If this is your year to build your personal brand and establish your business on Instagram, then you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to thrive as a creator on Instagram, from launching your account to gaining followers and diversifying your income.
Today, we’re starting with Part 1: Finding your Instagram niche.
Even if you already know what you want to share on Instagram, finding (or refining) your niche takes plenty of research and careful planning.
Wherever you are in your journey, we’re here to support you. Let’s get started!
What’s an Instagram niche?
Think of your niche as the guiding principle behind all your Instagram content. It’s one (or a couple) specific topics that act as a clear guide for all the content you choose to post.
This kind of specific, targeted vision gives your Instagram journey a sense of purpose. It will help you find clear goals to work towards, and paths to follow as you chase them.
This might seem like a big, scary decision. You’re supposed to choose one topic to define yourself as an IG creator?
But finding your niche shouldn’t feel limiting or reductive. Rather, the right niche should be close to your heart — something you already love sharing about, and could talk about for hours without getting bored.
There are literally millions of possible niches out there, from makeup, to mushrooms, to vegan desserts. You can have more than one niche (we’d say up to 3 is a workable number), but doing so will likely work better if the niches are complementary, like hairstyling and makeup tutorials. Wildly different topics, like pottery and barbecuing, might be a little confusing for your audience.
“For me, finding my niche was pretty simple,” says @haleyivers, a content creator with over 20k followers. “My niche is an outward expression of me, my passions, and my aesthetic. I thought of all the things that I'm passionate about, the things I could talk for hours and hours about, and revolved my content around that. Your niche needs to be something that excites you, and something that you can constantly teach, inspire and entertain your audience with.”
“My niche is an outward expression of me, my passions, and my aesthetic. I thought of all the things that I'm passionate about, the things I could talk for hours and hours about, and revolved my content around that" - Haley Ivers
Your niche could also be a problem you need to solve. You might feel drawn to create a certain kind of content, because you’re noticing a lack of it on Instagram. For Olivia Hanlon of @girlsinmarketing, that was the desire to create something she herself needed — a supportive professional network for women in her industry.
"Girls in Marketing was born from the frustration of not having a like-minded community of women who loved the marketing industry as much as I did. I was working in a 9-5 marketing role and saw a lack of women in leadership roles. I didn’t necessarily receive the support I needed, so I turned to the internet in hopes of finding others,” she says.
Why you need a niche on Instagram
Niching down isn’t optional. In fact, it’s the only way forward if you’re serious about growing — and monetizing — your brand on Instagram.
That’s because this platform is extremely competitive. You’re competing with millions of other creators, and they all want space in users’ feeds.
Niches give people a clear reason to follow you by letting them know exactly what they’ll get. Your niche is the first step towards building a strong, compelling personal brand that will grow your following and get noticed on Instagram.
“Make your ‘one thing’ very clear,” says Paige Doherty of @wandertears, who’s built a community around her handcrafted teardrop trailers — and the gorgeous travels she takes in them. “For us, every photo has a teardrop in it, so everyone who finds our account knows it's a teardrop account.”
“Make your ‘one thing’ very clear. For us, every photo has a teardrop in it, so everyone who finds our account knows it's a teardrop account" - Paige Doherty
Defining your niche will guide you towards relevant hashtags, which are a key way that new followers discover your content. It also connects you with other like-minded influencers and brands to collaborate with. These strategies will get you in front of viewers who care about the content you’re making, so you build a strong community connected by mutual interests.
“We naturally made a lot of connections with other travelers on Instagram, just interacting with them and building friendships,” continues @wandertears. “Consistency is crucial to getting off the ground, as is having one clear message of what your account is about.”
@haleyivers agrees. “If you’re trying to find your niche, it's mindful to think about what brands you’d align with should you want to monetize your content,” she explains. “If you're too all over the place, brands might not consider you the best fit.”
Defining your aesthetic
Your Instagram niche and aesthetic are closely related. While niche is the topic your content focuses on, your aesthetic is how you share it — your account’s unique visual style. Together, your niche and aesthetic create your individual Instagram brand, making all your content cohesive and recognizable.
If your aesthetic is strong enough, followers will recognize you right away, no matter how distractedly they’re scrolling through their feed.
Think of finding your aesthetic as a journey rather than a single decision. As you create more and more on Instagram, you’ll keep improving, and your distinct style will emerge. So don’t be afraid to experiment as you find your unique voice!
@camillamckay shared with Milkshake that it took years to develop her doodle-inspired style. I started by adding doodles to images from my iPad,” she says “Gradually, I got more creative and confident. My advice? Try following arty accounts, designers and illustrators so your feed is full of inspiration. Consider how you can incorporate different elements into your own grid.”
So, what’s your niche?
The best niche taps into something you’re already passionate about. If you’re an avid baker, painter, or coffee enthusiast, you likely already know your niche — maybe it’s what brought you to Instagram in the first place.
People respond to authenticity and passion. So follow your heart and be true to yourself! “Let your passions pull you in the right direction,” says Crystal, who shares about motherhood and lifestyle at @hustlewithluster. “Your content will naturally be more authentic, and people resonate better with that.”
But if you don’t know your niche, that’s okay too. Maybe you have many interests, and you aren’t sure which would be the best fit for Instagram. “I didn’t force trying to niche down right from the start,” Crystal continues. “It was more of an organic process. Dabbling in a few areas of interest helped me weed out what I didn’t want to focus on.”
The word ‘niche’ sounds super-specific. But it’s okay if your passion is something lots of other people enjoy too, like makeup or coffee. Yes, there’s more competition in these spaces, but there are also lots of interested viewers.
In these cases, finding your niche is more like refining — figuring out what makes you unique. Could it be a hyper-local focus on the city you live in? Spotlighting artists of color, or ethically-made products? Do you have a quirky sense of humor or writing style?
Whether you know your niche, or you don’t even know where to start, that’s okay. It’s all part of the process!
@haleyivers thinks your niche should never be narrow or rigid. “You don’t necessarily need to stick to one thing,” she says. “Your niche is your interests, plus your unique take on how you see the world.”
In the next section, we’ll explain how to identify potential niches, and refine your passions so they feel specific, authentic, and unique to you.
Finding your Instagram niche: A Step-by-Step Guide
So, your niche is all about your passion. But if you’re a normal human with diverse interests, it might not be immediately obvious what your niche should be. That’s where a little research comes in.
Niche research is a key part of Carmen Wilma, of @apwasiwine’s, process. ”When I help my clients create their social media content strategy, I think about what is unique to their niche, what makes them unique as an individual, and how to make them relatable to the community,” she says. “I look at what is already in the market and how I can differentiate them. I focus on what they are passionate about, and providing value in every video we create.”
Even if you already know exactly what niche you’ll pursue on Instagram, you’ll still want to do some research. This will help you understand your new community more deeply, and come up with ways to stand out from the crowd.
Here are a few steps to help you discover your new community on Instagram — whether you know your niche or not.
- List out your Instagram inspirations
Compile a list of Instagram accounts that inspire you, or give you that “i want to be her” feeling. You can do this by saving some of your favorite content into a list, using Instagram’s ‘Bookmark’ tool. These might be accounts within the niche you’ve already chosen, or could give you new ideas entirely.
What do these accounts have in common? These could be clues to what matters to you, and what kind of content you love. You might discover a potential niche, like baking or skincare. Or, you might identify qualities that could help you stand out, like analog-style photography, from-the-heart captions, or TikTok-style video.
- Check the interest and competition in your potential niche
Next, do an interest check on your potential niches. Are people interested in this subject matter? What kind of competition is out there?
First, assess the size of your niche by checking out the most popular account, and the main hashtag. You’ll have the best shot at growth if the main account in your niche has less than 500k followers, and the biggest hashtag has under 1M posts.
For example, #ryokan has 300k posts, and @amazing_onsen_ryokan has 13.9k followers. That makes this a small niche, with interest but not much competition.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make content in a bigger niche — but you’ll have to do some more work to differentiate yourself and stand out.
- Use Instagram Insights to guide your content
If you’re already active on Instagram, do some research into how your own content performs. Through Instagram’s Insights tool, you’ll be able to track your content’s reach, likes, shares, comments, impressions, and more.
Do certain topics tend to get the best engagement? Or, do you notice any other trends to your high-performing content, like a certain aesthetic or type of caption?
If you haven’t started posting yet, take a deeper look into the accounts you saved in Step 1. Do any of those creators seem to have more engaged followings? What kind of posts bring them the most likes, comments, and shares?
Today, most creators value their engagement rate, shares, and comments over ‘vanity metrics’ like follower count and likes. You can find Insights either through the mobile app or through Instagram’s free, desktop Creator Studio tool.
- Refine your niche
After following these steps, you’ll be left with a few potential niches. You can also use more than one niche, such as books and coffee. In fact, doing this can create a unique sub-niche to help you stand out.
Whatever your new niche (or niches), next you’ll want to infuse them with your own identity and personal taste. For example, maybe you want to refine those interests in books and coffee.
Here are a few unique approaches you could take within that niche:
- Rating local coffee shops on how great they are to read at
- Reviews of fair-trade coffee beans
- In-depth reviews of contemporary fiction by female authors
- Aesthetic photography of books, coffee, and cozy places
After following these steps, you’ll have gone from a general sense of the interests you want to share about, to a super-specific, highly personal Instagram identity.
Remember, If you don’t see results right away, that’s perfectly normal, says Carmen Wilma, a social media manager who handles accounts with tens of thousands of followers, like @apwasiwine. “Keep on going. Some of my clients don’t get traction for months, but I don’t give up,” she says. “Eventually the community will find value in your content and catch on! If you are passionate about what you are sharing, it will show.”
Where do you go from here?
Think of your niche as the compass that will guide your Instagram journey. But as important as it is, you’re only just beginning!
Stay tuned for the rest of our series about how to succeed as an Instagram Creator in 2022. Next, we’ll be talking about how to start creating great content and grow your following, then moving into how to monetize it by working with brands and finding other income streams.