16 Tried-and-True Ways to Grow & Engage Your Instagram Following
As a platform, Instagram continues to skyrocket in popularity.
Through constant innovation, Instagram blew past the 700 million user mark earlier this year and isn't showing signs of stopping anytime soon.
If social media is part of your marketing strategy, Instagram is the place to be. It's a relatively simple, content-driven platform that's brilliant when it comes to interacting with potential customers and promoting your products.
In this article, I'm aiming to share a little knowledge and help you grow your business on Instagram by giving you the tools you need to get more followers, boost engagement, and most importantly, turn followers into sales.
Let's jump right in!
1. Get An Instagram Business Account
Establish legitimacy and credibility by taking advantage of Instagram Business and creating a Business Account. It's completely free, and is a feature Instagram introduced to make it easier for businesses to get insights about their account and work towards business objectives on Instagram.
Instagram for Business allows you to add your business address and a contact button to your page, as well as see more detailed information about your posts, like your most engaging content, the best days and times to post, and a breakdown of your follower demographics.
The feature makes it simple to turn posts into Ads and reach new customers in your target market. Long story short? Getting a Business account should be the first thing every business does on Instagram.
2. Share Your Content On Other Platforms
If you've already established a strong following on other platforms like Facebook or Twitter, leverage them to drive engagement to your Instagram account.
You can automatically share your Instagram posts to your other social profiles though the app, or manually do it by copying the URL of your new posts.
On top of this, promote your account too. Post CTAs on other social profiles, urging your followers and fans to follow your Instagram account. If you have a unique content strategy on Instagram, let them know what they could be missing: "Follow us on Instagram @businessname for exclusive updates on our latest products and hottest promotions!"
3. Push Your Account To Your Email List
Again, you want to leverage your existing following as much as you can when you're starting to build your Instagram following. If you've put time and effort into building a list of email subscribers (which you should be doing!), reach out to them informing them that you've started an Instagram account.
You can do this in a simple newsletter with a CTA to follow you, coupled with some copy that tells them why they should.
Like your existing social followers, your email subscribers follow you because they're interested in the content you post, meaning they're more likely to follow your Instagram account, too.
4. Promote Your Account In-store
If your business has a retail location, make the most of it when you're looking to promote your Instagram account! There's a couple ways you can do this:
- Add your account to in-store materials: Whether it's a sign at your checkout area or a vinyl sticker on your front window, making retail visitors aware of your social media profiles makes them much more likely to follow you.
- Incentivize followers: Put together a small promotion for people who follow your Instagram account. For example, offer a 10% discount to people who show you they follow your Instagram account when they're checking out.
5. Take High-quality Photos
When it comes down to it, Instagram is a platform on which your success is largely content-driven. Though one might argue this is the case for all social media platforms, it's particularly true on Instagram, on which users and businesses alike are greatly rewarded for posting stunning visual content.
Thankfully, you don't need to be Ansel Adams to take awesome photos for Instagram. Just use a decent camera (even a newer-model smartphone like an S8 or iPhone 7 will do fine, but a DSLR is best), make sure you've got decent lighting, and keep your subjects in focus. On top of that, do some light post-processing with a tool like Lightroom, Snapseed or VSCO to make your photos really "pop".
For the non-photographers, there are plenty of tools on the web that make creating images easy like Desygner. With a catalogue of thousands of royalty free images, hundreds of templates, and the ability to make custom designs from your web browser and the mobile app you don’t need to be an expert on Photoshop either.
6. Explore Other Types Of Content
Taking advantage of different content types can help spice up your business' Instagram strategy. Instagram continues to roll out new content types - 60-second video, Boomerang, Carousel - and it's a good idea to keep these tools in your Instagram arsenal.
For video, there are a few ways to go. Some businesses on Instagram find the most success posting less "polished" videos, showing a more casual side to their business.
Others (like Nike Lab above) go all the way, creating artsy, super-high-quality videos. Experiment with a few different styles, and see what works best for you!
When it comes to Carousel, the possibilities are endless! However, I've seen two main strategies. The first is using Carousel to provide a couple different perspectives of the same subject - for example, different colors or angles of a single product. The other is using Carousel to create a narrative by telling a story using a few photos.
7. Post User-generated Content
Looking to flesh out your content strategy? One great way to do so is to repost user-generated content from your fans and followers.
This provides social proof to other people who might be on the fence about your product, while also rewarding those who care enough about your brand and business to post about it.
If you want to build up a library of user-generated content, consider creating a post that encourages followers to post about your business using a specific hashtag. Pair this with an incentive (try "a 10% discount on your next order" or "one lucky winner will win [your product]!"), and watch the awesome content roll in.
8. Share Exclusive Discounts
As simple as it is, this strategy is an awesome way to boost your follower count and the "conversion rate" of your profile page.
To put it simply, people who view your profile and see that it's full of insider information on discounts and promotions will be more likely to follow your account than if it's saturated with regular product posts.
Occasionally post seasonal discounts paired with an eye-catching image. If you're willing to put some additional money into it, think about promoting these posts with an Instagram Ad. This ensures it will reach new prospective customers who are likely to follow your account or turn into a sale.
9. Use A Consistent Visual Scheme
Your Instagram profile is an extension of your brand, and as such, it represents your brand's visual identity - the way it looks and feels to fans and potential customers.
Just like the other elements that represent your business (such as your copywriting), you want to maintain a consistent visual scheme on Instagram. What does this mean, and how do you do it?
Your visual scheme is what people see when they look at your feed as a whole. It's having a cohesive look - nothing on your feed should feel off-brand our out of place. To maintain consistency, you need to establish two things in particular: the type of content you post, and the filters and editing styles you use.
This means posting photos that are relatively similar content-wise (see above for an example), and using the same small set of two or three filters. This will help you create a unique visual signature.
10. Use Relevant Hashtags
Taking the time to do a little bit of research into your hashtags can bring you massively improved engagement on Instagram.
When it comes to Instagram, hashtags make the world go 'round. They are the single biggest element I've personally witnessed when it comes to growing an account's following and boosting engagement on the contest it posts.
You can use up to 30 hashtags in a single post or comment, so make the most of this limit! Though you could use very generic hashtags like "#love" or "#friendship", these won't help you generate a real, engaged following.
Instead, use a combination of two types of hashtags:
- Local hashtags: Hashtags that call out the specific region or city your business operates in (like #vancitybuzz or #yvr for Vancouver) helps you connect with potential customers who are in your immediate target market. Find local accounts and take a look at the hashtags you use - some might even feature your business for using their hashtag.
- Product/topic-centric hashtags: If you're looking to increase engagement with customers interested in your product, consider using hashtags related directly to it (e.g. #sneakers #sneakerhead). Again, looking for accounts related to these subjects and figuring out which ones they use will help you succeed.
11. Go Behind-the-scenes
Like I mentioned earlier, Instagram is heavily content-centric. One type of content I've seen perform incredibly well is "behind-the-scenes" content.
Social media marketing, inherently, is a more intimate strategy than other methods like advertising. Your fans follow your accounts because they're interested in what you have to say and the content you post; they want to be privvy to the latest and greatest news from your business.
That's why pulling back the curtain and showing followers how your business works and operates can be incredibly engaging. For example, show off a preview of your upcoming products, or what company culture is like at the office.
12. Run A Comment-to-enter Giveaway
By far the most common promotion I see on Instagram is a simple comment-to-enter giveaway. Contest promotions in general are awesome for driving engagement and getting more followers, because they're engaging and they provide an incentive for Instagram users - and potential customers - to interact with you.
To run a comment-to-enter giveaway, create a photo or video post that features a prize of your choice (your product always works best). In your caption, you'll want to highlight rules. I recommend something similar to the following.
- Comment on this photo, tagging 3 friends
- Like this photo
- Follow @yourbusiness on Instagram
This boosts the organic reach and engagement on your post, and helps to spread your account to others who might be interested in your offer. In general, it's a pretty low-effort entry, meaning you maximize the number of people who enter the contest.
13. Run A Lead-generating Contest
If you're looking to run a promotion with a larger focus on the quality of your entrants rather than the quantity, look into creating a more extensive contest hosted on a separate platform.
The main advantage of these kinds of contests is that they allow you to collect more information from your entrants - namely their email, which allows you to more reliably turn them into paying customers through email marketing.
Use a platform like Wishpond to create a sweepstakes or photo contest (or another type of contest). Collect entrants' emails, in addition to any other information you deem necessary for segmentation, and then create an email drip campaign made up of content built to sell your product.
14. Get Sponsored Posts
Influencer marketing is a massive part of marketing on Instagram. If you're an Instagram user yourself, it's easy to see how big a role Instagram influencers play when it comes to the platform's content marketing landscape.
Like it or not, the Kendall Jenner's of the world rule Instagram, and if your product resides in an influencer-heavy industry, you'd be well-off to take advantage of this marketing strategy.
Look for influential figures within your industry - relevant people with large and loyal followings, and reach out to them to promote your product. Provide them with your product and ask for a post featuring your business in return (some money will probably be involved), as well as a link to your website.
Another best practice is to provide them with an affiliate or discount code - this encourages their followers to buy, and helps you better track the results and return of your influencer marketing efforts.
15. Host An Influencer Takeover
Continuing with the theme of influencer marketing, hosting an influencer takeover is another way you can leverage the followings of Instagram giants within your industry.
Partner with an influencer who's a good fit with your brand, and get them to "take over" your Instagram account for a day, or a few hours. During this time, they'll post content about your brand from their own perspective. For example, a fitness apparel company might partner with an athlete who shows off their products while working out.
Make sure the influencer promotes the takeover in the days leading up to it, and points followers and viewers to your business so they can buy your products.
16. Run Instagram Ads
Last but not least: Instagram Ads. Though, in the past, organic reach has been more than enough for many businesses, it's hard these days to drive real results from social without paying to play.
Luckily for marketers, Instagram makes it pretty easy to advertise on the platform. Using the same powerful Ads Manager as Facebook, you're able to create audiences based on their demographics, interests, and more. These ads will be served natively on prospective customers' Instagram feeds, making them less jarring than a display ad (or even a Facebook Ad).
I'd also consider exploring retargeting ads, targeting people who bounce on your website with specific ads relevant to the pages they visited or the products they were interested in. Retargeting helps to drive home brand awareness and recapture any business that may have otherwise been lost.
If you're looking to bring in new customers through Instagram, Ads are the way to do it.
2 BONUS WAYS!
17. Update Your Story
Shameless Snapchat cloning aside, Instagram Stories is another platform that allows you to share updates with your followers and fans.
Updating your Story helps increase your presence on the platform, and gives you an opportunity to share media on Instagram that might not quite fit on for your feed.
The content you post is up to you! Feel free to share photos of your products, videos of life around the office, or even (sometimes) a discount code!
Plus, if you've followed tip #1 and got yourself an Instagram Business account, you'll be able to link viewers to external URLs from your Story, which is one of the only ways to do so outside of your bio. Make sure you link Stories about your products to their respective pages, with a CTA on your Story post to swipe up!
18. Go Live!
If you're really looking to engage your following, why not go Live?
Doing an Instagram Live broadcast is one of the best ways to interact with the fanbase you've built up on the platform.
They're awesome because Instagram almost always notifies your followers on their mobile devices when you've gone Live, making it easier to draw people into watching your broadcast. On top of that, you'll be at the top of your followers' Stories while you're Live.
Here's a few Live best practices:
- Announce it beforehand: If you want to maximize engagement, post on your Instagram Story and on your profile announcing your Live broadcast a few days before you do it.
- Have a topic or goal in mind: Though celebrities can often get away with simply chatting to their followers, it's best if you have a certain idea for your Live video in mind.
- Schedule wisely: Try to time your broadcast so it coincides with the hours where your target audience will be able to watch. After work or school and on weekends during the day are usually safe bets.
- Interact: One of the things that make Instagram Live so great is the ability to interact with comments in real-time - so make sure you do it!
- Prompt your viewers to act: When the broadcast is over, encourage your viewers to head on over to your online store (or wherever you'd like them to go!). Hook them up with a discount code to sweeten the deal.
Wrapping It Up
Hopefully,this article has shown you some new strategies or given you some inspiration when it comes to finding success with Instagram marketing.
My last lesson is this: try your best to remain on the cutting edge of social media marketing. New tactics and content types will always be rewarded by social platforms, so it's in our best interests as marketers to keep on top of them.
Got questions or comments? Let me know in the comments section below!
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