If you ask any social media marketer what their number one Instagram question or concern is, the majority will say it’s how to get more followers. While many users will say that they don’t care about how many Instagram followers they have, it’s a simple fact that the bigger audience you have, the more people and potential customers you are able to reach. Rather than an empty number, think of your follower count as the size of your community.
While you definitely shouldn’t forget about all of your other Instagram goals and objectives, your number of followers can reflect the success of your other efforts. It’s always nice to know that your message is being well-received and resonating with your audience, and a follower count is one way of measuring this.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
9 Instagram marketing tactics
A solid strategy and dedicated effort on your part will undoubtedly show in the number of followers you have and the size of the community you have built. To help you build your community through your own Instagram strategy, we’ve put together the following guide.
1. Use hashtags
A hashtag is a great way of increasing your exposure and engaging your audience. But it’s easy to become a hashtag abuser—something that will have the opposite effect on your audience and community. To help make sure you never enter this tempting territory, our guide to “The Do’s and Don’ts of How to Use Hashtags” offers the following tips:
- Do be specific when using hashtags
- Do cater hashtags to the social network you are using
- Do come up with relevant, unbranded hashtags
- Don’t go too long or too clever
- Don’t have more hashtags than words
- Don’t hashtag everything
Along with unbranded hashtags relevant to your business, using a branded hashtag is something that can help create community among you and your customers. As our guide “8 Ways to Get Likes and Followers on Instagram” explains, “Your brand will benefit by increasing your exposure to new customers, and your customers will benefit from the love they see from your brand engagement. It’s a great way to motivate the Instagram community to engage with your brand, and showcase some user-generated content on your brand’s page.”
Whether you use a generic hashtag such as #health or a branded one such as #HootsuiteLife, hashtags are a great way of organizing your content and growing your community.
2. Host a takeover
For most businesses, your brand fits into a certain space and market within the community. A way to connect with other members of your community is through hosting an Instagram takeover, where you invite an influencer, employee, ambassador, or active member of your community to takeover your Instagram feed for the day. Hosting an Instagram takeover can help you achieve many of your social media goals, whether that is boosting audience engagement, getting more Instagram followers, or building an authentic brand voice.
At a recent event, Zach Berman of The Juice Truck (who have an Instagram community of almost 30,000 followers) spoke on the power of takeovers, explaining that allowing someone else to takeover their Instagram account every two to three months helps the company take their social media to a whole new level. As a collaborative affair, Berman explained that an Instagram takeover allows The Juice Truck to bring someone else’s perspective and take on the brand to life, while also growing the playful nature of their brand’s social media presence.
The Juice Truck’s recipe for a successful Instagram takeover includes the following tips:
- To connect with possible takeover candidates who you have no previous relationship, start commenting on or liking their photos to get a feel for their brand voice.
- Take photos with another company’s product and tag them in it to earn valuable attention.
- Make new connections, but also grow and nurture the connections you already have. Don’t just approach people who have a lot of Instagram followers, but those you have a relationship with (whether in “real-life” or initially just through social media).
- Review your brand language and voice closely with the individual or team, but allow space for their own voice to shine through.
- Consider the candidate’s online community and audience that they have behind them, and whether this is a good fit for your own brand.
- Remember, you don’t always have to say yes if you don’t feel it’s a good fit and the other person doesn’t align with your core values. But never close off a potential future relationship and always be respectful.
If you’re a Hootsuite user, you can adjust the user permissions so that you can grant access to your guest Instagram poster, without handing over your business’ account password. This also allows for you or the brand manager to review the content before it’s posted, meaning a seamless and on-brand campaign.
3. Hold contests
It’s a universal truth that everybody loves free things. Although you might hate the thought of giving something away, the truth is that the upfront cost of the prize will be more than worth it if you consider the advertising or marketing costs associated with generating the same amount of buzz a contest can create. Wishpond explains: “One contest can generate the same engagement and increase in followers as hundreds of pieces of content, saving you hours of work and energy.”
Running a contest on Instagram is a great way to reward your current followers, as well as attract new followers to your brand’s page—especially if your contest requires participants to tag a friend in the comments of your images. Some other ideas for Instagram contests include:
- “Like” to win contests—participants enter by liking your photos
- Commenting contests—participants have to comment to enter
- “Choose your own adventure” contests—participants follow through a series of your photos (or both yours and a partner’s) to find the winning post
User-generated content contests are also a fantastic way of engaging your community and growing your following. Ask your audience to post a relevant photo to Instagram and have them use your custom contest hashtag. With this method, you’re not only holding a contest, but building a community through those engaged with the hashtag. Added bonus? You have the option of resharing contest entries, thus creating new content for your account.
I have begun following accounts that appear in my ‘Explore’ page based solely on the fact that they are running a contest that requires me to do so. Long after the contest is over, I’m still following these accounts for one of two reasons: 1.) I’ve forgotten to unfollow them or 2.) they post interesting, valuable, or beautiful content. If your goal is to get more Instagram followers, than either of these customer scenarios will work for you—however we, of course, always recommend aiming for the second, more-reliable option.
If you’re looking for a simple way to run an Instagram contest, Hootsuite Campaigns allows you to:
- Display entries on a contest page, your own Instagram page, or other social networks
- Accept entries via a hashtag or by a required mention
- Enable voting and commenting on entries to boost engagement
Contests are a great way to gain more followers on Instagram, so take some time to reward your followers for their dedication to your brand.
4. Work with brand ambassadors
Another way to gain followers on Instagram is through working with brand ambassadors. Our post “6 Reasons Why You Need Brand Ambassadors for Your Business,” explains that “A brand ambassador will endorse the products and services of your company as well as embody your corporate identity in appearance, demeanor, values, and voice.” Think about the people who seem most enthusiastic about your product, service, or message and build a relationship with them.
Having these brand ambassadors is beneficial for so many reasons related to gaining Instagram followers and building your community, such as:
- Humanizing your brand
- Increasing your social reach
- Helping protect your online reputation
- Providing positive word-of-mouth
- Helping increase traffic to your website
- Helping increase awareness of your brand in regions where you’re not present
For The Juice Truck, brand ambassadors are either part of their team, or individuals who love the brand and support what they do. Berman explains: “Similar to a takeover, we look for someone who is building a community and shares our values. This is someone who is already a core member of our community and has been a part of our brand for awhile. It’s a great way to thank them for all the support that they bring to the team.” When looking for brand ambassadors, The Juice Truck asks the following questions:
- Is this someone who shares our brand’s values?
- Is this someone who we’d want to hang out with, outside of a professional relationship?
- Is this someone who we could build a long-term, rather than a one-off, relationship with?
By asking these questions and carefully considering all aspects of a brand ambassador or brand ambassador program, you are sure to grow your Instagram following and community.
5. Find a community
With over 400 million users, there’s a good chance that no matter how niche your product or service is, you’ll be able to find your people. Whether it’s food, fashion, health, technology, or dachshunds who love costumes, there is sure to be a community for you to join and connect with.
Identify some communities that are relevant to your brand or industry, and pay attention to:
- Top influencers within the community
- Hashtags being used within the community
- The style of photos and subject matter shared by top accounts
- Popular engagement tactics used within the community (i.e. does the audience respond well to question posts? Special offers and contests? Listen and pay attention to what works.)
- Who the top influencers mention and tag in their own posts, and in what context
After you truly immerse yourself and participate authentically in your Instagram community, use the information you gather to guide the direction of your Instagram strategy. If possible, it’s also a great idea to take your online community offline. At Hootsuite we get to know our community through Hootups— free events organized by Hootsuite users for social media enthusiasts around the world to connect, explore and learn about social media and Hootsuite. The Juice Truck also recognizes the power of building community through both online and offline relationships, and offer the following tips for any brand doing so:
- Tell your story, and get to know the stories of others within your community. “As a small business you want to see other businesses do well, so we went to create these connections and started to collaborate.”
- Make your content shareable so that your community is eager to engage with you and follow along with your story.
- Host offline, in-person events with purpose. Always ask yourself what you are hoping to gain and what you hope your community will gain.
- Ask yourself why you are building a community, and continuously remind yourself of this.
Your community is core to your brand’s success, so any time spent building and fostering the growth of this significant asset is never wasted.
6. Share video
Video is in the spotlight for social media marketing in 2016, so if you want to bring more attention to your brand and grow your Instagram following, using video is a safe bet. As so much of Instagram’s beauty lies within the ability to tell stories through your posts, video allows you to do this even more dynamically.
Instagram videos see twice the engagement rate of photos, which is a pretty clear indication that it’s time to either start, or pay more attention to, the video capabilities of the platform. Create clear, fun, and engaging videos that people are going to want to tag their friends in. Some tips for creating social video include:
- Design it to be shareable from the get-go
- Use the power of storytelling
- Make the customer the hero, and engage them
- Tap into your audience’s emotions (which leads to sharing)
Along with some photo apps, we’ve rounded up a few mobile video editing apps that can help you bring your Instagram videos to the next level. To put these to use, Social Media Examiner offers the following suggestions for ways to use Instagram video in your content marketing strategy:
- Shoot a product demo and answer FAQs
- Create a visual portfolio of your work
- Highlight special offers and events
- Invite fan and follower submissions via hashtags
- Humanize your brand
- Increase engagement on Facebook
Videos are another way to exercise your creativity, engage your audience, and build a community to help you gain more followers.
7. Post strategically
Most aspects of business are reliant on time, and your Instagram marketing efforts are no different. It’d be tough to try and gain more followers if they aren’t on Instagram when you’re posting your best content.
First, you want to think about something obvious but which many marketers forget to pay attention to: your target audience’s time zone. If you live in San Francisco but a core part of your community resides in New York, those three hours can make the difference between catching someone as they’re scrolling their phone first thing in the morning, or missing them because they’re already in the throes of their workday.
As our previous post, “How to Get More Instagram Followers,” explains, “The most effective way of determining the best time to post on Instagram is by testing how your photos perform at different times of day. If you notice that photos you post in the mornings are consistently earning you more likes, comments, or followers than those posted in the afternoon or evening, then adjust your content schedule accordingly.” We at Hootsuite found 8:00 p.m. is the best time of day for our Instagram posts, as our North American audience is getting ready for bed, and our Australian and Asian audiences are just beginning their days.
8. Like and comment on photos
It may seem obvious, but a surefire way of growing your Instagram following is through interacting with other users’ content. I definitely used to be guilty of scrolling without ever liking or commenting on anybody else’s photos or images, but once I realized that wasn’t helping me make connections, I changed my ways.
Even people who claim that they just post on Instagram for themselves and nobody else, or “don’t care about the Likes,” enjoy the feeling of seeing a notification pop up to tell them that somebody has appreciated their post.
It takes a fraction of a second to Like an Instagram photo, but it will bring your brand’s account to the forefront of a user’s mind. Social media powerhouse Neil Patel found “For every one hundred likes I did on random photos of other users (whom I didn’t follow), I generated 21.7 likes on my photos and 6.1 more followers. I did not have to follow people back for this to work.” While this is great if your main goal is to increase your follower count, I recommend engaging with content that is relevant to your brand or industry rather than simply liking random photos.
Take a look at your ‘Explore’ page and double-tap to Like photos that resonate with you and align with your brand values. If you’re an interior designer, show some love to photos of homes, gardens, furniture, art, or anything else that you feel you could have (or wished you had) posted yourself. By staying active in your brand’s interest community, your photos will begin showing up in relevant users’ own ‘Explore’ pages, bringing your content to more audience members and helping grow your community.
9. Ask questions
Whether as part of a contest, or simply as a means of getting your audience to actively engage with your content, asking questions is a great way of gaining more Instagram followers. For example, if you run a store you can post pictures of your new products and ask audience members which ones they’re most excited for. If you are a fashion label, ask your audience how they would wear a specific piece of your clothing. With a little bit of creativity, the possibilities are endless.
By asking the right questions, your account can become a hub for industry conversations, bringing more potential followers and community members to your page. As our post “7 Social Media Tactics You Should Use Today” suggests, “If you’re feeling stuck about what kinds of questions might engage your audience, one of my favorite places to find question inspiration is Quora, where questions are being asked and answered at an unprecedented pace.” For further inspiration, Instafamed provides a list of questions to ask your Instagram followers. Ask the right questions, and you should see your audience respond with valuable and insightful answers—allowing you to get to know them better.
Learning how to get more Instagram followers isn’t so much about increasing a number on your profile, but rather about building and growing your brand’s community. With some effort and authentic engagement tactics, you should see your Instagram village grow.
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