It’s official. With over 700 million active monthly users, Instagram is the perfect place for businesses to build a loyal legion of fans and strengthen relationships with their customers.
That said, amassing a huge following on Instagram can be tricky if you’re not familiar with the rules of the game. The first rule is that you’ve gotta think of it as like an exclusive club. Traditionally, people interacted in book clubs or craft circles or sports bars or church groups. And no one’s denying that they still do. But these days a huge number of our social interactions take place online; specifically, on social media.
Social media is a phenomenally powerful place to cultivate relationships and camaraderie. The name itself is a dead giveaway – it’s social by nature. Despite the fact that every month or so another think-piece gets published on whether or not the rise of social media is making society less social – and whether it negatively impacts the quality and texture of our relationships – the fact is that social media helps businesses share, promote and humanize their products.
But back to the matter at hand… how do you get a large number of followers on Instagram when there are so many accounts and so much white noise? And for that matter, how do you stand out from the pack when you’re not a professional photographer or visual merchandising pro, and simply want to increase your followers to get you great brand exposure?
Well, there are a few actionable tips that you can follow, and I’ve compiled eight of them below. These tips will help you achieve more sales for your business, get more views on your page, build a stronger voice for your brand, and grow the the type of loyal follower base previously reserved for Justin Bieber concerts.
Let’s get this show on the road!
1. Create a unique theme for your photos
Social media specialist Melyssa Griffin, who runs online courses and workshops for entrepreneurs and bloggers, says that a great way to grow your follower count is to create a theme that’s unique to your business.
I’ve found that it really helps to create a theme for your Instagram. Write down a few words that you want people to associate with your account. For mine, I hope people glean that it’s bright, artistic, and full of love.
Which words would you use for your account? Once you’ve settled on a theme, try your hardest to stick to it!
In other words, make sure it’s obvious what your business stands for and that one photo relates to another. There’s no point in posting a mishmash of photos that offer no consistency in quality or subject.
The secret to making a beautiful theme is to plan your feed and stick to it. Think about the colors predominately used on your website or in your logo, and how you can incorporate them into your Instagram posts. Consider whether you want to post light and airy images, or flat-lay pics with an emphasis on architecture and fabrics.
For instance, here at FlypChart, you may have noticed we have a penchant for mint green. So do we post pictures of our morning coffee when it arrives on a perfectly mint green saucer? You betcha. The same color theme is coherent across all of our social media accounts.
One major advantage of creating a unique theme for your photos on Instagram is that users will be able to instantly recognize your posts just from their aesthetic. This is great because it means they can anticipate what sort of content to expect from you and can ‘fall in love with’ or ‘stalk’ your account.
Plus, when users first click on a new profile, the first thing they see is your overall feed. It’s way more likely that they’ll hit follow on your account if it looks like it has a theme (and therefore, a purpose) and plenty of visually appealing photos.
As Melyssa says, “Give people something to fall in love with!”
2. Learn to share the love by regramming
Ian Cleary, a digital strategist and the founder of of Razor Social, believes that a good way to get people’s attention and attract new Instagram followers is to share or ‘regram’ other people’s content.
It’s not all about your own content! It’s important to [be able to] identify good content from your community and reshare it. Reposting other people’s content is a good way of getting attention, especially if you mention them when you share it.
Sharing good content from your community means that people will be more likely to share some of your content in return. It also means you will find more great quality content for your own community to enjoy.
He suggests taking advantage of the plethora of apps that allow for easy attribution of the user who originally shared the post to simplify the process. Some of the leading apps include Repost, InstaRepost and DownloadGram. All of them are free, but some may require you to download an app from the App Store or Google Play.
It’s worth it, though. When you take the time to regram on Instagram, you get the chance to diversify your profile with content sourced from friends, family, brands and thought leaders.
You can even take this idea one step further and ask another Instagrammer if you can take over their account for the day as a guest poster, or ask someone to take over yours. It’s a really fun, easy and creative way to collaborate with other users and will keep your feed looking fresh and exciting… while also sneakily stealing their loyal followers!
3. Know the score when it comes to Instagram’s algorithm
Sue B. Zimmerman, a social media specialist, says that since the latest round of changes were made to Instagram’s algorithm in 2016, publishing posts at a less than optimal time can seriously limit the amount of exposure they get.
Instagram now uses an algorithm to determine the order in which posts are shown in your newsfeed. If your content is not showing up close to the top of the newsfeed when your followers log on, then you’ll get fewer likes and comments on your posts, leading to less exposure to people who don’t already follow you.
Focus on maximizing your exposure by working to overcome Instagram’s algorithm. Tactics like posting at optimal times, and posting fewer photos than you might be used to, will help. Use Instagram analytics tools to determine your optimal time to post.
Basically, if you post when the optimal number of people will see it, you’ll increase your chances of getting more ‘likes’, quicker, which will subsequently boost your post in the algorithm.
While it’s generally understood that posts with higher engagement (e.g., likes, comments, shares, views, etc) rank higher on Instagram, it’s less well known that ranking well in the algorithm isn’t always a matter of how much engagement a post gets. It’s also a matter of how quickly.
That’s why watching the timing of your posts is crucial. In general, posts that boast high engagement are the ones that were published at optimal times. They go on to succeed further because Instagram’s algorithm shows them to more users.
4. Make your profile name more searchable
Entrepreneur, speaker and digital marketing expert Chris Kubbernus believes that your Instagram profile name should reflect what your core business is about – not what your friends call you after a few beers, or how you introduce yourself to a job interview panel.
I’ve changed my profile name to Entrepreneur Marketing Tips. This is important [because] most people won’t be searching Chris Kubby unless they know who I am… most people would be searching things like marketing tips, because that’s my industry, or entrepreneur marketing tips or personal branding tips.
Whatever you sell, change your name to that because that’s what people will be going to search for. This is how you gain exposure and get in front of your customers. Whatever it is you do, put [it] in there and it will give people context to what you do. You might also spice it up a little and make it interesting to give people a laugh.
So even if your Instagram account is a mix of personal and professional posts, change your profile name to bring more search traffic to your account. For example, if you’re a professional naturopath, you could change your name to ‘Life of a Naturopath’ or similar.
You’ll notice that if you search for ‘naturopath’ under ‘people’ on Instagram, many of the top accounts have a profile name including the word ‘naturopath’ to indicate what they can offer you.
Do make sure you add your full business name to the ‘name’ section of your profile as well as incorporating it into your profile name. The ‘name’ section is the the bit that appears just under your profile picture (and under your username in search).
Oh, and check that your profile is public – you want users to be able to view your posts and follow your brand if they want to!
5. Use trending and relevant hashtags
Kim Garst, a bestselling author, international speaker, digital marketing strategist and the founder of Boom! Social, is a big fan of using hashtags strategically.
Hashtags are one of the best ways to get new followers on Instagram. Using the right hashtags can extend the reach of your images, meaning more people can discover and engage with your content. There are three main strategies you can use.
The first is using hyper-popular hashtags that get searched for most often. The second strategy is to find and use hashtags that are commonly used for getting more likes and follows. The third and final strategy is to identify extremely relevant and specific hashtags that will be more likely to get you targeted followers.
Instagram hashtags are pretty powerful – by using the right hashtag (or combination of hashtags), you can expose your brand to bigger, more targeted audiences. They not only help organize and categorize photos and video content, they greatly increase your chances of gaining new followers thanks to content discovery and search optimization.
Every single Instagram post you create should be accompanied by a snappy caption and a few hashtags. As well as using popular community hashtags and hashtags relevant to your niche, you can create your own unique branded hashtag.
A branded hashtag doesn’t have to be especially creative or complex – it can simply reference your company name, tagline or current marketing campaign. It can even be a hashtag that makes a pun on the product or service you offer!
Either way, put it up front and center in your written bio section, and encourage people to use it when they post about your products to create user generated content which you can later regram.
6. Know exactly who you’re talking to
Jack Delosa, the founder of Australia’s largest educational institution for entrepreneurs, The Entourage, believes that a great way to build Instagram growth and get more engagement is to know your audience well and direct all of your content to one consumer category.
From a dynamic standpoint, you need to be talking to and touching the hearts and minds of whoever it is you are speaking to. Get very clear on who your audience is.
There are a lot of people and businesses on Instagram who are not talking to anyone in particular. Don’t try and speak to everyone. It’s too often that businesses try to be everything to everybody and end up being nothing to nobody.
Have a good, hard think about what the frustrations of the consumer category you are trying to reach with your posts might be, and what sort of content they might best relate to. Ask yourself what they would want to see in their feeds and how they would like to be spoken to.
Study your existing followers in order to get new ones. Go back through your posts and research which ones had the most likes and engagement – and, of course, which ones had the least. Figure out why the most popular posts resonated with people and why the unpopular ones didn’t. Then incorporate more of the former into your planning schedule moving forward.
7. Put some thought into your captions
Marketing consultant, coach and founder of Snaptactix, Jimmy Kim, says that captions can seriously make or break your attempts to gain followers and increase engagement on Instagram.
Of course Instagram is image-based. Everyone knows that. But how many times have you gone to like or comment on that hilarious cat photo… only to be so annoyed by the lack of wit in the comment that you can’t even bring yourself to like it? Because if one’s brand is all about hilarious cat photos, then one better have some equally hilarious comments to go along with them.
Captions help solidify a consistent tone to tie together your images. They also help you connect to your followers and show that you put thought into what you do as an expert in your field.
Treat your captions as though you’re speaking right to your best customers. What’s important to them? How is what you say a reflection of your brand? Careless captions turn away knowledgeable people within your niche and confuse your brand message. Thoughtful captions inspire thoughtful responses and genuine followers.
Chuck an emoji or two in there, too. A recent report from Instagram Engineering revealed that nearly 50% of all captions and comments on Instagram now have emojis in them. People love emojis and they can ignite engagement in the comments because they’re so easy to use.
8. Take advantage of geotagging
Jessica Howell, a social media consultant and the CEO of Social Studio Shop, believes that geotagging your posts is a great way to get discovered by users who are searching for products similar to yours in your location.
Instagram posts which include a location tag see a much higher engagement rate. That’s why we recommend creating a custom location for your business on Instagram. By doing so, you can increase brand recognition because your business’ name will appear front and center on your Instagram posts!
The beauty of geotagging your location on Instagram is that it allows your posts to be easily seen by users other than the ones who already follow you. Let’s say, for example, that you tag yourself in ‘New York, New York’ – next time someone searches for stuff to do or stores to visit in that location, your post will pop up.
You can even put geotagged stickers on your Instagram Stories.
Thinking outside of the box is crucial when it comes to growing and maintaining a large Instagram following. No one gets popular overnight, but by paying attention to some of the small details and giving people what they actually want, you can generate a nicely targeted following without enduring too much stress, expense or heartache.
Don’t forget, high-quality photos are a huge part of a killer Instagram profile so make sure yours are interesting, relevant and well-composed. Perhaps even more crucially, an optimized Instagram profile is an active one, so make sure you’re posting consistently and often!
Now tell me, have you tried any of the above Instagram marketing tips to grow your following? Which ones worked best for you?
If you’ve got any lesser-known tips you’d like to share (or just want to point out how good that pizza looks in the gif above), then feel free to go ahead and let loose in the comments below.