How to identify an Instagram niche

Instagram niche key takeaways

  • Finding your Instagram niche is key to growth: Most Instagram “experts” miss this crucial step. A niche helps you align your content and make it easier for Instagram algorithms to understand what you are posting
  • Well-defined: An effective Instagram niche is well-defined, popular with a significant number of posts, but not overly competitive. It’s important to differentiate an Instagram niche from a broader industry niche.
  • Hashtags help refine your niche: Use hashtags to research niche popularity. Look for clusters of 5-8 related hashtags.
  • Focus on user intent: Don’t be seduced by hashtags with lots of posts. Understand what people are truly searching for when they use those hashtags.
  • Analyse existing accounts: Identify if there are fast-growing accounts, using organic methods of growth that are dedicated to your chosen niche audience.

An Instagram niche is not the same as an industry niche

Struggling to get seen on Instagram? Do you feel like your posts are getting lost in a sea of random posts where a picture of an avocado can get thousands of likes whilst your thoughtful insights get almost zero? You’re not alone. Here’s the thing most Instagram “experts” won’t tell you: Finding an Instagram niche is the key to gaining more influence on the platform.

Yet, identifying an Instagram niche remains the most overlooked aspect of growth on the platform. Think of it this way: trying to be everything to everyone on Instagram is like hoping to become the next Mo Farah by focusing only on cold water therapy and what to eat. You might make progress but you won’t get better at running unless you actually run.

But don’t worry. This guide will help you navigate the exciting and confusing world of Instagram niches. We will unlock the secrets to finding a focus that’s laser-sharp for your target audience, without sacrificing your passion.

Dont confuse an Instagram niche with an industry niche

So what is it?

An effective Instagram niche is something that is:

  1. Well-defined and understood by the Instagram algorithms
  2. Has a lot of posts and mentions on the platform
  3. It is not too competitive

Yet, these basic elements are often misunderstood. This is because an Instagram niche is not the same as an industry niche. For instance, fitness is considered a speciality. Yet on Instagram, it’s too vague as it incorporates everything from weight training to Zumba. Unfortunately, there are not many body builders who want to wear Lycra whilst doing Zumba to Britney Spears music.

So, if you want to grow on Instagram you need to discover how you will find an effective niche. This is the first and most critical step to getting more Instagram fans.

How to find a niche

It’s forecasted that Instagram will soon reach 1.4bn monthly users, which would be 31% of global internet users or 17.5% of the world’s population. That’s a lot of people to influence!

So, it’s clear that Instagram is a crowded space. Therefore, to truly stand out and connect with your ideal audience, you need a laser-sharp focus. Therefore, to help you understand how to pick a niche, let’s use an example to illustrate how it works.

Imagine you have a sports performance health clinic. Specifically, you focus on injury prevention and recovery. In your clinic, you provide three core services which include:

  • Cryotherapy
  • Red light therapy
  • Pneumatic compression devices

Whilst each of your services is related, cryotherapy is the major draw for your clients. Therefore, the question is: should your Instagram account focus on sports performance or be more specific such as injury prevention. Alternatively, does it need to be even more niche like focusing solely on cryotherapy?

How to use AI tools to find an Instagram niche

There are a growing number of AI tools promising to revolutionise your Instagram presence. However, in our experience, no AI tool can definitively find the perfect niche for you. Their suggestions can be overly broad and, crucially, they’re often not trained on the specific data that drives Instagram trends and user behaviour.

Yet, AI tools can still be valuable during your Instagram niche discovery process.  If you’re struggling to brainstorm ideas, tools like ChatGPT can be powerful for generating potential topics. However, it’s important to remember that AI suggestions are just a starting point.  The steps below will guide you through the process of refining those ideas and finding the best niche for your unique brand and target audience on Instagram.

1. Find your unique selling point (USP) and passion

The first step to finding your Instagram niche is to do some soul-searching. Ask yourself:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What topics do you light up when you talk about them?
  • What problems do you love solving?

A key element of getting more Instagram engagement is to be authentic and have passion for your subject. However, from an Instagram niche perspective, this can also help you focus.

From our example, the sports performance clinic has several options. This includes:

  • Injury prevention
  • One of the specific services

As you will notice, we haven’t included the broader sports performance. This is because for this organisation we can assume their passion lies in helping people overcome injuries. Otherwise, they are in the wrong business.

Moreover, the goal of your account should be to inspire others, which ultimately attracts new customers. This aligns with Simon Sinek’s concept in “The Infinite Game,” where successful businesses focus on a long-term vision and purpose. Finding your Instagram niche is similar. It shouldn’t be a short-term fad, but something you’re passionate about and can sustain over time.

This means it’s important to find things you are passionate about or in the words of Sinek, find your “why.” Whilst finding a winning Instagram niche is great, you also need it to be sustainable and not a chore. It should reflect who you are and your brand.

2. Your Instagram niche needs a focused topic because the algorithms value predictability

Whilst AI in social media is transforming platforms like Instagram, the Instagram algorithm isn’t as sophisticated as you might think. It thrives on predictability. When your content consistently focuses on a specific theme, the algorithm can better understand it and recommend it to relevant users.

For instance, let’s revisit our health clinic example. You might be tempted to discuss everything related to sports injuries, from emerging research to various exercises. While these are all potentially valuable topics that you are passionate about, a more focused Instagram niche will resonate better with the algorithm.

Moreover, since the clinic offers a range of services, this can become confusing to the platform. Therefore, it’s critical you find one topic which you can talk to anyone about for hours.

Here’s how the clinic can break down its potential niche options:

  • Injury prevention exercises
  • Cryotherapy
  • Red light therapy (RLT)
  • Pneumatic compression devices

The clinic should choose one topic as its main focus and potentially introduce related topics later. However, everything should tie back to the core Instagram niche.

3. Narrowing down your Instagram niche through hashtag research

The best way to find your Instagram niche is to take your focused topics and research them via related hashtags. The key is to find topics that are:

  • Popular e.g. over 500,000 posts
  • Not too competitive e.g. under 2m posts

So, for our example health clinic, let’s look at the most common hashtags for our potential niche options:

  • #Injuryprevention – 1.3m posts
  • #Cryotherapy – 821k posts
  • #Redlighttherapy – 455k
  • #Compressionboots – 15.6k

From this list, it’s immediately clear that pneumatic compression devices will not be an effective Instagram niche. Firstly, there are next to no searches for it. Secondly, compression boots, which are the most famous type of pneumatic compression devices only have 15.6k posts. Therefore, this idea should be dropped.

However, RLT also has less than 500k posts. If this is something you really want to create content about, you can keep this option open but you will need to see how many associated hashtags there are.

4. Research your shortlisted hashtags to find associated hashtags

You’ve narrowed down your Instagram niche and chosen some promising hashtags. Now, let’s get down to the details and see what kind of company they keep! Here’s the trick:  click on each hashtag and explore the top posts. What other hashtags are these popular accounts using?

Remember, for the best Instagram niche, you should find a cluster of 5 to 8 hashtags that are laser-focused on your target audience. While the associated hashtags don’t need to be the most popular, a good number of posts using them gives the Instagram algorithm a clearer picture of your niche. After all, AI thrives on data – the more data it has, the better it understands who you’re trying to reach.

For our health clinic we can see some of the most popular associated hashtags:

#Injuryprevention

  • #neckpain – 1.5 million posts
  • #musclepain – 287k posts
  • #rehabilitation – 2.9 million posts

#Cryotherapy

  • #cryo – 466k posts
  • #coldwater – 1.2 million posts
  • #coldwatertherapy – 396k posts

#Redlighttherapy

  • #Redlight – 1.2 million posts
  • #Mitochondria – 131k posts
  • #skincare – 123 million posts

At first glance, all options seem viable. Each has several associated hashtags with a high number of posts. But there’s a crucial detail to consider – user intent.  While red light therapy can benefit skincare, someone searching for #skincare might be more interested in creams than therapy. This is why understanding user intent is so important.

5. An effective Instagram niche needs a clear user intent

Popularity is just one piece of the hashtag puzzle when finding an Instagram niche. The real game-changer? Understanding user intent.  What are people truly searching for when they use these hashtags?

Let’s continue with our health clinic example. #redlight might seem like a relevant hashtag for RLT posts, but a quick glance reveals it’s mostly associated with…well, let’s just say, young ladies in Amsterdam. Not exactly the clientele you’re aiming for, right? This is why user intent is so important.

But there is some good news. By taking a peek at the actual posts under each hashtag you can avoid these issues. For example, while #mitochondria might appear in some RLT posts, a closer look might reveal random user intent like “best foods for…”

The key is to ensure that any associated hashtags have a clear connection to your overall goal.  While RLT may benefit mitochondria and skincare, people searching for those topics separately might not be interested in RLT itself. So, let’s move on from RLT.

Therefore, let’s analyse the remaining options. Both #neckpain and #rehabilitation are subsets of injury prevention, but not everyone seeking to prevent injuries is specifically concerned with neck pain. This might make it a bit too broad for a niche Instagram strategy.

Cryotherapy is similar. Cold water therapy can be seen as a substitute, but it is not quite the same. However, considering the options, cryotherapy and injury prevention are worth of further exploration.

6. Scoping out your Instagram niche: Are there any big accounts?

Why do you want to be on Instagram? For most people the answer is clear. They want to influence and grow their online business. Imagine wanting to launch a hot Silicon Valley startup – would you focus on selling fax machines?  Probably not, because there’s no demand!

In the same way, looking at established accounts in your Instagram niche gives valuable clues about what resonates with audiences.

However, a look at our remaining options illustrates some challenges for our Instagram niche.

For cryotherapy, there are very few large accounts dedicated to this niche. Of those that have a following of 20k or more, most have low engagement (e.g. likes, comments). This indicates fake followers, suggesting cryotherapy might not be a strong contender. After all, if others struggle to grow with it as their niche, it might be due to the algorithms not fully understanding it.

On the other hand, injury prevention does have large accounts but they all appear to have been around for a few years. You can easily check an account’s age by clicking the three dots and visiting “About This Account.”

Yet, copying the tactics of large legacy accounts is not a smart way of growing. The Instagram landscape has evolved, and those accounts likely grew under different rules. Additionally, established accounts have the luxury of posting a wider variety of content due to their loyal following.

Therefore, it’s important to find several accounts that are:

  • Over 50k to 100k minimum
  • Grown organically over the last 2 to 3 years

As an expert in your industry, it’s also important to understand if something is trending or not. Are your customers or people in your circles talking about it? For instance, at Antlerzz we are specialists in digital marketing for health brands. Consequently, we analyse and write about online health trends which can be a great resource for people in the industry.

Yet, our insights show that online interest in cryotherapy has declined by 37.5% in the US. This should raise a red flag for our health clinic example. Should they select cryotherapy as an Instagram niche? While search engine data doesn’t directly reflect Instagram trends, it can be a valuable clue. But cryotherapy could still be popular on Instagram.

So, let’s dig deeper. Looking at cryotherapy on Instagram, we see:

  • Few associated hashtags beyond #cryo
  • A lack of established, large accounts

These factors suggest cryotherapy might not be the optimal choice.

Yet, for our other option, injury prevention, we know this Instagram niche is too vague. This means you will likely need to specialise in one area of it, like neck injury prevention. However, since the health clinic specialises in different types of technologies that help people with different types of injuries, this is not ideal.

At this point, it can feel disheartening if you haven’t found an obvious Instagram niche. If you have, that’s great and you can skip the next step. But, if you haven’t, don’t worry. You now need to be creative.

8. If you struggle to find an Instagram niche focus on associated niches

In the absence of a clear Instagram niche, it’s important to be creative. Therefore consider:

  • Narrowing your niche further e.g. Injury prevention can be neck injury prevention
  • Focusing on associated niches e.g. cold-water therapy for cryotherapy

In our example, cryotherapy is particularly popular and profitable for the health clinic. Moreover, they do not provide physiotherapy in the clinic and have no specific specialisation in neck injuries. So, in this case, it might be better to focus on cold water therapy.

In the UK, cold water therapy has skyrocketed by 633%. Moreover, there are several accounts dedicated to crazy people jumping into cold water or ice baths like they are swimming in the Mediterranean. Many of these accounts are relatively new and getting a lot of views on Instagram Reels. Best of all, jumping into the water can be visually captivating – making it ideal for Instagram Reels.

While this might not be the most obvious fit for the health clinic, it holds promise!  They can leverage Reels to create informative content about cold water therapy – the differences between cryotherapy, and ice baths, and surprising facts about the practice.  They can even show real people visiting the clinic and experiencing the benefits. However, if they decide to do this, they will also need to talk about the risks of cold water vs cryotherapy.

9. Does your Instagram niche align with your target audience and brand voice?

It’s important to understand if your Instagram niche aligns with your target audience and brand voice. This is because a niche that resonates with your ideal customer base is key to success.

For example, with cold water therapy, a look at the posts suggests a mixed audience, primarily between 25-45 years old.  Does this reflect the health clinic’s typical customer base? If not, are they looking to broaden or narrow their appeal?

In truth, most times this is not an issue. After all, Instagram is a diverse platform. Whilst research shows 60% of Instagram users are between 18 and 35, given the total number of people on Instagram, all age groups are well represented in absolute terms. Therefore, the health clinic should continue with this niche.

Moreover, as with all good marketing, the best approach is to focus on psychographic insight analysis. Look at the posts and comments in these Instagram niches to see if they reflect the beliefs and attitudes of your target users. If they do, it’s likely you are onto a winning Instagram niche.

Furthermore, also look at what types of content typically work. One research found 66% of Instagram users say they are looking for entertainment whilst 54% say they want news. Understanding what content works, can help you determine if the Instagram niche is right. For instance, if most of the content is humorous but you want to have an ultra-serious brand, it may not be the right choice.

10. Do people in your niche on Instagram use Reels?

So, you’ve identified a promising niche, but is it a good fit for Instagram’s current landscape? Another key factor to consider is the content format.

According to Meta, 91% of active Instagram users watch videos on Instagram weekly. These videos, known as Reels, are perfect for short, engaging content that resonates with Instagram users, offering a powerful way to grow your audience. 

To grow on Instagram, you need to understand how to get more views on Instagram Reels. Therefore, look at:

  • Content Mix: Analyse the hashtags and content within your Instagram niche.  Is there a lot of Reels? For our health clinic, we can see many posts related to cryotherapy and cold water use Reels. This is fantastic!
  • Engagement: Look to see if the Reels are generating strong engagement (likes, comments, shares). If so, that’s a positive sign.
  • Influencers: Look to see if the fast-growing accounts you identified earlier use Reels.  If so, it’s likely that’s how they have grown which provides reassurance.

For the health clinic in our example, they are onto a winner. The cold-water Instagram niche uses a lot of Reels and fast-growing accounts leverage them all the time.

Implementing your Instagram niche

Your Instagram niche is just the first step on your journey to growing on the platform. Yet it’s also the most important step as you craft your Instagram strategy.

By focusing on an Instagram niche vs an Industry niche, you can align your content to the platform’s algorithms. Whilst the AI algorithms the platform uses are vast and complex, your goal should be to simplify what you are about and who your content should be shown to.

But remember, there are no shortcuts. Whilst you can use AI tools like ChatGPT to help you brainstorm through each of the steps, there are no AI tools that can identify an Instagram niche for you.  Therefore, you will need to work through each of the steps in this article carefully and diligently. However, don’t worry if you don’t find an answer straight away.

Finding the right Instagram niche can take time, but the results will be transformative.

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