Author’s Note: This post was updated to reflect a neat feature Instagram recently added to the platform. What is it? Click here to jump down to the new tactic.
If you’re here to read about Instagram “growth hacks” that will earn your page thousands of engaged followers in less than 48 hours by using bots and “buying followers”, sorry but you’re reading the wrong blog post.
If you are here to learn how to organically grow your Instagram following with your target audience using scalable and actionable growth marketing tactics, then you’ve come to the right place!
Why Your Businesses Should Use Instagram
With more than 400 million daily active users, Instagram is growing 5 times faster than any other social media platform in the U.S. Recent studies also show that Instagram users are 58 times more likely to engage (i.e. like, comment, or share) with a brand’s post than Facebook users and 120 times more likely to engage with a brand’s post when compared to Twitter users.
This gives businesses the perfect opportunity to give consumers exactly what they’re looking for: engaging visual content that tells a compelling story.
But let’s be honest, sharing great content with only 15 followers won’t help you meet or surpass any of your business goals.
So today, I’ll share some Instagram growth tactics specifically for small business owners looking to reach their target audience on Instagram–the right way.
Let’s start with…
Follow Individuals on Your Contact List
If you have a brand new Instagram account for your business, one of the very first things you should do is to follow your friends, family, and colleagues from your contact list. There are two ways to do this.
One way is to use Facebook’s integration with Instagram; simply connect your Facebook profile to your Instagram account and you can choose to follow all of your contacts or handpick just a few. The second way is to import your phone’s contact list and find people in your phone’s contact list that you’d like to follow.
After finding and following people you know, also (politely of course) ask them to like, share, and comment on some of your posts.
Look Up and Use Relevant Hashtags
For a greater organic reach, you should use relevant hashtags in each of your Instagram posts. Start with some hashtag research. Enter your primary keyword in Instagram’s search bar and look for relevant hashtags containing your keyword that also have a large number of posts using that tag.
Then select 5-10 hashtags you’d like to target and include them in the comments section of your post, not in the caption itself.
Join Engagement Groups
If you’ve never heard of Instagram engagement groups, it’s not by accident. Instagram engagement groups (also referred to as Instagram Pods) are private groups of Instagram accounts that agree to like, share, or engage with each other’s posts during a set time, called Rounds.
Joining an engagement group isn’t as easy as hitting a “join” button. Many of these engagement groups can be found on Telegram or another mobile-friendly messaging app, like Kik, WhatsApp, and Skype. You can also find several private groups on Facebook or Instagram DM’s. However, many of these groups require an exclusive invitation from a member of the group; therefore, one of the most effective ways of joining an engagement group is by reaching out to an influencer with a similar following within your industry or market.
I should note that there are a few downsides to this method. For instance, many of the accounts within an engagement group may not be within your niche, and therefore, may lower your engagement rate. Likes and engagement could also come from accounts with very few followers, which won’t help your post go viral or make it to the Instagram Explore page.
Pro Tip: In a few months (or years), after you’ve built up a pretty sizable following already on Instagram, consider scoring Power Likes to grow your Instagram following even further. Unlike engagement groups, Power Likes involves a smaller group of Instagram account holders with high follower accounts that engage with each other’s content to improve their chances of posts going viral. In order to participate, however, you’ll generally need to have more than 100,000 followers.
Here’s a creative way of getting your content in front of a new audience: Instagram Takeovers! An Instagram Takeover is a collaboration between two Instagram accounts, where one account is allowed to “takeover” another account and share their photos or videos with their collaborator’s audience. It’s a valuable way of building brand awareness and reaching a new audience.
The great thing about Instagram takeovers is that you don’t need another Instagram influencer to participate. Several companies encourage their employees to share what it’s like to work for the company, showcase original content created by your community members, or build a relationship with your valuable customers.
Want to learn how to host or participate in an Instagram takeover? Check out Buffer’s comprehensive guide on how to host a takeover in 6 simple steps.
Instagram Live Videos
Nowadays, social media platforms and their ranking algorithms have given higher priority to video content, including live streams. Consider using Instagram Live videos to interact directly with your audience. You can, for instance, show how a product is made in real time, interview experts or influencers in your industry, or host a weekly AMA with a company executive.
However, keep in mind that after you record a live video, it’s no longer visible in the app, but you can share the video to your Instagram Stories feed when it’s over.
Create Your Own Branded Hashtag
Several companies big and small are now using their own unique hashtags to curate content related to specific products, sponsored events, or recurring content. Brands and influencers also use hashtags to run contests, host AMA sessions, and to share user-created content.
Creating and using a branding hashtag seems pretty straightforward, but there are some general “Do’s and Don’ts” you should abide by. Check out our short guide on how to correctly use hashtags to learn more!
Pro Tip: For a larger reach, include both relevant and branded hashtags in your Instagram Stories. If you have a brick and mortar location, or if you want to target potential customers around a specific location, tag your location in Instagram Stories as well! This will increase the likelihood of your content being featured in a public location or hashtag story.
Partner with Micro-Influencers
You’ll see a lot of Instagram growth hacking articles that recommend teaming up with relevant influencers to grow your following, however, I think it’s important to note the difference between micro-influencers and macro-influencers.
According to Forbes, macro-influencers generally have more than 100,000 followers and could charge almost $400 for a sponsored post or ad. For accounts with more than a million followers, that number skyrockets to more than $1,400 for one sponsored Instagram post.
Alternatively, you can reach a wider audience by building a mutually-beneficial relationship with several micro-influencers with 2,000 to 100,000 followers for less than $258 per post, but try to find micro-influencers within your niche.
Cross-Promote Your Instagram Account on Other Social Media Channels
If you already have a company page on Facebook and Twitter, cross-promote your Instagram account on those channels a well. Use a social media scheduling platform like Buffer or Hootsuite to regularly ask your Facebook fans and Twitter followers to also follow your Instagram page. You should also include a link to your Instagram account in your email signature, encourage your newsletter subscribers to follow your Instagram account, and promote your account at the end of your blog posts.
Share Exclusive Content With Instagram Followers
A great way to incentivize potential and current customers or users to follow your Instagram account is to share content or special offers exclusively on Instagram. For instance, an e-commerce retailer can offer a weekly discount code for one select item, but the discount will only be shared on Instagram. On the other hand, a large marketing agency can use Instagram to share exclusive photos and videos of the company’s workplace culture.
Run Instagram Loop Giveaways
Want to know how some Instagram manage to rack up hundreds of followers in a matter of hours? The secret is Instagram Loop Giveaways. Instagram Loop Giveaways are special contests that require users to take perform multiple tasks in order to be eligible, including like 5 of your recent posts, leave a comment on a post, and follow up to 30 other Instagram accounts sponsoring the giveaway.
The issue with Instagram Loop Giveaways, however, is to attract followers who are likely to stick around long after the contest is over. To address this, you’ll likely want to partner with another brand or influencer within your niche and offering a prize that offers value to your target audience.
Include an Instagram Gallery on Your Website
A great Instagram growth hack for e-commerce businesses is to use a WordPress or Shopify plugin to showcase and curate Instagram photos and videos to your website or online store. This is a great way to display user-generated content on your website or online store as an effective form of social proof.
Use Instagram Insights to Find Your Best Posting Times
You’ve probably read a dozen Instagram growth hack articles that recommend you to post at very specific times on very specific days based on research. While these times will offer some guidance as you continue to build a following, I recommend using Instagram Insights to figure out exactly what days and times your followers are most active–and don’t forget to consider where your followers are as well because various time zones may affect your posting schedule.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind when posting to Instagram:
- Aim to share your posts when people are more likely to be interacting with their mobile phones. This is usually on the weekdays during their morning commutes (i.e. 8-9 a.m.), during their lunch break (i.e. 12 – 1 p.m.), and after work (5-7 p.m.). If you’re a B2C company, consider also scheduling a few posts on weekends to gauge their performance.
- Use an automated scheduling tool’s recommend posting times. Hootsuite and Later all have the ability to recommend the most optimal times to post.
- Test, test, test! Over a 4-8 week period, pick 3-5 posting times throughout the week and track how many engagements likes, comments, and shares your posts receive. Then use this data to determine the best times to share posts with your audience.
Add A Hashtag or Profile Link In Your Bio
Instagram recently introduced a great new feature: adding hashtags and profile links in the bio section of your profile. This means you can include a branded hashtag used to curate your content, a highly-used hashtag for additional visibility, or tag the profile of your brand’s founder and/or CEO, and more.
To add a hashtag or profile to your Instagram page, tap “Edit Profile”, go to your bio section, and add as many hashtags (without looking spammy) and profiles as you’d like.
The Key to Instagram Success: Creating Amazing Visual Content
All of these tactics will help you grow your Instagram following, but none of them will work without one essential ingredient: great content that shares your brand’s story, personality, and vision. Ask yourself:
- What do I want people to know about my company or brand?
- What is my brand’s personality? What are our voice and tone? Are we funny? Playful? Business professional?
Finally, once you’ve answered these two questions, you need to figure out what resources you have to create visually compelling content. The most successful brands on Instagram grow their following by sharing high-quality, high definition images and videos with their audience, which could cost hundreds, if not thousands of dollars to create.
Instead, try these cost-friendly alternatives:
- Create Instagram graphics using Canva. Canva is a free graphics design tool that offers photo editing tools, millions of high-quality stock images (that only cost $1!), thousands of layouts to easily design social media graphics, and tons more! Best of all, Canva offers free tutorials that’ll show you how to make your Canva images really stand out.
- Use your smartphone’s camera to take professional-looking pictures. Here are some great resources that will help you shoot great photos on your iPhone or Android device.
- Don’t forget to showcase photos and videos from your customers! Use one of these third-party apps to share content created by your followers.
- If possible, use a service like Upwork to hire a freelance photographer or videographer to help you create high-quality photos and videos that you can share on your website and Instagram page.
Hope you enjoyed reading about these Instagram growth hacks! While you’re here, go ahead and follow us on Instagram for more actionable growth marketing tactics: @ladder.io.