I think it's natural for most people staring out on Instagram to get some satisfaction from seeing growth in followers. That may feel good, but if you're using Instagram as one of your channels to grow you business, followers are of little value if they are not your target market.
Like any form of marking, it's vital that you build your audience with people that either fit your prospective buyer profile, or may be influencers with a sizeable audience who are willing to promote your brand.
As I'm in the process of building my business on Instagram, I've been researching the best methods of finding and engaging with my target buyers on Instagram. This post pulls from my current research and my years of experience in targeting companies and people to build high quality prospect lists in business (specifically in the tech industry).
Finding your ideal buyer on Instagram starts with your understanding of your buyers searchable characteristics. Can you develop an accurate buyer persona. By searchable, I mean that there must be a method of searching in Instagram or in Google to find your buyers. Instagram's user search criteria are fairly limited to hashtags, location, and gender and of course the activity filters like number of posts, followers and following.
Google searches, using advanced boolean search methods, enable finding virtually anything through the internet. The value of Google search is to find people and organizations and then try to cross reference them in Instagram. This can be most effective for artists is locating galleries and then cross-referencing in Instagram.
The real trick is to find buyers who will be attracted to your work. In the visual art world we are looking for collectors, people with a history of actually buying art, that are likely to like your work and your artistic personality and philosophy. Once you've developed persona(s) of you ideal buyer(s) you be able to target your marketing/outreach and messages.
Search to Find Your Buyers
I think the most direct method of targeting on Instagram is to search followers of competitors, other physical businesses that my have Instagram accounts, or specific hashtags that are likely to be followed by the type of people who will fit your target buyer personas. Once you've found Instagram users who's followers could possibly be good prospects for you is when the work really begins.
This method of targeting can be very accurate but it is also very time consuming. However, if you are able to find your 'ideal' buyers with this method, it is definitely worth the time. The time consuming part is going through each profile to get enough information to determine, based on their Instagram bio and posts if they are a good fit. It may often be necessary to take a little more time and view the person's website or other social media channels. But if you're able to get a favorable ROI through this method, it can be worth the investment of time.
As you may know, a common measurement of value for time or money spent in business is to calculate the ROI (return on investment). One common calculation is, ROI = Net income / Cost of investment x 100. If your average work sells for $5,000, is it worth, say three hours of your time to find enough idea buyers from which you can sell one per month? Due to the fact that this approach takes a human being to do the research, this is the type of work that could possibly be outsourced to someone like a virtual assistant..
Make Yourself Discoverable
Another way to target is to post visual and written content that will appeal to your ideal buyer and use hashtags. Research shows that posts with 7 to 30 hashtags hidden in the caption get the most social engagement. That said, Instagram recommends keeping hashtags between 3 - 5. Also, the Instagram algorithm is beginning to move toward semantic keyword search it will open up a new world of possibilities. This indicated that the words used in captions or the topics will be searchable too.
Another simple rule is to mix the audience size of your hashtags. Generally speaking it's more effective to use Hashtags with smaller audiences that tend to be more niche and also more active. When using larger hashtag communities it can be easier to get lost in the crowd.
Finally, invest time into researching hashtags for your industry and test a variety of hashtags and analyze their performance. Unfortunately, it's not possible to track which hashtags are generating views, likes, and comments from you posts. But, there are tools to analyze likes and comments for specific hashtags. One method to use this analysis is to look at some of a competitor's most popular posts and see which hashtags are in the caption section.
Here's a very helpful article that follows a very logical step-by-step approach to targeting the right Instagram users for you business, '8 sure-fire ways to find your target market on Instagram'.