These days, having an Instagram account for your blog or business is not only an amazing way to showcase your product or service, humanize your brand, and engage one-on-one with your customers, it's an absolute marketing necessity.
With over 300 million users [edit 11/9/16 : 500 million users] , Instagram is now bigger than Twitter. We can all be fairly certain that it's not going away anytime soon. And yet, there are business owners out there that still do not utilize this powerful social media tool to benefit their brand. It.blows.my.mind.
I completely understand that one of the most daunting tasks for a business, on any social platform, is growing + maintaining a following. In order to be viewed as a legitimate brand, you need an army of admirers, double-tapping your photos + constantly commenting on your feed.
SO HOW DO YOU BUILD AN ARMY?
I'd love to tell you that there's a magical way to increase your following, without you ever needing to lift a finger. How great would it be, to just press a button, (so technically you'd have to lift one finger), then just sit back + watch thousands of googly-eyed new fans scramble to your feed to hit "follow", faster than you can say "Insta-Famous"?!
I'm sorry to report, however, that to my current knowledge, no such magic exists... #wompwomp
Before you start to slowly back out of the room, here's the deal. What I can share with you today, are 10 very real things that you can do, RIGHT NOW, to increase your Instagram following. And, although multiple fingers might have to be lifted in order to push things forward, the results will be worth the effort, I promise.
So, are you ready to learn a few actionable steps that you can start using today to grow your following? Perfect...
No 1. BE ACTIVE
No one wants to follow an account that hasn't posted a new photo in 47 weeks. Create a posting regimen + try to stick to it. You could try test posting at different times to see when your audience is most engaged- or what's even easier, is getting all of the info from an analytics site like Iconosquare, (or from your Instagram business profile). Then, you could use a scheduler like Later, (formerly Latergramme), to remind you to post at the same times, on the same days. If you're going to be a business on Instagram- then you have to be ON Instagram, pretty dang frequently.
No 2. ENGAGE
Now, don't ever be spammy, but it's not called "social media" so that you can just sit there silently. You should focus on commenting, liking, and following accounts that are related to your niche or brand. Try searching hashtags relative to your business + give yourself a goal of how many people to engage with each day. The key is being honest + authentic. Don't go overboard. Don't be annoying.
No 3. POST HI-QUALITY CONTENT
Perhaps this is a no-brainer, but if I had a nickel for every time I saw someone post a photo to their feed before cleaning off their dirty lens... ugh. If you don't have a beautiful image to post- THEN DONT. Quality over quantity in business, forever + always. Amen.
No 4. KEEP THE MESSAGE CLEAR
It helps people to understand your brand + it's message, if your concept is visually clear. Although this does take some planning, your entire grid, (the curation of each image, its filters, + its overall color palette), matters. Even if you just snapped a gorgeous photo, if it's completely off-brand, DONT POST IT. Upload it to your personal Facebook page if you absolutely need to share. But don't risk losing loyal followers by posting anything unrelated to your business.
No 5. DON'T OVER POST
This is not your Facebook album, I repeat, THIS IS NOT YOUR FACEBOOK ALBUM. So, don't go clogging the feed by uploading 8 photos at the same time. That is a sure-fire recipe for "un-followed". If you feel compelled to share ALL EIGHT of those photos on your Instagram account, then for-the-love, plan them into your grid at different times, on different days. Otherwise, you will see many of your followers saying #byefelecia.
No 6. USE (THE RIGHT) HASHTAGS
There are a lot of different opinions out there about how many + what hashtags to use on each post. Hashtags are a great way to allow potential followers to find your goodies. So, researching which ones are the best for each particular photo is a great idea. Simply not using hashtags is an absolute waste of your content. In fact, you should actually be using THIRTY per post... yup. 30!!
Want to skip all of that painful research + just get started using the right hashtags for your business RIGHT NOW?!
Check out #GETFOUND : The Ultimate Hashtag Resource (complete with over 1600 hashtags you can simply copy + paste) as well as loads of helpful hashtag tips + tricks!!
No 7. GEO-TAG THAT ISH'
Maybe you've just snapped an amazing photo in a super cool location that relates to your local business. Or perhaps you are posting from YOUR ACTUAL BUSINESS LOCATION. Either way, as long as you aren't tagging your home address, (which is just not safe, y'all), geo-tagging your photo's location is a great way to allow people to discover you and your content. Use it or lose it.
NO 8. RUN / SPONSOR A CONTEST
Giveaways and sponsorships are great ways to drive more followers to your feed. Just be sure to clearly outline all of the rules before you begin. Also, don't be surprised if you notice a drop off in followers when the contest is over + the winner is announced. Some folks troll for a freebie + bail when it's over. You shouldn't take this personally. Hopefully, your contest opens you up to a larger portion of people who are happy to have discovered your brand + stick around after it's all said + done.
NO 9. COLLABORATE WITH AN INFLUENCER
An influencer is generally someone who has a large number of engaged followers that will promote your product or service to their fans in exchange for some form of payment (either monetary or free products). Research influencing accounts in your niche + reach out if someone fits your brand + you would like to work with them.
NO 10. POST YOUR OWN UGC WITH INTENT TO GET REPOSTED
UGC means User Generated Content. Some larger accounts will have specific hashtags for certain categories of photos- their hope is that other users will tag their photos with these + they can scoop them up for re-posting- which helps grow their own following.
Researching those hashtags that fit within your niche + then using them on your photos could get you re-posted on those larger accounts. For FREE. This usually always results in an influx of followers. Think about it. Your photo clearly fits into that larger account's feed, which is why they reposted it, (it's like they are giving you a huge hi-five for such amazing content), you're helping them continue to share their brand's message, and as a thank you- their followers, become yours. Win-Win.
Ultimately, if your end goal is gaining hundreds of thousands of followers- it's going to take both patience, and a good bit of effort on your part.
Think about it this way though, the time you spend working on the topics listed above, will pay you back in waaaay more than just new followers. You will also be building awareness for your brand, networking with like-minded people, engaging directly with your customers in real time, and perhaps even making new friends IRL.