If you are developing a personal brand or you're a business owner, you are likely investing heavily in Instagram, but chances are good that you are unintentionally repelling followers.

Realizing that I was probably doing this, I spoke to Rachel Bell co-founder of Instagram growth firm Trill Media. Bell and her team have helped hundreds of personalities and brands grow form internet obscurity to popular instagram accounts by examining the latest social media trends, techniques and research. Bell emphasized that you have around five seconds to impress someone on social media or repel them completely.

Fortunately, there are the key factors new followers use to decide whether they'll follow you or keep looking:

1. Choose a profile pic that resonates.

To start things off on the right foot, Rachel recommends making your profile photo bright and clear.

If you're account is for a person, choose a profile picture showing your smiling face. People, especailly men, relate better to smiling human faces, according to one 2008 study, which is exactly what you need.

If you're a brand, make sure you're using a recognizable logo of your business as your profile picture.  

2. Optimize your bio.

You don't have much time or space to let people know who you are, so every character counts.

Use your bio to explain who you are, who you help, and why a stranger should follow you.

Some businesses do this with "I help..." sentences.

For example, if you're a fitness coach, you can use your bio to say: "I help new moms lose the last 10 pounds and feel better. Follow me for more information and education." This will provide people a clear understanding of what value they will get from your content and why they should follow you.

3. Add a keyword to your name field.

A great way to improve the perception of potential followers is to use a keyword in your name field/title of your profile.

If you just state your name, that doesn't say who you are, or why you're an authority.

However, if you make your name field say "John Smith, Personal Trainer" -- people will think of you as a personal trainer.

So just by changing your name field, you can influence strangers' perception of your business. 

4. Optimize your content for cold traffic.

If you want to reach a new audience with your Instagram, your goal should be making your content intriguing to new audiences, and not just your existing one.

For example, a great piece of content for strangers is your personal/brand story and your philosophy.

If you're posting for your existing followers all the time (in the feed and in Stories), new people won't have context, and they'll be repelled.

To avoid boring your existing audience, post content for new followers in a 50-50 split, or at least one new audience post every three posts.

5. Use your highlights to attract new followers.

Finally, Rachel says not to post random highlights on your profile. Instead, use profile highlights to educate potential followers on who you are and what you do.

Make that another way of reaching out and making them take action. And it all starts by clicking on one simple button: "Follow."

Published on: May 13, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.