Instagram for business owners

3 reasons why you aren’t gaining more followers on Instagram

by Michaela fong

Instagram for business owners

3 reasons why you aren’t gaining more followers on Instagram

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Are you struggling to gain followers for your small business? Do you ever wish your posts would get views reach so more people can discover your account? 

Today, I’m sharing the top three common mistakes that hinder your follower growth. You’ll walk away with actionable steps you can take to improve your small business posts, so you can start creating content that gives your ideal audience a reason to follow you. Also I just want to say, if you find yourself making any of these mistakes, I don’t want your inner critic to discourage you from Instagram.

Instead, I just want you to be aware of your mistakes so you feel empowered to learn from them or make improvements.

Now without further ado, let’s get into it! 

Reason #1: You aren’t creating content that gives people a reason to follow you

What does this mean exactly? I’m talking about the information, messages, and stories you share through your content — these are all reasons why someone may or may not press the follow button. 

Whether you’re posting static photos or videos like reels, your content should share stories around what you do, not just photos or videos of what you do. 

The key to getting people to even want to watch your content is to first create content they’re already genuinely interested in (because that’s the type of content they’re already searching for online). Then, you blend that type of content with the promotional content you’re already making.

So if you’re just posting reels that showcase your products or promotional posts about your service, that doesn’t really give people a reason to “stop the scroll”. Why? Because those posts look like any other product or ad or promotion they see during their day! It won’t catch their attention. 

Remember, your audience isn’t actively searching for your product every time they hang out on Instagram. You have to create content that catches their attention first, kind of like asking them on a first date. Once you capture your audience’s attention, that’s when you can start to build a relationship with them and they’ll overtime become more interested in what you sell. 

But just so you’re aware, even if you do build that relationship, your promotional posts will always have the least amount of comments, likes, and engagement. Because let’s be honest, no one likes to be sold to on Instagram, right? 

So how do you fix it? Let’s get into specifics 

1.Share stories around what you sell 

But wait, what do I mean by “story”?

For example, if you’re making a project or product, don’t just share yourself making it. Walk us through why you made it and what inspired you.

In your video, use text bubbles to share a story about specifics behind the product — how the customer ordered it, any extra customizations she made, and lead us through the steps you took to create it. Show us and explain the care you put into the process. These are all examples of stories you can share and that your audience will connect with! Because if there isn’t a story behind your post, there isn’t really a reason for them to pay attention to what you’re sharing.

And by sharing these kinds of stories around what you sell, it’s much easier for your audience to connect to your content and follow along for more. 

2.Share content related to what you sell that your customers are already looking for online

Tips, tricks, and hacks around your product — these are already things your ideal audience is searching for on Instagram about your product. So through your Instagram content, you want to be the helpful person that gives your audience some info that gets them to say “Thanks! That was actually helpful!” And this is what gives them a reason to follow you.

Example: Hair Scrunchies 

For example, let’s say you’re selling hair scrunchies. Start to think about how your customer uses hair scrunchies.

  • What do they do with hair scrunchies? 
  • Where do they store and organize hair scrunchies? 
  • How do they wash hair scrunchies? 

What hairstyles do they create with hair scrunchies?

Then think about the tutorials you can create that answer the problems and questions they have about hair scrunchies. 

This relates to any type of product you sell, whether it’s jewelry, digital products, gift boxes, and so much more. 

Example: Gift Boxes 

I’ll share one more example with gift boxes. Because I find small business owners who sell products have a harder time creating content that “solves a problem”compared to service-based business owners who solve a problem with their service everyday.

  • When you’re selling personalized gift boxes, you’re solving a problem. Store-bought gift boxes are impersonal. Sometimes they even have low-quality items.
  • So through your Instagram content, show how you solve this problem through your personalized boxes. Talk about why you believe personalized gifts make such a difference.

This will show that you CARE about what you do and that you do it for the genuine good of your customers. 

3. Be more personal with your customers through your content 

The more personal you are, the easier it is to connect with you online. But what does it actually look like to be personal through your content? A big part of being personal means having the courage to not just post pictures or videos of your products, but to show yourself! Even if it’s just in time lapse or videos.

Now, if you’re a little camera shy, I’m an introvert so I totally get it! It’s okay to feel nervous about showing up on video or speaking on camera. Camera confidence comes when you put in the practice!

But if you don’t feel ready to show up directly on camera just yet, you can also:

  • Use voice overs in your video so people can get to know your voice 
  • Use a time lapse or video of yourself working in the background or your hands working with text bubbles to share your thoughts and stories 

No matter how you choose to show up, simply show who you are, and that will make it easier for people to connect with you. 

EXERCISE: Self-evaluation so you can create even more engaging content your audience will connect with 

Go to your Instagram account and look at your last ten posts. Then for each post, I want you to ask yourself, 

  • “What story did I share within this post?”
  • “What would my ideal customer get out of watching this?”
  • “How did I get my ideal customer’s attention?”
  • “What tips, tricks, or tutorials did I share that were helpful to my ideal customer?”

Let’s go to reason #2 for why you may not be growing your followers. 

Reason #2: Your content doesn’t “stop the scroll” 

I’ll admit that when I first started creating content on Instagram, my videos were blurry, dark, shaky… and I was using video effects that were honestly just annoying. My text was all over the place or there wasn’t any text on my reels or TikToks to begin with.

At the time, I didn’t know any of that was a problem. But after learning from my mistakes, now I do!

So when it comes to improving the quality of your content, the first thing you can do is develop your CREATOR awareness. 

By “creator awareness” I mean in your free-time, start consuming content as a creator, not as a consumer. You build your content creator awareness by asking questions about other people’s content like…

  • How long are their videos? 
  • How did they get my attention? 
  • How did they keep my attention? 
  • What actually got me to engage or go to their profile? 
  • What do I connect with and enjoy about their content? 

I remember when I first made reels, I didn’t even know how to use text bubbles! But I saw other people using them and noticed how they timed the text bubbles in their videos a certain way.

The text bubbles kept appearing and disappearing, which kept my attention through the reel because I’d have to wait to see the next text bubble, right? So I learned how to make those text bubbles for my content.

When you start to notice little things like that from other content creators, you can learn how to implement them in your own content too — whether that’s how to time those text bubbles to keep attention, or whether it’s to make reel covers to keep your feed cohesive and easy to navigate through.

By the way, I just made a reel about creating reel covers a few weeks ago so you can check it out on my Instagram!

Noticing the little things other content creators do is one step you can take to improve your content creation. And eventually, you’ll see the progress in your content overtime. 

Here are a few ways to improve the quality of your content today

1.Do a text-quality check before posting a reel 

For example, make sure your text bubbles aren’t hiding too far on the left and right side of the screen where it will get cut off. Or on the bottom of your screen where it’ll be covered by the caption. After you’ve recorded a reel, use the dotted lines that pop up on the left and right hand side of your phone screen to align the text bubbles on your videos. This is so viewers can read everything you’ve written once the post goes live!

You also don’t want to use small letters that blend in with your background, even if it looks pretty, because it will be hard to read on a screen. And especially if you are in the beginning stages and don’t have a lot of followers yet, it’s best to use a text with a background color, either black on white or white on black. 

2. Cut out any dead space like “umms,” “hmms,” and “ahhs”

You want your videos to be short and snappy, between 5 and 7 seconds, because it’s hard to keep a viewer’s attention any longer than that. Of course you want your videos to be long enough to convey your message. But the shorter your videos are, the easier it will be to keep a viewer’s attention all the way to the end of a reel, which is super important for the algorithm. It’s important for the algorithm because if more viewers watch your video till the end, it signals the algorithm to push it out to a wider audience. 

3. Share a story, don’t just share an image or a video 

Going back to what I mentioned for reason #1, sharing stories through your content makes it easier for people to connect with you. Use text bubbles and other features to share the story behind your products so it boosts the quality of your content and keeps your viewer’s attention. 

EXERCISE: Self evaluation so you can hold your audience’s attention for even longer:  

Next time you go on Instagram to watch the accounts you enjoy, ask yourself how they got your attention. Take notice of the Instagram features they’re using and how you can start using them too. 

When your content holds attention, then people will want to keep consuming it, as looong as you stay consistent — which takes us to reason number 3 of why your followers aren’t growing. And that is …

Reason #3: Your content doesn’t have enough reach

I’m sharing this reason last because often people think this is the reason why they aren’t gaining more followers. When really, their biggest issue is one of the previous two reasons we just talked about.

I know it’s hard to be self-critical and wrap your head around analyzing your own content. But truly, before you’ll be able to grow on Instagram, you have to work on improving the quality of your content first by making it easier for people to watch and by sharing more stories. 

Because if you post unengaging, low quality content, it will be harder for people to watch it. And if there aren’t many people watching your content to begin with, it makes sense that the Instagram algorithm wouldn’t push out your content to more people, right? 

So before even worrying about reach, we need to focus on fixing the quality of your content, first.

Now, when it comes to reach itself, the goal is to get more people to see and view your content. More eyes means more viewers and potentially more followers.

Here are a few things that affect your reach on Instagram: 

  • Posting at random times — We know from the head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, that if your followers engage, like, and watch your posts at the time when you post it, that signals to the algorithm that it’s a good piece of content and the algorithm will push it out to more people. That’s why you want to post when your followers are online. 
  • Not being consistent — Without a posting schedule or system that helps you post at the same days and times every week, it’s hard to stay consistent. In the early days of my business, I used to leave posting on social media as just another thing on my to-do list. So of course I never did it because life and business always got in the way! 

    But marketing is an important part of your business, just like creating products or shipping orders to customers on time. Without marketing, you can’t even reach your customers to begin with! It wasn’t until I finally created a system to pre-plan and pre-batch content in advance that I stayed consistent on social media and it became less stressful. Consistent posting not only makes the algorithm happy, but also lets your audience know what to expect from you every week so you can gradually earn their trust. 
  • Not engaging with your followers and other related accounts in your niche — Instagram takes note of who you engage with and the relationships you build on the platform. If you aren’t engaging with anyone, or you’re just engaging with accounts similar to yours, you aren’t being proactive in signaling the algorithm on the exact people you want seeing and engaging your content — which are your customers. 

    As tempting as it is, don’t go on Instagram to just consume content about random cute puppies! Use the platform to create exposure for your business and be intentional  about the accounts you engage with. 
  • Not posting enough content that’s being pushed out by the algorithm (which right now, are reels & carousels) and not taking advantage of current trends (like trending audios with under 10K views)  — So if you’re still just posting static photos, of course you won’t get as much reach! Because the algorithm is prioritizing other types of content instead.
  • Not posting with the same frequency — I think small business owners get confused by the difference between frequency and consistency. Consistency is posting at the same time, same hours, and same day every week. Frequency is how often you post. When your account is in a growth stage, and your goal is to grow followers, you need to post more content. It’ll take you years to gather data and grow your account if you only post 2 or 3 times a week.

    So if you’re in the growth stage, I recommend commiting at least 3 months to challenge yourself by creating as much content as you can. And as a bonus, you’ll improve as a content creator as you familiarize yourself with the platform, more people will see your content, and the algorithm will like you too!  

EXERCISE: Self evaluation so you can gain even more reach through your content 

1.Give yourself realistic feedback on how often you post and how long you’ve been consistent at that posting schedule 
So often someone will DM me and say “Hey Michaela, I’ve been posting and I’ve been consistent, but I’m still not growing!”

I look at their account only to find they’ve been posting for two months, two times a week. I have to be honest and say you’ll need to post much more and for a longer period of time to start seeing growth in your account. 

2.Ask yourself if your posting efforts are matching your expectations 

If you want to grow and gain more followers and haven’t seen any results yet, challenge yourself to create more and post more reels. Start where you are, but work towards improving it. 

3.Use audio that trending matches your brand under 10K views

I say use a trending audio that matches your brand because you still want to create content that relates to your niche and personality. Trending audios under 10K views are a sure way to gain an algorithm boost, so why wouldn’t you use them? 

BONUS TIP: There’s a disconnect between the content you share and your Instagram bio + profile 

Before anyone follows you, they’re going to visit your profile and check out what your account is about first.

If your bio isn’t clear about what you do, how you do it differently, and a clear invitation for the next steps, people will be less likely to follow you. I recorded an entire episode on Instagram profiles! So if you want to dive deeper into this topic, check out Episode 4 – Instagram Profile Makeover for Your Business. 

Let’s sum it up together with an actionable takeaway

Although we touched on so many actionable takeaways today, I’ll leave you with this: 

Don’t let the short term results from social media discourage you or take it personally. Do it for you. Do it for your own improvement as a creator. You are a creative person. If you’re reading this, I know you are! Everybody started at 0 and everybody at some point sucked at it, including me. 

You can do this! Just keep moving forward. 

If you’re struggling to grow your business account you want to gain more followers on Instagram, tune in and learn more in today’s podcast episode here 🎧.   

Talk soon,


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