Establishing a loyal customer base takes time and serious effort. It’s about maintaining a fine balance between engaging with your existing customer base and attracting new prospective customers. This is where social media has played an immense role in making the communication and marketing process simpler and more convenient for ecommerce store owners. Global social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter are usually the go-to marketing platform options, but many often skip the content-centric platform that is Instagram. So in this guide, we’ll be discussing how to get followers on Instagram so you can grow your potential customer base and engage your current audience.
According to Veeqo, businesses on Instagram also enjoy engagement rates 10 times beyond the engagement rates of those on Facebook, 54 times those on Pinterest, and a staggering 84 times those using Twitter. These numbers should definitely get your attention if you are looking into planning your future social media marketing campaigns.
It is estimated that 70 percent of performance campaigns generate statistically significant lifts for online conversion or mobile app installs. If done right, you too can harness the power of Instagram for your business or brand. Whatever the goal—driving up sales, creating brand awareness or promoting a new line—it is all achievable.
While Instagram is fairly easy to use, creating just the right kind of profile and content strategy is extremely important. We realize that it can be a little daunting if you haven’t used the platform before or exclusively for business, thus we have put together all the information in this guide so you can become a successful marketer on Instagram and work on how to get followers on Instagram.
Table of Contents
- Why Instagram?
- How to Get Followers on Instagram
- Content & Strategy for Instagram
- Influencer Marketing on Instagram
- Instagram Hashtags
- Share for Share (S4S)
- Popular Third-Party Apps for Instagram
- Instagram Analytics
- Understanding the Instagram Algorithm
For all the marketing junkies out there who prefer facts, stats, and numbers, here are some interesting ones for you courtesy of Inc.com.
- Over half of all 18 to 29-year-olds in the US are on Instagram: 55%, to be exact. If you’re looking to connect with this audience, it’s a good idea to be here.
- Adult users in the US have doubled since 2012: Remember that this isn’t just new users joining, but younger users coming of age.
- More than 40 billion photos have been shared in the history of Instagram.
- 31 percent of female internet users are on Instagram, compared to 21 percent of male internet users. The fact is, Instagram is predominantly female, a whopping 68 percent of its users are female.
- 56 percent of Instagram users make $50,000/year or more and to get even more specific, 26 percent make $75,000 or more.
- Instagram has about 400 million active daily users, and counting. It has 800 million active monthly users.
- Instagram brought in $1.3 billion in global mobile advertising revenue in 2017: This amounted to 8.4 percent of Facebook’s global mobile ad revenue. That number is expected to rise to 18 percent by 2018.
If these numbers don’t do it for you, here are a few reasons that Instagram is a great platform for marketing. As the platform has grown from its infancy in 2010, Instagram has truly embraced ecommerce and online marketing and has become the go-to place to build a brand’s reputation.
In more ways than one, Instagram is a “digital branding catalog” that sometimes proves more useful than several ecommerce websites themselves when it comes to catering to those sales numbers. Brands and artists can use the platform as a showcase or portfolio of what they have to offer through their respective pages, which allow multimedia elements such as audio, video, and images.
They can use Instagram to form networks and contact relevant people or brands to form a community of like-minded individuals or organizations through “Direct Messages” or “DMs” as they’re called. The platform also heavily supports mobile ads and sponsored content, as mentioned earlier, which is great for any businesses with budgets to spend on ads.
Instagram has introduced “Instagram Business” options where you can add a shop option so customers can shop directly for products they see on your Instagram page through the link you provide (additionally with the shop option active, they can see which product is featured in a picture by simply tapping the picture once—it’s like virtual window shopping), email support (great for customer service), directions if you have a brick-and-mortar location, branded content approval to ensure that your brand or name cannot be used unethically on Instagram, or for any purpose for that matter, until you approve of it. The ability to directly link your Instagram account to other social media platforms is a great way to maintain a steady content flow across all platforms.
Instagram marketing also doesn’t depend on who you know and/or who you don’t know. Your “friends” do not need to lead others to your content—it’s an infinitely more open way of experiencing content from around the globe and anyone searching the hashtags that you use can discover your content.
These various attributes make Instagram extremely enticing to digital marketing experts and ecommerce novices alike, as the platform truly simplifies everything. Building brand value & presence and actually connecting to your audience is imperative to drive sales up and this is why Instagram is the perfect tool to do so seamlessly. So the question isn’t merely why Instagram, but why not Instagram?
How to Get Followers on Instagram
Marketing on Instagram begins even before you come up with a fancy campaign plan with all the ammunition you need. We live in the world of social media, where books are judged by their covers and even before the intended audience gets to your carefully curated feed, they will first and foremost judge you by your Instagram handle (@xyz), second by your “Bio” which is the description of your brand, product, etc. and finally they will come around to assess your content.
This being the case, it is imperative that you leave a lasting impression from the get-go and take careful consideration of your Instagram handle, username, and your bio.
Instagram Handles & Usernames
Your handle is the first impression you will be establishing with your audience. Your username should resonate with the potential customers that you are targeting. If your Instagram account is all about baked goods, for example, it wouldn’t really make much sense to have a handle such as “@coffeelover”. While they might both be food and beverage related, you should be more specific. Of course, ideally, your username should be the name of your brand, product or company, however, with over 800 million active users, there is a probability of not getting your choice of name. In this case, try playing around with the punctuations, for example, if a name like “@sweettreats” is already taken, you could perhaps try “@sweet.treats” or “@sweet_treats” instead. These count as different usernames and you can still get the name you want.
As mentioned earlier, if the handle/username gives the potential customer an idea of what they can look forward to, there is a higher chance that they will follow you, which in turn raises the chances of customer conversion, as you’re already attracting crowds that are interested in what you have to offer.
The bio on an Instagram account is often dubbed to be the hottest piece of real estate on the account. This is true because it is the first thing that anyone landing on your Instagram feed will see and if it doesn’t catch the attention of the audience, you are most likely to lose a follower and a potential customer.
Another reason that the bio is incredibly valuable is because Instagram only allows a live link (one that can be clicked on and will lead you to a website) in bios—which essentially means that if you want to use the platform to drive your ecommerce sales up, THIS is where it happens—your very own personalized sales funnel.
To monitor this sales funnel, it would be wise to set up a UTM source code, which is a trackable code that is at the end of your links and enables Google Analytics to gather data about them. UTM source codes are essentially elements that are put at the end of a URL and are different for each platform that the link is used on. This enables Google Analytics to tell where the traffic to the website in the link is coming from.
For example, suppose you shared a blog post on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that got 20,000 hits in a week. You know the platforms that you shared the blog post on but you may want to know which platform drove the most amount of traffic to see which had the biggest return on investment. Here is where UTM tags help. To tell each traffic source apart (Facebook, Instagram or Twitter) you would just assign an individual UTM tag (all different) to the blog post link (which remains the same) that you share—now every time your blog post links get clicked on, Google Analytics will be able to tell which platform it was redirected from, thanks to the UTM tags.
If you’d rather not get into the technicalities of it, the Google Analytics Campaign URL Builder can help you out—all you have to do is paste the link and set the parameters and the URL builder will give you a personalized link that you can utilize. While the link has added elements to it, the destination that the link will take you to will remain the same—the added elements only act as identifiers.
Will become :
The bold part in the second link is the UTM source code.
Now, unfortunately, the links with the UTM source codes are usually very long, depending on the parameters you have set, which is why you should ideally use a URL shortener such as Bitly to create shorter versions of the same link with the UTM tag—this is super useful as Instagram will only allow you to have up to 150 characters in your bio.
There are also a few other things to keep in mind while forming a bio for your Instagram page. Your bio should be a clever form of an elevator pitch—short, sweet, to the point and extremely impactful. You have to lure people in and give them a reason to stay on your profile. Depending on the personality of the brand that you are trying to portray, you could even use relevant emojis to add to the aesthetics. The last line in your bio should be a call-to-action and evoke a response from your audience to click on the link that you provide. Lastly, one of the good things about the ability to embed a live link into the bio is the fact that it can be changed as and when you like, this means that you can update this link to different landing pages, blog posts, product pages, etc. based on your marketing strategy.
Always keep in mind that the objective is to drive sales up, every action you take should follow this theme.
Content and Strategy on Instagram
Content is king. We’ve heard this about a million times and in this context, it couldn’t be more true. Instagram is one of the social media platforms that’s purely content-based, unlike Facebook or Twitter. This means that before you even think about a marketing strategy, you’ll have to come up with a content strategy—and a great one at that. With over 40 billion photos already shared on the platform, what’s setting you apart?
It’s simple—to get more sales you need more visibility. Followers get you conversions, therefore the higher your number of followers, the higher your sales. To be able to get those followers you need to be constantly creating amazing content that is truly liked by your audience. Your content strategy should be based on connecting to your audience through content they like and are most likely to remember.
A few ways that you can start building a structure for your content strategy are through maintaining high-quality posts and by being super consistent. Foundr has some great advice from specialists in the field of content strategy:
“I always adhere to an 80/20 allocation of value/promotion. Meaning that I aim to create content that provides direct value to my audience throughout 80% of my posts and create ‘soft’ promotional content for the remaining 20% of my posts.”– Paul Ramondo, Digital Marketing Strategist
“I always tell a story through my images and make the image as relatable to the viewer as possible. There’s a fine line between being too inspirational where it becomes out of reach and then being on a level where viewers feel like you’re one of them.” – Bianca Cheah, founder and MD of Sporteluxe
“The most important thing about content is consistency. Good consistent content is better than sparse great content. You want people to trust that if they look at your feed for something new, it will always be there.” – Matthias Barker, Photographer
“Consistency is king and quality is queen when it comes to posting on Instagram. We make sure to post six posts a day, every day, 365 days a year. We treat our Instagram very much like a daily newspaper with a focus on consistently delivering fresh, relevant and quality content throughout the day.” – Kevin Kuster, CEO and Partner at #JJ
These are some really valuable pieces of information from those who have successfully implemented them, but to be able to formulate your own strong content strategy, you will have to understand the different formats, themes, and styles of content that are most popularly published or used on the platform.
Formats of Content on Instagram
Here are the most commonly used types of content that you can possibly create for your own Instagram page.
Photographs and Albums
The most obvious form of content is, of course, photos as Instagram is primarily a photo-sharing platform that allows two distinct sizes of photos to be shared. Firstly, the standard photo size is the “Instagram-famous” square size and the other is a more elongated size that is ideal for portrait-style photos. In both cases, it would be advisable to use the highest resolution pictures for optimum viewing on the platform (1080x1080px for the former and 1080x556px for the latter size).
Photos can be posted as individual entities or several at a time in the form of an album, which means that it is now possible to upload up to 10 photographs in a single post that can be viewed by your audience by swiping through them. Albums are a great way to elaborate or expand on a single focus point, however, it is entirely up to you whether you use the feature or not. Many Instagram profiles prefer using single images as posts, purely for aesthetic reasons. Creating an album is just as easy as pressing and holding down on one of the photos you would like to add to the album until you get the option to “check” the other picture that you would like to add in the album. Alternatively, there is also a tiny icon with layered images in it, that will allow you to select multiple photos for an album.
After the popularity of the former video social media platform Vine (which has now been absorbed into Twitter), Instagram was quick to bring video content to the platform and it’s flourishing. Users can upload videos to the platform at a maximum of 1 minute per video and can upload them individually or in albums just like photos. To record a video directly from the app you can click on the “Add” icon (the plus sign) and the bottom of the app and choose the video option.
Just as with the photos, you can edit videos by putting a filter on them, muting the sound if you prefer to, and you can pick a cover photo from the video to post. Similar to photos, you can also publish the video with a caption (more on that later).
Video content is known to be more engaging, which is why even 1-minute videos can boost your engagement exponentially. Creating visually appealing video content not only is great for advertising and marketing but also serves to make your followers realize that that you are investing time and effort into your content, establishing you as a legitimate brand and one that they look forward to engaging with.
There are two different kinds of collages that you can make on Instagram. The first is using the Instagram Layout app, which is created by putting multiple photos together in a single frame to form a collage. The second is a slightly different style of collage—this is created by strategically posting individual images that create one large image on your Instagram grid whenever someone visits your profile. While the effect of the second type of collage is pretty amazing and can be used very creatively, you would have to break down a larger image to just the right sizes on Photoshop or a similar photo editing application which can be tedious. The photos will also still be posted one by one on a user’s home feed which may not appear to be that enticing or interesting to them, and could just confuse your audience if they don’t understand what you’re creating.
Boomerang & Hyperlapse Instagram Apps
Boomerang and Hyperlapse are external Instagram tools, just like Layout, that help create GIF style videos/photos and animated content. While creating full-fledged video content can be relatively expensive and definitely more time consuming, Boomerang and Hyperlapse are easier, more relatable and can be really creative due to the fact that they are extremely short and unfiltered. Boomerang creates loop videos that have a unique repetition feature to them, while Hyperlapse creates sped up time-lapse style videos. You can use these formats to create goofy and fun pieces of content that are quirky yet relatable to others, for example, a funny Boomerang of a colleague or yourself dancing, a model doing multiple poses, etc. The possibilities are endless and very fun!
Styles of Content on Instagram
Here are the most commonly used styles of content that you can create for your own Instagram page. To elevate your Instagram feed right from the get-go and to start cultivating a professional and high-quality style of content on your feed, try using Instagram templates. You’ll be able to post beautiful and consistent content without needing any graphic design expertise.
Instagram’s audience really seems to like motivational posts and content, which is why it is so popular on the platform. Be it fitness related motivation, or just quotes about hustling in life, it is all received incredibly well. Be creative with all the content you create—therefore a motivational quote need not necessarily be just that.
The first step to posting this type of content is to find motivational quotes, and that’s as easy as a quick google search. Find ones that suit the tone and mood that you would like to set with your post and ones that also resonate with your brand’s image and message.
If you, or a colleague, are adept at using editing tools such as Adobe Photoshop, you can come up with some creative ways to turn the words into a visually appealing image or video. However, if you don’t have the required technical know-how to do that yourself, you could use simple editing software such as Canva, Font Candy, PicLab or any other free app that is widely available for mobile and desktop platforms alike, to achieve your desired design result. When using these apps, remember to draw focus to the text or quote and keep simple rules in mind: Avoid clashing colors, keep the background simple so that the text stands out and use an easily readable font style and size.
A few tips to consider when picking the right kind of motivational content would be:
- To Avoid Cliches: Don’t use a quote that is pasted all over the internet and is so overused that it has lost all its meaning.
- Look for Quotes that Resonate With Your Brand: Before posting a quote to your Instagram page ask yourself if it resonates with your industry. Does it address an issue faced by people who relate to your brand? Think about how it might be perceived by your audience. Need to work on defining your brand? Check out this Branding Guide.
- Keep Your Text Readable & Choose Your Font With Consideration: Not only is the background important, so is the font you use in the foreground. Serif fonts are considered more traditional while San Serif fonts are considered to be sleeker and contemporary—what feel are you going for? Which one would better suit your brand’s personality? While these might seem like trivial matters to ponder over, constructing a brand image to be exactly the way you picture it takes attention to details just like this. Choosing the right font is important, just don’t spend ALL your time on the fonts!
Storytelling is an art and a strong tool in the arsenal of a marketer. It caters to the primal side of our brains that date back to the times when tribes would gather around the fire to share stories. Remember this when creating a narrative-based visual content piece for your Instagram page.
Storytelling content transports your audience from one point to another with the help of a character/product that they can relate to or aspire to be. This means if you raise the stakes of the outcome, the stronger the reaction you will evoke. This reaction is the qualitative measure of your audience’s engagement and that’s what will keep them hooked to your narrative/storyline until the end.
Closure in the narrative is also just as important as it satisfies your audience. The end should be impactful, however, try to be subtle or completely forgo a “hard” sell, as the focus needs to be on the characters and/or the journey that you have spent so much time developing.
Many big sports brands, including the likes of Nike, do a fantastic job with storytelling content. There is drama, flare, excitement and impact all in equal dosage, making for a great story! They truly know how to pull their audience in and keep them wanting more. All this, plus a great caption, creates brilliant content on their Instagram feed!
UGC or User Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is a brilliant content and engagement strategy, both rolled into one! In this relatively new style of content creation and management, the audience or customers are the ones that create the content for the social media platforms. In most cases, this is extremely cost-effective and is the easiest form of content generation for you and your team. Furthermore, its effectiveness is proved by the fact that 92% of consumers have stated that they would trust a “peer review” or in this case, UGC, over the content that the company creates, solely because it has more weight and truth in it (also making it more relatable).
When posting User Generated Content on your account, always credit the creator in the social media post. Tagging them and adding their username to the caption when posting their pictures are some great ways to boost UGC in the future as it keeps the customers appreciative of the credit they receive.
Mentioning that a post is actually a “repost” with any due credit, will also save you from issues that may arise later. Keep in mind that the correct way to go about this would be to ask the person if it would be okay to use their photos or content before you actually do! It’s only polite and will save you from nasty trolls on the internet saying that you are stealing content. Contrary to some sayings, not all publicity is good publicity, especially in this case.
A Glimpse Into Your Workplace Culture or Lifestyle
Your customers and audience are the most likely group of people to be curious about your brand’s work culture and lifestyle. Giving them a glimpse behind the “closed doors” is a great way to connect to them as they feel like they are privy to something that not everyone is aware of—even though that’s not necessarily the case because you’re posting on an open platform. Instagram also has the Instagram Story feature that is perfect for this if you want to keep your behind-the-scenes posts more ephemeral. It keeps your audience entertained and up-to-date with your day-to-day happenings while keeping your actual Instagram grid free from all the clutter.
Additional Content and Strategy Based Tips for Instagram
This information is paraphrased from Inc.com’s article, 21 Things Every Brand Should Know About Instagram.
- The best times to post on Instagram are:
- Sunday: 5pm
- Monday: 7pm and 10pm
- Tuesday: 3 am and 10pm
- Wednesday: 5pm
- Thursday: 7am and 11pm
- Friday: 1 am and 8pm
- Saturday: 12am and 2am
- In 2017, top brands were posting 4.9 times per week on Instagram. This was a 50% increase from 2015. The top 5 brands on Instagram are:
- Nike Football: 28.2M followers
- 9GAG: 40.2M followers
- Victoria’s Secret: 55.6M followers
- Nike: 72.3M followers
- National Geographic: 77.7M followers
- The top filters in the world are Clarendon, Juno, and Gingham
Captions & Copy on Instagram
People often underestimate the power of a caption and how impactful that piece of copy can be. Your caption is a very important part of your marketing strategy and marketers can make the mistake of thinking that no one actually takes the time to read what’s written under the post.
Captions can add so much character and even provide a backstory to the visual piece of content that you have posted. It can serve as a call to action or just as a simple description—captions can be as versatile as you want them to be and help encourage engagement with your brand.
Here are some more great insights about the importance and usage of Instagram captions by the specialists in their respective fields, courtesy of Foundr.
“… Strong call to action in the photo, and also in the caption something like: click link in bio>>@millionaire_mentor. Make sure to put in your own name too, so it makes it easier for people to click on your bio link.” – Jason Stone, founder of Millionaire Mentor
“For captions, one of the mistakes a lot of people make is repeating or paraphrasing what’s in the picture/graphic you’re posting. If you don’t have anything extra or valuable to add in the caption, don’t write anything at all. That’s more powerful than being redundant. Think of your picture as the headline and the caption as the article. Get their attention with the graphic and then elaborate or explain more in the caption. Use it to provide your own twist or unique perspective on your post. The goal is to always add more value for your audience.” – Ruben Chavez, Content Creator at ThinkGrowProsper
“Try to have your captions on Instagram be as conversational as possible and in tune with how you talk and converse in real life. This creates trust and familiarity with your followers, which translates to loyal fans and ultimately, loyal customers too, outside of social media.” – Rhiannon Bosse, CEO and creative director of Hey Gorgeous Events
“Writing captions that actually tell a story has always been one of my favorite parts of photography. Being able to share a story and really help bridge the gap between viewers and the image really makes it so much more gratifying.” – Chris Burkard, Photographer
“Use good grammar, throw an emoji or two in there to keep things playful, and find that perfect balance between keeping things simple and telling a deeper story. People really will take the time to read a paragraph-long caption, but not if you do it every time!” – Laura Lawson, Travel journalist, social influencer, business owner
“Keep captions concise to maximize engagement; tag people in the photo or brands related to the image. If you’re an e-commerce venture, look to monetization tools like Like2b.uy and Have2have.it to direct Instagram traffic into your sales funnel.” – Carlo Pacis, Content Marketer at Wishpond
“Putting a question in your caption always creates interest and forces people to read and hopefully respond.” – Bianca Cheah, founder and MD of Sporteluxe
Influencer Marketing on Instagram
Influencer Marketing, quite simply put, is to use a well established “influencer” or celebrity on Instagram to market your products. While that definition may seem pretty bland, the psychology behind it is interesting.
Influencer marketing is no longer a hit-or-miss sort of game anymore. Unlike until a few years back, it isn’t just about getting a famous person to pose next to your product. Multiple studies have been conducted to establish why this form of marketing is so effective.
According to Bit.ly, influencer marketing delivers 11x the return on investment over all other types of digital media. 11 TIMES. What’s the reason for such a high return on investment?
The answer lies in Pavlov’s famous classical conditioning experiment from the 1900s. For those who aren’t aware of the iconic experiment: “The findings basically showed that the dogs created an association between the ringing of a bell and food (a.k.a. When a bell was rung, they anticipated a yummy dinner). Now, obviously consumers aren’t dogs, but this process of associative learning can be easily applied to influencer marketing.” (Tintup)
There are three major psychological concepts that are present when creating an influencer marketing campaign:
- An unconditioned stimulus (or a stimulus that naturally produces a response)
- A conditioned stimulus (or a stimulus that doesn’t naturally produce a response)
- A conditioned response (or a response that happens when the unconditioned and conditioned stimuli are paired up)
So, when a celebrity promotes a brand, it creates a generally positive response about that brand Example: Usain Bolt (unconditioned stimulus) promoting an internet service provider brand (conditioned stimulus) creates the effect of the internet company providing “the fastest high-speed wireless internet” (conditioned response).
In other studies, it has been found that the majority of people are influenced by secondhand information and opinion leaders. Research has also proven that credibility is the most likely feature to stump a celebrity presence. For example, Gordon Ramsay promoting a brand of kitchen knives on Instagram is a more credible source than if Michael Phelps were to promote a brand of kitchen knives on Instagram. This shows that finding the right influencer, one who’s a credible source of industry experience and opinion, can do wonders for your brand and your marketing strategy.
“There are exceptional people out there who are capable of starting epidemics. All you have to do is find them.” – Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
The best part about influencer marketing is the fact that you can actually quantify the value of the influencer in terms of money and analyze whether the return on the investment would be a good one. It is important to keep in mind that just because your engagement or traffic hasn’t gone through the roof, it doesn’t mean that the campaign was unsuccessful. There are other, more intangible, metrics that also come into play here:
- How is your brand being perceived after an influencer marketing campaign?
- Is it different?
- Has the type of engagement changed?
- Are comments more positive?
- Do other relevant brands want to collaborate or work with you because of the campaign?
The value that influencer marketing provides is more than just numbers, which is why more and more brands turn to this format. Trust and credibility are given effects of the campaign, but statistically, 40% of users’ purchase decisions have been swayed by posts from influencers. All this, while also getting around the “AdBlock” issue as influencer marketing is less intrusive and way more acceptable to consumers, thus your brand’s visibility is not blocked.
Influencer marketing also works on a barter system format, wherein you could swap or negotiate freebies in exchange for promotion on their behalf and vice versa.
As with every type of marketing campaign, there are steps to executing everything in an orderly fashion, as documented in this Influencer Marketing Ecosystem article by Izea:
- Influencer Discovery: Find the right Instagram influencer for your brand
- Influencer Contact: Reach out t0 the influencer, see if they’re interested in working with your brand, discuss rates and agree on a course of action. For information on how to successfully reach out to Instagram influencers, check out our 10 Tips for Creating an Effective Influencer Outreach Email Campaign.
- Content Creation: The influencer will create the content
- Content Distribution: The influencer will post the content to their Instagram grid and/or their Instagram stories
- Content Measurement: Track your analytics to see how the influencer’s content performs
- Budgeting and influencer payment: Always compensate the influencer you’ve partnered with based on what you’ve agreed on
To be able to get the maximum value from the campaign though, these aspects are imperative (as outlined by Izea):
- Have clear goals set
- Choose the right influencer for your brand and make sure that they are a good fit before starting a campaign with them
- Promote the content the influencer has produced in the right manner
Hashtags work by grouping mostly similar images with that same #tag on them. These little elements are vital to any marketing strategy. These tags make your images and posts more discoverable and easily searchable while providing context to the image or post itself. At any given point, Instagram will only allow you to use 30-33 relevant hashtags.
Even though hashtags improve your chance of connecting with a relevant audience, marketers often are embarrassed/ashamed or just plain don’t want to use them due to aesthetic reasons. In that case, you could try one of these ideas:
- Use one or two main hashtags that are the most relevant to you and post your content. After posting you can paste the rest of your hashtags in the comment section of the post. This way it is mostly hidden from your audience seeing the hashtags, but the post will still be tagged.
- As most people have now begun to do so, you can use the “…” tactic. After typing in your caption for the post, put anywhere between 10-20 periods downwards in a line and then paste your hashtags. Alternatively, you can do the exact same thing and post it in the first comment below the post so that just the caption is visible but the tags are not.
Pay attention to the hashtags that other people and businesses in your industry use and the ones that are trending in your particular niche. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new ones to know what works for you. Make a note of these hashtags, ideally in your phone’s notepad app so that all you have to do is copy and paste them whenever you want to post something.
Hashtags can even help you discover influencers that you might want to work with or let someone else discover you—they can truly help you build a community if you use the right ones.
Here is some great advice from Foundr for newcomers to the hashtag game:
“Research trending hashtags in your niche and don’t be afraid to use them. If you are starting out or trying to build your Instagram audience, use those hashtags like you are calling in your army! The competition is too fierce and there are tens of thousands of people doing exactly what you are doing, so hashtags are one of the only ways to distinguish yourself from similar profiles and attract your niche audience.” – Zahara Jade, community manager at Hire Influence
Share for Share (S4S)
Share for Share is another brilliant content and growth strategy. This particular strategy can help you grow exponentially in a matter of a few months, and that too—organic growth.
Share for Share or S4S is fairly straightforward—where two accounts share each other’s content as a trade. If you choose the right partner to swap content with, you can be tapping into an entirely new, yet relevant audience base.
While way too many people do engage in such tactics—such as f4f (Follow for Follow), l4l (Like for like), etc.—you have to be a bit wary as to whose content you are sharing and who is sharing yours. This isn’t just about numbers, it’s about creating a supportive and like-minded community and forming relationships that could potentially lead to sales.
S4S is often touted as the #1 way to grow—for free. It is an effective strategy that plenty of people have used to grow their own following.
Popular Third-Party Apps for Instagram
Here are some popular third-party apps that are used by digital marketers and a little information about each of them.
On Later’s website, the features listed are:
“At Later, we believe that there should be a simpler way to plan your visual content marketing. Aggregating, storing, planning, and optimizing your visual content marketing campaigns should take as little time as possible so you can spend your time making the best campaigns possible.
Started at a hackathon in 2014, Later (formerly known as Latergramme) has evolved from an easy-to-use scheduling tool for Instagram posts. Now a top-ranked visual content marketing platform, Later lets you aggregate and plan your content, grow your audience, and share your photos and videos.
With a growing community of over half a million of the most recognized influencers, brands, and agencies like Yelp, Lonely Planet, The Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal, Later is dedicated to creating a simpler way for you to share your story through photos and videos, and build those valuable relationships necessary to growing your brand.”
On Repost’s website, the features listed are:
“Makes it easy to #Repost your favorite photos & videos on Instagram while giving credit to the original Instagrammer.”
On Iconosquare’s website, the features listed are:
“Make smarter decisions using better insights – Understand and improve performance on key social metrics, from audience growth to engagement.
Save precious time – Manage conversations with ease. Track and moderate comments on all your latest posts across networks.
Plan and schedule your content – Plan ahead. Draft, schedule, and preview your posts with our easy interface. NEW – Instagram automatic posting is now available for Instagram Business profiles.
Find the best influencer for your business – Unleash the power of influencer marketing. Find the best Instagram influencers for your business in no time.”
In today’s number obsessed world, data-driven decisions and tactics are the only ones that truly matter. Marketers base their campaigns on the data they collect and to be able to succeed on platforms such as Instagram, every small detail about the kind of content that your audience likes, is extremely valuable. From what you post to when you post to the hashtags you use, every single element makes a difference.
While there are various different third-party apps that can help track the multiple variables that need to be logged, the new Instagram analytics for business is insightful and, most importantly, doesn’t need a separate app. While some marketers believe that tracking metrics such as followers, likes and comments, does the job, others look into the nitty-gritty.
If you are willing to go that extra mile, take a closer look at who engages with your content through comments and Direct Messages. These are the members of the audience who are highly engaged with your content and are assets to your business and brand. Treat them well, appreciate the fact that they engage with your content and give them more opportunities to do so through collaborations and projects.
To get an even more in-depth look at the numbers and what they reveal, marketers often sway towards using apps and platforms such as Iconosquare to know who their top followers are and when the best time to post is.
Brad Cameron, founder of Build Your Empire Magazine, shares his insights—“I use Socialblade.com to track follower growth per day. I also use Socialrank.com to track who exactly is following me, that way I can see which popular influencers are following me so I can easily reach out to them to ask if I can provide any value and build a relationship.” (Source: Foundr).
Understanding the Instagram Algorithms
Instagram’s algorithms are complex and mysterious. Yet, if you create good content, you will get the eyeballs you deserve. But how does this happen? While we may not know much about how exactly the Instagram algorithm works, Buffer explains that it is based on 7 key factors:
Engagement: How popular the post is. As a post gets published, it’s shown to a “sample audience” to gauge how they would react to it. If the audience engages with the post right away then that is a positive, which means that the post will start appearing on more people’s feeds—making it rank higher. The type of engagement that is monitored includes comments, likes, views, saves, shares, etc. If someone you know has engaged with a post, it might appear on your feed too as it would assume that it’s possibly relevant to you. This doesn’t mean that posts that have lower engagement levels will completely drop off your feed. If it’s relevant, it’ll still stay on the top.
Relevancy: The genres of content you are interested in and have interacted with. As mentioned above, the timeline will show you the content that you would most likely enjoy. The assumptions are based on our previous actions on the account, which genre we enjoy and that sort of thing. That, coupled with the fact that photo software can easily identify individual elements through the use of technology, and by categorizing them accordingly, is a simple way to basically show you what you want. Therefore, if there is a particular genre that you happen to engage with more, chances are that it will be higher up on your feed.
Relationships: Content from your friends and people you interact most with is usually ranked higher on your feed. This is made possible because Instagram is now owned by Facebook and Facebook most likely has information regarding your closest relations. Furthermore, it also depends on:
- People whose content you like (possibly including stories and live videos)
- People you direct message
- People you search for
- People you know in real life
Timeliness: How recent the posts are. Instagram wants to keep the latest and most relevant posts on the top of your feed. With so much data constantly being uploaded to the platform constantly, it recognizes the fact that something from a week back will be not of as much interest to you than something that was posted a few minutes ago, so even if the older post had more engagement, you will still see newer posts first. This means that the timing of your post is also taken into account, therefore, extremely important. If the platform re-arranges all new posts between your last visit and your current visit, then it would make sense to post your content at the peak of your audience’s activity as they are most likely to see it and you are less likely to have competition (for example: early in the morning between 9am–10am).
Profile Searches: The accounts you check out often. The platform recognizes profile searches as a signal when arranging and ranking posts for you. When you repeatedly look for individual profiles, Instagram will recognize this as interest in that profile’s content and it’s absence on your feed. This causes the platform to consciously rank posts from those individual accounts higher on your feed to save you the trouble of searching for the profile manually. This is done in order to improve the user experience.
Direct Shares: Whose posts you are sharing. This is another indicator from users to Instagram about their interests. Firstly, sharing the content of an account indicates that the posts are relevant to you, thus the algorithm will take that into consideration. Secondly, the people that you share the content with are considered as those that you have “relations” with, as per point two.
Time Spent: The duration spent viewing a post. The amount of screen time that you give certain content is measured by Facebook. As Facebook now owns Instagram, it is likely that the latter platform has the same kind of algorithm, too. This would mean that Instagram also ranks relevant content for you based on how much time you spend on certain kinds of posts.
Other factors that may affect post rankings, as per Makelight, include:
- How regularly you open the app
- How regularly you post
- How many likes an image has in total
- What an image’s recent like rate is
- How old the image is
- Whether the post is a video
- Whether an image is from a “business” account versus a personal one
- How active the image poster has been today—how many comments and likes have they made?
- How many of an image poster’s images you’ve commented on or liked recently
- How many hashtags the image has
- Even… What the weather is today!
The fact of the matter is, that the new Instagram algorithm is actually beneficial to digital marketers. The above-mentioned factors just go to prove that if you are consistently creating content that is engaging, the platform will automatically boost that content. This form of rearranging the posts based on engagement rather than just relying on images being shown on user’s feeds in chronological order actually works to your advantage if you create a lot of content that your audience enjoys
It is evident that Instagram is an invaluable tool for digital marketers or any business looking to build a loyal customer base, establish an online presence and drive sales by boosting conversion rates. Instagram really does give an immense amount of potential for businesses to be discovered by their target audience, if and when used correctly. It may seem slightly challenging in the beginning but with enough time, practice and experimentation with all the tips and tricks of acing the “Instagram game”, you will soon begin to develop your own unique voice on the platform.
We hope this guide on how to get followers on Instagram has helped you. Are there any other tips and tricks that you utilize to drive your sales through Instagram? Let us know in the comments below!