By now you know how important social media is to your business, in terms of promoting your products, increasing sales and perhaps most importantly, building your brand. Facebook and Twitter get all the attention but there’s a new kid on the block who is just as effective and, according to research, even more effective at increasing your reach and sales- this new kid is Instagram and in less than 7 years since it’s been released, it has pulled in about 700 million monthly active users as of April 2017, for reference, this makes Instagram about thrice the size of Twitter.
This makes it a most valuable resource you cannot afford to overlook; and as any small business owner with a social media account will undoubtedly know, sometimes sharing your products and other information about your business on social media can feel like you’re speaking into the void; that’s not quite the case when you’re on Instagram, it has shown to have the highest rate of engagement of all other social media platforms.
The question now is not whether you should add Instagram to your business promotion efforts, but how to grow your following. That is quite a simple task to do, there are a few proven methods to get you started, if you haven’t already, and they work just as well if you want to grow your following.
Build A Feeling Of Community
In this age of the global village, people want to feel connected to other people, be it their friends and family who live just three steps away from them or making connections with people miles away, through the power of the internet. You can use your products and brand to help build that sense of kinship. How can you build this sense of community, you ask? Well, there are a few simple ways to do this:
— Get your customers who buy your products to put up pictures of themselves using, wearing or having a jolly old time with your product and have them tag you in the pictures. In turn, you can post the picture on your company’s official account. Imagine how honoured and special they would feel knowing that a brand they know and love has recognized them and acknowledges them, this will foster good feelings which they will associate with your brand. Another benefit of this is social proof, people are more likely to trust your business and buy your product when they see other people doing so. What’s more, they know and see that they have something in common with, they’ll feel part of an exclusive group, or that will be one of their #SquadGoals, as they say on the 'Gram'.
— Expanding more on the previous point, you can put a call to action on your posts by asking your followers to “Tag a friend”. By asking your followers to tag someone they know who might be interested in your post, you’re getting direct targeting for free.
— It’s also a great idea to always include the GEOTAG feature on every one of your posts, this will help your sales according to a study done in the UK and another done in the US. Knowing you’re a small, independent business that is close to them is a plus for you.
Promotions and Giveaways
With 41 percent of Instagrammers saying they follow a brand because of promotions, perks and giveaways, you can’t afford to leave this option out. Here’s how to organize a simple contest for your followers:
1– Decide which one of your items you want to give away, it should preferably be one of your best selling products, a small collection of related products, or a significant gift card they can use to buy something from your store.
2– Post an image of the prize and add the process of entering, how long it’ll run for and how they’ll win, in the caption. The easiest way to enter an Instagram contest, according to 33% of Instagrammers, is to post an official hashtag.
3– Make sure to remind your followers of the contest a few days later by posting it again.
4– After the time is up, pick a winner, post the announcement and congratulate them.
Check out this post for a more detailed description on running a giveaway.
Hashtag like a pro
Unlike Facebook and Twitter where using too many hashtags reduces engagement, Instagrammers absolutely love them.
Instagram limits the number of hashtags you can add to a post to 30, that’s plenty of space to include enough hashtags to reach the customers and followers you’re hoping to get. Don’t just randomly include hashtags in your posts though, make sure they are relevant to your brand and product. It’s a good idea to include the most popular hashtags but also add those that are not as popular so you’ll appear at the top of the search feed for those ones too. Using tools like IconoSquare, Websta and Hashtagify, you can do your research to find related hashtags and how popular each one is.
It’s also advisable to come back to this hashtag research every few months to stay on top of the trend and the most popular hashtags, as they change periodically. Here’s a pro tip from Richard who owns a few online businesses, and has worked out how to use hashtags in his favour:
For every product and product category for my stores, I have done the research to see which are the most popular Instagram hashtags around those product categories. I came up with 15-20 popular hashtags for each category of products I sell, as well as a base of 5-10 popular tags that describe my brand and product offering overall. Finally, I also created a list of popular local specific hashtags that relate to my brand.
(Brand Keyword Hashtags)
#mybrandname #mensfashion #mensaccessories #mensgoods #fashion #mensstyle #instafashion #menswear
(Product Category Keyword Hashtags)
#bugatchisocks #happysocks #corgisocks #socks #sockswag #socksoftheday #sockgame #sockswagg #socksofinstagram #happysockday #sockwars #funsocks #happysockday
(Location Specific Keyword Hashtags)
#Toronto #TorontoFashion #TorontoFashionBloggers
All of these groups of keyword hashtags are stored in a page on Evernote. This makes it easy and efficient when I’m on the go to post a new Instagram image, optimized for the most relevant keywords. I can easily open my Evernote and copy my standard brand, product and location specific hashtags to post with each photo.
If your hashtag game has been less than stellar in the past, have no fear. Just go back to your old posts, armed with your new, improved arsenal of tags and post them as a comment, and watch the likes, comments and followers roll in.
Use the second language of the Internet
With nearly 50% of all captions and comments on Instagram having at least one emoji, there is no doubt about how popular it is and this popularity is still growing. If you’re looking for a way to humanize your texts, add some colour and liveliness to your captions so you get more interactions, then you can’t afford to overlook them.
In fact, there are three key places, according to Sue B. Zimmerman where emojis can help increase your followers and sales. These are:
— Your Bio: Use emojis to highlight keywords and guide visitors from caption to caption
— Your CTA (Call To Action): use emojis to tell readers to click a link, fill out a form or engage with the CTA
— Your comments: use emojis to make your comments stand out and get noticed
Since the introduction of the iOS emoji keyboard, the increase in use has been quite staggering and this was further increased when android received native support for them later.
And to find out which emojis were the most popularly used, Simply Measured carried out a survey in 2015 called the Instagram Industry Report and found out the heart emoji was king.
And since hashtagging emojis was introduced by Instagram, they have become quite popular as well and Curalate set out to find the 100 most popular emojis being added to hashtags, here again, the heart is reigning supreme.
Emojis add another element to any text, by including emotions in a digital format you’re bringing more meaning and depth to whatever words are being written.
It’s all a matter of time
Not only is it good for you to post fairly regularly on your Instagram, you should also choose the best times to increase the level of engagement you get from your followers. With the introduction of an algorithm that gives priority to posts with higher engagement which replaces the chronological feed, with the reason that people miss about 70% of their feed, it has become even more important to post at the best times. So now when you post a picture, the more likes and comments it gets, the more it signals Instagram that it is quality and thus highly engaging, so it gets moved to the top of more of your followers feeds thus it gets seen by more people and gets even more interaction; higher engagement leads to more visibility which leads to more engagement which gives you more visibility, it’s a slippery slope which you must get on!
On this topic, there have been extensive studies and research done to figure out the best times of the day and days of the week to post to all your social media pages, not just Instagram, CoSchedule puts together sixteen different studies, Hootsuite also has theirs, and Later has one that focuses solely on Instagram.
As you can imagine, it’s going to take a bit of figuring out to determine the best time for you, you can get a rough idea of what to do by thinking about who your target audience is and what their day is typically like. What time would they usually wake up? Will they check their feed first thing in the morning? Will they be going to school or work? How long will their commute take and what times are they likely to leave home? What times will they go for lunch? What time will they be done with the workday and be heading home?
You should aim for times when your target audience is more likely to be unoccupied and has time to kill. The general guidelines are:
— For the days of the week, Monday through to Friday are best
— Although Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays seem to drive more engagement, the best times to post each day are 2am, 8am – 9am and 5pm
— The worst time to post is between 3pm – 4pm
— Videos do really well between 9pm – 8am
Of course these findings are mainly based on American data but it can be easily applied to most other countries around the world. And in that regard, a major consideration must be which country or timezone a bulk of your target audience is from. You’ll have to calculate that to be sure you get them at a time when they are up and going about their day.
Another factor that has been shown to affect how much your followers interact with your posts is the filter you use to style your pictures. The perfect filter can really enhance the colors and moods of your picture. According to a research , photos that have filters applied to them are 45% more likely to get commented on and 21% more likely to get liked.
Since you’re probably not a professional photographer, choosing the best filter from all the available ones is going to be quite the decision. There has been a relation found between engagement of posts and the filters used on those pictures. According to Iconosquare, the ten best filters, in order of hierarchy are:
— Normal(no filter)
— X-Pro II
Canva also did their research, looking at the geolocation and filters data of more than one million Instagram photos from around the world and came up with some interesting findings. According to their results:
— Clarendon is the number one filter in the USA and the world over
— Juno is the second best filter around the world while Gingham is the second best in America
— Juno and Lark are number three in America while Gingham is third best in the whole world
— For pictures of nature, the best is Valencia, followed by Normal (No Filter), the Brooklyn
— For fashion photos, Kelvin tops all, then comes Valencia, third best is Nashville
— Pictures of food are best filtered with Skyline, second comes Normal, third is Helena
— For selfies, Normal does best, then comes Slumber, followed by Skyline
Canva gives a few other pointers and uses for various filters and how they enhance your pictures. Ultimately, you will probably go with whatever looks good to you, and as you keep posting and interacting with your followers, you’ll get to know what your followers want and what appeals to them. You can use an app like IconoSquare to get more insights into the performance of your account or you could use Instagram’s own analytics tools, called Instagram Insights, which we’ll cover in another post.
Steal Your Competitors’ Followers
Here’s a trick Richard Lazazzera uses to get new followers, it’s a bit of work but seems to be quite effective. It makes sense, since your competitors’ followers have already shown interest in your particular niche.
He ran an informal test to see which method would pull the most followers. The way to get them to follow your page is to engage them, and the three methods he tried are:
— Follow a user
— Like a photo
— Comment on a photo
Here’s his description of his experiment in his own words;
“I ran an informal test with my business account to see how my competitors’ followers responded to my marketing advances. I targeted the followers of a close, local competitor. Since I know many of his followers would be local, I added my city to my profile to create a greater sense of familiarity between my brand and the people I am targeting.
I began by simply following 100 of my competitor’s followers. Later, I followed another 100 of my competitor’s followers but I also took the time to like one of their photos. Finally, I followed another 100 of my competitor’s followers and commented on one of each of the 100 user’s photos as well as liked that same photo.
Here were the results:
— Follow: 14% followback
— Follow + Like: 22% followback
— Follow + Like + Comment: 34% followback
Although there are many variables and the test was far from scientific, the results were clear. The more you put in and engage with people, the more you’ll get out of it.”
He’s laid out a really solid course of action, with enough evidence to support it. This is definitely a good tactic to use, especially if you want to attract more local followers.
So there you have it, a small list of the various way you can get more followers for your Instagram page. The best part is, all these methods are completely free and can be easily replicated. Let us know of any other tips and methods you use to increase your follower base.