As a fitness professional, or someone looking to get into the industry, you might be well aware that Instagram can be a very powerful tool for gaining exposure. The obvious benefit lies with its use to drive new clients to your services, but behind that, the power of its social proofing—the ability to leverage the weight of other people’s opinions and ease the minds of worried clients that you’re an expert—is huge.
We are in a time, whether you like it or not, when the number of followers you have can directly impact the credibility you have, regardless of how ‘real’ this following is. However, be warned that fake followers can have adverse effects, so I strongly advise against buying followers.
There are numerous techniques—some good, some bad—that will help you grow a following, but the key is to remain consistent and engaging, and I emphasise on engagement.
I’ve put down 3 great ways to help you build an Instagram following.
- Convert your Instagram profile to a business profile.
To convert your account, you’ll need to create a Facebook page. You don’t need to do anything with the page, but you need to link your Instagram account to it.
After creating a Facebook page, go to your Instagram account, go to your profile page. Tap the three dots at the top right, scroll down and select “Switch to Business Profile”. Now you can choose your Facebook page and link them up.
Once you’ve done that you’ll have access to Instagram’s analytics, which is key to understanding your followers and your engagement; when the best times to post are, which posts are performing the best, how big your reach is and 7 day comparisons, which help you see if you’re improving your numbers over time.
The first thing to look at is the graph of your followers’ login times, with this information you can now see the best times to post to get the highest engagement, therefore using your time more effectively.
There are also heaps of other things you can look into to try and improve your account’s performance. Each account is different, so take some time to understand what’s going on.
You’ll also have the opportunity to promote certain posts. By clicking on photos that have performed well, you can promote these to get them in front of more people. This will cost some money, so be aware of that.
- Engage with people
There are numerous ways to go about this, but essentially it’s like the real world, if you talk to people and get them involved, you’re more likely to make lots of friends, whereas if you sit in the corner talking only to yourself, you’ll probably not make too many positive connections.
Firstly, the easiest thing to do is to always reply to anyone commenting on your posts. Even the automated comments or generic ones like “great pic”, “love your profile” or an emoji, you should still reply with a simple thanks or return the emoji, and for genuine comments, be more specific with responses.
In the beginning, when you only have a few comments to deal with, take some time to look at their profile and make the response really personal, and also go and like a couple of their photos. This shows you are real, you care and it makes the other person feel good. It also helps new potential followers see you’re engaged with your followers and will give them more reason to hit that follow button.
There’s nothing more attractive than an Instagram profile with lots of conversation, it looks like a fun place to hang out. Even when you grow to a large following, keep replying to comments, in fact this can pay even more dividends if you want further growth, as it shows you’re not too big and famous to reply to the little guys. Do you remember that time when someone you looked up to on Instagram replied to you? It felt good right?
Secondly, you want to go out of your way to find photos relevant to your field and comment on them. Spend a bit of your spare time searching and commenting on photos from accounts that are a similar size and interest to you. Commenting is a great way to show this new person that you’re interested enough in their photos to take some time and write something, rather than the lazy double screen tap. You’re a lot more likely to get a genuine new follower out of it.
You can also spend a bit of time liking lots and lots of pictures within your field, in this case fitness. This technique isn’t as likely to get a follow back, but it’s quick and easy. The best way to find relevant photos is to search on specific hashtags, however the explorer page is also full of gems.
A side tip here is to make sure you have a really appealing profile picture. When you like or comment on a photo, your profile picture will show in their notifications and so having an attractive picture will encourage them to click on your name and explore your profile. Use a photo of your best asset, whether that’s a full body shot, a close up of your face or an impressive pose, make sure it’s something you’d click on yourself. Using lots of high contrasting colours and a high quality photo will certainly help you stand out.
- Add hashtags, mentions and people tags
This one is an old trick, but it’s easy to do and works well. Take a few minutes to research about 20ish hashtags that are relevant to your field as well as some tried and tested ones. Make a note in your phone of them all. For example:
#fitspo #fitness #workout #body #bodybuilding #personaltraining #exercise #gym #gymtime #gymlife #gymlyf #fit #fitfam #shredded #motivation #training #lifting #lift #picoftheday #dedication #goals #physique #instalike #instadaily #instagrammers #followme
Now you can copy and paste this from your notes to the end of each caption. Some people like to add a new comment, but I’m not sure this is as affective. It does look a little tacky, but it’ll help you get in front of the right people. After a few weeks you can go through your photos and edit the caption to clean it up a bit, but that’s simply a choice.
On top of that, tagging accounts that often reshare other people’s content is a great way to get featured. Getting on these accounts can do wonders for your following. For example, if you happen to be a bodybuilder that is in particularly good shape, you can tag @shredded.union and hope they’ll feature you. Or if you’ve recently had success in losing a lot of weight, tag someone like @kayla_itsines with a before and after photo.
Other accounts to tag are clothing brands featured in the image, the gym you’re in, any equipment brands that are clearly in shot or anything else that is in the photo, as there is always a chance that if the photo is good, that brand might want to use it on their own account, giving you more exposure.
Tagging accounts in the photo itself is another way to tag lots of relevant accounts without having to make your caption look messy and spammy. Even if you’ve already tagged them in the comments, tag them again in the photo as it’s another way for the account holder to get a notification. An added benefit of this is that if they have their tagged photos open, you’ll actually appear in the photos of them on their own profile. However, larger more savvy Instagrammers will have this turned off.
There are many more ways to grow a following but you can start quite easily with the above, it’ll take some commitment and hard work, especially at the start, but once you gain traction, you’ll have an idea what works and what doesn’t. After that, things will become easier.
As well as focusing on that outward effort, it is key to continue posting interesting and high quality photos to get people to want to follow you. Post often, once or twice a day and at the correct times for maximum engagement.
We have a workshop on Marketing for Personal Trainers, that covers more bases and will give you a good base to build your brand from.
If you’d like more tips like this, share this post on social media and if we get enough interest, I’ll write up another piece on more ways to grow a following. We went from 100 to 6k followers in just over 6 months, so it’s possible with a bit of hard work.