How to find your local niche on Instagram
By: Crissy Dawson, Content Marketing Manager at Local Blitz Marketing
I’m relatively new here at Local Blitz, but I’ve been working as a freelance model for a little over a year now, and I’ve found that my favorite place to network within my industry is Instagram. If your business message can be communicated well through photos and videos, I think it’s a prosperous place to form relationships with other people and companies in your industry. But being in the same industry doesn’t necessarily make another account worth following. Often, the most important people to network with are people in your area. I’ve put together some of the strategies I use to find people in photography, fashion, and beauty who are San Diego locals. I’ll tell you how I find people to follow, so your home feed can be filled with things relevant to your industry. And I’ll tell you how I decide which hashtags to use on my posts, so people looking for my talents can find me. You’ll get a little bit of “How to find them” and a little bit of “Bring them to you”.
How I Find Accounts to Follow
I start with my followers. If you don’t have any yet, and your account is brand new, you can go to your competitors’ pages and check out their followers (more tips here on Building Your Following on Instagram). But I start with my followers.
Finding your niche from your Instagram followers
Step 1: I go through my followers who have the most interesting profile pictures. And the most real sounding account handles. Pick one that you like from their tiny thumbnail profile pic. It’s pretty much a guessing game at this point.
Step 2: I read the description in their profile. I live in San Diego, so I’m mostly looking for an audience that is in San Diego, or at least Southern California. The next criterion that I look for is their occupation or industry. If their description says “Model”, “Photographer”, “Stylist”, “Hair Stylist” or “Makeup Artist”, “Agency”, or “Boutique” then I probably want to follow the account if they’re local. If they are one of these things, but they’re not located in San Diego or Southern California, then I look at their content, because while I might not work with them, they might be a great source of inspiration. I’m looking for any photos of their work. If I’m impressed or inspired, I follow. For accounts that really blow me away, I get ready and go down a rabbit hole. I look at who they’re following, and repeat this same process. I look at who is following them and go through the same process.
Here’s a photographic flow-chart of my thought process while I’m doing this:
Finding your niche in Notifications
Another approach is to go to your notifications page. You can see what posts the people you follow have recently liked by clicking “Following” at the top of that page
Go through some of these and follow the accounts that meet your criteria.
Finding your niche in Instagram Search
Then I go to Search. Instagram has a great explore feed, but it’s based on posts you like and accounts you follow, so I recommend doing the search step I’m about to describe to tailor what the Explore feed will be.
When finding accounts to follow, I search by location, and then by tags.
Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t let you filter searches with more than one of these things at a time. So I’m not able to search for posts that are tagged #model AND location tagged in San Diego.
But what I can do is search locations that I know are used for fashion shows and photoshoots, or I can search hashtags that have the location included, like #SanDiegomodel.
When you search for a location, the results are sorted into a few rows of “Most Popular” and the rest of the feed is “Most Recent”. I look at the most popular and if any of them seem relevant to what I’m looking for in accounts to follow, I go to the post, check out what tags were used on the photo, write down any that I would like to keep in mind, and I see who interacted with that photo. I see who commented, who liked, and go through the same process as I described earlier. Username/profile pic are real, located in SoCal, industry, quality content, follow or go back. Repeat with locations in your area or neighborhood, like City Heights (Where I work with Local Blitz! Woop Woop!) or North Park. You can also search for locations like a business near you that is popular with your target audience: a boutique, a restaurant, a gallery. Just see who is posting in “Most Popular” and “Most Recent”, and follow the users who are in your target audience.
Now, remember how I told you to write down hashtags you wanted to remember? Make 2 lists: tags that you’ll use on your own posts, and tags that your target audience uses on their posts. Search from either list, and go through the same steps to find and follow users in your target demo.
Anytime someone I follow tags someone else in their photos or captions, I check out those accounts. I check out who is following the tagged accounts. By using instagram is this strategic, active way, rather than passively scrolling through the feed, I’m able to find new people in my area and in my profession every day.
How I Decide Which Hashtags to Use
How many hashtags to use
Instagram lets you use up to 30 hashtags on a post. Now you might be thinking, “I hate when posts have that many tags on them. It looks like they’re just desperate for attention.” I agree, it can look like overkill. That’s why it’s important to pick a variety of tags, and then maybe stagger the number of tags you use on each post. Maybe your first 3 posts use 30 tags, but your 4th uses only 5. Then your 5th uses 10, 6th uses 30 again, and 7th uses 10...you get it.
If you’re still dizzy, wondering how you’ll come up with 30 hashtags, take a deep breath, relax and get ready to grow a brainstorming tree.
Quality of hashtags
When you search for a tag, Instagram tells you how many times that tag has been used. It’s a good idea to use a mix of highly popular tags and less popular tags. You’ll show up in “Most Recent” under the super popular tags, but you’ll get bumped fairly quickly as newer posts are tagged with the same thing. Using less popular tags gives you a chance at ranking in “Most Popular” or having more than one of your posts in “Most Recent” at the same time.
Start your brainstorming tree with the most basic word that describes your business/product/service. For my account, it’s #model. Start a branch. Remember earlier when I suggested combining location and tag? Your first inspiration branch is “Location”.
- #SanDiegomodel #Californiamodel #Socalmodel #LaJollamodel #Tijuanamodel
- Abbreviate! #SDmodel #Calimodel #TJmodel
- Remove “model”, insert “life”: #SanDiegolife #Calilife
Next inspiration branch: be more specific than #model
- What type of model? #runwaymodel #fashionmodel #lifestylemodel #fitnessmodel
- Signed or unsigned? #agencymodel #freelancemodel #undiscoveredmodel
Sub-branch: Agency attention-seeking tags
- Commands: #scoutme #bookme
- #newfaces #undiscovered
Next inspiration branch: Industry terms. What industry do I work in? The fashion industry!
- “-gram” tags: #fashiongram #instafashion #instastyle
- Categories of fashion, based on the content of the photo I’m tagging: #streetstyle #highfashion #eveningwear
- “___ of the day” tags #OOTD #MOTD
How is my work spread? Through photography. So I’ll add some photography tags
- #fashionphotography #portraitphotography
- Where was it shot? #studiophotography #studio #naturallight
There are a ton of “feature” pages that aggregate content from other accounts and tag the original poster. Some of these accounts choose who to feature from all the posts that use their hashtag, others feature posts from paid submissions (meaning you pay them to feature your image on their account and tag you in it). If the aggregate page is popular with your target audience, this could be a great part of an awareness campaign for you. But if their description says “Tag #___ to be featured”, then start tagging them on your best posts.
For more inspiration, check out https://displaypurposes.com/
It’s like a thesaurus for hashtags. The tool suggests hashtags related to the ones you’re using. There are other apps and softwares that work in a similar way, but I like this one the most. Check out the Graph option when you’re drawing your tag brainstorming tree. It shows you which hashtags are frequently used together.
Another helpful tool may be to utilize Instagram Ads to help build your following.