Instagram is quickly becoming a focal point for brands looking to use social media to connect with current and potential new customers—and for good reason.
With high engagement rates and over 500 million active monthly users, it comes as no surprise then that gaining more Instagram followers is a high priority for any business using the platform.
If you’re just starting out on Instagram, posting photos can be pretty depressing. When all your excitement and hard work are met by nothing more than few likes from a handful of followers, it’s easy to get discouraged, even if you know the benefits of social media marketing, which are waiting if you can find success with your initiative.
Aligning Post Content To The Target Audience
Nathan knew that he wanted to get involved with Instagram but first needed to understand the type of content to best engage his audience with. This can often be the biggest challenge facing businesses on Instagram, and some just end up posting whatever they feel like.
Nathan’s idea was simple. Create powerful quotes that entrepreneurs and business owners could relate to. Give them the inspiration to keep building every single day. In return, he could start building a small community of engaged Entrepreneurs that may eventually subscribe to Foundr Magazine.
There’s a reason professional photographers tend to have such sizable Instagram followings: They know what makes a good photo. “I shoot [a mobile photo] as carefully as I would a DSLR shot,” Ketron said.
You don’t need to be a pro to master a few photo basics. A lot of what makes a good snap is just intuitive. Is your subject in focus? Do the colours contrast in an interesting way? Are there any particularly enticing angles? Are you photographing something that people will actually want to see? Take a quick online photography tutorial if you really want to hone your skills.
EDIT YOUR IMAGES
You should also invest in a good photo editing app, instead of resorting to Instagram’s limited filters and editing tools. Dasher says her go-to app is Afterlight. Irlin prefers VSCO CAM and Snapseed.
Really successful Instagram accounts tend to stick to a theme: a designer who posts behind-the-scenes peeks into the fashion industry; a food artist who does amazing things with rice and string beans; a world traveller with a flurry of snapshots from Paris, Portugal and Peru; a crafty celeb obsessive; and, of course, an abundance of adorable puppies and kittens.
STICK TO A SCHEDULE
It’s very important that your followers know when to expect a new picture. “If you’re going to be daily, you have to post daily,” Dasher told The Huffington Post. “Your audience will expect that rhythm.”
Lee also sticks to a daily schedule. “If I update my account once a week or too many at a time then disappear for weeks, it is unlikely that I can build a loyal following,” she told HuffPost in an email.
Find the best time to post
Use the insight you have about your customers to help determine the best time for posting on Instagram. For example, if your customers are typically people who work full-time jobs, chances are they won’t be checking Instagram between 9:00 and 11:00 am as often as they would be first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, or after work. However, if the new followers you hope to gain are stay-at-home parents, then this time frame of peak Instagram use may change.
The most effective way of determining the best time to post on Instagram is by testing how your photos perform at different times of the 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.
Post consistently (at least once a day)
Social media analytics tool Quintly analyzed over 5,000 profiles in early 2015 to learn that the average Instagram account posts once per day.
More intriguing: Accounts with the highest number of fans tend to post a bit more than that–up to 2 or 3 photos per day on average. This data might allow us to say that “more successful” accounts tend to post with a higher frequency.
Use the right filters
All those filters Instagram gives you to use aren’t just fun—choosing the right ones can actually lead to more views and engagement. Researchers from Georgia Tech and Yahoo Labs analyzed millions of photos and corresponding data on how frequently they were viewed and commented upon to determine that filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on than unfiltered ones. What kind of filter works best? After examining five different types, researchers found that the top filters to increase chances of views and comments are those that create:
higher exposurewarm temperatureshigher contrast
Higher exposure was the most tied to more views, and warmth had the biggest correlation with comments. Two types of filters had negative correlations: Saturation correlated to slightly lower views, and age effects led to lower comments. Curalate has a great infographic with even more specific pointers on optimizing the look of your image for greater engagement:
Study and load up on quality hashtags
We’ve explored hashtags a lot on the blog, but it seems that nowhere on social media are they quite as important as on Instagram. The right hashtags can expose your image to a large and targeted audience, and Instagram users don’t seem to get hashtag fatigue in the same way they might on other networks.
In other words, hashtags could be your best bet for growing a fast following on Instagram. Instagram allows for a maximum of 30 hashtags per post, and many power users max out this ability.
BUT DON’T USE TOO MANY
Lee told HuffPost that “hashtags are a great way to reach out to strangers who don’t know about my Instagram feed,” but she added that the tags should be relevant to the post. “I don’t believe in using too many hashtags as it gives an impression that you are desperate for likes,” she said.
has found the Instagram post description area to be very sacred ground. As such, he recommends to avoid using #hashtags when you can write compelling copy instead.
You can then comment on your own post with any related #hashtags you want to use, and it’ll have the same impact as including them in the description.
Which hashtags should you use?
It can be a little difficult to discover the right hashtags to add to your Instagram posts and I’d love to share a few tips with you here.
One method I use a lot is to look for hashtags on similar posts to mine. Here’s how I do it in a few quick steps:
Add a couple of relevant and obvious hashtags to my photo before posting it. Then I’ll click through to search those hashtags and scroll through other, similar photos that share my hashtag to see what other tags those users have added that I might add, too. Then I go back to my photo and edit it to add all the additional relevant hashtags I’ve found.
You can do this process in a more formalized way by searching and recording hashtags relevant to your brand, in a similar way you might do keyword research for a blog post. Brands are using hashtags to run unique campaigns as well—here’s a look at just a few:
Another way to discover hashtags is to check out the top 100 hashtags from Websta here. (You can also use Websta to search relevant keywords and find popular accounts.)OR THE APP ****
DO: Find and use what’s popular.
Use the Trendspottr app in Hootsuite to search for the most popular hashtags related to your product, service, or industry. Then, set up a stream in Hootsuite to monitor content posted with that hashtag on Instagram.
DO: Create your own hashtag.
Come up with your own hashtag that your audience will want to get on board with. Herschel Supply uses the hashtag #WellTravelled as part of their social marketing strategy, which their audience also uses to document their travels. This creates a strong sense of community while exposing the Herschel brand to new potential followers and customers.
For more on mastering the hashtag, check out The Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide for Business.
ENGAGEEEEEE – START A CONVERSATION
Share user generated content
In under 3 months, we grew our Instagram account by 60% – from 5,850 to 9,400 followers. And a large percentage of this growth was down to embracing and sharing user generated content.
The easiest way to think about user generated content is this: brands taking the best-of-the-best user content from around the web and featuring it on their own social media or other platforms while giving credit to the original creator (user).
At Buffer, we started the hashtags #BufferStories and #BufferCommunity to showcase the unique stories of our users. These hashtags have opened up a huge variety of content options from curated stories of digital nomads to social media tips from marketers. Each time we share a new UGC photo on Instagram we are sure to include these hashtags. Every once in a while we include a CTA along the lines of: “share your story using #BufferStories” to keep the campaign alive.
Make use of captions
Although Instagram is a highly visual platform, your photo captions play a big role in helping you get more Instagram followers. As we explain in our guide to writing great captions that drive engagement, there are important things to consider when adding captions to your post:
Ask questions. This will encourage your audience to leave a comment with their answer, and this type of engagement will help make your account visible to more people. In this example, Winners showcases their products while engaging their community, encouraging them to leave a comment on the photo.
Another strategy Nathan uses to increase the reach of his Instagram images is asking users to tag friends.
The post below is actually the most successful they’ve ever posted with over 1,600 comments.
A small tactic Nathan adds to question based posts is asking users to double tap if they agree. This is a big reason why Foundr has managed to drive over 1.4M image likes. If you don’t ask, you don’t get
Caption this pic – Floyd mayweather
– questions to drive engagement
– Use emojis
Emoji are becoming a universal method of expression—Instagram reports that nearly 50 percent of all captions and comments on Instagram now have an emoji or two. I know I’m drawn to them in posts and I’ve noticed some folks are even adding to their user names for a bit of extra pop.
Anthony Thompson explains over at PostPlanner how he earned 3x Instagram growth by calling on emojis to ignite engagement in both posts and comments—smart. He uses this adorable example from Sue Zimmerman to prove his point:
You can use emoticons from your mobile device to draw attention to certain areas of your description. Nathan uses these to ask users to visit the Foundr bio link (which is the only clickable link on your Instagram page).
– Tag a mate/friend
– caption this pic
– double tap
– comment, like, follow competitors followers to be even better – follow their engagers~
– like their posts & reposts (starbucks)
buy followers is wrong!
Running contests on Instagram can help further grow your audience, drive traffic to your website, and even help you sell a product. To enter the contest, ask people to either follow you, like, comment on one of your photos, use a specific hashtag, or repost one of your photos. Encouraging user-generated content as part of your contest will help you reach more people. Those who don’t follow you already will be exposed to your Instagram account through a post created by one of their friends, which is an effective way of building trust with new followers.
Benefit Cosmetics has successfully used Instagram contests to tie together the online and offline experience of their customers. For a recent campaign, they partnered with beauty retailer Ulta to run an Instagram contest that encouraged users to share a selfie after a visit with a brow expert at a local Ulta store. By following the @BenefitCosmetics account and posting their selfie using the hashtag #browbestie, the customer would be entered to win a year’s worth of brow service as well as $250 in Benefit products.
When you have a large audience you can start leveraging them to drive more awareness. One of the best ways to do this is via some sort of incentive.
Nathan runs competitions on Instagram giving away magazine subscriptions (which costs him nothing). In return, he drives users to tag friends and check you his podcast.
Branding in your images
Images are one of the most sharable forms of media we can use. In Nathan’s case, he wants to make sure that if they get shared inside Instagram or on other social platforms that it’s driving inherent value for his brand.
You’ll notice that for all his own images, Nathan includes his own branding. Another tip is to include links or memorable URL’s in images to send users to downloads, squeeze pages or even competitions.
LEVERAGING INFLUENCER MKT -For more on mastering the influencer marketing, check out The Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide for Business.
S4S with pages similar audiences (suggested profiles)
Usually, with a free S4S, you work with accounts around a similar size as yours to
make it fair. But if you’re impatient or also want to work with accounts much larger
than yours, you can get larger accounts to “shout you out”.
This is where you pay authoritative accounts in your industry to perform a “shoutout”,
where they share your content for a fee. They include a call to action in the caption to
follow your account or click the link in your bio.
Many Instagram accounts operate almost solely for this purpose – they have built up
strong followings just so they can charge other accounts to get in front of their
If you work with accounts with over 500,000 followers, you can usually see
anywhere between 20-50 new followers from one shoutout .
Shoutouts usually go up for a period of time from one hour to one day. The account
owner then removes them (because they’re no longer relevant). Don’t bother paying
for a shoutout to be up longer than a day. The amount of followers you’ll get from a
shout will have diminishing returns.
Shoutouts can cost anywhere from $5-$75+ depending on the size of the account and
the volume of shoutouts you pay for. Aim for around $50 per shoutout – you should be
able to work with large, engaged accounts for that price.
When you’re working with accounts for any of these paid methods, you need to come
up with the caption. Ensure the caption has a clear call to action to follow your
account, tagging you more than once in it:
Protip: Some of the accounts that charge for shoutouts are a bit shady. You’ll have to
monitor the account to make sure the shoutout is done. Also, make sure that you tell
them exactly what you want in the caption (and ensure they include the call to action
“follow [your username]” or any other call to action).
There’s another effective way to get more followers by working with other
accounts for paid opportunities.
There’s no mistaking these posts – the sole purpose of them is to drive followers to
These work like a shoutout, except that instead of reposting (or recreating) one of your
posts with an inspirational quote or image, the account takes a screenshot of your
account, and posts it to their account, asking their followers to follow you.
These can drive a flood of followers to your account if your content is compelling to
the host account’s audience, so naturally, they are more expensive than a shoutout.
Depending on the size of the account, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40-$150
per screenshot, or (as some Instagrammers call it) “screener”.
With “screeners”, we’ve seen 50-250 new followers or more.
Protip : How your account as a whole looks when somebody lands on your profile is
important for branding and visual appeal. This is especially true for screenshot
shoutouts. If you decide to do screenshot shoutouts, make sure the posts to your feed
work together and provide a compelling picture of what you do.
Different content to different strategies
Instagram allows users to upload videos between 3-60 seconds in length, and when the feature was introduced, more than 5 million were shared in 24 hours. However, an April 2015 study from Locowise found that only about 10% of all posts on Instagram are videos right now, but they’re getting 18% of all comments. This shows there’s still plenty of room for you to focus on video and be one of the first!
Get creative with video
Instagram is the perfect place to take advantage of video, a trend that is only continuing to grow and dominate social media. The brands that are leading the pack when it comes to Instagram video are attracting new followers through user-generated content, fun and innovative videos that showcase their products, DIY tips, tutorials, and content that piques (and satisfies) curiosity.
Make sure your existing fans know you’re on Instagram through cross-promotion. Instagram makes it simple to share your images to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare, which could be a great tactic to get some extra exposure. You can also try embedding Instagram photos in your blog posts (see the bottom of this post for an example) or adding an Instagram feed to your Facebook page for some additional discovery. Here’s a look atBuffer’s Facebook page with an added Instagram feed:
23% MORE ENGAGEMENT BUZZSUMO
Here are some specific suggestions:
Announce your Instagram account to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other social network you’ve already built a following on. Consider boosting these posts with paid advertising to ensure that more of your followers make it to your Instagram account.
For example, Sony Mobile directed their Facebook audience to their Instagram account in this post by focusing on a specific product. This gave their audience a clear reason to follow them on Instagram. They also used a custom URL, allowing them to track success by comparing the number of clicks on the link with the number of new followers they gained on Instagram.
Link to your Instagram account on your website, in your email signature, and in newsletters so that more people in contact with your brand online can find you on social media.
Embed your Instagram photos in your blog posts.
– unfollow apps
– Editing pictures app
( app is Afterlight. Irlin prefers VSCO CAM and Snapseed. )
– Automate growth
post at the same time you have activity going
Tools : To vet accounts to work with and find out almost all the data you need on
other accounts to get the largest ROI for your money when working with them, the
best tool out there we’ve found is Ink361 . Sign up for a free account, and not only can
you to learn valuable data about your own audience, but also other accounts as well.
For example, you can find out when any accounts followers are most active
You can also find the engagement ratings of any account (and compare and contrast
One of the best features is finding the most liked and commented on posts on any
an account you are interested in potentially working with:
Which will allow you to know what works with the other accounts audience so you can
then reverse-engineer a popular post for maximum ROI.
Equipped with a badass tool and all the knowledges of the factors that make a post
effective (or not!), let’s get into the paid methods of growing your account.
Finally, we get to the main reason why brands use Instagram. Driving revenue.
Instagram is a really hard platform to drive revenue from, since the only real way you can redirect users to your site is via links in your profile bio (and you can’t have clickable links in individual posts)
to drive traffic back to your website, whether that be your products, services,
landing pages, opt-in offers or content, post a call to action post every 5-9 posts
depending on how much content you publish.
We don’t want to
spam our followers with content that seems like an advertisement.
Nathan uses this to his advantage. He’s setup a memorable redirect in his bio:
The Foundr Magazine Instagram page is sending over 20k users per month to the bio link, which converts 45% of users into email subscribers. Nathan believes that using Instagram as a source of customer acquisition will drive over 6 figures in revenue this year (and it’s completely free for him, minus time and effort).
Dozens of websites are vying for their attention every day, and almost all of them are
asking for their email addresses.
And you don’t want to be one of those websites, right? The takers, rather than the
That’s what I thought.
So you need to set yourself apart. And you do that by triggering your Instagram
followers’ reciprocity instinct.
This is where you create an “opt-in offer” (sometimes called “lead magnet”, “bribe to
subscribe” or – if it’s attached to a piece of content – “ content upgrade ”), and give it
away for free in exchange for the email addresses of your visitors.
Now, of course, this has to be something that your visitors truly want. Otherwise, it’s
not a very good trade, is it?
I mean, would you exchange your favorite t-shirt for a slobbery tennis ball the dog was
just playing with? Probably not.
So if you’re posting Call to Action posts to pieces of your content on Instagram, create
a content upgrade that your visitors won’t be able to resist.
Maybe that’s a:
– Email course
– Swipe file
– Additional piece of content
But remember – this is traffic coming from Instagram. That means that these visitors
are coming from a highly visual platform. What do you think would do better as a
freebie for an Instagram user – a white paper, or an infographic?
That’s what I thought.
Ok, so once you’ve nailed down a content upgrade or an opt-in offer specifically for
your Instagram visitors, you need to … well, actually offer it to them. Here’s how.
Consider Instagram advertising to gain more followers
If you have a budget for social advertising, Instagram ads should definitely be on your radar. A sponsored ad is a powerful way to reach new potential Instagram followers, fast. Instagram now allows almost anyone to purchase sponsored posts within the platform, using online ad-buying tools that are offered by official Instagram partners. This means you can now log onto one of these third-party sites to create, target, and place ads on Instagram, in a self-serve style.
In a study done by Nielsen Brand Effect of more than 400 Instagram advertising campaigns, ad recall from sponsored posts was shown to be 2.8 times higher than other online advertising. A&W Restaurants saw a 39 point lift in ad recall and a 4 point lift in message association after running their Instagram ad campaign.
7) Measure and analyze your Instagram results
If you’re not gaining new Instagram followers at the rate you want, reviewing your metrics and analytics on a regular basis can help you identify areas where you can potentially adjust your strategy.
For example, you may notice a correlation between the time of day you post, certain hashtags, or the type of content, and a spike in new followers. Try focusing on repeating these moments to see if you get the same results.
always be testing and tweaking and giving value to your audiences
Bonus: How to use Fuelgram to start amplifying your Instagram marketing today