Are you using Instagram as a traction channel for your business?
Whether most businesses realize it or not, Instagram is proving to be a great platform for such organizations to brand themselves. However, tapping into a large (and growing) number of Instagrammers can take time and tremendous effort. But, once you do manage to achieve a robust following on this platform, you will realize that all of you hard work was worth it.
According to Statista, as of June 2016, Instagram “had reached 500 million monthly active users, up from 400 million in September 2015.”
In 2015, there were approximately more than 77.6 million active Instagram users in the United States alone, and is projected to surpass 111 million by 2019…
And that’s not all!
Expandedramblings has a few interesting Instagram-related statistics as well:
- The average number of monthly follower growth for Instagram users is estimated to be 16%
- The percentage of all U.S. adult Instagram users that use it daily is 49%
- The percentage of American millennials that have an Instagram account is 46%
- The percentage of Instagram users in the U.S. that access it on their smartphones is 47%
- The percentage of Instagram users in the U.S. that access it on their tablets is 53%
I probably don’t need to tell you this, but that’s a lot of people.
The question is, how are you going to grow your following in order to reach these people? That’s where growth hacking comes in.
What Is Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking is a relatively new concept in the world of social media. In case you’re wondering what it is, Wikipedia describes it as, “a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.”
People who do this are called growth hackers. Growth hackers are essentially marketers who are equipped with a specific set of skills related to growth. They deal with a different set of problems and provide solutions using digital tools.
The word ‘hacker’ can be interpreted differently by different people, but with respect to marketing, it mainly refers to someone who can extend certain characteristics to a product that enable it to go viral and grow. In order to achieve this, a growth hacker may:
- Have various perspectives on the product
- Not be afraid to deviate from the norms to market it
- Come up with new, interesting solutions to customer’s problems
- Know how be creative and methodical, as and when required
We’re talking about the kind of growth that makes startups successful and takes them from zero to millions of followers and customers in a span of a couple of years. Growth hackers work towards boosting the primary metrics for a company/brand and keep the number of followers growing with time.
If you’re looking to be your own Instagram growth hacker, but wondering what it takes to successfully take the number northwards, I have a few helpful tips for you.
1. Valuable Content Works Like a Charm
Content is king. End of story.
If you get this part right, you can make things happen.
Given the number of users Instagram boasts, you can rest assured that almost every business worth its salt is present on this platform. In order to make a mark, you will need to find a way to set your account apart from the noise. This is where unique, original and valuable content can be of tremendous help!
The content should not only have a great flow to it, but also be in accordance with your audience’s expectation. Posting brilliant and impactful images that resonate with your audience will keep them engaged to your account like nothing else will.
You can use a mix of content to ensure that your Instagram posts hit the nail on the head. A few examples of successful business that have made the most of Instagram include Intel, Virgin America, Nike, Bonobos, Taco Bell, and American Express.
The best brands on Instagram have a few things in common:
- They make the person on the other end feel like they’re a part of a community.
- Fabulous photos. You may need to invest in a new camera if you want to make it big on Instagram.
- All of their images are on-point with branding. Instagram is a visual platform, so having a brand style guide is important when creating posts or taking photos for your account.
Another important thing to consider is taking the time to research the kind of content that reverberates most with your target audience.
Look for accounts of competing or similar companies in your industry and see what’s working for them. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to come up with a great content strategy. Just take a look at what other successful accounts are doing, and adapt their ideas to fit your company and specific audience.
2. Regular Posts are Well-Received
Churning out great content isn’t enough to get your audiences hooked. We live in the age of instant gratification and with audiences being bombarded with information from all quarters, you need to do what needs to be done to grab and keep their mindshare. Posting content consistently and without delays is a great way to do so.
According to findings by quintly.com, accounts that posted content up to two to three times in a day were the ones with the most followers. You may want to use this data to your advantage and watch the number of your faithful followers multiply.
Another important aspect of posting includes following a fixed schedule. This is critical to achieve success on Instagram.
Small business owners tend to be extremely busy, which is why posting regularly and consistently may seem difficult. You can use online scheduling programs such as those offered by Hootsuite, ScheduGram, Latergramme, Grum and Instapult to make things easier for yourself. Doing so will help you ensure that you always have fresh content to share online.
3. Let Hashtags Work Their Magic
A lot of people tend to undermine the power of hashtags, but they are an integral part of the Instagram world. Thanks to hashtags, content gains more visibility among thousands of users who may have not stumbled upon it otherwise.
Typically, Twitter and Facebook allow you to post links. However, Instagram does not allow linking URLs in comments and descriptions. Instead, it promotes the use of hashtags, which is why they’re extremely instrumental in connecting you with your followers. If you want to learn more about using hashtags, you will do well to explore well-known hashtags on Instagram and observe how they’ve been used to brands to customers. Instagram allows for a maximum of thirty hashtags per post.
Instagram recommends keeping the following in mind when picking your hashtags:
- Be specific
- Be relevant
- Be observant
Using hashtags properly works. They can boost your reach radically, especially if you crack the code on the perfect mix of hashtags to use for your audience. When choosing your hashtags, it’s best to use a combination of popular, trending, and topic-related hashtags. Since hashtags are a search tool, think about what someone might be searching for and make sure to include those keywords in your hashtag mix.
4. Provide a Strong Call to Action
When you create content for your Instagram account, make sure that all posts include a strong call to action.
More often than not, getting your followers to do what you want can boil down to just asking them to do it. Some of the popular calls to action on Instagram for businesses include “Tag a friend in the comments,” “Double tap if you like the post,” and “Sign up for free” to receive emails/newsletters about your products.
If you are blogging regularly, make sure you promote your blog posts on Instagram and ask your followers to “Click the link” in your bio to read the full post.
Incorporating a call to action reminds your followers that they can take steps that go beyond just looking at your content. It also plays a role in enhancing user engagement while catching their attention.
5. Contests Can Do the Trick
If you’re looking to increase engagement on Instagram, you may want to consider running a contest. A well-executed contest can result in you gaining numerous new followers without putting in much effort.
You can run several kinds of contests on Instagram. Simply ask your followers to like your post, follow your account, tag a friend, or get them to do something that will expose you to a wider audience. Contests work by increasing your account’s virality factor. By doing one or all of these, you get the benefit of increased exposure, and they can participate in your contest and stand to win amazing prizes.
Just make sure the prizes you choose are relevant to your business offering. Having a large audience of people who are not interested in your business is not better than having a smaller audience of engaged, interested followers.
6. Enable User Follow-Back
When it comes to business, there is no harm in capturing your competitors’ followers. After all, it will help your business grow quickly. Also, doing so is easy because it takes the guess work out of the game as you’re already aware of the kind of content they’re looking for (they’re probably following accounts similar to yours).
For best results, consider going beyond just liking and/or following users posts. You can follow a user, like a picture of theirs, and leave a comment on the same or another image. This will encourage more follow-backs, thereby augmenting your follower count.
Don’t just comment generic phrases like “nice post” or “love this” though. In order to really make this process worth your time, provide value in your comments. Ask questions from the people who posted the original picture. Offer advice or ideas if appropriate.
You want to be representing your brand and building authority, not creating more noise. Be original, authentic and genuinely helpful, and others will return the favor.
7. Harness the Power of Instagram Shout-outs
If you haven’t tried Instagram shout-out already, then it’s high time you did. It entails a user mentioning your account in one of their posts either through a caption or on an image. Instagram shout-outs make for one of the most effective ways of establishing your online presence and increasing your following.
Sometimes, these can be refereed to as “share-4-share” or s4s.
It exposes your account to thousands of new users who you probably didn’t have access to before. Skim through some of the most active Instagram accounts in your industry/niche that have a similar audience base to get an insight on the right kind of shout-outs. The next step is to contact them to check if they’d be interested in doing a shout-out for you and their fees.
This isn’t usually a free tactic, but if you can find the right influencers to partner with, it can be completely worth the money if Instagram is turning out to be a high-value channel for your business (meaning, the bulk of your audience is hanging out on there).
You can do a hashtag search to find accounts who are interested in doing shout outs by searching #s4s or #share4share.
8. Automate the Process
Did you know that you can use specially-designed software to manage your likes, comments and follows on your Instagram account? Instagress and Autogrambot are a couple of programs that can help you engage with other Instagram users as per to the parameters set by you. This can help you grow your business’s Instagram followers in no time.
However, make sure that you do not misuse these programs by engaging too many users too quickly. Failure to do so will get your account barred, which will prevent you from reaping the benefits of growing your follower-base through automation.
While automation can help minimize the amount of time required to build an account organically, automate with caution. Users can sniff out a robot pretty easily, and most people don’t want to follow brands that don’t feel authentic.
The influence of social media platforms such as Instagram is rising by the day. It is only natural for progressive startups to invest their time and resources to establish their presence and authority on these networks. If you’re not already tapping into Instagram’s potential, then you should do so without further ado.
Of course, having a huge number of followers will work in your favor, and getting them on-board may be time consuming, but it’s not impossible. The above tips should go a long way in helping you amass an army of Instagram followers to ascertain your market leadership and multiply you revenue. Implement them and you will have exactly what your business needs.
About the author:
Vivek Patel is a Local Search Specialist at E2M, one of the fastest growing digital marketing agencies based in India committed to meeting the highest ethical standards of digital marketing services to encourage and drive strategic and sustainable business growth. He covers local search optimization, link building tactics and social media marketing strategies. You can find him on Twitter @vivekrpatel.