If you are a visual company, Instagram is the place to be. As one of the big 4 social media networks, Instagram is constantly growing, with 700 million monthly active users, 90% of which are younger than 35. So if a good chunk of your target audience falls within that age range, Instagram should be playing a major role in your social media marketing strategy. And naturally, you'll constantly be on the lookout for ways to organically grow your Instagram following, like you probably do with every social media network you have a presence on.
Buying followers is never the answer, as not only is it against policy, but those followers will likely never engage with the content you are posting, rendering them useless. So your goal should be to target followers organically who fall within your target audience and are actually interested in what you have to say, as engagement is everything on Instagram. That said, here are some tips you can begin implementing today to successfully organically grow your Instagram following and build a strong community surrounding your brand:
Cross-Promote & Embed Instagram Content Into Your Website
One of the easiest ways to begin driving traffic to your Instagram profile is by tapping into your existing traffic sources. In this case, your website and other social media channels. The first thing you should do is ask your fans and followers on your other social media channels to follow you on Instagram. Easy enough to send a post out on each network, along with a teaser about what kind of content you will be posting. You can also do the same in your email marketing.
Then on your website, if you are writing an article or a blog post, for example, you can easily take any of your posts on Instagram and embed them into that post, and it will be fully responsive, with your username and a link back to the original post on your Instagram profile, so an effective way of driving traffic back to Instagram from content you are likely promoting on your other social media channels already. Here is how you can embed posts into your website (example post from ESPN):
- Click on any of your posts on Instagram
- Click on the "More" button in the bottom right
- Click on "Embed"
- Click "Copy Embed Code" and simply paste that code into your website where you want the post to display
Post Quality Content Consistently
You need to have a game plan going into this. Posting sporadically is not going to help you organically grow your Instagram following. You'll get different answers on how often you should be posting to Instagram depending on the source you read, but the general consensus is 1-2 times per day, with 3 being on the high side. And you need to do that consistently, which means not posting 2 times on Monday, skipping a couple of days, coming back Wednesday, and so on. The content you post also needs to be consistent with your brand and in line with what your target audience is interested in. Don't fall into the trap of posting content you find interesting, as that won't get you anywhere. Your target audience needs to find your visual content interesting.
Especially in the beginning, you'll want to test different types of visual content to see what you get the most engagement on. Mix in customer-centric photos, employee-centric photos, contest photos, product photos, motivational photos, behind the scenes photos, offers and promotions, videos, etc. Get creative, but make sure the visual content is high resolution, as you want your content to stand out from the crowd. Bad visual content will get zero engagement and could damage your brand. Once you establish what your followers are most interested in, you can ramp up production on that type of visual content and place more of an emphasis on it.
Use Hashtags To Extend Your Reach
Hashtags are key on Instagram. If you use the right hashtags, you have the potential open up your posts to a large targeted audience who is interested in what you have to say. How many hashtags should you use on your Instagram posts? Interactions are highest when you use 11+. If you're struggling to determine what hashtags you should use, Hashtagify is a great resource, as it enables you to type in a general, main hashtag related to your niche, then gives you other, related hashtags that are popular, as well. For example, we typed in #socialmedia, and got these results:
You should also create branded hashtags to use in your Instagram marketing, especially if you plan on running contests. A branded hashtag is something a business created to help them promote their products or services, or even for a specific marketing campaign they may have been running. Branded hashtags are also great for the purpose of having users submit user-generated content. Keep your branded hashtags short if possible, as you want them to be easy for others to remember. For example, a popular branded hashtag KitKat uses in their marketing is #HaveABreak, which is a well-known tagline for that company.
Be An Active Instagrammer
Instagram is a very "social" social network. One of the easiest ways to organically grow your Instagram following is by being an active Instagrammer. You can craft the best posts in the world, have amazing visual content, post regularly, etc., but that's not enough. You need to make friends in your niche, so to speak. Seek out other Instagram accounts related to your industry and follow them (chances are they will follow you back in return), like and comment on their content, etc. This will start driving traffic back to your own Instagram account faster than you may expect.
And that extends to your own Instagram account as well. People are giving up their free time to engage with the content you're posting, so take the time to respond back to them. Strike up a conversation, ask questions, thank them for their feedback, etc. Not only does this show others you have an active Instagram account, but it helps build brand loyalty over time. It's all about engagement. This is a key component to growing an organic following on Instagram, as well as any other social media network.
Run Contests Or Giveaways
Contests on social media are popular in general, but especially on Instagram. As long as the prize is good and appeals to your target audience, there is real potential here to experience a spike in the number of followers you have. The key here is to run contests or giveaways on a regular basis, this way the people who do follow you because of the contest have a reason to stick around afterward. This, also, helps build brand loyalty and gives your Instagram followers a reason to check your account on a regular basis, as they'll never know when you will be posting the next contest, giveaway, coupon offer, flash sale, etc. Instagram contests also generate a ton of engagement for your account.
The key when running an Instagram contest is to require entrants to follow you (especially if you are cross-promoting the contest on your website and other social media channels, which you should, this way they can find out if they win), and if you are running a photo contest, like in the below example, require them to use the hashtag you specify.
For other Instagram contest ideas, check out this blog we wrote: https://www.socialreport.com/insights/article/115002216443-Instagram-Contest-Ideas-That-Will-Engage-Your-Followers