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Chances are you’ve heard of a little app called Instagram. It’s a bit hard not to notice one of the most popular social media networks in the world. Based upon its simple premise of users sharing and liking images, it’s easy to see why you might think Instagram isn’t for your business.
However, Instagram has proven to be one of the fastest-growing social media networks in the world, and everyone is scrambling to find out how to take advantage of this gold rush. Which begs the question: What do I need in order to make a mark on Instagram?
The answer is followers. It’s the ultimate Instagram metric, which basically states in raw numbers how popular you are. For brands, it defines how many people will be able to see all of the nice images you publish. Followers are basically like cute puppies; the more you have, the better off you are.
So the bigger question is: How do you get more followers on Instagram? Like, lots of Instagram followers. To make your business explode. And quick. Well, we’ve found one pretty good method of doing just that.
About two weeks ago, Foundr launched its Instagram account (you can find it here. Check it out!). In that time, we went from 0 followers to more than 10,000. We achieved this by following a relatively straightforward process we hacked together. We’ve written out all the steps in the process, so read on if you’re interested in how to get more Instagram followers and make your business explode!
As you can see from the image below, Instagram has increased our customer conversion rate by more than 30%!
The attention you get on Instagram, and the audience you attract, is significantly more interested than any other social media channel, barring Facebook (which has its own limitations). That’s the power of having a visual narrative that is fully in your control, which is why we’ve seen our conversion rate skyrocket—people are genuinely interested in what we are sharing and offering.
Get the Instagram Cheat Sheet
Here are the biggest lessons we’ve learned:
1. GENERATE CONTENT YOUR CUSTOMERS LIKE
The first step to getting more followers on Instagram is to generate the right content. This might seem obvious, but we always see it getting neglected. Find out what your customers enjoy seeing on Instagram or what themes resonates with them, and populate your account with relevant images.
A good way to find out what your customers like is by checking out what your competition is posting, or what kind of imagery is used in the websites or blogs that are popular in your industry. There are types of images that work well with most industries, though; posters with inspirational or humorous quotes, quality food photography, or scenic images are safe bets in general.
If you’re in an industry where what you’re selling is already visually appealing, photos of what you do is not a bad idea either. However, keep such images in the minority; posting a lot about yourself on social media is just like being the person at BBQ who only talks about themselves.
On that note, it’s really important that you don’t run the risk of “oversharing.” A celebrity can get away with it because a large part of their appeal and brand is their personal life. Fans are genuinely curious as to what Beyonce is having for dinner or what exactly it is the Rock is cooking. If you’re running a personal account, that’s also totally fine, because it’s explicit and clear that this is an account for sharing your everyday life.
However, if you’re running a professional account, unless your personal photos actually fit in with the theme of your brand, it’s not a good idea. For example, as a CEO or founder, a personal photo of how you’ve organized your work desk would fit in with your theme. A personal photo of you in Vegas doesn’t have the same effect.
Oversharing means that you lose out on engagement because your content is just too off topic and confusing to build a consistent audience.
On Instagram, engagement is king. For best results, we found images that trigger an emotion or questions that elicit some thought work really well. For example, this image below got over 10% engagement. For Instagram, we’re told that 1% engagement is really good, so go figure!
2. POST REGULARLY
Aim to post on a regular basis, about once every three to four hours. However, don’t bulk post a whole bunch of photos in one sitting; users will often regard this as spam and unfollow you. Think of it like sowing seeds. You don’t want to just plug all your seeds into a hole in one go; you want to spread them out.
You’re going for consistency. If your audience can’t comfortably rely on you to post regularly, you’re not going to find many people willing to follow you on the off chance that you’re going to post something every now and then.
Fortunately, you can schedule your content if you use a tool like JustUnfollow or Latergramme. Unfortunately, Instagram’s API doesn’t let other services post for you, but you can pre-fill and batch them.
*Please note you can only post from the Instagram Mobile or Tablet app. You cannot post via the website when you are logged in.
3. HAVE A STRONG CALL TO ACTION IN YOUR INSTAGRAM BIOGRAPHY
On Instagram, your bio is crucial. You can best make use of this section by having a strong call to action (which is basically marketing speak for an instruction for your viewer to do something). You can use up to 150 characters, so a short snappy CTA works best. For us, it was: “Get your free copy of Foundr today! http://www.foundrmag.com/itunes”
In order to create a strong CTA, you want to be as simple and no-nonsense as possible. Because you only get one live link when it comes to Instagram, which is in your bio, you want to be able to get as much value as possible out of that link.
A strong CTA should be an absolute no-brainer for your audience. You already know that they can see your content, so make it worth their while to actually take a look at your bio by offering something that you know they’ll love.
4. USE HASHTAGS
Hashtags (keywords preceded by #) might seem like something only annoying teenagers use, but that’s not quite true. They are a way for viewers to navigate easily to topics they’re interested in. Attaching #hashtag(s) to your image, therefore, enables your content to be found easier by those who don’t already follow you. First, research the most popular hashtags to your niche, and then compile them. For us, this involved building a huge list of keywords that we found were relevant to what we do and what our images generally are about (#entrepreneur, #business, #startup). Second, start a comment on the photo and insert the hashtags there.
Remember, don’t put your hashtags into the description of the photo itself. Putting them in the comment section instead will hide your list of keywords after others have added comments. You also won’t unnecessarily bulk up your photo description, allowing you to you keep your description section free for a compelling blurb about the photo.
5. HAVE A STRONG CALL TO ACTION WITH EACH PHOTO
Under the description in each photo, include another call to action. This CTA would be more relevant to the photo, and probably not be the same as the one you used in your bio. It’s a softer ask.
You can think of a CTA as a way to remind people that there is an action they could take. By adding a CTA to your image, all you’re doing is reminding your followers that they don’t have to just scroll on past, they can actually do other things, including liking your picture, or writing a comment.
Remember, the one thing you want to improve upon the most with your audience is engagement—you want them to be interested in and personally connected to your brand and your account. Gently encouraging them to invest less than a second into each post does wonders for cultivating that engagement!
Examples of CTAs are “tag your friends who are like this,” or “double tap if you agree.” Always give your fans something to do. This helps your account spread like wildfire. You wouldn’t expect it, but “double tap if you agree,” in particular, has been a surprising magnet for interaction on Foundr’s posts.
6. FOLLOW OTHERS
In one of our previous posts, we stated that one of the keys of content marketing came down to copying others. When it comes to Instagram marketing, it is no different. With the right tools, we can replicate the success, down to the users, another brand has had. In order to help us do this, we found this super cool, super powerful tool called “Crowdfire.” Crowdfire allows you to see which people follow a specific brand, and then follow those users. It also allows you to unfollow those who have not followed you back.
The reason this tool is so valuable is that it allows you to find large groups of people who would be potentially interested in your brand. For us, we looked up other brands such as Fast Company, found out which people followed that brand, and started to follow those people via the “Copy Followers” function. Following someone on Instagram gives them a notification that links them to your own page and gives them a chance to follow you back, so following a lot of people allows you to pique the interest of many others.
Adding new followers
Selecting a brand and copying followers
Another feature of Crowdfire shows you which users you follow, but don’t follow you back. This allows you to quickly unfollow those who are uninterested in what you do. We got a paid account for $9.99 a month, which unlocked the ability for us to hide which users we had followed and then unfollowed in the past, preventing us from following the same person twice.
Keep in mind due to Instagram restrictions, you are only allowed to perform 400 actions a day (an action either being a follow or unfollow). So make sure you max out the number of actions you perform every single day. We got into the routine of three days of copying followers, and then one day of unfollowing.
Get the Instagram Cheat Sheet
7. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK
Networking can work wonders, not only in real life, but also in the social media sphere. There are accounts on Instagram that will do a “share for a share,” allowing your content to make an appearance on other pages if you do the same. Do a quick hunt for these pages in your industry (they aren’t hard to find), and get in touch.
When we started, we also managed to get introduced to this huge network of entrepreneurs, all with accounts of over 20,000+ followers. They helped us out big time by sharing our content, and there are similar networks for all kinds of industries with users who are all willing to help out, so long as you return the favor, of course!
Remember, if you help people and don’t expect anything in return, not only is it good karma, but it comes back to you tenfold. So don’t approach joining and teaming up with other accounts with an attitude of “what’s in it for me?” Rather, think of it as just helping your fellow man out, and you never know, good things may happen to you down the road.
You don’t want to be the type of account that just produces content without actually engaging with others, because trust me when I say you won’t be getting very far. Take the time to actually focus on the social aspect of social media and I guarantee you’ll see amazing results.
8. INSTAGRAM SHOUTOUTS
Lastly, we spent about $100 paying for shoutouts from other popular accounts. It’s a great way to buy Instagram mentions. Research the popular accounts that are relevant in your field, reach out to them to see if they’ll be willing to do an Instagram shoutout for you, and how much that will cost. This will let you gain access to larger networks that you previously might have not had access to before.
When you’re just starting out, it can be a little intimidating to ask other accounts to do a shoutout for you, but the benefits really do outweigh the costs. Having a large account shout you out will do more for your follower count than anything else. But it’s super important to make sure that you’re choosing the right accounts to get a shoutout from.
If you’re choosing an account based on pure followers and their theme or audience doesn’t match yours, then all you’ve done is wasted time and money, because there’s no guarantee that such a shoutout is going to get you a good ROI.
One other note here: Everyone makes these connections via an app called Kik. It’s strange, we know, but this seems like the place where deals go down.
There are a few different types of shoutouts.
- Caption only shoutouts: The page uses its own image and style that it usually would, and mentions your page in the caption. This works, but is not as effective as your own image or branded image. Caption only can be a cheaper alternative.
- Your own image with your product or service + caption. This works better than just a caption-based shoutout, but you have to make sure the call to action is good. Some accounts will only let you put up the image for a certain period of time, and others will let it stay up. Usually the higher traffic the page, the more you see rules and restrictions.
The strategy behind the shoutouts can also vary. What we recommend is for the CTA to follow your page, as you can capture the audience and engage with them more. We have tried both pushing the Foundr subscription and getting the viewer to follow our page, and we have found it’s way more effective to get them to follow you. You have to remember you can’t put clickable links in the captions, so it can be hard to get people to perform specific actions. This is why a concise bio is so important.
Prices for shoutouts will vary by account. We found that the pages with the best results are motivational, business accounts, so you need to find high traffic pages that have good engagement. We constitute good engagement as at least 1-2% of likes per how many followers the account has.
Also be sure to be active in the comment section of every shout out post. It’ll significantly drive up your own engagement levels and increase the chances people will bother to click through to your account.
For an account with decent engagement and 200,000 followers, we wouldn’t pay more than $50 per shoutout, and we would want to use our own image.
So those are the steps that we went through. Before you go running off to do all of that though, we’d encourage you to think about why you’re on, or want to be on Instagram.
We can’t guarantee this method will work as effectively for you as it did for us. Instagram is certainly a powerful tool, but it’s not really for everyone. A few questions you might want to ask yourself are:
- Is my industry, or what I sell visually appealing?
- Am I willing to share stuff that isn’t directly related to what I sell?
- Do I have time to engage in a new social media platform?
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, you might want to rethink why you want to jump on Instagram marketing. You don’t want to be wasting resources on something that just isn’t for you. Otherwise, we’d encourage you to use our guide to boost your followers! Let us know, did our guide help you? What other cool strategies have you found to reach out to more people?
Editor’s Note: Since this post originally ran, Instagram has only become more instrumental to Foundr’s growth and brand. We’ve become increasingly enthusiastic about this as a great way to build an audience, and have developed some in-depth, highly useful tools:
- How to Get Your First 10,000 Instagram Followers (free eBook)
- The Only 14 Tools You Need to Blow Up Your Instagram Account (free guide)