Instagram is one of the best platforms to get your business noticed and encourage users to directly engage with your brand. We’ve all seen the brands on Instagram who seem to so eloquently connect with their audience and activate high levels of engagement on their posts. They seem to post all the right content at all the right times, and catch the attention of all the right viewers. But just how do you go about doing this, and where do you start?
Growing your Instagram following can directly translate into higher brand recognition, a wider consumer base and significantly more sales for your business. In this guide, we answer all of your questions, including how to gain followers, activate and engage with your consumer base, and grow your Instagram account.
1. Growing Your Instagram: Posting Creative Content
Before you can start marketing your Instagram page, there has to be something there worth marketing. Every post should be something you’re be proud to show the world, and this means being creative in the development and publication of your content. Your creativity should be displayed by having great images, as well as having a strategy for displaying them.
The images you use depend on your brand, but no matter what, it is important that you choose high-quality, professional photos. Each image should be representative of your brand identity. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, where information is primarily offered through text, Instagram is image-centric. A viewer may never stop to read your caption, but they will always see your image. This means that the argument you are trying to make must be visually demonstrated in one small square canvas.
If at all possible, take your own professional photos. But if you don’t have access to resources for this, you can use free, high-quality stock images from sites like Unsplash or Pixabay. You can edit the photos on Instagram to adjust certain features such as tone, saturation, highlights, and contrast.
That being said, while the individual posts themselves are important, equally important is a well-designed profile. What’s the first thing people see when they click on your profile? The page layout of course. Your brand’s Instagram profile should represent the brand’s personality artistically. There are several ways to do this.
One way to do this to maintain a consistent theme. Check out @Toyota, for example, who uses a theme of coordinated rows, where every row contains 3 pictures of the same vehicle in different positions or angles. It takes a second to notice it, but once you do, you are almost compelled to keep scrolling. This is a great tactic for engaging users!
Another option is to use a consistent type of picture. As another example, @Expedia uses a variety of distinct views of different worldly wonders.
There are plenty of other ideas for themes you can find on popular Instagram accounts. Whether you use a coordinated color scheme, a repeating content method, or any other kind of theme, the content on your profile should look like it belongs together. Ultimately, it should all be in adherence to the same single brand identity.
2. Growing Your Instagram: Writing Good Captions
If your images are good they will get likes, but if the captions are good they will get likes, comments and shares. In other words, captions can make or break engagement.
Furthermore, the words you put attach to your post represent your brand’s voice. One example of a brand that knows their identity and writes great, on-strategy copy is @Chipotle. They use their caption as a space to connect and relate to their audience in a way that is authentic, witty, and often downright hilarious.
Below are some examples of their content:
When I see memes like these, I can’t help but feel like the brand sort of “gets” me. This is because they are directly responding to a common pop culture theme in their posts and even using customer-created content. What better way to make your audience feel heard and to drive engagement?
Humor is great for a fast food company like Chipotle, but figure out what strategy is best for your particular market. Look at what others in your niche are doing for some ideas. And then decide how you want to portray your brand voice, whether that’s with a tone that is witty, sentimental, passionate or educational. No matter what it is, it should always be on-strategy with your overall brand messaging.
Another effective way to get engagement through your caption is to directly initiate conversations. This brings us to our next point.
3. Growing Your Instagram: Using a Call to Action
Every post should be an invitation to do something, whether it’s stated directly or indirectly. The indirect way to state something is demonstrated in the above examples. Chipotle never says “come to Chipotle,” but we know it’s what they mean.The direct way is by using a Call to Action.
There are different kinds of calls to action that encourage different types of engagement. A call to action can be as simple as asking viewers to click a link in your bio, shop your sale, or follow you on other social media channels.
As we mentioned above, one effective kind of call to action is a conversation starter. This typically means including a question at the end of your caption asking viewers to share their answer in the comments. It can be open-ended, such as “How was your weekend? Share in the comments below.” Or, it can be more directly brand-related, such as “Which of these [products] is your favorite? Share what you’d pick in the comments!”
Below is an example of a conversation starter by a gardening brand, @gardenista_sourcebook. As you can see from the comments, this was extremely effective in garnering user interaction.
Another effective strategy is telling users to tag a friend in the comments. You will see this strategy used often by clothing brands. They will post pictures of their apparel with the caption “tag a friend who would look amazing in this.” This is a great way to get your followers to indirectly recommend your brand to more potential consumers. Each person who comments brings one more potential follower to the post, who might then tag another potential follower, who will tag another, and so on.
4. Growing Your Instagram: Interacting with Followers
This is arguably the most effective way to gain followers. It is also the most labor intensive.
It is important, especially if you are a small business just getting your name out there, to engage directly with your active followers. Businesses with a strong social media presence are the ones who make an effort to respond to as many comments as they can. This is the most authentic representation of your brand. When you reply to your viewers, they feel heard. This leaves a positive impression of your business with your audience. It demonstrates that you are dedicated to customer service and care about your consumers.
One account that does a great job of this is @Headspace. They reply to each comment, even if it’s as simple as a few words or an emoji. As you can see below, it is effective in promoting their brand image as a self-care advocate, and they have 6 times more followers than their main competitor, Insight Timer. It pays off!
And if that’s not incentive enough, know that every comment you add makes Instagram register your post as more active. And the more active you are on Instagram, the more the app rewards you with a higher placement on your followers’ feeds.
Speaking of staying at the top of the feed, let’s talk about hashtags.
5. Growing Your Instagram: Using Hashtags Strategically
Hashtags are a wonderful tool for growing your Instagram account. They are arguably the best way to gain new followers. They help categorize posts, draw in users to a specific niche, and reach a specific target audience
Begin by researching other Instagram pages in your niche. Find out which hashtags are being used by your competition, by both influencers and by personal profiles. There are several apps for Instagram that can help you find the most popular tags, but once you’ve figured out the ones that draw in the most engagement, keep a list of these on file so you can use them in future posts.
Once you’ve figured out what the most effective hashtags are, there are a few ways you can incorporate them. One way is to use them directly in your caption. You can do this by picking some key words and tagging them. Here is an example of a post by @Nintendo using this method:
However, be careful with this, as you want your text to remain easy to read and uncrowded. You don’t want a clump of hashtags to be too visible because it can appear tacky. To avoid this, many accounts use the strategy of tacking them on at the end of the caption, often after several paragraph breaks, or placing them all in the first comment. This way, they won’t be visible until the viewer clicks the “see all” button. Here’s an example by @beautifulsmoothies:
It sounds tedious, but keeping your post clean and simple helps with the overall image that your brand portrays.
6. Growing Your Instagram: Interacting with Other Brands
Interacting with others in your market is a great way to demonstrate credibility. You are becoming a major player in your market, so show it. Don’t expect that consumers will automatically come to you. Find other brands in your industry, both big and small, and interact with them publicly on the platform. Like and comment on their posts. Encourage them to check out your page. This will begin to get your name out there in the community.
If you are featuring a certain vendor or another brand in your post, make sure to mention them in your caption. Sometimes, the business will share your post with their own followers. This is a great way to start gaining a wider online audience.
Overall, building an Instagram following, like anything else, takes hard work and persistence. It is much more than just having good images and setting ads. It takes a certain level of dedication to creating the highest quality content, as well as a consistent engagement with your community and your audience on a regular basis. It also requires you to be flexible, to evolve with your audience as they evolve, and to understand the ever-changing and transforming platform that is Instagram.
Did you know that Instagram marketing is a big part of our work here at SocialNicole? To learn more about our social media marketing services and the ways we leverage Instagram to grow your business, contact us today!
In the meantime, sign up now to receive free blog updates in your inbox. We have posts on all aspects of digital marketing coming out every month.