8 Instagram Growth Tips In Uncertain Times and Beyond by Hugh Rees


10 Instagram Highlights Every Brand Must Know to Grow
10 Instagram Highlights Every Brand Must Know to Grow

Reinvention is the key to brand survival, even on Instagram during Covid-19.  The beauty of the Facebook-owned social network boosting more than 1 Billion users is it’s all about being real, raw, and in the moment. This includes reinventing and optimizing your Instagram strategy for best reach, exposure, and public relations results even during times of uncertainty like COVID-19.

Sending the right message has never been more important as brands adjust social media feeds to the reality of worldwide quarantine.

No glamour travel shots, no happy hours in crowded bars, no behind the scenes at trade shows, and no crowds. Today’s Instagram feed includes social distancing as an underlying message.

We caught up with best selling author, entrepreneur, and Instagram Growth Expert Hugh Rees to get his take on Instagram for business. 

Just this year, the social media photo app introduced an entirely new algorithm and stopped showing the number of likes on a post. If you haven’t already, now is the time to get your business started or restarted on Instagram. 

We caught up with Instagram expert and best selling author Hugh Rees to find out the latest on how to filter through Instagram during uncertain times and beyond.

Here are some tips for utilizing and growing your brand’s account to reach some of their one billion monthly users, with a few suggested adjustments and pivots.

1. Build your brand

Like any other social media you’re using for PR, your Instagram profile is a direct reflection of your brand. The color palette, imagery, captions, and fonts have to be carefully selected when setting up your account. Every single one of these things should be intentional. Each element should serve a purpose and contribute to your overall brand personality. Remember, some people will find out about your business on Instagram. You want them to instantaneously know what you’re about, and you want your profile to make them like you.

COVID-19 Instagram Tip: Stay on brand with colors, content and voice. Check past posts and delete or archive anything possibly offensive in today’s situation. Update any posts with current info if they are promoting canceled events.

2. Research and Strategy

Before starting to grow your Instagram you should set your PR goals for the platform and build a solid strategy to achieve them. The most important part of any strategy is figuring out who you’re targeting. Start by building your customer persona(s) and then start strategizing. All of the next steps will have to be done with this audience in mind. You will need to put out content in a way that best appeals to the audience you want exposure from.

COVID-19 Instagram Tip: Be mindful, sensitive, and helpful in your Instagram feed strategy. How can your brand help your audience during uncertain and stressful times?

3. Algorithm

Instagram’s algorithm recently changed. Users are now showed content that’s most relevant to them rather than posts that were posted most recently. The algorithm works like this:

  1. You post the content.
  2. Instagram shows it to a small number of people in the first hour.
  3. It uses that data to compare to what you’ve previously posted on that day and at that time.
  4. The better your post does within the first hour, the higher in the feed it will appear. 
  5. They then predict the likelihood of users engaging with your posts in comparison to other accounts they follow.

In order for your brand to get as much exposure as possible, you should be working with the algorithm. Read our next tips to make sure your post does well in its first hour and stays high in your followers’ feed.

COVID-19 Instagram Tip: This is not a time to stop posting, it’s a time when more people are stuck at home and thumbing through their feeds.

4. Content

The actual content you’re posting is what matters most on Instagram. It’s the end product of your social PR strategy, it’s what will engage followers and bring new followers in. Keep in mind that one factor affecting how your post performs is ‘time spent on post.’ Consequently, longer captions tend to do better. That being said, Instagram is really a human to human communication tool, so make sure to be authentic in order to build stronger connections with your audience. 

What’s more, the overall aesthetic of your profile is the first thing your audience will see. The colors, layout, and general tone of your profile all contribute to this. Think about your brand personality and let that guide you when choosing what to post. 

Instagram Tips During Covid-19: Look at sharing helpful and inspiring user-generated content from trusted sources resonating with your audience.

5. Community

PR is about building a community surrounding your brand and it’s what you should be doing on Instagram as well. Interacting with people who engage with your posts, replying to comments and messages, and using hashtags are all steps towards a strong Instagram community. Every interaction is an opportunity to build connections and therefore, grow your brand. The more engaged you are, the more people will engage with you, the more exposure you will get. That’s because Instagram’s algorithm prioritizes posts with high engagement. 

Another popular way to put out content and build connections is by using Instagram stories. Instagram has added an array of story features to attract more engagement to your page. They also foster more awareness of your brand within your followers. For maximized engagement, your story should be posted regularly and be educational, helpful and even entertaining.  

COVID-19 Instagram Tip: Have your team do daily Instagram takeovers while working from home and share behind the scenes of what home office life looks like from their perspective.

6. Hashtags

One of the best ways for your brand to get exposure on Instagram is hashtags. You should use hashtags as a way to categorize content so that Instagram knows who to show it to. Hashtags will also attract people searching for things similar to what your promoting. They’re great tools for low effort PR exposure! However, not all hashtags are good hashtags. Things you shouldn’t do are:

  • Using hashtags that are overly-used, hence too competitive.
  • Picking irrelevant hashtags.
  • Using repetitive hashtags.

Using the right hashtags can increase engagement and attract the right followers. You should be aiming at using all 30 hashtags allowed by the app. Splitting them up into three categories is also recommended: easy to rank on, possible to rank on, and hard to rank on. 

View this post on Instagram

Me & my dogs

A post shared by Kevin Hart (@kevinhart4real) on

COVID-19 Instagram Tips: Don’t abuse hashtags meant for serious content regarding a crisis such as #COVID19 unless it is newsworthy content. Selling using inappropriate hashtags will get you banned from Instagram and send negative messages to your audience.

7. Shopping

Another way to get exposure if you’re selling a product is Instagram’s shopping tool. Because 70% of shopping enthusiasts rely on Instagram for product discovery, it serves as a built-in search engine. Simply set up a product catalog, link it to your account, and tag the products in your feed photos. If your strategy and content are good, your PR strategy will not only lead to brand awareness but will result in increased direct sales from Instagram!

8. Growth Hacks

Some lesser-known tips to boost your engagement, exposure, and increase followers include:

  • Brand collaborations – make sure the partners you collaborate with align with your brand identity.
  • Paid traffic – this is the best way to get followers fast.
  • Giveaways and promos – run exclusive offers on your account to keep people coming back.
  • Engagement pods – join a group of people that align with your niche and engage with each other in order to hack the algorithm.

Instagram is in constant evolution and we are expecting more changes to come, including more AR, more story features, and chatbots! We know it seems like a lot, but don’t feel overwhelmed. Just start with small steps: a successful Instagram strategy that will get your brand maximum exposure won’t happen overnight.

About Hugh Rees

Hugh started out as a software engineer (yeah, he’s a massive numbers nerd). Of course, that all changed he recognized an opportunity, and if you know Hugh, you know he’s never one to turn down an opportunity. Digital marketing was on the rise and Hugh was one of the first to recognize its potential to connect brands with bigger, more compatible audiences. He took it upon himself to master digital media buying. And master it he did. He’s now one of the biggest names in the Social Media Marketing space.

Check out Hugh’s latest book Instagram Mastery Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram to Organically Grow Your Brand. 

Follow Hugh here 





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