Have you ever liked a picture on Instagram and later received a follow request from a complete stranger? What thoughts ran through your head as you pulled up your newest virtual acquaintance’s Instagram feed? If you’re like us, you were definitely excited about the newest addition to your social network. Looking at the follower count when we first signed up for Instagram gave us a high never before experienced. It rang especially true after posting new images. As the friend requests continued, we slowly stopped looking at our follower count as diligently, and then one day we noticed something: Where were all our followers? Turns out we’d fallen prey to the follow-unfollow method.
We scrolled our list of followers, visiting pages we’d just engaged with no more than 48 hours ago. Examining their counter we realized their following was so large that we couldn’t discern individual users without thumbing through for at least an hour. That’s when thoughts of the newest members of our social following may have intentionally unfollowed us, but who would do that? Further use of the social media app later confirmed our early suspicions, and it ticked us off…but after awhile we got to thinking about what had really occurred.
The people and brands whom we’d just traded a follow-for-a-follow were amassing quite the following. Even more, their feeds were filled with great content which was all the persuasion we needed to follow in the first place. So, if they followed us to get our attention and we followed back, can they really be at fault that we were influenced to follow-back? That’s not to say we weren’t upset when we’d fallen prey to this scheme, but we’re a marketing agency. So, we took a step back and evaluated follow-unfollow as a social media strategy. Then we decided to do some homework and learn other, more viable strategies to grow our business on Instagram.
As a marketing agency we rely heavily on automation software/services and analytic data to track post engagement. This data helps us identify problems with our server speed, webpage security, testing newsletter templates, etc. And after doing research on Instagram services and software, we had some interesting takeaways. Most notably that Instagram and social media tend to be highly romanticized, in that user feeds may appear to be filled with spontaneously documented moments. In actuality, the most popular profiles, whether business or personal, tend to be conscientiously curated.
To elaborate, there are numerous brands comprising Instagram’s active user base. So, while in its earliest phases ‘Insta’ may have appeared to be an online community for individuals, it’s actually been utilized by tech-savvy companies and solopreneurs since it’s introduction. And while following-unfollowing someone is a jerk move, if you’re promoting a brand or business it’s a viable option and has been used by some of the top profiles. However, it’s not the only way to increase your brand visibility, nor is it the best. That’s why we’ve decided to share our top tips for aspiring entrepreneurs or hobbyists to grow an Instagram following.
No. 1 – Invest in Content Management Software
For starters, we recommend investing in a CMS or Content Management Service. Automation services like Simply Measured, Iconosquare and Just Unfollow allow subscribers to perform analyses on Instagram accounts. Duly, these services allow users to,
- Schedule a single post or batch queue posts in advance
- Provide breakdown of your most popular posts, filters, and locations
- Get analyses on new followers and the best time to post
Content management software searches for accounts that are most likely to follow you based on users’ social footprints. So, the first step in growing your business on Instagram is understanding what your user-base wants to see. Tools like Iconosquare will help you define your target audience—at what times are they engaging with your account, what other accounts are they engaging with, and during what time of the day. When you find your audience, socialize with them! Instagram is a social media app, so comment on and like their posts, but make sure your comments have value—spamming is not OK.
As we said before, there is no substitute for great content, and at TalenAlexander we know we have great content that we want to share with others. So we engage with our followers. Defining a list of the most popular—and relevant—hashtags and then inserting them into our posts have allowed us to connect to a greater Instagram community. When developing our hashtag list, we view the posts associated with our search terms and discover the profiles of like-minded individuals and brands. From here, we’re able to engage with their profiles and organically develop digital relationships. We know that what truly separates a great social media account from a good one is the level of engagement between you and your followers/subscribers.
However, growing your business on Instagram takes more than engagement. What do you do once your social niche begins reaching out to you?
No. 2 – Direct them where to go
Organic growth takes time and the reality for a business is that we must devote our time wisely to strategies that serve our purpose: Reaching the people who need our service. Instagram’s ‘Bio’ field can be utilized as a landing page for followers/customers. As we said before, there’s no substitute for quality content, but you don’t want to waste quality content by leaving out a call-to-action. “Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel,” is the most common phrase heard on YouTube. That’s because it works. Users may not decide to take action immediately, but chances are that if they read through an entire post, they’ll be interested in coming back. So make sure you leave them a trail of digital breadcrumbs to find out what else you’re doing.
Another bit of advice: Link your Instagram page to all your social media accounts. Most websites and blogs allow for Instagram feed embedding and is a great way to maximize your Instagram posts on another platform. And if you have a brick-and-mortar retail location, print out a marquee featuring a popular post along with your Instagram badge and username. Then put it in a window display or on a checkout line counter. The marquee will alert your customers of your digital presence and can even serve as an in-store conversation starter. Being conscientious of our business goals through Instagram—along with a few simple tweaks to our posting habits—has made all the difference in our online visibility.
No. 3 – Post with consistency
Whether you decide you want to post every hour or every other day, make sure you’re posting consistently. Additionally, make sure the context of your posts is consistent. A surefire way to lose followers is by creating posts that are inconsistent with your brand. Oftentimes we find ourselves following users who post erratically, randomly, and occasionally stop using the app altogether.
One way to maintain a consistent feed is to develop a theme for your account. Start by creating a list of words that describe your brand along with visual colors. If you’ve already designed a logo and tagline, you can incorporate this marketing collateral into your profile. Using JustFollow’s CMS service, you can gain insight into the window of peak activity among your followers and post when they are most likely to engage with your profile.
A theme will not only distinguish you from your competitors, but allow your following to develop a deepened continuity with your feed. Whether you use a filter, strictly black-and-white images or a particular subject matter, a theme acts to further solidify your digital persona. Additionally, if you choose to update your theme or change your direction, old posts can serve as a marker to your evolution. Think Pablo Picasso’s blue and rose periods.
If you’re bold enough to leave your feed untouched and not delete past photos, then you’re certainly capable of proposing a share-for-share. The SFS method works similar to guest blogging, wherein you invite a prominent expert in your field of interest to post on your website—or vice versa. The SFS method is the greatest reciprocal act you can perform on Instagram, but also the most efficient for all parties involved.
Sharing a popular post from another page provides free promotion for the account being shared, but also provides your account with the potential influx of subscribers from the posted account, and vice versa for your followers. Whereas most of the tips we’ve discussed involve growing your consumer base, reposting content from another page is a great way to grow your network of social media influencers. Developing a network of influencers creates the opportunity for collaboration and innovation. But remember, post with consistency. The end goal is to lend credibility to yourself while gaining/becoming an advocate of a like-minded brand.
At TalenAlexander, we’re always in the process of making ourselves better and we want to connect with like-minded individuals, solopreneurs, and brands. So occasionally we cast our net far and wide while other times we define a small target with the hope that our social media will lead us to the right people and vice versa. It’s all dependent upon our (digital) marketing campaign. If you’re interested in fairplay social media strategies or need advice in avoiding black-hat techniques, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.