Like most social media platforms, Instagram has become one of those places where having a substantial following and/or likes is a huge boon. For personal accounts you can (if you’re clever) turn it into a business by becoming an influencer, or, for business accounts, help boost your brand awareness, and, sometimes, sales.
As a social media marketer at Virgin, I was introduced to the company’s dormant Instagram account in the hopes that gaining attention on the platform would lead to better brand awareness and customer engagement. There were a measly 32 followers – most of them colleagues or spambots – and no pictures. Unlike the other accounts I was put in charge of, here I had the chance to start of with a clean slate.
I grew that account to over 6,000 followers in 6 months, and if you’re serious enough about Instagram, you could too.
So, here are my top strategic tips for succeeding at the social media behemoth that is Insta, without too much effort:
- Follow people – This sounds like an obvious point to make (and I’m going to make a lot of these), but you’d be surprised just how many people push out their Instagram pictures without following many (if at all) people, and then wonder why their picture isn’t getting likes, or why their follower count doesn’t grow. Social media is all about being social, and this where many (particularly businesses) fall flat – if you want people to interact with you, it has to be a two way street. Follow accounts that are similar to yours, or ones you simply like. Follow big ones, and follow small ones. When the owners of that account get a notification saying they have a follow, they might check you out and like what they see.
- Like pictures – Seriously. Look up hashtags that relate to what you post on your feed and like those pictures. You don’t have to like everything that pops up under “recent”, just the stuff you like. Or, you know, you can like pretty much everything if you want to, just don’t look spammy. The posters of those pictures might get curious as to who’s liked them and check out your pictures. They may like a few. Think of it as an organic “like for like”, without appearing desperate or spammy.
- Answer comments – Imagine you’re sat in the lunch room at work, and you talk to your colleague sitting next to you, only to be completely ignored. Then that colleague starts talking about something completely different. Rude, isn’t it? Chances are you won’t want to interact with that colleague much after that, or not at all. Same applies to social media. If it’s something you can easily reply to, just do it. Even if it’s a thanks, or an appropriate emoji. If people know that they can leave comments and get a response from you, they’re going to be more likely to stick around and comment on future posts. You might even hit it off with some well placed banter, and bam, a new relationship is born – and who knows what that might lead to, collaborations? Useful Contacts? Don’t let an opportunity like that pass up.
- Hashtags – Okay, so now we’re going from the (seemingly) obvious to more of the nitty gritty technicalities of gaining followers on Instagram. Everyone knows to use hashtags, and how to do so properly, but many don’t take strategic advantage of them. What do I mean by that? Well, say you post a picture of coffee (hey, this is Instagram after all), and your hashtags are: “coffee”, “cafe” and… I don’t know, let’s say “Starbucks”. These are your go to hashtags right? Right. Which means that everyone is using them, you’ll be on a well searched tag and be more likely to gain likes, etc. Except, no, no you aren’t more likely. As a general rule, popular tags like these three are going to be so saturated, your post is going to be drowned under the mass of all the other posts popping up under “most recent”. You might get nothing for your efforts. How do you overcome this? Become niche. When typing in your hashtags, make sure you check exactly how many other posts there are under that tag. As a rule of thumb, use 1-3 of your tags on bigger hashtags (those in the millions), 3-4 on medium ones (think around the 100-500k mark), and then about 3-4 on smaller tags (about 10-70k is good). People are more likely to be deliberately looking for something under the smaller tags if they’ve searched it, and you might be what they’re interested in. Not only that, but the main reason for doing this is get yourself on the “top posts” portion of the page. In the smaller tags, there’s much less competition, meaning you only need to get a handful of likes to pushing your post up into “top posts”. Once it’s there, it’s going to be the first people see when they search that tag, meaning they’re more likely to like it. If you’re lucky, this could have a domino effect – people notice it first on the smallest tag, which gives your post enough likes to push it up to “top posts” in a one of the higher tags, and so on.
- Post Regularly – It doesn’t have to be three times a day, or even once a day, like many of the big accounts. You just need to post to a schedule that suits you. I’d recommend something along the lines of “one day on, one day off”. Running a company account only during working hours, I stick to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as main posting days. This gives me a good spread over the week, enough to remain a presence, but not too much to seem overbearing. Making sure you post regularly is a good habit to get into, to avoid lulls were your account becomes dead. Inactivity is a quick way to loose followers, as once you do update, some may be reminded that you haven’t posted in awhile, and unfollow. Who wants to follow an account that posts once in a blue moon? It’s simply dead weight. Besides, posting regularly, using strategic hashtags will increase your follower count that much quicker.
- Get a Business Account – I’ll admit, the insights you get through the newly built-in feature for Instagram isn’t anywhere near as impressive as specialised programs you have to pay for, but it does help. Getting access to this information will help you figure out (roughly), who your established audience is, and what posting times are likely to be optimal for you. Who knows, you might find out that your audience are largely abroad – and you can adjust your posting habits accordingly.
So that’s it for my top tips on how to gain Instagram followers. I have plenty of other tips and tricks to up your social media game, so be sure to stick around by following me on my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages!
Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments and I might feature your suggestion in a future post.