e. provide value)
And sometimes it requires some 'outside the box' thinking. A good example – Real Estate Agents.
Most of the agents I encounter simply post pictures of the properties they are currently selling and wonder why no one follows them and they don't get more business/listings from it. They usually tell me 'social media just doesn't work for this business'. But they are wrong – Why? Because if someone is looking for properties to purchase, they're not searching for them on Instagram – they go to realestate. com.au, domain.com.au, or one of the many other avenues specifically designed for the purchase and sale of property. They have no reason to follow you because, quite simply, you are not providing them anything of value.
Let's examine what they could do differently. The first step is to determine who your key demographic is. That is, who do you want following you? For agents, it is people who are interested in purchasing/selling real estate.
Now, what are people wishing to buy and sell properties interested in? They're interested in property prices, they want to know how properties are valued, they want to know how they can increase the price of their own property, what their current property could be worth, mortgages, interest rates and all the other complicated terminology that agents use, bidding tactics, negotiation tactics, cool tips for designing and decorating their property, and so on.
Now, let's say that instead of posting pictures of his current properties, this agent went through the newspaper every Sunday, found a range of properties in his area that would interest a range of home buyers (e.g. one that might interest first home buyers, one that might interest downsizers etc.) and then gave his opinion of value, tips for improvement, and what he think it will realistically be worth in the current market.
'This beautiful two-story house sits on 700m2 of land, has 5 bedrooms, a stunning original Edwardian frontage… however, the kitchen is run down and the bathroom needs to be renovated… Based on the recent sales of 1 example st, 2 example st & 3 example st in the surrounding area, and at an average price of $x per square meter, I conservatively estimate this property to be worth between $1.2m – $1.3m; potentially fetching higher at auction with appropriate competition between bidders.'
And let’s say he does this for a number of properties currently for sale in the area. What's happening now? This agent is providing VALUE. People who wish to purchase or sell a house in (or even people who just have an interest in property in the area) will want to follow him because he is providing an indication of how properties are valued, prices in their area, estimated values for different styles of houses and how various fittings/features (air-conditioning, number of car parks etc.) will impact the price of their own. People can learn from him. And eventually, when it comes time for one of his followers to sell their property – who's the first agent they think of?
Another more difficult example might be a healthy 'organic' cafe. Let's go through the questions together:
What is my area of expertise?
In this instance, let's assume they pride themselves on serving a variety of amazing organic health foods, and making the 'perfect' coffee.
How can they use this to make people want to follow them (i.e. provide value)?
Ok, well the obvious posts that come to mind would be pretty pictures of their food and drinks…but that's common and easily dismissible – we need something better.
So… what if they made little 'How-to' videos and put them in amongst their pictures? They could showcase their barista and film how he/she steams the milk to get it 'just right', or upload a video of the chef making their famous smashed avo and the secret (and fresh!) ingredients they use to make it taste even more delicious. Or film how they get up at 5 am to bake the bread every day so that it's always hot, fresh and soft (this would be even better to post in the morning so it's the first thing people see when they wake up!), and every now and again, a great organic recipe.
What we're doing here has a threefold impact – firstly, the general interests of people who are likely to follow a healthy organic cafe on Instagram would center around healthy living and eating – and therefore they are likely to have an interest in how they can make delicious healthy food at home, healthy recipes and so on. Secondly, you're showcasing the quality of your cafe and food by demonstrating how carefully the staff piece together these dishes, their attention to detail and the quality/freshness of the ingredients. And finally, the end result is it generates business, because when these followers are out-and-about and hungry, or their friend wants to grab lunch and asks 'where should we go?' – they think 'Oh, I really want to try that place from Instagram – it looks so nice and the food so healthy and delicious!'.
They're providing value, quality content and generating interest. The end result? More business.
Hopefully, you're starting to get the hang of this.. let's try another – Let's examine a fitness related account. Let's say you're a personal trainer, and you specialize in HIIT training and using an intermittent fasting approach to caloric regulation.
Who are your ideal followers?
- People who want to lose weight
- People who are passionate about health and fitness
- People who are looking for a good way to control their diet
- People looking for motivation and inspiration on their own fitness journey
Now, the area of expertise is obvious, but how can you use this knowledge to provide value for your followers?
- Post good HIIT workouts for various different body parts
- Post great recipes for intermittent fasting that hit required macros
- Post great snacks that followers can eat when in a pinch
- Pictures of clients successful transformations
Finally, how can you provide this information in a unique or engaging manner?
- Perhaps you are targeting people who have lower levels of disposable income, and therefore all your meals are $10 or less (to make or buy) but still hit the required macros?
- Maybe all your workouts are on a beach, or at home, or designed for the duration of the average lunch break?
- Do you use trampolines as your cardio?
Spend a lot of time thinking about how you can make your content unique and different – you need to stand out but also provide value!
Username – Our statistics show that people are more likely to click on a profile that is comprised of an individuals 'full name' over one that is either a business name or a made-up username. Thus 'ashleybines' as a username, will receive more clicks than 'swissvitamins' or 'ashythewaterdrinkingdragon'.
Additionally, as you want to make it as easy as possible for potential new followers to find you online, it is best to leave out any punctuation marks (full stops, commas, exclamation points etc.) or double or triple letters in the middle of a username. This is because Instagram's search algorithm is subtractive in nature. This means that every new letter you type rules out all those usernames that don't have it exactly in that place – sequentially.
For example, if your name was Ashley Summer, and your username was 'ashley.summer', if someone searched 'ashleysummer', or even just up to 'ashleys' – your account would not appear as soon as they skipped the full stop – the same principle applies to putting double letters in the middle of your username – 'ashleyysummer' would not appear as soon as you skipped the extra 'y'.
This might not seem like a big deal, but just imagine one of your friends said 'oh, you should follow Jason Leever' and later that night when you're lying in bed you think 'hmm, ill go look him up', you search 'jasonleever' and nothing appears – because his username is 'jasonnleever'.
It is best to try to get your username as just your name. Obviously, there are a lot of people in the world and a lot of them will have the same name as you – in this case, save the double or triple letters for the last letter in your name – this way, they can search your name and you'll still come up because 'jasonleever' still contains all the letters of your username 'jasonleeverrr'.
Display Picture (DP) – People often think that the display picture on Instagram doesn't matter that much as it's so tiny and small. This is true to some extent, however, you can still optimize it to ensure you get the best results possible. Some general DP guidelines are:
- Avoid using a logo where possible. They are impersonal and statistically less likely to be clicked on cause people think 'oh it's just some business'.
- Choose a picture with high contrast and bright colors – these are more likely to be clicked on as they catch the eye of your potential followers
- Try choose an interesting image so people will be intrigued and want to see it bigger.
- Avoid black and white images, or extreme closeups of your face.
Bio – In general, keep it short, sweet and simple. Don't try convince people to buy something from you – this gives the impression that you only care about your followers for money – so leave out any “sponsored by”, “ambassador of” “Muscle Protein” and affiliate links.
A good trick is to write your bio in your phones 'notes' section, and then copy/paste it into Instagram -this will allow you to add paragraph spacings. If you're stuck, just state your qualifications, a personal fact, and a method of contact.
One question I always get is 'how often should I post?' and the answer varies from business to business. In general, the higher the value in each of your posts, the less frequently you need to post. As a rule of thumb, shoot for anywhere between 1-4 times a week for high-quality content (instructional videos, receipes etc) and once a day for lower value content (client transformations etc.).
Images & Theme
In general, when you look at an overview of your account, it should follow a consistent theme. Have a look at these accounts:
Notice how when you take a birdseye look at their posts, they tend to follow an overall design scheme – similar colors, filters, photography style and so on. This creates a feeling of consistency and 'flow'
It is a good idea to have an overall theme to all your images.
Additionally, some good guidelines to follow photography wise are:
- Use a proper DSLR camera instead of your phone – this results in better, clearer, crisper looking images.
- Note that:
- Pictures with high contrast receive more likes than those with low contrast
- Pictures with higher levels of texture receive more engagement (clear, in focus, close up and high detail) than those with lower levels (blurry, further away, low detail)
- Pictures with more than 3 people receive fewer likes than those composed of fewer than 3 people
Traffic & Exposure
Traffic & Exposure
Traffic & Exposure
Your content takes the visitors we drive to your page and converts them into followers.
Become An Authority
As your following grows, you begin to become a legitimate authority in your area - boosting your reputation and increasing your client base
Reel Them In
Now that they are following you, trust you and know you to be an expert in your area, selling your services is simple!
Now that you have your Instagram account all set up to provide high-quality, value-packed content in a unique and captivating manner – it's all about exposure.
Essentially, you need to get as many people to view your profile as possible.
The more people that view your profile, the more followers you're likely to get. However, you don't just want anyone to be viewing your profile – you want to get the people most likely to follow you.
There are a number of approaches to generate traffic:
A hashtag is a kind of label (or metadata) used on social media platforms to make it easier to find content relating to a specific theme. Putting a few choice hashtags usually gets you a few extra likes, but many vastly overdo it and put 20 or so hashtags which, let's face it, just looks ugly. Furthermore, you are unlikely to gain real followers from using hashtags due to three main reasons:
- People rarely actually search hashtags (when's the last time you searched '#nofilter' on Instagram?
- The hashtag results on Instagram are organized chronologically by age. Due to the hundreds of millions of users using hashtags on Instagram, your post is quickly lost amongst the thousands of others that get posted minutes after your own.
- It makes it very obvious that you are trying to gain followers, which (somewhat counterintuitively) means you're less likely to get them.
The introduction of Facebooks new Instagram advertising platform means you can now run Instagram ads to increase exposure to your content. This has the advantage of being able to become relatively cheap if you set it up correctly (for as little as $10 per day), but in my experience has a few distinct disadvantages.
The first is that, although your post may get lots of engagement, this is not reflected on your profile. Unlike a standard Facebook 'Boosted Post', your ad is not placed on your Instagram feed – it is entirely separate. This means that even if your post receives 500 'likes', no one will ever see it except others who see the ad. Secondly, a disappointingly smaller percentage will actually click on the ad through to your profile. They are much more likely to engage with just the ad itself and then keep scrolling. And finally, there are many rules and regulations you must adhere to in order to have your ad approved for display – and while some regulation is obviously necessary to ensure adult and otherwise disagreeable content is not spread (hate messages, racism etc.), it can be suffocating for upcoming brands trying to promote themselves this way.
Paid Cross Promotion
A very common option is cross paid promotions. This is where you pay another Instagram user with a larger following than you (in the same niche) to promote your page. This type of promotion usually starts around $250 per post (for a user with approx 100k followers) and increases with page size. Of course, individual user prices will vary and not everybody is open to promoting you on their page. It is also usually rather obvious that it is a paid promotion so people are less likely to click through to your page – however, it can be an effective method to generate traffic.
Instagram is a social media platform that primarily rewards one thing – engagement. The more you engage, the more people will engage with you.
This is the most effective method of building followers, and it is, on the primary level, very simple. Go through Instagram and find people who are likely to be interested in your page – now like some of their photos and perhaps follow them. You should find that if your profile is of sufficient quality and has lots of great, valuable content, that they should follow you back and engage with your content. You can do this repeatedly over time and slowly build your following. The downside to this is that it is very time-consuming, and it can be difficult to find the people most likely to be interested in your account, remember who you’ve followed, who you’ve unfollowed etc. One such method, for example, would be to search for hashtags relating to your page. However, intrinsically, people using hashtags are looking for followers themselves, and are not particularly interested in following new people. Nevertheless, this remains a tried and true method of slowly building your following.
This is the part I designed this service to excel in. We developed a highly sophisticated formula that not only finds the people most likely to be interested in your page, but also the people most likely to follow you and engage in your content based on their previous pattern of online behavior. Members of our team then manage the outbound content from your account to engage with these people (follow, like etc.) , and the results are staggering. It's not uncommon for people to start receiving up to 100 new followers a day with the right content. Basically – it takes all the effort and stress out of promoting your page and allows you to focus on generating your content. Where someone may manually be able to engage with say, 50 new people a day – we are able to hit somewhere closer to 600.
We’re Awesome – And We Can Prove it!
(Real Results – From Real Clients!)
It took 18 months of posting daily, tweaking hashtags and reading every article under the sun about instagram to gain 1500 followers. It was a tough slog, and at times I found it extremely frustrating, particularly when my followers plateaued. Discovering Ugro has taken a HUGE weight off my shoulders. In the first week I gained 500 new, highly engaged followers barely by lifting a finger. Using Ugro has taken the stress out of using Instagram to promote my business and has allowed me to focus my energy back where it should be; creating quality content for my audience. I honestly couldn't recommend this tool more highly!Meditation Teacher
I am so thrilled to have found such a reliable service, Ugro has taken our Instagram account from a static account to an interactive one. It differs from its competitors because you’re simply not buying followers, you’re engaging with users who might already like your content or have similar accounts. Its organic and sustainable growth.Director/ Co-Founder of Local Start-Up
Ugro has been great for my account! I've gained genuine followers and there's a lot more engagement on my posts - which has made Instagram fun again!Make-up Artist
U-gro was recommended to me by a family friend and it's been absolutely brilliant. Our followers have increased ten-fold and there's been a definite increase in studio traffic. The staff are always amazingly friendly, helpful and have incredible follow up. I highly recommend giving them a shot! Just added a second acount!Yoga Studio Owner
We’re really happy with the progress and in fact, they have helped our brand follow some really useful people that have contacted us with relation to our products, so we literally couldn’t be happier! U-gro has been an incredible tool for our social media growth and engagement. With multiple brands under our umbrella, I simply don’t have the time to interact with our audience. With U-gro, they connect us with relevant accounts who in turn follow us and begin interacting with our posts. Real people. Real time. Real results. We’d definitely recommend U-gro to any business or individual who are wanting to build their brand presence.Keysun Laboratories
'I’ve struggled with getting any real traction on IG for about a year, despite putting a lot of effort into my posts. I was actually wondering if it was worth continuing with IG and I thought maybe it wasn’t the right platform for me. But just with my free trial of U-gro, I got about 300 new fans and more engagement - all real people and mostly people who are strongly relevant to me. Whatever algorithm U-gro is using to find accounts that are a good match, it works. I’ve been really happy with the type of accounts U-gro has reached out to. It’s also made it easier to use IG because I don’t have to worry as much about finding new fans, and also more fun since I can see that my efforts are paying back. It’s allowed me to change my posting strategy to posting less frequently but putting more effort into each post. That works out better for me and also for my followers. I’m definitely going to keep using U-gro!'Artist Manager
I'm very happy and you guys are doing a fantastic job! Thank you! My next big goal is 30k 🙂Yoga Teacher
I was contacted by Dylan and decided to take up the 10 day free trial. I was sceptical at first, and had several conversations over phone and email with him and he put my mind at ease. Its been a couple of months now and I couldn't be happier with the results. I have recommended Ugrow to a number of other business colleagues. Highly recommendOwner/Head Trainer (Brisbane Based Fitness Centre)
Hey Guys, Wanted to say thanks for the great work growing my account, but more importantly your service. It's great to have someone on the other end of the phone who I can call and talk to. The personal touch goes a long way. Let's see you get me to 10k.Stylist
Loving seeing the growth come through our Insta account. Really so happy with the job you guys have been doing! We’re genuinely buzzed with what you’re doing and look forward to continuing to use you guys and grow our audiences together.Melbourne Based Music Duo
Thanks, you guys helped me a lot!Fashion/Lifestyle Blogger
Thank you guys again for being such a great support! I know your team is working hard in the background. And for your information, my website visits has doubled since recruiting U-gro. In the meantime - i have changed premises and working on talks/ workshops. Upward and beyondBody & Mind Coach
One week in and already made a sale to a buyer in LA! Website visits are increasing more and more each day, and averaging 3 inquiries a day now. Upgrading my plan now! Many many thanks!Art Gallery Owner