Instagram quickly evolved from a fun app for social use among friends to a serious marketing tool that can be used for advertising, networking and audience building. As one of the most popular social networking sites in the world with over 700 million active monthly users and engagement rates up to 55 times higher (on average) than that of Facebook, Instagram is the place to be for influencers and brands alike. As Instagram users have proven they’re willing to engage and participate on the platform, it really pays to make this social media network your preferred arena for conducting business online.
With the explosion of influencer marketing, the number of followers someone boasts has never been so important. Whether you’re an influencer or an aspiring influencer though, growing your following on a consistent basis isn’t always easy. Because of this, the dark side of influencer marketing has people buying their popularity for peanuts. Though Instagram is ameliorating the situation by hunting for fake accounts, fake followers, and anyone buying them, we wanted to spread the good word about boosting your Instagram following in an organic way. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that there is no magical formula for upping your social media following. Growing your audience online is sometimes a slow and arduous process that takes unrelenting time and effort. If you’re willing to put in the work though, incorporating these 11 hacks into your social media strategy will have you on the rise in no time.
Make your Instagram account more discoverable
The first thing to look into when trying to grow your Instagram presence is to make sure you’re easily discoverable. This can be done several ways.
If you’re already active on other social media networks like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, you should try to convince as many of those followers to also follow you on Instagram. To do this, you’ll need to offer them something that they won’t be getting on the other social media networks they already follow you on. Whether it’s exclusive contests, sneak peaks at new products, or a behind-the-scenes look at your brand, attract them with an incentive.
Include links to your Instagram account EVERYWHERE
All the ways in which you communicate with you audience (both online and offline) provides an opportunity to direct people to your Instagram account. Make sure you have links to you Insta feed on your website, your email signature, in email newsletters, blog posts, and in any print advertising your do. This ensures that no matter how people are finding your brand, they’ll be able to connect with your social media accounts.
Use relevant hashtags
Using hashtags that are relevant and/or topical will greatly widen your reach to include people that may not follow or know about you. By properly hashtagging your content to include tags that are business and niche-related, your posts will appear to people searching for photos related to your brand or industry. When using hashtags, please be aware that there are some serious do’s and don’ts to follow.
Study the competition
One of the best shortcuts when it comes to marketing your brand is to study what your direct competition is doing. By doing this, you’re learning what works and what doesn’t without having to invest the time and money yourself. Whether you’re starting from the very beginning or tweaking your existing marketing plan, analyzing what your target audience most responds to is key to gaining a higher return on investment.
Create a unique/useful bio/profile
Your bio/profile description is the first impression people get of your brand. For this reason, a well-crafted and unique profile is key to converting page visitors to account followers. Your Instagram profile is made up of your name, username, website, and bio.
For your name, try to include keywords as it’s included in Instagram searches. Your username should be consistent across your social media accounts to make you easy to find.
As the website section is the only place you can insert a clickable link, make sure to optimize it by referring your followers to it through your posted content. Change it up weekly or bi-weekly to drive traffic to your newest or most popular content.
Finally, your bio. This is prime real estate where you can include 150 characters to convey your brand’s personality to new visitors. Give them a reason to want to follow you.
Write killer Instagram captions
Besides the Instagram photo itself, your caption says a lot about who you are and what your brand’s vibe is. A good rule of thumb is to keep blurbs short and sweet. People didn’t come on Instagram to read a thesis. If you can, direct people to a link in your bio or use this space to cross-promote your other social media accounts.
Post consistently- and at the right time
Posting content spastically is a great way to look flighty and lose your following. Choose a posting schedule that is easy for you to maintain and that reflects your brand and audience. Whether it’s a few times a day or a few times a week, keep it consistent. Unless you’re crazy funny or are giving away a car with every post (cue Oprah), we would limit your posts to twice a day. Weekly, we would suggest at LEAST 2-3 times so people don’t have a chance to forget about you.
While there’s no magic number, Tailwind analyzed optimal posting frequencies and found that posting daily allows you to grow your following 4 times faster than posting once a week. The more often you post, the most opportunity your followers have to engage with it. And when your followers interact with your content, that activity becomes visible to their followers thus exposing it to a bigger pool of people.
When it comes to scheduling your posts for optimal engagement, there’s nothing better than trial and error. While you can certainly study what works best for your competitors, the best posting times are unique to your specific following. While your competitors may be best off posting during work hours, yours may consist of a following who include stay-at-home moms or people from overseas on a different time zone.
If you haven’t noticed yet (influencers surely have), Instagram has changed its algorithm from a chronological feed to one based largely on engagement and how fast the content is getting it. If no one is online at the time that you post your photo, it’ll get bumped down before anyone really gets a chance to see it.
It’s no coincidence that successful influencers and brands are tag-happy on all of their posts. Tagging other relevant users and locations can greatly increase the potential visibility of that post.
When posting content, you should try to tag as many relevant users as possible. That may include people in the shot, the photographer, makeup artist, event host, or any brands appearing on the post. You can either do this with the @ mention in your caption or by tagging them directly in the post itself. Tagging them leads to a higher chance that they’ll engage with your content or even share it with their own following. Encouraging your followers to tag their friends is another great way to gain more followers. For example, you can write in your caption to “Tag your friends who would love these shoes!” if you’re a footwear company. This will help you be exposed to a larger network of people.
Tagging your location
Whether your business has a physical location or not, tagging locations will expose your post to a lot more people than not. For example, if you post an Instagram Story without a tagged location vs. if you post one with a tagged location, you’ll typically get 4-5 times the number of views.
If you’re from Los Angeles, having your post geo-located will allow anyone who searched “Los Angeles” to see your post. You can be as broad or as specific as you’d like. This is just one more way for people to find your brand on Instagram.
Running contests is one of the easiest ways to grow your Instagram following and drive traffic to your website. Create a contest in which people can only enter by following you, liking or commenting on your post, tagging their friends, or reposting your content. This strategy is one that works for influencers/brands of all sizes. If you’re just starting out, your contest can be as simple as a product giveaway or experience giveaway that costs you under $50.
Encouraging user-generated content (UGC) as part of your contest is also a great way to reach more people. By having your followers create and post content to their own feeds, you’ll be gaining access to their followers who may not follow you. Since the content is coming from their own friends, it’s also a great way to build and create trust.
Operate beyond the traditional Insta feed
In the past year, we’ve seen a huge shift from curated content only to a mix of that and live content.
Consider Instagram advertising
Have you ever scrolled through your Instagram feed and noticed that they’ve sneaked in a post by someone you don’t follow? Sometimes, the content is so on-point to accounts you already follow that you may not even notice it’s an ad. Instagram ads are a powerful, seamless way to reach a bigger audience quickly. Because you’re able to narrow down exactly who you want seeing your ad (including age, gender, interests and key behaviors), the return-on-investment is much higher than alternative marketing methods.
The best way to grow your following is to engage them. People need love and attention. Give it to ‘em. This can be done most easily through liking and commenting on their photos. Not only will they see the likes/comments, but their followers will see it too. Responding to comments and DM’s on your own page should be done within 24 hours. This lets people know you’re present and creates brand loyalty among them. Following and engaging with brands and influencers in your industry is another great way to boost your brand recognition. They’ll often return the favor by liking and commenting back which expands the network that your page can be seen.
Analyze your Instagram insights
If you haven’t already, make sure your Instagram account has been switched from a personal account to a Business Profile. By doing this, you get to take advantage of the comprehensive insights on your account and content curated by Instagram.
Insights provides information about impressions, reach, engagement and more. You also gain access to key demographics about your followers which will better help you advertise to them.
Analyzing your insights on a regular basis will show you what’s working and what isn’t. By doing this, you’re able to identify areas where you can adjust your strategy to better appeal to your audience. For example, Instagram Insights may reveal to you that your followers aren’t who you thought they were. If the majority of your followers are actually from overseas, you may want to tweak the timing of your posts to reflect their time zone or target the content to their cultural norms. Personalizing your feed to either your existing following or the people who you want to follow you will attract a solid and engaged audience.
Understanding and utilizing this data is key to expanding your social media presence and thus, your brand. Staying on top of it is just as important. As your following grows, their demographics may shift and this should affect the type of content you’re posting. Using social media apps like Iconosquare is great for helping you determine what your followers like, when they like it, and how. We’re going to pretend that doesn’t sound dirty.
To learn more about how to step up your Instagram marketing game, check out our article on a Step-by-Step Guide to Social Media Marketing.