Whether you're a business or someone trying to grow your personal brand, having Instagram followers is likely one thing that you're concerned about.

Even if you make a point to "do Instagram," post regularly, use best practices, even advertise, followers may not come as expected. 

There are numerous reasons as to why an account's following doesn't grow.

Looking at our experiences working with and consulting a range of clients, analyzing others and scrutinizing our own personal Instagram accounts, we find that there's one hugely important factor that often goes overlooked:

From the audience's perspective, the account needs to provide value.

Any popular account will likely fall into at least one of these "value-giving" categories: 

  1. They feature someone or something visibly appealing
  2. They're entertaining
  3. They build an emotional connection
  4. They're informative
  5. They provide access

None of the above? They likely built brand equity somewhere else and successfully syphoned it over.

Those who are able to consistently publish the best content tailored to their audience while they're using Instagram are the ones who are likely to gain large followings.

These types of accounts provide people these values on a consistent basis:

  1. The ability to momentarily escape reality
  2. Something to aspire to
  3. Something to admire and cheer for
  4. Information to take in and/or act on

It's not only about what we want to say, it's about relating to the target audience while they're using Instagram.

Most of us only think about what we want to say or get across and the creative content to transmit that information. That's not value for the audience, that's value in the direct interest of the ourselves.

We need to make sure that our accounts do this:

  1. Consistently provides at least one value from the audience's perspective
  2. Matches the audience's mindset while they're using Instagram

A few that are doing Instagram well:

Apple (@apple

Apple's social content puts people, their lives and their creations first, like this post storytelling a soccer rivalry.

Rather than showcase their products and services, they only briefly mention that they were used and opt to creatively push the stories documented with them instead.

A Cake Life (@acakelife)

This Honolulu cake shop not only regularly showcases their artistic and tasty creations, they also document the process of making them so they can give followers behind-the-scenes looks.

Because cakes are often ordered for events involving family and friends like weddings and birthdays, they thank customers for letting them be a part of their special occasion and make sure they're an active online member in the community.

MailChimp (@mailchimp)

Don’t move! He can’t see us if we don’t move.

A post shared by MailChimp (@mailchimp) on

Some may not even expect an email marketing service to have an Instagram, but MailChimp uses their brand's character to successfully maintain an entertaining account with creative visuals and witty captions.

This post turns their character into the mosquito-engulfing amber first made famous on Jurassic Park, and posted it soon after Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom was released to align with current events. They then captioned it with a famous line from the original movie.

Kristen Bell (@kristenanniebell)

Actress Kristen Bell isn't a business per se, but she utilizes Instagram in a way that many business can learn from.

Rather than rely on Hollywood and traditional media, she gives fans access to her personal life like this "natural, just woke up" post. She also posts about causes she cares about, building an even stronger connection with likeminded fans.


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