Instagram has millions of active monthly users, and businesses of all sizes are asking themselves how to tap into that user base and gain more followers. It’s an important question to ask as more and more Instagrammers engage with businesses both on and off the app, whether they’re visiting a brand’s website, commenting on posts or showing up in person at a business to claim a special offer.
The general rule to know is that, as with any social media platform, there are really just two ways to do it effectively for long-term success: 1) through organic growth where you’re interacting authentically and consistently with your audience, and 2) through targeted sponsored ads. There are strategies attached to those two methods, and we’ll get into those below, but first, you might be asking yourself, “Why not just buy followers or use bots to get more of them?”
Sure, that seems like a quick way to get a big boost, but it’s an artificial boost that won’t allow you to connect with real people who care about your brand. What you want is an ongoing relationship with your audience, people who are loyal to your brand and able to assist in growing your followers.Did you know? You could actually hurt your brand by buying artificial followers. #InstagramTips Click To Tweet
Moreover, you could actually hurt your brand by buying artificial followers. Take a look at this Hootsuite experiment to see what might happen, i.e., zero engagement and a bunch of followers you don’t necessarily want associated with your brand.
At the end of the day, click-throughs and engagement are the best measures of your Instagram profile’s success. So toward that end, this post focuses on the top ways to build the kind of following you’d be proud to call home about.
1. Use hashtags
Hashtags are one of the best ways to make yourself findable. Choose hashtags that are relevant to your post and likely to be discovered in a search. Instagram makes it easy: Just type in your “#” and start typing a few letters of a hashtag, and Instagram will suggest hashtags that are popular and show you how many times it’s been used.
Use your other social platforms, your website and your email campaigns to tell your audience about your Instagram account. Give them a glimpse of what to expect, such as special offers, behind-the-scenes scoop and advance notice of special events.
3. Hold a contest
I wrote about this topic extensively here, but in short, Instagram contests can be either standalone events you run on your own, or collaborative where you involve other brands in a “loop” type of contest. It’s a quick way to boost your followers among an audience that’s interested in your brand. Check out more examples of contests below.
4. Engage with other users’ content
Set aside time daily, even 10 minutes, to like and comment on random photos from your target audience. Selectively follow those accounts that are well-aligned with and complement your brand.
5. Post quality content
Make your brand look sharp! Only post images that elevate your message, not random photos that you’re posting just for the sake of posting. Quality beats quantity every time.Only post images that elevate your message. Don't post just for the sake of posting. #InstagramTips Click To Tweet
6. Invite engagement
Ask a question or use the word “comment” to encourage engagement from your users. People love to voice their opinions! You can also ask users to “tag a friend,” e.g., “Tag a friend who would love these leggings!”
7. Post at the best times
What works for one brand doesn’t necessarily work for all. You might need to experiment to find the best time for you. You can always try out a scheduler such as Later, which will automatically calculate the best time to post for your account, or just go with a trial-and-error approach to see when you get the most engagement. Here’s a more detailed look at choosing the best times to post:
8. Complete your bio
Incorporate keywords and hashtags in your bio, and don’t forget a link back to your site. If you have specific posts where you want to direct users to a certain website or landing page, you can mention it in the post. For example, if you’re promoting a workshop series, you could say “Link in bio” within the caption of your post, and then swap out your bio link to feature a link to sign up for your workshop.
9. Sponsor your content
Look at your Insights on Instagram to see your most popular posts by impressions, and then throw some ad dollars behind your most popular posts. Just scroll down to the bottom and click on Create Promotion to get started.
10. Use the “Live” feature
Posting “live” on Instagram means you’re filming in real time, and your audience gets notified that you’re live. You have the option to keep these “Live” videos active for another 24 hours after airing.
11. Use Instagram Stories
I saved the best (arguably) for last: Instagram Stories. These stories are accessible at the top of a user’s home page when opening the app and feature a 24-hour snapshot of what’s going on with a brand or a person. After 24 hours, the story disappears, giving them a type of urgency that doesn’t exist with photos alone. You can tap within your own story to see who’s viewed it, giving you a clear picture of engagement. They’ve become an integral part of brands’ success on Instagram, and many brands are getting creative with these stories to promote their products and services.
One stellar example is a recent Chipotle campaign promoting their new Queso dip. For the campaign, Chipotle archived all but a few posts so that only Queso photos appeared on the profile page. In the days thereafter, the brand rolled out more posts, a contest offering a year’s worth of free queso to winners, and a 100-part Instagram Story that saw a 70 percent completion rate, meaning 70 percent of users clicked through all 100 parts of the Story to the end (no easy feat!). Read about it in the link:
There are many more strategies you can use on Instagram, but these 10 are a great starting point! What other methods have you used to grow your Insta following? Leave your comments below.