What do politicians, religious leaders, and brands on Instagram all have in common? They all need followers in order to be successful.
Having a significant follower count on Instagram does a lot for your brand and Instagram marketing success. It increases engagement, awareness, and customer loyalty. It also establishes the legitimacy of your business. (We trust things other people trust.)
Growing your brand’s, or even your personal, follower count on Instagram doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t even have to be expensive! It just has to be strategic.
Like any campaign, you should be knowledgeable about how best to execute your plan by studying up on best practices. Instagram, as a marketing platform, has a lot of best practices for growing your follower count and, overall, extending your business’s reach.
Tip: See which social network is best for your business!
If you are a company or an individual looking to increase your follower count on Instagram, the steps below should be an active part of your Instagram strategy.
We’ve all seen a brand or influencer with 60,000+ followers and wondered to ourselves, “How’d they do it?”
Aside from paying for followers, which many consider to be an unethical approach, it’s likely that profile administrator has a strong understanding of how to engage with users. The good news? So can you.
Consider adopting the following 23 strategies to form your perfect Instagram growth plan.
This is one of the simplest pieces of advice we hear in regard to increasing social media engagement: use hashtags. Yes, it’s simple, and it works. Hashtags are one of the tools Instagram uses to organize posts into categories and make the platform searchable.
(See: 12 Best Instagram Hashtag Strategy Tips from the Pros)
I can search #beaches, and, suddenly, I’m inundated with posts featuring beautiful sandy shores and clear ocean water.
As a business, you should research which hashtags are relevant to your target audience. What hashtags are your competitors using? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to figure out which wheels are working well and emulate them.
Many businesses develop their own branded hashtags, which could be the name of their stores or brands. Asking users to post with your hashtag in mind creates a digital bulletin board of posts that others can look at when deciding whether to give you their business.
Another of Instagram’s genius is its ability to organize posts by location. If your brand is only relevant to your township or those within a 30-mile radius, you’ll want to make use of these location features.
For example, say you own a snowboarding shop sitting in the middle of Estes Park, Colorado. You don’t necessarily need your posts to show up on the profiles of people living in Delaware. Rather, you want your posts to reach people who might be in town and could come do business with you.
A quick search of Estes Park, Colorado, shows me posts from all the people who were recently there, as well as this beautiful wedding shot from @VisitEstesPark. As a tourism brand, it geotags its posts to show off the beauty of its location and draw in visitors.
A lot of Instagram’s features are free, but if you’re using it as a marketing tool, you might want to allot some of your budget to making sure you use it well. This applies to boosting your posts.
Boosting a post on Instagram is much the same as boosting a post on another platform. You pay a varying amount of money to ensure your post appears within the feeds of a certain type of audience.
You can choose from qualifications such as age, location, and interests, or you can have Instagram automatically boost to an audience resembling your current followers.
Boosting your posts gives you a higher chance of reaching the right audience. Your brand isn’t for everyone. If you’re running a women’s clothing boutique, you have a specific audience: women. Boosting a post means higher engagement with your target audience.
This tip is huge. Every successful brand has an aesthetic, or “A set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.”
Think of Instagram as a digital magazine. Would you want your magazine’s images to be blurry, poorly-lit, and disinteresting? Magazine designers put a lot of thought into the way an issue flows, as well as the design of a page. Treat your Instagram appearance as seriously as you’d treat a magazine.
Consider the makeup brand Sephora in the image below. It’s clear it positions objects strategically and considers the color scheme of its products as a whole. We see this in the blend of beiges, baby pinks, and light corals.
While it can seem shallow, it’s no secret that appearance is everything — especially in the world of marketing. Decide what your aesthetic is going to be, what message you’re trying to send, what theme you’re trying to accomplish, and stick to that consistently. It’ll make your profile more inviting, and users will want to follow you.
In August 2016, Instagram jumped on the story bandwagon, wherein users can post an image or quick video to their profiles detailing what’s happening in the here and now. Media posted to a story lasts for 24 hours and then disappears unless saved.
Stories are a great way to increase engagement with users, as well as show off your brand’s personality. Stories are often less filtered than posts that go on the feed; they’re quick snippets of what’s currently happening.
Stories give you the ability to ask questions that followers can respond to or solicit questions from followers that you can then answer, among many other features. These strategies increase engagement and interest in your profile.
Highlights are stories that you choose to save to your profile for continued viewing. You might choose to save a highlight to your profile if you feel it tells an important story about your brand. For example, one of Sephora’s most recent highlights is a makeup tutorial using the products they sell.
Highlights tell your story in a way that regular posts might not. They say what’s important for you as a brand to showcase. They’re a quick way for users to get to know you and, again, decide if they’re interested in engaging with your regular content.
One misconception about social media growth is that it has to happen on social media. In the same way a store might advertise in the newspaper (retro example, I know), consider alternative methods you could use to advocate for your Instagram profile.
For example, have you been asked to write a guest post on a blog or act as a guest on a podcast? If so, be sure to mention your Instagram handle and urge listeners or readers to SMASH that follow button. Or even post your Instagram Nametag inside your business so your customers can easily give it a scan and follow your business account.
Don’t be afraid to do some grassroots organizing either. Even if it’s just going out and handing out business cards, face-to-face interactions with your community could easily increase your follower count.
People LOVE free stuff, and you obviously LOVE your products or services. Increase your follower count by running a giveaway. Giveaways offer Instagram users an incentive at very low costs to them. Typically, a giveaway asks participants to follow a certain account, tag two friends in the comments, and maybe even repost something from the account.
Consider this post from Lids, wherein the hat-maker asks users to tag two friends and the team they think will win the Super Bowl.
While you end up giving a product away for free, you’re also getting a significant amount of engagement in return. I mean, just look at how many users and hashtags have been tagged in those few comments alone.
Instagram is fairly strict about its promotion rules, so be sure you read those in advance of beginning your brand’s contest.
Keep your friends close and enemies (or competitors) closer… with a brand partnership! By partnering with another brand, you are able to engage with its audience, as well as yours.
Partnerships don’t always have to be with competitors, although you would certainly be reaching out to a like-minded audience. Say you sell candles, and someone else sells soaps. You could partner up for a candle and soap giveaway with the theme of providing a luxurious bath night.
Partnerships don’t have to center around giveaways either. They can be as simple as asking to repost a brand’s content on your feed, or vice versa. Any instance of brands supporting each other by working together could be considered an Instagram partnership.
A partnership could also mean hiring an influencer or brand ambassador, which we’ll get into later.
Engaging with users is a non-negotiable I have seen brands harp on repeatedly. If you want to increase your followers, your profile has to feel like a community where comments and feedback are heard.
Not only that, but you should proactively engage with users who aren’t yet loyal to your account. One way to accomplish this is by visiting the discover page or perusing the comments section on your competitors’ pages.
Find users who seem to be engaged in your same type of community and follow them or comment on their posts. They’ll appreciate you noticing them and may end up a loyal customer.
Constantly find new ways to engage. Ask questions in your stories. Ask users to comment their thoughts on a new product.
It’s impossible to fully keep up with our 24-hour news cycle, but you should at least remain aware of the subjects that pertain to you.
For example, when IHOP pretended to change its name to IHOB for publicity, other brands posted tweets and Instagram posts commenting on the change.
Staying abreast of news shows your brand is relevant and cares about what your users care about. I’d caution against getting too political or becoming involved in divisive subjects, unless, of course, that’s your brand.
Instagram bios are small in comparison to those on Facebook business pages, making it easy for businesses to overlook their importance. However, it’s important you develop your bio, making it engaging, while quickly delivering your company’s message.
Experts warn against using the URL solely as a way to link to your homepage. Rather, it’s advised to change your URL on a regular basis, constantly relating to a product, announcement, or blog post users should check out.
(Image by: www.thriftsandthreads.com)
There’s something about the phrase, “link in bio,” that compels users to navigate away from Instagram to see what’s so important that you’ve changed your profile’s link for. The post itself should give users a taste, but leave them wanting more.
What’s worse than a lackluster caption? I’m on your page because I want to know more about your brand, and captions should do just that!
Consider this caption from clothing retailer Modcloth. It starts off with a quirky sentence, identifies the model pictured, gives a searchable name for the sweater, and tells users they can shop the look through the link in the bio.
To put it simply, captions should captivate. They should inform and intrigue. The type of profile you have will dictate just exactly how many details you give.
For example, an art gallery might go into more detail about a painting or sculpture, encouraging users to come visit the full exhibit. With a retail profile, you can see above that a plethora of details aren’t fully necessary.
Post notifications are, quite simply, notifications Instagram sends you when one of your preferred users posts. You have to turn post notifications on in order to receive this information.
Consider turning on post notifications for influencers in your industry, competitors, and anyone else whose content you might like to engage with. Again, engagement is a key component in increasing your following.
Knowing exactly when someone posts allows you to intentionally like or comment on that post, increasing your engagement with that user and their familiarity with your brand or product. As for competitors, it can simply be helpful to keep an eye on their social media strategies.
A call-to-action (CTA) sounds a lot more serious than it is. It’s not a call to arms, or the act of convincing others to revolt. In Instagram terms, it’s just phrasing your captions or posting photos in a way that compels viewers to do something following your post.
Calls-to-action are important because they get users to engage with your brand beyond initial posts. Whether it’s tagging a friend for a discount, reposting for a giveaway, or simply asking users to comment, any CTA is a good call.
Consider how Staples uses its Instagram profile to ask users questions about their professional life and office strategies.
Instagram engagement groups exist specifically for those who are trying to grow their following. You can find these engagement groups on Facebook and other platforms. Activities that members engage in are likes for likes, comments for comments, and follows for follows.
This is a, “You scratch my back, I scratch yours,” strategy wherein users support one another, as well as share tips and tricks they may have regarding Instagram’s ever-changing methods.
One great aspect of social media is that users are probably already advertising your products without realizing it by posting pictures with them. Encourage your customers to tag you on Instagram when they wear your sweaters, accessorize with your scarves, etc.
That way, you’re able to (with permission) repost their photos or videos and have essentially received free advertising. (See: How to Repost on Instagram)
Consider this repost from Sperry. It had a customer post an engaging aerial shot wearing Sperry shoes and decided to share it with its own following. The brand gave the user photo credit, making it a mutualistic relationship.
Is your business tackling multiple mediums, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress? Mention your Instagram profile on the other platforms you use. That could mean sharing your Instagram pictures to Facebook or writing whole blog post surrounding an upcoming Instagram giveaway.
Highlighting your Instagram on other platforms pulls in users who, for example, may otherwise only follow you on Twitter, or it gets your blog community to become part of your Instagram community. If people are finding you and your brand in different ways, make sure they know all the options that are available to them.
Your competitors’ profiles should become some of your most frequently visited. By seeing what they’re doing, you can get a better idea of what you’re supposed to be doing. You can also get an idea of who you should be engaging with.
Consider engaging with the users who often comment on your competitors’ posts. Follow them, like their posts, and compel them to follow you back — but not in, like, a creepy way. Your competitors have already curated an audience that fits your brand, so don’t be afraid to take advantage of that.
Influencer marketing is a growing trend within the social media marketing sphere. Influencers can share your products or brand with their established and trusting audiences. Because influencers tend to have a relationship with their followers, a product they recommend is perceived similarly to a product recommended by a friend.
However, influencers can be costly, and you want to make sure you get your money’s worth. Before landing on a specific influencer, reach out and ask what they’ve been able to do for previous companies and their products.
The user @lifestylemarco_, whose profile says he is an influencer, has 184,000 followers. As you can see, 3,136 people liked this photo of him showing off his travel gear from bag brand @loandsons.
Social media doesn’t sleep, which is why you should be prepared to post at odd hours throughout the day. (Be prepared to post even while on vacation!) But, instead of Instagramming from the resort pool, intuitively schedule your posts out beforehand with a social media management tool.
Social media management solutions allow you to schedule posts in advance for a variety of networks. No matter if you’re trying to promote on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram, you can use these resources to do your job while you’re away.
Once all the posts have been scheduled, you can pack your flip flops and bathing suit and head out on your well-deserved beach vacation.
If you’re not posting on Instagram, how do you intend on staying current and relevant to your audience? How do you plan on engaging with current followers while accruing more regularly?
Having a consistent posting schedule increases consumer trust in your brand. When you go to a brand’s Instagram page and realize it hasn’t posted in six months, you wonder if they’re even still in business.
If you want to gain followers, make sure you have a plan for posting a few times a day, daily, or weekly.
A lot of social media administrators become overwhelmed when they realize they were trying to appeal to too many audience groups at once. Instead of making that mistake, find your niche and dominate it.
If you’re running a small plant shop located on the coast of California, you don’t need to reach people all across the United States. Rather, focus on your local market of plant-lovers. Knowing your niche allows you to be a confident competitor in your field.
As a marketer, one of the most powerful tools in your toolbox is data. Analytics solutions, such as Google Analytics, exist to help you understand the impact of your internet presence.
Instagram’s own tool — Instagram Insights — offers users a way to view the performance of their profiles. Impressions, reach percentage, and engagements can all be calculated within a tool like this.
In the image below, courtesy of Buffer, we can see how administrators are shown the breakdown of their followers by gender, age, and location. Failing to use one of these free or cheap solutions is asking to fail! Don’t do that.
(Image courtesy of Buffer)
You may feel like it’s going to take an eternity to implement all of these best practices.
In the beginning, it may.
Over time, though, using the right hashtags and scheduling posts in advance will become second nature, and you’ll find yourself rising above the competition.
To learn more on how to make the most of Instagram and social media marketing as a whole, I recommend you read:
Download The Beginner's Guide to Instagram and get started 🚀
Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)
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