How to Grow Your Instagram Profile as an Athlete.

How to Grow Your Instagram Profile as an Athlete.

When it comes to advertising yourself as an athlete there is no better place than Instagram. With over 1 billion active users and with 250 million of them using it every single day it seems like the perfect place to show case your athletic prowess. Some may see Instagram as a social media channel to browse through and keep up to date with friends and family, others may see it as a welcomed distraction from ever day life but there is a growing trend of people seeing it as a marketing tool, where they can communicate with brands, advertise their personal profile or business and for some it is a way of making a living. Increased awareness and following on Instagram can help athletes connect with brands and businesses. The more followers and engagement a person has the more influence and opportunity they have to commercialise it. Brands also see this as a great way of communicating with their target audience and will often sponsor, gift, offer discounts and even pay for people to promote their brand utilising influencers.

It is by no means an easy task generating a strong and loyal following unless you are a member of One Direction. It’s unfortunately a little harder than just creating a profile and expecting the followers to roll in. So let’s have a look at genuine ways to create a highly engaged profile for athletes that can turn your profile from Mr Average Joe Bloggs to Billy the Whizz.

1) Generate Initial Following and Interest from Friends and Family

This seems like an obvious one. But when you are first starting out , use your contacts and connections to help kick off your page. Follow your friends and family, like and comment on their pictures so they know you are now on Instagram. These first few connections show other users that you are a genuine and real account.

2) Produce High Quality Content

If you look at the majority of highly followed accounts they all have one thing in common. They have high quality images and videos. Simply uploading a selfie with low resolution just won’t cut it anymore. People are stimulated by high quality and engaging images and short form videos that are inspiring or evoke a reaction. Make sure your pictures are maximum resolution and are visually aesthetic. Take a look at accounts that you love that have huge engagement and see how you can tailor your page to produce great content like them. People who are scrolling through Instagram have unlimited content thrown at them on a daily basis. You have to think, "why would someone stop on my profile and follow my account". The better the images and more engaging the videos the more likely you are to get people to follow your account. If you use high quality images and tag companies or brands, you are more likely for them to repost your picture and tag you in it - to their following which will improve your visibility.

3) Regular Updated Posts

People go on Instagram to see what is going on and for an easy escape from the real world. If you are not consistently in their news feed then you will be more likely forgotten about. With constant changes in the algorithm it can be difficult to understand how often to post for maximum engagement levels. We recommend to try and post good quality photos or videos once a day at a minimum. But remember to not sacrifice quality in place of quantity. If you are able to update your profile twice a day with great quality content it makes your profile more visible and for people to be able to more easily identify you. The other opportunity is to produce regular engaging instagram stories. Utilising this tool can prove to be tremendous for your visibility and we cove it more in the next point.

4) Utilise Instagram Stories

Instagram has overtaken snapchat in the short form content which erases itself after a period of time. The main reason for this is because of instagrams active user base is huge and it has seamlessly integrated this functionality into is platform. 400 million of instagrams users have used instagram stories and it is on the rise. Make sure you create short snappy pieces of content using your story. Provide behind the scenes of athletic events you go to, an insight into your training or day. Always be providing value to your audience in some form. Also utilise the tools on offer like the voting feature or the new question feature. Allow your audience to interact with you and engage with you.  

5) Provide Value

The best instagrammers out there provide value to their audience in some form or another. Let's say you are a sprinter for example if you just post images of you running, yes you may gain some followers and your followers may enjoy seeing images of you sprint but take it to the next level and give your audience even more value. Create instagram stories of your training, give them some drills they can try for themselves to improve speed, provide behind the scenes at athletic events you go to. Think out side the box and give your audience more than you expect back from them. 

 6) Be Authentic

There are far too many people out there trying to copy others, as they have been successful on instagram. What works for one person may not work for another. Be authentic to yourself. If you are down right hilarious and make humorous content around your workouts or training then that is great, but if you are a complete bore, then don't try and be funny. Instead provide value by being more informative, give more useful tips and relevant informative content to your audience. 

7) Use relevant and specific Hashtags

Another way of expanding your reach and visibility is by adding hashtags to your posts. Hashtags are still not dead and people often use this feature to discover new content in that particular niche. Make sure your hashtags are relevant and searchable. People use hashtags all the time to identify connections with the same interests, so make sure you add hashtags that can be easily searched and that your target audience will be looking for. For example if you are a triathlete add hashtags such as Triathlon, triathlete, Ironmantri, Ironman70.3 as an example.

8) Stand out from the Crowd

Make sure your page has an identity. Standing out from the crowd can be very difficult in a very crowded market but try your best to be unique and stand out. Give your pictures and the feel of your Instagram an identity. We are not saying you have to be drastically different but by unique we mean make your profile engaging with images that are aligned and are structured. If you want to be followed by weightlifters for example make sure your page is tailored towards weightlifting, don’t mix your personal pictures with your weightlifting pictures. Make it unique by keeping a theme to the page and adding your individual touch. Brands are far more likely to engage with Influencers who have a targeted following with a unique page that stands out from the crowd.
9) Utilise Video 
80% of content by 2019 will apparently be video. This highlights that video is going to be essential. Images work great on instagram but integrating some video into your instagram feed can be hugely beneficial. Even though you are limited to 1 minute videos, you can provide a lot of value and produce highly engaging content. Be clever with your content, think about what your audience want to see. 

10) Tag relevant pages and companies

Another way of increasing your visibility is to tag relevant companies, pages and brands. For example if you are wearing an Airofin Jersey tag @airofin_athletic to make sure the brand see’s it, their followers see it and it will give the company an opportunity to repost your pictures. Tagging pages like @ironmantri if you are a triathlete can give you the opportunity to be reposted to a much larger audience which again improves your visibility and reach.

11) Cross promote your profile with other athletes
You can work with athletes you know or with similar size profiles to cross promote each other. Drop them a message and ask if they would be willing to do a cross promotion. Ask them to give you a shoutout on instagram stories in exchange for one back. This will help your audience become more aware of them as an athlete and will help you become more visible to their audience. If you meet other athletes at events, then getting a picture together and tagging all the athletes in it can work great and in return see if they will again share the image and tag you on their page. Even better than this would be creating content with other athletes that could be of value to both of your audiences and agree to both distribute across your channels making sure you tag each other in the posts. 
12) Engage, comment and interact

Unless you are regularly engaging and commenting with your followers and people you follow, you are going to remain fairly invisible. Make sure you take time out to comment on other peoples photo’s, like the pictures that you follow and interact with people that take the time out to comment on your pictures. We are not saying spam your feed with likes or comments, anyone can do that. Take time to read your followers posts and write them a message or like their pictures. Without this interaction you will find it difficult to gain the followers you desire and also the engagement on your page. You can also give your followers the opportunity to ask you questions via the instagram stories "questions" feature. 

13) Promote your page via your other social channels

If you have other pages such as Facebook, twitter or even a blog, make sure you link your Instagram account to them. Let your friends and connections on those sites know you are now on Instagram and get them to follow you. The more friends and connections early on you can get to follow you, will help other people know you are a real and genuine account.
14) Use Paid Ads
If you want to reach more people then you can pay to promote yourself. Make sure you do not waste money just paying to promote a generic picture as it will have a very low return on investment. Produce a short 30 second video explaining what you are about, or even share one of your highest performing videos which explains a little more. Pushing out a generic static image of you is going to have a very poor return on spend. Reach your target audience in whatever region you are looking to promote yourself or your services (If you are a personal trainer for example) and provide a video that makes them stop and want to click on your profile, in the hope that they will then follow you. 

15) Hard work and effort

It is not easy to generate extensive followers and engagement especially now. Instagram wants influencers and brands to pay to reach all of their audience. Remember if it was easy, everybody would have huge followings and would be being sponsored and paid to promote the biggest brands in the world. Unfortunately it takes, hard work, dedication, patience and a lot of persistence. Keep at it and your hard work will pay off and that is when companies will start working with you and might even give you discounted products for you to promote to your audience and as your audience increases to the tens of thousands you can start charging to get brands to promote their products.

Remember building a large loyal following takes time, dedication patience and persistence. Don’t look at people with large followings and get disheartened that your following is still relatively small compared to them. They have probably worked very hard to build that kind of presence on Instagram or are already famous or well known. The problem with today’s society is we expect things and we expect them now, not in a year not in a month, but now. So remember it will take time but don't get discouraged. If you are willing to put the time and effort in, then the following will come and the rewards will also follow suit. Hope this helps some of you with your profile! :)