If you’re reading this article, it pretty much goes without saying that you’ve discovered the value of social media marketing for your business.
And it’s no wonder because social media marketing just makes sense. Period.
You don’t have to pay to create an account, you have complete flexibility and ownership of how your brand will be portrayed, accounts are largely intuitive and require little training to use, creating paid campaigns and syncing accounts with tools is easy…the list goes on and on.
However, there’s one major consideration that, aside from all the usual marketing success factors like budget, creativity, message, etc., can really make or break your success.
Because, like marketing campaigns across all mediums, if your presence doesn’t strike a cord with your prospective customer, you’ve missed the mark.
On social media, followers are essentially your prospective (or current/past) customers – people who know/like/associate with your brand and want to go so far as to “follow” your account.
And on no other social media platform do followers matter more than on Instagram.
Let’s face it – it’s a visual world. Actions of many influence others. Digital shares/likes/comments mean just as much (or more) these days than verbal ones.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that the number of followers you have on Instagram is a direct reflection of how well your brand is accepted among your target audience. And on the reverse, the more followers you have, the more likely the updates you share will be seen and engaged with, and, in turn, catch the attention of potential followers.
So, here’s the ultimate question: What can you do to earn more followers on Instagram?
There are quite a few things, actually.
Ready to get started?
I thought so.
Here are 10 tried-and-true methods you can put into play to grow your Instagram following.
1. Review the strategies of popular accounts and apply them (with your own spin) to yours.
Okay, so I’m not recommending that you just copy whatever other people on Instagram found successful and call it a day. In order for your brand to stand out on crowded social media platforms, you must be original.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get inspiration from another account that is killing it when it comes to earning high levels of engagement on each post and a steadily growing following.
Take some time – it can just be when you’re skimming Instagram on your phone in a waiting room or before bed – to just take note of successful campaigns and interesting image + copy combinations.
How could that awesome story be personalized to your brand? What kind of images get the most engagement for companies in your industry? What hashtags are trending?
Especially if you’re new to using Instagram for business, keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s making the biggest impact among users can help give you a starting point for the kind of campaign you want to launch next.
2. Focus on engaging with updates within your niche.
You don’t have to be overly exclusive to the point of obsession when it comes to keeping within your niche when engaging on Instagram, but it definitely makes sense.
Think about it. Say you’re a company that offers luxury furniture made by hand with the finest materials, and all your photos are professionally designed and photographed to be shared as part of cohesive campaigns.
It would make sense for you to follow/like/comment on posts from the account of an esteemed interior designer, Architectural Digest magazine, or a vintage chandelier boutique. All of these accounts likely have thoughtfully-designed profiles with images that reflect the elite, luxurious nature of their products and services. I.e., their brand persona is a close match with yours.
What wouldn’t make sense would be for you to like/follow/comment on posts from McDonalds, Ikea and the local country-western bar. All of these accounts feature a different brand persona, likely would not serve your target audience and, in some cases, are completely irrelevant to your business.
By doing your best to stay within your brand niche, you’re more likely to reach your target audience.
Additionally, keeping consistent with your brand persona in this way shows your affiliation with like brands within the industry and can help develop your image as a thought leader worth following.
3. Develop a signature style and stick with it.
Much like you should focus on engaging with content within your niche and with accounts that match your brand persona, you should make it a point to project said brand persona with the style of posts that you share.
You know who you are as a brand. But do your potential customers and followers?
You want to make sure your Instagram account is designed with intention, not by chance. Meaning, before you go sharing a bunch of pretty pictures of what you’re selling, think about developing a style for a degree of consistency in your posts.
If you’re an active-wear company that prefers to feature action shots of athletes clad in your gear – then go for it. If you’re a smoothie store owner that meticulously lays out recipe contents on cutting boards and counters with care and takes shots with expert lighting arrangements – post away.
But don’t start mixing action shots with pictures of customers shopping at your mall store or carefully designed ingredient photos with images of your smoothies in-hand at a sports arena.
I’m not saying you can’t have fresh new campaigns or an interesting promo ad, or that you ought to throw creativity completely out the window. I’m just saying that consistency is key to professionalism and building consumer confidence in your brand as a respected thought leader in your space.
People follow you because they like what they’re seeing. Keep it coming and you’ll catch the attention of and earn more followers of their kind: members of your target audience.
4. Use the right hashtags the smart way.
The major points of hashtags on all social media channels are to group like conversations and build community among people with similar likes and interests.
So it goes without saying that if you hone in on and readily use hashtags that appeal to your target audience, they’ll be more likely to see your content and, ideally, engage with it and follow you.
Clearly, the question here is how to pick the right ones and how to use them for maximum effect.
While there’s no hard-and-fast way to determine the right hashtags to use at any given time, it makes sense to review the list of trending hashtags for ones that match your brand or the interests of your target audience. Research the accounts of your direct competitors for ideas within your industry. Dig into your analytics to see what keywords are most popularly used when people search for your company online. These are all strategic ways to pick hashtags that have a higher chance of resonating with your target audience.
Use them often, in clusters at the end of your update copy. But don’t go overboard.
Some users think the best way to get the most impact from hashtags is to cram as many as possible within each post to “cover all bases”. This can look unprofessional and tends to dilute the focus of what carefully chosen hashtags are designed to do in the first place.
Stick with 4-6 of the best ones for each post and call it a day.
5. Don’t treat captions like they don’t matter.
Even though Instagram is essentially a visual platform, the captions you share shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Just like you’ve created a style and theme for your image layouts, ensure that you do the same with your captions to help tie everything together with a consistent tone of voice. Doing so shows that you’ve taken care to plan out how you portray your brand as an expert within your industry.
Viewing your captions as a way to essentially speak directly to your best customers can help you connect with your followers and earn more.
By considering and speaking to what’s important to them, you show you care and are seeking to offer them the quality and service they desire.
Putting thought and effort into captions encourages genuine responses and engaged followers.
Ill-conceived captions dilute your brand message and erode the trust of your target audience.
6. Include impactful CTAs.
In following the point about the power of captions, make sure you don’t leave out the most important part: the call to action (CTA).
Thoughtful content is all well and good, but what do you want people to do with it at the end of the day? Like the post? Leave a comment? Follow you?
Social media is being scrolled through on mobile phones by the fast fingers of those with short attention spans.
Catch their eye with a great image, say something impactful – and, finally, tell them what to do about it.
Don’t overcomplicate it. Just add something quick and to-the-point.
For example, under a photo of a steaming mug of fresh coffee with a text overlay that reads “Behind every professional is good coffee” you could add the CTA, “Follow us for discounts on your favorite brands.”
Here you’re “calling for action” by asking people to follow you vs. maybe just liking the image or skimming past it in their feed.In a nutshell, including an impactful CTA on your posts makes it a no-brainer for interested people to do exactly what you want them to do.
7. Add geotagging to your strategy.
One of the best things about social media and digital marketing in general is that it extends over wide physical distances, across states and countries, making it seem like we’re reaching around the world as we post and engage in real-time.
But there’s something to be said for local support.
Because of this expansive nature of social media, being in even the same country, state, city, town, five-mile radius, etc. instantly gives you a standout connection with another person…or business.
It may be a smart idea to geotag your updates, when appropriate, for this very reason.
For instance, if you’re covering a new store opening at the Galleria Mall in Houston Texas, not only would you want to tag this landmark mall in your update and mention Houston, but you may want to also geotag your post to specifically indicate your location.
By doing so, your post will be more likely to catch the eye of local followers and inspire their engagement - and even possibly their physical presence at the event or location.
Additionally, your followers’ activity around the post will help attract the attention of their followers, who, in turn, may be inspired to then follow you and engage as well.
8. Don’t be afraid to blur the line between business and personal updates.
The most “personal” thing most marketing strategies of the past offered was a commercial that featured a short clip of an actual home video.
Then social media happened. And now personal is the new “produced”.
Depending on the industry or genre your brand falls into, you may want to consider peppering your Instagram updates with a splash of personal posts. By personal posts, I mean featuring images of your and/or your employees’ lifestyles and how they relate to your brand, mission and/or products/services.
You shouldn’t be trying to make it look like a setup. These should simply be organic shots of say you and your team volunteering at a local animal shelter, showing how your dog food company really lives and breathes the animal-friendly values it talks about. Or perhaps a picture of a coworker’s daughter eating one of your business’s green-juice popsicles on a hot summer day, featuring your kid-approved product line.
And don’t forget to make it obvious that this is you/your staff/your families.
Sharing personal moments shows an element of vulnerability, which projects an openness to connection, which inspires response.
Instagram users who may know nothing about your product, but who love dogs or relate to their own children enjoying summer treats may be more inspired to engage and follow you.
9. Make your other social channels work for you.
What if I told you that one of the best ways to earn followers on Instagram is through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat…aka, any one of your other social media channels?
You should believe it. Because it’s the truth.
All you have to do is ask.
Ask your current followers on your other social media accounts to also follow you on Instagram.
It’s actually one of the most direct and most likely to be successful approaches to earning followers, if you think about it.
If someone likes your brand enough to follow and engage with you on one of your social channels, it’s incredibly likely they’d be up for doing so on another one, like Instagram.Sharing updates on your other social media channels (occasionally - don’t overdo it, now…) that include a CTA that asks your followers to follow you on Instagram helps ensure you’re growing a quality following that will be sincerely interested and more inclined to engage and share.
10. Be “on” even when you’re offline with automation.
You’re only going to earn new followers and keep your current ones if you’re constantly delivering the kind of content that keeps them engaged. If you “go dark” or post infrequently enough to lose their interest, that’s it, they’re off to more interesting things.
Everyone gets busy. It’s hard to be creative, plan campaigns, share updates and thoughtfully engage every day when you’ve got other business and personal responsibilities to balance.
But there is a way to be sharing content and staying relevant on Instagram – even when you’re off doing something else.
Due to updates made to Instagram’s API last year, users are now able to employ various scheduling tools to plan and schedule Instagram posts in advance – in bulk.
That means you can set aside time to plan and create the next week/month/month(s) worth of Instagram content, upload the posts, set the schedule, and then focus your otherwise preoccupied attention on engagement and other essential business activities.
Sound complicated? It’s not.
Getting a grasp on the basics can be easily achieved with the help of online how-to articles that feature the whole process of linking accounts and scheduling posts on Instagram, for a range of novice to expert users.
All you need to spare are a few minutes of reading and hands-on testing before you can be off reaping the benefits of automation on Instagram.
Plus, you’ll be earning and pleasing soon-to-be and current followers while saving yourself more of the time you don’t have to spare.
Followers: More than just a vanity measure
As much as Instagram is a visual platform, you’d be remiss to believe that your follower account doesn’t impact your image.
The more followers you have, the greater the chance that more Instagram users will want to follow you to see what all the fuss is about.
But having a large following isn’t just about bragging rights and looks.
The more people following you, the more people engaging with your content and earning the interest of their followers in the process.
As engagement grows, your following grows. And, at the end of the day, the more followers, the more prospective customers you have eyeing your products and services and (hopefully) ending up as actual customers.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and epic followings weren’t gained overnight.
But with these 10 growth tactics applied to your Instagram marketing strategy, you’ll be well on your way to earning the following you’ve only just imagined.