With about 300 million monthly active users, Instagram is fun, free, and easy to use, which opens the door to reveal endless opportunities for creative agencies; it allows you to showcase your work/products in an inconspicuous, captivating, and appealing way in front of millions of people, quite unlike the “in your face” approach that Twitter and Facebook tend to use. It’s no wonder that Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms for marketers to use to help build their brand.
If you’re managing a brand account on Instagram, chances are your main goal is to get more followers. Let’s face it, increasing your social media presence is tough, especially on Instagram where you rely solely on those little square boxes to make the magic happen. What’s even worse, is when the brand or social media manager give up and buy thousands of fake followers instead, to appear bigger than they really are. Will this strategy fake out certain people to think you’re cool? Maybe. But will these Instagram bots buy your product? Will they bring value to your company and still be there in a few months? Probably not. In the end, they don’t mean a thing to your business if they aren’t coming back to your website and buying your products.
Ready for the good news? There are tons of ways to grow your Instagram following and overall presence without spending a single dime. By following some simple rules and unique strategies, you will be well on your way to get not only more followers but engaged followers who will bring tons of value to your brand. What’s even better news is that your following will be organic and full of real people who actually want to be there and support your message. While there are many different ways to do it, check out my top 5 favorite steps below that I use to grow my Instagram following organically. Use these steps for your brand and sit back and enjoy the sweet sight of those little orange notification signs lighting up your brand.
1. I use relevant and intriguing hashtags…but not too many!
I’m not one to overdo it on the hashtags, but most social media managers can attest to having their clients at least give it a try to attract people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen their content. While it does attract more followers, using too many hashtags can be off-putting to people and actually make them want to unfollow you.
A good rule of thumb is to have a handful of hashtags in your arsenal that are relevant to your brand and goals. They should be simple enough to allow followers to participate and use that same hashtag on their photos, thus bringing others directly back to your account. Plus they work wonders for Instagram contests. More on that later in this post! Obviously, #Summer2015 is a lot easier to read and recreate than #OmgILoveSummerNeverEnd2015. You get the point.
2. I engage with my audience
In real life, wouldn’t it be a drag if every time you asked someone a question they ignored you? So why should it be any different on social media? The truth is, your response rate on Instagram could be the difference between a loyal customer and one that probably wouldn’t recommend you to a friend. You may think it’s no big deal if you don’t answer a question or comment here and there, but people remember, and the experience that they had with your brand will remain with them for a long time.
I personally love it when companies quickly respond to me through social media and I automatically like them even more for having great customer service. Regardless of wanting to gain Instagram followers, commenting or liking photos, engaging with your audience and answering their questions are things you have to do. You can tag and follow potential customers which will encourage them to give your profile a look, and maybe even a follow back. Make it a priority to answer as many questions as you can and provide social media support when they need it. Don’t ignore their feedback or concerns and hope they will just go away,because they won’t!
3. I post top-notch photos and use filters
When considering what to post to Instagram, keep in mind that visual content should entice your audience to keep scrolling and then hopefully hit that follow button so they can see more posts like the one that caught their eye. With an average of 70 million photos shared on Instagram per DAY, its becoming even more difficult for brands to stick out amid the clutter. To create long lasting engagement with those users, you need to share beautiful and targeted content that really resonates with your audience.
If you’re not a professional photographer, which most of us are not, there are ways to fake it, and there is most definitely “an app for that“. Using filters, creative angles, and clear images are a good start to creating visually pleasing content. Besides the filters already available in the Instagram app, there are also many more apps and filters to help your photos reach the next level.
Here are my favorites:
Also, part of making sure your profile is aesthetically pleasing is just making sure you’re only sharing images that people can connect with & relate to. You should have somewhat of a theme to stick to so people know what to expect. Fashion designer Lauren Conrad’s page is a perfect example of a consistent, perfectly executed and well thought out Instagram account that follows a relatable theme and sticks to certain filters so it has an overall cohesive look. Check it out.
4. I optimize my profile
To fully optimize your Instagram account, make sure your have the following things set in place.
- First, complete your bio at the top of your account, which can be updated at any time. Make sure you provide a quick snippet of who you are, what you do, and where people can find more info. ie. include a link to your website in the bio.
- Also above anything else, make sure you set your account to public! None of these strategies will work unless people can actually see your stuff before they decide if they want to further engage with your brand. Recently, a co-worker and friend of mine shared her experience with an airline who could learn from these rules. This particular airline’s social profiles are all private so no one can see complaints or even what they are up to unless they follow. You should always be transparent on social media and they definitely are not.
- Finally, aside from optimizing your actual Instagram account, you should also include a widget or a badge on your main website or blog so that traffic can be directed easily between the two. Your Instagram account should be easy to find in a short amount of time.
5. I host contests
Contests and giveaways are a great way to engage your audience and gain followers. Who doesn’t like to win free stuff? This infographic suggests the best duration of a contest on Instagram is between 25 – 60 days, but so long as you are putting in the right promotion, you should see the results you want. To design a successful contest:
- Plan your strategy
- Choose a theme
- Choose your rules & prizes
- Check out the competition for similar contest ideas
- Choose your contest hashtag that people must use in order to enter and participate
- Cross promote on all social channels
Promoting the contest is very important and allows you to measure your success later on. In addition to sending out emails to your database and cross promotion, try and reach out to influencers and write a blog for them which mentions your contest within the post. You should also add promotional banners to your blog, Twitter, Facebook pages (here’s a handy social sizing guide) and start posting about it when your audience is around. Also, don’t pick prizes that will attract the wrong people. For example, if you are trying to grow your following as a lawn care service, don’t give away iPads or prizes that have nothing to do with your brand. People will quickly unfollow you after the contest is done especially if they won a prize that anyone could use regardless of what your brand is all about. Instead, try giving away a gift card to a home improvement store, or 2 months of free lawn care services so that you will only get entrants who have a need to use your company now or further down the road.
Those are my 5 favorite steps to help organically grow your Instagram following. I hope you will try them out with your brand and let me know the results! I know It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing things just because other people are, but it’s important to think through your own goals and finding practices that work best for your brand. Hopefully by now you are caught up to speed with what is acceptable when it comes to Instagram growth.
Don’t neglect the importance of the above 5 tips to organically grow your Instagram following. If they take the time to comment on your posts and follow you back, that means they care enough about your brand. Ideally, you want all your fans to care that much, so stick to the tricks and you’ll reach your goals in no time.
How have you authentically grown your Instagram following? If you need some help getting started, reach out to our team of experts to learn more.