While promoting a new business Instagram account, the concepts from Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit* enabled me to have a startling and important revelation. Now you can use the results of my little experiment to grow your own presence on social media!
There are hundreds of resources out there that tell you how to grow your Instagram audience. The two articles (found on Pinterest) that resonated most with me were written by Melyssa Griffin and Amy Howard Social. They had clear, easy-to-implement tactics to add to my Instagram strategy.
I decided to take four weeks to test out a very fast and simplified version of their tactics on my new IG account for a new hobby. Not only were the results encouraging, but the research from The Power of Habit became relevant in how I would use Instagram forever.
First, a brief description of my hobby and its Instagram strategy.
My Favorite Westie (MFW) is a community of Westie owners share photos of their West Highland White Terriers, learn more about the breed, and buy our curated products.
Instagram is a popular platform for dog lovers, and they love interacting with one another. My Instagram strategy is to create a community of passionate Westie lovers through following and engagement. The tactics are of this strategy are:
- Feature the photos of accounts who use #myfavoritewestie as my #WestieoftheDay throughout the week.
- Share photos of my two Westies to establish myself as an authority on this lovable breed.
In its first couple of months, my IG audience grew very slowly, and MFW photo engagement was low compared to other Westie accounts. That is why I researched the topics above and ran my very own experiment.
To increase my following, I spent no more than five minutes per day on Instagram doing these tactics:
- Liked 10 photos on my explore page or in one of the Westie hashtags.
- Commented on 10 photos on my explore page or in one of the Westie hashtags.
- Liked all photos who use my hashtag.
- Followed five Westie accounts.
My goal for the experiment was to see if, on the smallest scale, these tactics would grow an organic following on Instagram.
When I began the four-week experiment, I had 127 followers. After four weeks of my new strategy, my followers had grown more than 126%. Not drastic – only about five new followers per day – but the return on investment was pretty great. In exchange for spending five strategic minutes per day, I received five new passionate followers from my target audience. Imagine the results if I dedicated an hour a day to Instagram?!
There were more exciting results, too.
I had already posted 57 photos, composed of both original MFW photos and reposts of the photos that used my unique hashtag. At the beginning of the experiment, there were only 112 mentions of #myfavoritewestie. When I compare that to mentions at the end of the experiment (and subtract my posts), there are 76 more photos using my brand’s hashtag. Nothing crazy, but progress nonetheless! To learn more about why that number is not higher, read below in Key Insights.
When trying to analyze the audience engagement with my photos during those four weeks, I was able to pull a free report from Simply Measured. I must say, their free analytics were outstanding.
See that steep graph incline in July? That is when I implemented my little experiment. It is amazing to actually see those results in a chart! Additionally, this report showed me that the most popular time for audience engagement with MFW was at 9 a.m. on Wednesdays.
The funniest thing happened in the middle of this experiment. I had just finished reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and one of his concepts suddenly jumped out at me.
Duhigg explains the habit loop and how each person travels through it, including when they make purchase decisions. In order for many products to be appealing enough to buy (and to continue being bought), you must make it part of your customer’s habit cycle. Whether the product is part of a routine or a reward, make the consumers CRAVE your solution.
What was my problem (and why did Duhigg’s book came to mind)? My new hashtag, #myfavoritewestie, was not part of my audience’s Instagram habit. By browsing their photos, I saw that they have a habit of adding several hashtags. In order to make my hashtag relevant, I needed to add it to their posting routine. Even though my experiment was about engagement, I had a huge revelation about my overall Instagram strategy.
Another insight: when I searched the hashtags my audience uses, I noticed that the most popular ones started with the same word.
#westiegram, #westiesofinstagram, #westhighlandwhiteterriers, #westiebestie, etc.
#Myfavoritewestie does not start with the same word, which means it is less likely to show up if you search for the usual hashtags. I would have to work exponentially harder to make my hashtag relevant because it is not quickly found when searching for Westie hashtags. I need to ensure the reward for using my hashtag is high enough to change my audience’s habit.
I stumbled upon another interesting Instagram tactic while studying hashtags in my target market. When I type #westie in the IG search bar, the results pull up hashtags AND accounts that use that hashtag. Only one user so far has used that hashtag in their name, and it showed up at the very top of the results. I decided to test that tactic by adding a hashtag in front of the world “Westie” in my account name. We shall see if it makes a difference…
As the experiment went on, I began being very targeted with my likes and comments. If an account had hundreds of likes, I would see those “likers” and engage with the most popular accounts. I also utilized the “suggested” accounts to follow accounts with more than 300 followers.
There are some people who believe you are more successful if your followers to following ratio is low. For example, you strive to have 1,000 followers for each account you follow. Well, for me, following other Westie accounts gives me a better idea of my target audience: its size, the content they post, and their IG posting habits. I made it a priority to follow at least ten Westie accounts per day, beginning with the ones with 300+ followers.
Finally, I must admit that the experts are right: no one strategy can work for every social media platform. While I experimented on Instagram, I also experimented on Pinterest. There are thousands of passionate Westie lovers there, too, so I spent a few minutes every day pinning 10+ pins to my account.
Yes, some of my adorable (I am biased) Westie photos were repinned more than 100 times, but I only gained 12 new followers after the experiment. My Pinterest account did not gain the same traction that my Instagram account did, but I will experiment more with Pinterest later!
Which Instagram strategies and tactics have worked for you? Have you tapped into your audience’s habit cycle to increase your influence? I would love to hear from you!
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*This article contains an affiliate link for the book, The Power of Habit! As a bookworm, I only recommend books I really enjoyed reading. I hope you enjoy them, too!