Instagram in the numbers:
- Launched in 2010 as a free photo and video sharing app
- Sixty percent of Instagram (IG) users log in everyday and spend averagely twenty eight minutes
- It has a billion monthly active users
- Ninety percent of the users follow a business
- IG engagement rate is fifty-eight times higher than Facebook
The social network initially started as a fun app for kids to share photos amongst themselves. It has however, grown throughout the years to become the cornerstone social media site for business.
Businesses that have an IG presence benefit from
- Getting profitable traffic to landing pages
- Increased conversions
- An engaged audience
- Great content marketing tool
- Networking and audience building tool
- It humanizes brands
- Employee recruitment
- Highlighting company culture and products
- Delighting customers
From these reasons businesses should be on IG. Unlike other platforms like Facebook where you can pay to get likes, IG does not follow the same model. Growth of followers on IG is done through organic means.
I should mention that some people go to fiver and buy followers, but these are a waste of money because they are normally dead accounts and do not help in any of the engagements.
People take notice of larger IG accounts with bigger audiences and are more prone to follow them. However, for a business, a substantial number means nothing especially if there is no engagement, sales, and any meaningful conversions.
Engagement means people who care about what you say, interact with the content, share with their circles, and ultimately convert.
Unlike Facebook, engagement rates are higher on Instagram because there is no pay to play. Facebook has been suppressing the number of people who see posts in order to encourage businesses to pay for boosting.
Here are a few tips on how to grow your Instagram account.
Optimize your Instagram account
The Instagram bio is the most important part to growing followers. This is where a business would introduce itself to the world. Through here, IG provides 150 characters to tell potential followers:
- Who you are
- What you are about
- Call to action
The IG bio forms part of the brand identity where an image, username and a link are provided.
Sixty-seven percent of profile visitors do not follow the business profiles they visit. This gives a unique opportunity to come up with something catchy to entice users to follow the IG account.
Instagram bio consists of
The image chosen should be of high quality. Whether it is a photo or a company logo. It should not pixelate. The image should be large enough; clear; bold and easily identifiable. The images chosen should be the same one as other social network as consistency is key.
The username chosen should be the brand name, or something remarkably close to it. The username is indexed and it searchable. This means it should be made as search friendly as possible.
It is best not to add numbers or special characters to a username. It should also be consistent to the same name in other social networks.
The username should be easy to memorize. It can be short and simple.
Hashtags can be added to help find the right posts.
Most business chose the home page for the link. Alternative uses of the link would be to product pages or the latest blog posts. Users choose the later to increase cohesiveness, where users can easily identify what they read last to the bio information.
The link is the only place that makes users to leave the profile to complete an action elsewhere. It is important to note that the link is not indexed and isn’t searchable.
- Contact information
Some business accounts can add email, phone and addresses to their bio. These items will not require extra space.
Instagram market strategy
As a digital marketer anything that is being done has to follow a certain strategy. Hence growing an Instagram account just for the sake of it doesn’t cut it. Growing the account must be part of a grander plan of:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Boosting sales
- Driving traffic to the site
- Increasing conversions
- Improving audience engagement
- Connecting with influencers
Getting followers alone will not mean a successful IG account.
Growing a large following to meet bigger marketing goals that would help in:
- Making yourself accountable for a specific outcome. This means you can measure results and track progress
- Keep the IG account consistent. Telling a compelling brand story that would appeal to new followers.
- Keeping you focused on the goals.
- Improving steps to make the goals achievable.
Look For Your Audience
Instagram has a huge following and aiming to get everyone will be a waste of time. As you want to grow your Instagram followers to people who will eventually engage with your content you would require producing your own audience definition or consumer persona or avatar.
With a clear avatar you will learn the following items:
- When and how they use IG
- Pain points and challenges regarding your industry.
- Brands they follow or engage with
With a clear understanding on what they like then content can be created to better suit this audience. It would be easier for a user to follow your IG if the user comes across the content that they already connect with.
One way of knowing what to post is by looking at the accounts that serve the same audience. This could be competitors or non-competitors. Non- competitors could be people in the same market but serve different items. For example, kids clothing page would follow accounts for mothers and recreational centres.
Best time to post
Another sure way of getting followers is by posting content at the right time. After you have produced amazing videos, and photos the next question is to find out when to post. Sticking to a prescribed schedule enhances the chances of getting a more engaged audience and you will be able to grow organically.
There are IG users who post sporadically, and the algorithm will not show the posts to the most people. This would have the negative effect of low engagement and could lead to loss of followers. Instagram’s algorithm considers when and how often posts are made when it decides which posts to show.
Finding the right time to post has been a challenge as this mostly depends on the industry and the audience. There are general prescribed times to post content, but it does not work for every industry. For example, posting a How-to-content during the day will not get a lot of traction because many of the people are working. In the same breath coffee posts work best in the morning or afternoon.
Finding the right time could be a mixture of looking at analytics and testing. Going through IG insights:
- Tap the “Insights”
- Scroll to “Your Audience,”
- Then to “See All.”
- Scroll to the bottom to find out when your audience is most active.
You should also experiment by posting different times of the day and see how much engagement and the number of followers you are getting. This could take time to do but it will ensure future success.
After finding out the best time to post the next thing would be to find out how much content to post. Many proclaimed experts suggest:
- 1-2 posts per day
- 1 video per day
- 4-5 Instagram stories
Doing this every morning will become tedious and hence the need of planning content and scheduling them in advance. Also, problems could come about preventing the business to post on that day. This also ensures that there is content during holidays, vacations, and bad workdays.
There is a direct relationship to the number of posts to the number of followers that are gotten. The more the posts the higher the number of followers.
The average number of followers that an Instagram user follows is 150. There are many users who have more than one thousand followers. This means IG has a lot more options to show these users. This is a problem especially since you would want your followers to see and engage with your content.
For your posts to be seen by all users there needs to be consistency in what you post on your feed, stories, and reels. The better-quality content that is share consistently would lead to increased people engaging. The more they engage with the content the higher likelihood future posts will appear in their feeds, stories, and reels.
Consistency helps the IG algorithm to determine what to show the users. When there is regular content from one account, it is predisposed to show the content to more users.
This will lead to expanding your reach getting you more followers.
Users do not follow accounts for what they have posted in the past but the promise of what will be posted in the future. The audience knows the type of content that you have and are expecting the same type to appear in their feeds.
Hence the need for the content to be consistent. Consistency means having:
- a regular posting schedule,
- same aesthetic,
- type of content,
- similar filters, photo compositions and editing recipes
Other than gaining new followers consistency defines the brand’s voice and reputation.
In some instances, you may be forced to stop posting, you will lose following and the connection previously held.
Content on Instagram is anything you would express through photos, videos, and texts. It goes without saying that content is very important and is the reason why people follow other accounts. If the content isn’t good or random that would lead to few followers, and they would be less interested in future posts.
Content that is produced should be of the highest standard because it represents the brand and how it’s received will also define if there will be any new followers and eventually sales. Before the content is posted, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Will people engage with the content?
- Is it worth sharing?
- Will it bring followers?
If the answer is no, then it needs to be reevaluated.
Quality content will always trump quantity. It is always better to have fewer good posts as opposed to many posts that has the possibility of turning of followers. Posting good quality content will eventually lead to audience growth and more importantly they will react to it. Posting organically is a long game whereby you know you will grow slowly.
Right kind of content
The right kind of content means the type that your audience is looking forward to seeing. In the beginning it will be hard to know what your followers want. This is due to the reason why people will respond differently to different content.
The various types of content that people respond to are:
- Content types
- Post times
And all these play a role in how people will respond to the posts. To see what works best, a lot of experimenting will be involved.
One quick hack would be to look at the types of content that your competitors are posting and seeing how to improve on them and to make it work for your IG account.
Initially Instagram started with photos and videos but over the period it has evolved. Now there are various types of content namely:
- Instagram tv
- Instagram live
The best way to get more followers to your IG account is to mix up the various kinds of content. The reason for this is because some people prefer one kind of content over the other. For example, is a person naturally likes videos then Instagram will push videos towards his explore feeds as well hashtags he is following. The same goes for any other content type.
Each type of content has its pros and cons. Right now, the newest form of content – being reels- is the best to post right now. This is because it’s being pushed heavily by Instagram. As of this writing, IG reels is at the bottom centre of the app. Reels appear much larger than photos on the explorer tab.
Reels are 3 to 30 second video clips that you can add music to it. Hey can be found on their own tab or on individual IG profiles and IG explore.
Many accounts that are using reels are seeing a huge impact on the reach of their accounts.
IGTV is one of the long form content the app has. It lets users record up to 60 minutes’ worth of video. This content is great for brands to educate about their products and services.
Like Reels IGTV videos appear four times larger than photos on the Explore page.
These photos and videos disappear after 24 hours of being posted. Many companies are saying that their users are more engaged with IG stories because they are afraid of missing out on them.
These are a series of up to 10 images where a brand can tell their stories in a single post. These have been known to have the highest engagement.
Live videos are great if you have a large following where you can showcase your products or service. These can be taken as an opportunity of reaching users and having a conversation with them. IG live humanizes a brand, as people can interact with the brand owners and ask them questions and get immediate feedback. When you go live, your followers will be notified and there will be a ring on your profile picture.
At the end of the stream, you can post the videos on IG stories.
There are times when you as a digital marketer will be stumped on what type of content you should produce. Many mistakes that I have seen many companies doing is just posting about sales and promotions. After some time, this becomes tedious and boring.
Gary V wrote a book on the content types to be posted called Jab Jab and right hook. Whereby the jabs would content around the product or services which could be educational, inspirational, and informative. While right hook would be asking for the sale. Just like in boxing.
Here are a couple of content ideas that would work:
This is where you post photos of your employees doing various stuff. The best part about this is that the photos or videos will show their faces, and this works well on IG. It is said that images of faces improve interaction by 40%.
Giving people a behind the scenes look at how your company functions humanizes your brand and would make people relate more with you. The types of posts would include:
- Work events
- People in the offices.
- Corporate social responsibility events
These are the types of posts where you feature clients and thank them for choosing them for your business. You can also share their success stories or case studies of how they were doing before they worked with your company to how they are now much better off.
Client testimonials are also great whereby they give their experience on how it was to work with you.
Educational posts revolve around how your product or service works. There are some instances where your followers do not know how best your business works and would like to be informed. Also, news events about the industry
User generated content (UGC)
This is where you ask your users to post content on their profiles and to tag you as well. This will show other users who you are and what product or services you provide. This is a great way of getting followers and increasing engagement.
There are two ways in which an Instagram user can search for content and that is through searching for the username and hashtags. As we have already covered usernames let’s look at hashtags.
Hashtags are one of the main ways users browse Instagram. By using them, they can see posts from other users without having to follow them. Hashtags are a tool for discovery. Hence to attract new followers to an IG account, the owner must include hashtags.
Posting high quality videos and pictures is one of the requirements to get new followers and engage current followers. Although that is just the first step, the next step would be to add hashtags to make it easier for people searching for those terms to find your content.
Since people are looking for specific pieces of content using hashtags, it is advisable to add the hashtags to the photos and videos. The hashtags make the content discoverable especially when people are looking at the same hashtags from different posts. Users are known to hop from hashtag to hashtag like channel surfing to look for new and interesting content.
There are also IG users who favorite hashtags so that they appear first on the feeds introducing them to new content.
This would encourage businesses to start using hashtags but the mistake they make is by using hashtags that are too populated. For example, #love has more than 190 million posts and for a particular content to stand out, it must be very unique. The post will disappear in the millions of pictures and videos.
The best hashtags to add to videos and pictures are the ones that have around 300,000 to 500,000 posts. This is easier for targeted users to find the right content and engage with it. It is also easier to get the right kind of followers because a connection would be made.
The main point here is using industry hashtags that your audience is looking for. The users who are into a particular industry will more like follow hashtags that interest them. This will make it easier for them to follow accounts that service this industry.
Being industry specific might not bring as many numbers as you would hope but these few numbers are the ones that would eventually convert to being your customers.
This also helps the IG algorithm to share your account to people who could be interested in the same industry.
Hashtags should be relevant to your brand. After the tremendous effort being made to come up with great photos, stories and videos, hashtags should be relevant. To get relevant hashtag involves doing some research to find out if they work for you and they are being looked for in Instagram.
IG allows users to have a maximum of 30 hashtags per post.
Branded hashtags are custom hashtags that will let your potential followers that they are about your company. Branded hashtags could include your business name, tagline, product names, events and industry,
Branded hashtag should be a collection of your best content. They are:
- a great way to spread the word about your business,
- easy to find user-generated content (UGC)
- to build a community and get new followers.
- Able to organize your content to make it easily discoverable.
Branded hashtags should be short and memorable.
Finding the right hashtags
The quickest way to find hashtags and related ones is by searching for them in the Instagram app. IG will show you how popular each tag is with the number of posts that are available.
A hashtag list can be created by searching various keywords that properly describe your brand, product, or services. Once the research has been done, they can be put on a spreadsheet.
You can also steal the hashtags your competitor is using and adding them to your own posts. Your competitor has already done the research for you, find out what is working out for him or her and incorporate the strategy to yourself.
Mix and match different hashtags to see which work best for your business.
A hashtag can be:
- Lifestyle specific
- Brand specific
- Product specific
- Challenge- or contest-specific
How to use hashtags correctly
Although you have the option of using 30 hashtags it is advisable to use 11 to 15. One hashtag can increase engagement by 12.6%.
The same hashtags shouldn’t be reused all the time, as Instagram will regard this as spammy behavior and shadow ban you limiting your reach. Shadow banning means that your posts won’t appear on other people’s feeds.
There are marketers who suggest putting the hashtags on comment as it looks more organized by having the images or videos and the captions. Hashtags make things look messy. According to them hashtags are not meant to be seen but help people find you.
Engage with the audience
As much as business want to get their message across, Instagram is not just a publishing platform. IG is a community of hundreds of millions of people with sub communities. And in every community, they need to interact and engage with one another. This engagement builds the community.
Engagement on Instagram comes in the form of follows, likes and comment. As a business it’s not only important to have a large following but an engaged community. An engaged community will provide the following benefits:
- Increased conversions
- Increased followers
- Sharing of posts
Consumers and potential clients want to engage with your brand by asking questions about how the product or service works. This gives them the confidence to know that you care for your users. When other clients see that you respond to queries adequately and in time, you are bound to get more customers.
Social media is all about relationship building and responding to any comment will build that relationship.
- How to be active on IG
- Reply to comments by using their @ handle
- Like and comment on content that have hashtags that you are interested in
- Send DMs to accounts that you see that provide value
- Tag your followers if you post something that might interest them
There are times when you as a brand will have to create engagement as you can’t wait for consumers to message you. You can do this by:
- Asking open-ended questions
- Encouraging users to share and tag friends.
The only way to grow an Instagram account is to be in front of users. As they don’t know you and won’t come to you, then you will have to find ways of going to where they are. Some of the ways to get people to see your account is by partnering with:
- Complementing businesses
Collaboration works great in marketing campaigns. This is where you will partner with another business or brand who are not your direct competitors, and they will present your account to their followers. For example, if you are selling baby clothes another complementing partner would be a company that sells baby food or shoes.
These campaigns work well because your potential followers already trust this brand and will extend their trust to you. Also, when the users are about to buy something from the business, they can be cross sold your products.
When users are browsing the brands, they follow they will come across your IG handle and if they are interested, they will also follow you.
Comarketing or collaboration campaigns are a lot cheaper and works well if your partnership is mutually beneficial.
60% of Instagram users say they follow brands that they have seen promoted by influencers they trust. Working with influencers is another way to grow your Instagram account.
Influencer marketing has become very important in the last few years. As the influencers are authentic, authoritative and many users trust them and more importantly can spread the marketing message more effectively than most marketing campaign.
Many consumers see ads all the time and have become desensitized even to the most brilliant advertising campaign. But they stop to look at advertising posts by influencers.
Influencers can post the following on their accounts on your behalf:
- User generated content
- Instagram stories takeovers
- Content collaborations
If you have the budget, you can choose to work with either micro or macro influencers. Micro influencers have around 10,000 to 100,000 followers while micro influencers have followers in the millions. Depending on how effective you would like your influencer campaign, you would choose micro influencers over macro ones.
Micro influencers are known to have a smaller but engaged followers and if they ask their fans to do something then they end up doing it. It has been seen that the micro influencers have engagement rates of 2-3%.
It should be noted that the influencers should be relevant to the industry that you are in. This way, the audience they have will be receptive to your marketing message.
IG makes it easy to find influencers. All you need to do is search using certain hashtags. IG will present the top posts which have the highest engagement. These posts are by people with a large following and from there you can communicate with them to see how to push your brand.
You can tag various users on your posts, by using the @ mention functionality. When you do so, the tagged users will get a notification. If they like your posts they will share it with their own following. Most people who are tagged are predisposed to respond and share the posts. This is because people like to communicate.
The only issue is to tag the right people. It is advisable to tag people with whom you already have a past relationship with or an expert in the matter. You could tag:
- Other relevant businesses
- Colleagues or employees
- Someone who taught you a skill or told you about something you share in the post
- Anyone who appears in the photo
On the other hand, you can ask your followers to tag your account to increase your visibility. When they post stuff about your industry, they could tag you and let your account be seen by new people.
This is one area that many brands become lazy about and don’t bother. They know that they need to come up with great photos or videos that capture attention, but they stop there. They forget the secret ingredient in getting more engagement as well as followers. Writing great captions.
Photos get the attention of users while captions keep the attention. Captions provide context to what your video or photo is all about making it easier for people to relate.
Initially influencers were the first to fiddle with captions and they had great success, and this is when brands followed suit. The captions would provide insights to their worlds. At the time of this writing captions have proven to be very successful in getting new followers as well as engaging users.
IG is pushing captions as it using the words used in the captions as keywords that lets the content be discoverable.
IG captions can be up to a length of 2,200 characters and only the first 3 lines are visible of the caption as there is the “more” link. The length of the caption you chose depends on the type of audience you have as some would prefer short while other would want the opposite.
Caption ideas to consider
The most important ideas or message should be written first so that to encourage the user to tap more and read the rest of the content
Asking questions has been proven as a great way to get people engaged with your post. You can ask people to leave a comment or a like. This will encourage the IG algorithm to show your content to more people.
There has been a push for emojis. Emojis are soft on the eyes and make it easier for people to read and understand better what you are talking about. Many users glance at the content but with the emojis they get to better understand what the post is about.
Various caption lengths should be tried. Longer ones are better if there is a lot that you would like to say about the post. Maybe explaining using a story why you chose to take the photo or make the video.
Cross promote Instagram account
New Instagram accounts have problems getting followers. One of the easiest ways to get new followers is to make it easier for people to find you outside Instagram. This means promoting your IG account to people on other platforms.
This is done through inserting a link of the IG account in the platforms. When the link is clicked, it leads back to the social media platforms.
These platforms are:
- Other social media networks
- Email signatures
- Offline promotional material – business cards and flyers
- Website footers or headers
- Embedding IG feed on a website or blog post.
It should be noted that the biggest referring social media networks as of 2021 are TikTok and Pinterest. Other IG accounts have seen considerable growth by getting followers since joining the two platforms. Although this is more of a long-term process. As the more followers you have on both TikTok and Pinterest the higher the likelihood of gaining more followers.
Steal your competitors’ followers
One of the quickest ways to get followers is by stealing from your competition. Your competition could have been in the industry way longer than you have had and could have amassed a large following. You could benefit by trying to get a few of his or her followers to follow you.
Targeting your competition makes a lot of sense because they are already interested in that industry and could be active participants. When they see your account that is like what they are following they would easily follow yours.
The way you can steal followers from your competition is through engaging them by
- Following them
- Liking their posts
- Commenting on their posts
Naturally when they see someone who has done any of the three above, they are more predisposed to do the same thing. It’s part of human nature. The best way to get the most followers is to do all the above things that have been mentioned.