What handmade business doesn’t have a love-hate relationship with Instagram? It’s got so much potential — and you know a lot of your customer base is on there — but it often feels like a lot of effort for not much reward. One Workshop member asked us: How do I grow my reach on Instagram? We chatted with digital marketing expert Kaeden Merasty to get his advice.

Workshop: What does it mean to have good reach?

Kaeden Merasty: Having good reach means that your posts are being seen by a wide audience on Instagram. The larger your reach, the higher your impressions will be. And impressions are the number of people actually seeing your posts.

W: In the old days, the feed was in reverse chronological order. Then they changed it all up. So now, when I go on my Instagram and look at my feed, what am I seeing?

KM: You’re typically seeing posts that have high engagement rates. You’ll most likely see the posts that get the most likes and comments in a short amount of time first, especially if you’ve engaged with that account in the past. Instagram’s algorithms seem to know what accounts you favour. And they'll definitely show you posts from the accounts you favour first to make sure you're viewing content that you like.

W: One of the things we're trying to do in Instagram is get followers, but I know that not all my followers are going to see my posts. Why is that?

KM: It's typically because they're not engaging with your content as much as they could be. Engagement can be measured by comments, shares, likes, saves and DMs, and the amount of engagement your posts get will help improve their reach. It's really important that you know your audience, what they like and the best time to post, because you may be posting while half your audience is sleeping. You have to be aware of these things and track your analytics.

W: What are some of the steps I can take to get more of my followers to see my posts?

KM: You’ve got to get to know your audience, find out what they like and change up the post types: maybe make some videos, some Instagram reels and quick snackable content. Try different versions of posts, like just providing them with information to see if it helps increase your engagement rates. Maybe run a giveaway every once in a while to attract more followers to your account and increase your engagement that way. Show them behind the scenes what you're doing in your business: put some faces behind your brand so people can engage and interact with a personality rather than just a logo.

If someone comments on your posts, it's important that you reply to them to let them know there's someone actually there. They create a connection with your brand that way.

W: Does it matter what I do in terms of engaging with people, such replying to comments or commenting on other posts?

KM: Yeah, definitely. Engagement can also be measured through mentions, click-throughs on your links and DMs and comments. It's really important that you're interacting with all these things, because your followers want to feel like they're being heard. If someone comments on your posts, it's important that you reply to them to let them know there's someone actually there. They create a connection with your brand that way.

W: What about frequency? Does it matter how often people post?

KM: If you can maintain a high-frequency posting schedule, that's definitely preferred. But if you can't maintain it, don't bother trying. You should be consistent; frequency and consistency go hand in hand. If you're going to post three times a week, stick to posting three times a week moving forward. If your followers are engaging with your posts a lot and you want to take it to the next level, maybe try four or five posts. But if you're just getting started, maybe just post twice a week, and try to stay consistent by posting twice a week.

W: What about reaching a new audience and trying to get more followers? Giveaways are one way to do that, but what are some others?

KM: Hashtags can help a lot when it comes to reaching a wider audience that doesn’t already follow you. But you have to use relevant hashtags. So if you're posting a picture of a cupcake, don't hashtag #dinosaur — make sure you're using the proper hashtags that your industry is using. And don't use too many hashtags, either — you can come across as unprofessional and kind of spammy.

W: What’s too many?

KM: I’d say double digits. It's just overkill at that point.

W: Do you have any tips on boosting posts?

KM: If you boost a post, you will get likes and interactions and engagement. But if you just boost your posts without setting the proper audience, you're just going to be showing random people. They may not even care, but they'll give you a like, and you'll feel like you got the engagement you needed — but it didn't convert. So you’ve got to be really strategic when you're boosting posts to make sure you're reaching the right audience.

Make sure that you stay consistent with your posting schedule, and create content that your audience enjoys.

W: Do you think it's possible to have business success on Instagram without boosting?

KM: One hundred percent. If you are creating content that your audience likes, and you're starting to reach a wider audience, and you're seeing your engagement go up and your followers go up, just keep doing what you're doing. Make sure that you stay consistent with your posting schedule, and create content that your audience enjoys. You can build a following without having to pay at all just by interacting and getting along with your audience.

W: I’ve read that Instagram weights the algorithm toward people participating in the new kinds of content, like Reels. Do you think that's true?

KM: Instagram heavily favours people using their new post types. If you start posting Reels, your engagement numbers will likely go through the roof. They'll start promoting your posts organically through the Explore page, and you'll have higher chances and more frequency of popping up on other people's timelines.

W: Do you have any general tips on creating, whether it's basic static posts or Reels or Stories?

KM: Videos don't have to be super high production when you're posting Instagram Reels — just pick up your phone. Show people behind the scenes. Talk to your followers a little bit: putting a face behind your brand really helps with engagement.

In terms of photos, I’ve found that carousels — when you post more than one photo at a time — seem to get more engagement than just one single photo. I think the main reason for that is because your posts can pop up multiple times on someone's timeline. So if they didn't interact with the first slide, the second slide might appear on their timeline. It increases the chances that your audience can engage with that post.

You can also use Instagram Stories, which are a great way to interact with your followers. Instagram provides you with a bunch of tools on Instagram Stories such as stickers, questions to test your followers’ knowledge, quizzes, you can show product releases with countdowns, and even run polls. That's a great way to interact with your audience and help spread some awareness of what you’re doing.

Captions are also very important. Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long, which a majority of users don't usually even come close to using. It's important to use those captions to write engaging content. Instagram, I think, is able to track how much time followers are spending looking at your content. So next time, you may pop up higher on their timeline because they had more engagement with your content.

W: Do you have any tips on doing all of this while also keeping your regular business going?

KM: One of the best things you can do is batch your content. What that means is you try to sit down and schedule all your posts for, say, one month. You make sure your Instagram is running consistently, and you're able to focus on work and not have to do much on Instagram, other than keeping up with your comments and DMs.

Kaeden Merasty is CEO and Founder of The Indigenous Marketing Company, which provides holistic digital marketing support to Indigenous entrepreneurs, small-to-large business, non-profits and councils across Canada. Specializing in sustainable branding and strategy, IMC’s services include web design, search engine optimization, social media marketing, pay-per-click advertising and other creative services.

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