Instagram is where everyone wants to be right now—400 million people and 90 percent of brands worldwide have accounts. If you regularly post on this social platform, you’ve taken the first step. The next is building a following so the time and effort yields benefits, whether that be clicks to your website, social engagement, or brand impressions.
Use the following ideas to take your Instagram account to the next level. With more followers, you have greater opportunities to reap the benefits of this popular social platform.
Start with the details
To get more followers on your business Instagram account, start with the basics. This means following best practices when posting and using analytics (through Instagram or a third-party tracker) to drive engagement—which ultimately leads to followers. Here are a few foundational pieces to focus on.
Instagram is one of the most important platforms for using hashtags, especially if you have a small following. Hashtags are how people find your posts, since you’re not in a lot of feeds yet. Note that interactions are higher with posts that have 11-plus hashtags, according to Buffer.
Get more followers: Find the right hashtags for your business. Research on Instagram by scrolling through similar photos and competitor accounts. Many basic Instagram tracking platforms will show which of your hashtags are getting the most engagement as well; continuing using those as you search for more.
Timing is everything with social media, and if you’re getting little to no engagement with posts, your timing is likely off. The easiest way to get on track is to check Instagram’s built-in analytics each morning before posting.
Get more followers: Head to the “Followers” section, at the bottom of the main dashboard. The tallest bar represents the time when the largest portion of your followers is active—making that a great time to post. This changes from day to day, so plan to check each morning to take full advantage.
Instagram supports photos and videos, and figuring out which one your audience likes best will help you attract more followers. You can use Instagram’s built-in analytics to see how posts are performing up to the “last 30 days.”
Get more followers: Head to your analytics dashboard, and click “See More” in the “Top Posts” section. Toggle type of post, amount of time and metric (impressions, reach or engagement), to get a zoomed out view of what’s working. Start posting more of one or the other to see if your follower count goes up or down.
Offer exclusive discounts
The number one reason why people follow brands on social media is to get access to exclusive promotions and discounts, according to Social Media Today. Give people want they want—access to money-saving opportunities—and you’ll start to build a strong following.
The key is finding the right types of discounts and coupons to offer. In a 2016 CouponBox retailer survey, 46 percent of retailers cited “Sitewide” coupons as being most effective for boosting sales.
Align your business priorities with discount-oriented posts to choose the most effective option. See the full survey results below to determine which coupon will help you boost followers and meet your business goals:
Host a photo contest
Thanks to hashtags, you can easily host a photo contest on Instagram, encouraging engagement and boosting your follower count. To make it effective, use the following steps.
Set a goal
In this case, your goal is to get new followers. This is the metric that you’ll track to determine if the contest was a success or not, so set a goal for expected increase.
Choose the theme and hashtag
The theme will dictate the hashtag—you want them to be closely related so people remember. You theme can be seasonal, based on a specific product or service, or encourage brand advocates.
For example, a bike company might do something like, “Post a photo of you riding your bike in an epic location with the hashtag #MyEpicBikeRide.”
Choose the prize
The average contest reward value is $369, with travel and entertainment being the most popular prize categories. Choose a prize that’s branded, if possible. In the same bike company example, this prize could be a full bike tune-up, a free replacement part, or even a free bike.
Your rules will include a timeline for the contest, including when people can enter and when you’ll announce the winner. Be sure to include language about keeping all photos appropriate and within Instagram’s guidelines.
Use your social tracking and scheduling tool’s “streams” feature (if that’s available to you) to track the entrant hashtag. If you find an inappropriate post, report it, asking for it to be removed so other followers don’t see it in the feed. Be sure to comment and like when possible to boost engagement and drive those follows.
Finally, don’t forget to abide by Instagram’s contest rules, which you can find here: Promotion Guidelines.
Pay to play
In a crowded social media space, it’s getting harder and harder to build a following organically. As such, many brands have turned to ads to drive engagement, followers, and sales. Instagram offers a number of ad options for every business to boost followers, and we’ve seen it work with brands before.
For example, back in 2013, a Michael Kors ad generated 33,000 new followers for the brand’s Instagram account.
With a significantly higher number of active users in 2017, your ad has a great chance of replicating this success.
The various ad options fall under two categories:
- Feed ads: There are five types of ads you can run in the Instagram feed, including carousel, single image, single video, slideshow, and canvas.
- Story ads: These function exactly like a regular story post, except they play between other users’ stories.
For any feed ad, choose the “Engagement” objective, which covers a broad number of sub-objectives, boosting page followers being one of them. Story ads only allow your objective to be “reach” right now, but that is likely to change in the future as the feature is used more widely among brands. Test different ad types—including carousel, versus video, versus photo—to find a rinse and repeat option that you know will be successful every time.
There are a number of ways for your brand to build a larger following on Instagram, from paid options to fun contests. Test these ideas with your audience and make sure you have the proper foundation laid, including hashtag research and post timing, so you can make the most of every opportunity.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a freelance writer, small business consultant, and owner of Honest Body Fitness. She spent the last two years working tirelessly for a small startup, where she learned a lot about running a business and being resourceful. She’s been featured on Forbes and has written for StartupNation, Manta, Glassdoor, and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect on LinkedIn.