Instagram is a powerful platform when it comes to growing an audience and building a brand. Whether you’re a content creator or a business owner, you’ll reap massive benefits from this platform if you use it right. And to hundreds of thousands of people globally, getting popular on Instagram sounds impossible, but then again, everyone needs to start somewhere.
One way of gaining ground on Instagram is to go viral with a post. Many believe that a post can go viral only by pure coincidence, by sheer luck. In reality, if a user is determined and dedicated enough, they will eventually upload a piece of content that will resonate with thousands, even millions of people out there.
With 2023 well underway, it’s the perfect time to focus on how you can go viral on Instagram. We’ve compiled a handy list of 14 ways in which your post can reach lots of users and earn you potential followers, likes, and engagement.
#1: Consistent Posting
Every content creator will undoubtedly tell you that routine helps grow your platform presence. Whether it’s a YouTube channel, a Twitter profile, or an Instagram page, as long as you remain consistent in posting, people will notice you, and the algorithm will boost you further.
Having said that, we should stress that it’s not just about using any schedule. For example, you can be sharing images and videos every single day, but if you do it at 1 am when most people are asleep, you’ll have next to no engagement. In order to drive more traffic to your page, you’ll have to focus on optimal upload times. That means posting content when you’re sure the majority of people are online and browsing the app.
Metrics usually vary depending on the region and the time zone, but overall, if you aim for a daily posting schedule, go with an early morning or post-noon routine. On the other hand, you can aim for specific days during the week for each individual post. Most people will be online on Wednesdays around noon, so you can expect lots of engagement then. Friday mornings are also a good bet. So, if you’re a content creator and you want plenty of followers and engagement, you’ll want to time your posts in accordance with the best posting time within the time zone you live in.
#2: Paid Ads
No matter what the platform may be, paid ads are the bread and butter of nearly all successful businesses. And since social media is such a powerful marketing tool, most brands today, both major and minor, invest a lot of money in internet marketing. In fact, more often than not, marketing a brand is just as important as making a product or offering a service.
Considering that people spend a huge amount of time on social media platforms, using that clout for some advertising makes sense. Therefore, investing in a few paid ads yourself can be wise, as it will likely attract more than a few curious users. What’s more, advertising on Instagram won’t cost you much, as the average price is between $0.20 and $2 per click. And since engagement on this platform is pretty high for both organic and paid content, your investment will certainly pay off.
#3: Influencer Partnerships
A beverage manufacturer or an ice cream-making company will get maybe a few thousand likes and a hundred or so followers with a good upload schedule and paid ads. On the other hand, a brand of similar size will get hundreds of thousands of likes and just as many followers if someone like Markplier or Chiara Ferragni is posting an Instagram photo tasting or even holding one of their products.
Influencers drive a ton of traffic, no matter what they post. It can be something as silly as a bloopers video; if it has a branded product somewhere in it, even in the background, people will want to buy it. Now, you may not be able to afford massive names, but if possible, partner up with some smaller, niche-specific influencers. You may get a portion of their fanbase to follow you and engage with your content.
#4: Trending Events
Staying up to date with current events is an excellent way of boosting one’s Instagram following. By keeping track of what’s topical, you’re letting the followers know that you’ve got the finger on the pulse of popular culture, or even culture at large.
Focusing on a trending event tends to produce a lot of quick spikes of engagement, and depending on the topic, it can last anywhere between a few days and a few weeks, maybe even months. In other words, it’s practically perfect for creating viral Instagram posts.
#5: Photos and Videos Equally Matter
Most people not using Instagram (and more than a few that do use it) will claim that it’s a photo-sharing platform. In reality, especially over the past few years, Instagram has been leaning more and more toward video content. As a matter of fact, the current head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced all the way back in 2021 that the app is no longer simply a platform for photo sharing.
So, as a content creator, should you focus more on video content or images? Maybe a combination of the two? Well, it all depends on what type of content you produce. Some sources claim that video content is overtaking the photos and that creators ought to shift focus there. Others offer a more balanced view.
Broadly speaking, as a creator, you will have various types of users. For instance, a portion of them will love watching short videos, especially if they are avid consumers of TikTok or YouTube. Others, who prefer “static content” such as Pinterest pins or Twitter posts, may go for images. With that in mind, you should consider which types of posts perform better for you personally and invest your energy there. However, don’t simply neglect the other option. Again, we advise a balanced approach and the use of both photos and videos.
#6: Viral Instagram Contests
We all love free stuff, and the best kind of freebies are the ones you gain with minimal effort. Veteran Instagram users and businesses know these facts well, which is why they often employ a tried and tested method of going viral on the platform, i.e., Instagram contests.
You can find tools online that generate contest templates for various platforms. Usually, these templates have a call-to-action option, something like “Visit Our Instagram Page” or “Watch Our IG Video and Like It/Comment on It.” Sometimes, you can even provide a referral option, where someone needs to recommend your page to a friend in order to participate.
Of course, a huge part of this strategy is offering an actual, tangible prize. It can be anything, from a designer bag or a PS5 to a gift card or a promo code for a video game. As long as it’s an item that your followers will want, it’s fair game.
#7: Understanding the Followers
No amount of algorithms and fancy online tools can help you make a viral post if you don’t know your target audience. More often than not, people invest in every aspect of an online platform for a brand but don’t focus on what matters most — understanding what their viewers and followers want to see.
In order to figure that part out, you’ll need to create a sort-of buyer persona, i.e., an ideal follower of your content. Focus on their age, gender, and income, but also factor in their education levels, place of residence, and occupational aspirations. On the other hand, don’t forget to do some research into your own desired niche. What would people want to see from you as a brand or content creator? What is it that specifically speaks to them? How do your photos and videos relate to the subject matter, and will they benefit your followers in the long term?
Once you have your ideal buyer persona made out, make sure your content matches their desires as much as possible. When you start getting followers, research the type of content from the other creators they usually engage with. Then it’s time to adopt, adapt, and improve. The more effort you put in, the higher the chances of your posts going viral.
#8: Unique Creative Voice
Imitation is a form of flattery, but too much of it can be seen as plagiarism, at the very worst, and lack of creativity at the very least. Case in point: before YouTube was famous, people online would watch video game reviewers on independent platforms who adopted an angry, over-the-top persona. However, other creators hijacked the format, and instead of success, they gained notoriety. This example is niche specific, of course. But it shows that even back then, people who consumed online content knew the difference between genuine creativity and flat-out plagiarism.
So, as a creator who wants to generate viral posts, you should create and maintain your own unique voice. Broadly speaking, you ought to have an approach to the topic you’re covering that differs from others but also speaks to the audience. After a while, this creative voice will become a major trait of your platform, and people will like your posts and follow your page in droves.
#9: Unique Brand Aesthetic
Of course, a creative voice will require a solid, consistent aesthetic appeal that will stay in the minds of your followers. Don’t forget that Instagram is a platform that mainly focuses on images and videos, i.e., visual media. In other words, what your followers see is what they’ll remember.
With that in mind, pay attention to your visual aesthetic. If it’s all over the place, it will cause confusion and disinterest. For instance, let’s say that your first post in January was a holiday photo, but then your second one contained a random illustration followed by a meme about a popular TV show and then a deep quote from a famous author. Not only is it a bit jarring, but it’s also visually noisy.
On the other hand, accounts that pick a particular “look” and stick to it have a higher chance of going viral. For example, a user may post nothing but POV shots while riding a bike. Others might opt for an all-green ensemble of photos, no matter what the subject is. Some users choose a set of items and arrange them in a particular order for every photo or video. The possibilities are endless.
Of course, the aesthetic you go for doesn’t have to be overtly visually striking like the examples we’ve provided above. Sometimes, even a tiny object that constantly appears in the background can do the trick. Alternatively, this visual appeal of yours can appear even in something as seemingly mundane as photo descriptions. With unique wording, text placement, emoji usage, and the right hashtags, the textual parts of your posts will be part of your brand image as much as anything else.
#10: Engaging with Other Users’ Content
Think of this tip as a bit of Instagram quid pro quo. Namely, if you want people to interact with your content, make sure you interact with theirs.
The interaction can take on a few forms. Some simpler methods include visiting pages, liking posts, and leaving comments. To put it simply, treat the account of your followers the same way you want yours to be treated.
Methods that require a bit more effort involve promoting other users via posts, stories, or post descriptions. After all, tagging a follower or two in your latest post is quite good for generating traffic. The more often you do it, the more likely it is that people will follow you and engage with your posts.
Granted, not all engagement is good. For example, if you see a beautiful post with a lengthy description, don’t just slap a thumbs-up or a smile emoji because that is an example of something a bot would post. Instead, make your comments brief but sincere and accommodating. You want your users to feel like you’ve invested some time in what they posted instead of just glossing it over and giving it a thumbs-up out of pity.
#11: Reviewing the Competition
If you want to be the best, learn from the best. Well, that’s how the saying goes, at least. But we’d like to expand on it. Whenever you see an opportunity to learn something new about viral Instagram posts, use it, even if the source comes from your direct competition.
Like any other business, your competitors want to grow as fast as possible, so you can expect them to invest a lot of time and effort into their Instagram profile. Therefore, if they gain traction, it’s time to take notes. Observe what kind of content they post, how often they do it, and who their target audience is. Check the length of their videos and the wordiness of their post descriptions. Take note of anything even remotely relevant that can boost views and engagement. But never copy a practice wholesale. Instead, adapt it and make it unique for your own business.
#12: Instagram Analytics
To keep your Instagram profile in tip-top shape, you’ll need to do some analysis from time to time. It will give you a clear insight into how your posts are performing, who likes them, and how they compare to other posts. More specifically, you will want to focus on the following:
- Your followers’ gender, age, and location
- Number of likes per post
- The times your followers are most active
- Number of impressions per post.
Once you have the relevant info, you can adjust your activity on IG accordingly. For instance, if your content attracts a female adult crowd, but you’re aiming to be more inclusive, you can see what types of posts perform better with male followers and upload accordingly.
#13: Instagram Audit
Performing an Instagram audit is, in some ways, similar to doing analytics. The main difference is that you’re not looking at raw data and numbers using different tools. Instead, you’re evaluating your whole profile aesthetic, in a sense.
Auditing your page is simple enough. You first start by checking your biography, your profile picture, and your username. If they don’t fit the overall aesthetic and message of your brand, it’s time to change them. Next, take a look at user engagement. Give both your comments and your direct messages a good once-over, and try to spot any bots, trolls, or spam accounts.
Finally, take a good look at your feed, captions, post descriptions, and hashtags. If needed, change the ones that don’t work and improve upon them so that they fit the overall feel you’re going for.
#14: SEO Is Key
Textual content is likely to become viral if it’s easily digestible and the majority of users can understand it. While most of your content on Instagram will consist of photos or videos, you still need to use text. After all, each post needs a description, your profile page requires a detailed bio, and let’s not forget hashtags for engagement.
So, when updating your profile’s textual sections, make sure they fit the criteria for proper search engine optimization. That way, people will run into your posts without actively searching for your name or the image content on your page. They can simply spot a witty description through a Google search and click on it, taking them to your page.