Instagram can be a highly-targeted, visual marketing channel for your brand and an opportunity to build a loyal audience that grows with your business.
In fact, over 500 million Instagram users browse the app every day, making it home to some of the most engaged audiences around.
But like any social network out there, there are right ways to use it, wrong ways to use it, and clever ways to use it.
In this post, we will show you how to most effectively use Instagram to increase engagement and grow a massive following over time—one that’s full of real fans, not inactive fake accounts.
1. Use the right Instagram hashtags
Your goal on Instagram is to engage your current audience while also growing your following. Posting new, interesting and engaging photos will satisfy the first requirement, but to begin growing you’ll find hashtagging your photos to be extremely important. Hashtagging your photos makes it easy for people to find your photos that are searching for those specific terms.
So which hashtags should you use?
Just like with Twitter and other social sites, users on Instagram use certain hashtags over others. If you use the right hashtags within your photos, you’re much more likely to reach new users and be discovered.
Using hashtags is one thing, using the right tags is a completely different thing.
Popular tags like the ones listed above will likely net you additional engagement and likes, however they will not lead to increased long-term engagement, new interested followers, and most importantly, sales.
2. Use the right filters on Instagram
Keyword hashtags aren’t the only thing you should pay attention to. The Instagram community responds to certain photo filters more favorably than others. Using these preferred filters can have an impact on your engagement.
TrackMaven did a recent study on Instagram accounts to see how filters affected engagement and found that Mayfair, Hefe, and Ludwig drove the most interaction.
But more important than the general Instagram community’s favorite filters, are your particular audience’s favorite filters. Consider this custom graph which correlates filter usage to engagement from my own Instagram account:
3. Post on Instagram at the right times
Beyond adding the appropriate hashtags and using the best filters, you should also be considering the timing of your posts.
A targeted approach is to analyze what has and has not worked for you in the past. By visiting IconoSquare’s optimization section, you can get a detailed analysis of your posting history vs. engagement. This report will also highlight the best times of the day and days of the week to post.
The dark circles indicate when you usually post media. The light gray circles shows when your community has been interacting. The biggest light gray circles represent the best times for you to post.
You can also get a lot of great insight from Instagram Analytics for Business accounts for free, under the Followers section.
4. Steal your competitor’s followers on Instagram
One of the best ways to find and attract a new following is by seeking out your closest competitors’ Instagram accounts and engaging with their audience. These people have already shown some level of interest in the products you carry simply by following your competitors’ account.
So how do you effectively steal your competitors’ followers?
You can steal your closest competitors’ followers by engaging with them. There are several ways to engage with Instagram users, and the more work you put in, the more followers and repeat engagement you’ll get out of it.
The three types of engagement on Instagram are:
- Follow a user
- Like a photo
- Comment on a photo
5. Pay for sponsored posts and product reviews
All this optimized posting to your account is great but if you really want to make an impact, you need to take advantage of influencer marketing on Instagram, exposing your brand to a wider audience.
So how do you do that?
First, unlike the tactics above to grow your account this one usually isn’t free. However, if done correctly, it’s good value.
To get started, you’ll need to make a list of large accounts in your niche. For example, if you sell beauty products, you’ll want to find large accounts from beauty bloggers.
You may already be following these accounts, but if not you’ll need to find them. One of the best ways is to use Webstagram (mentioned earlier) and search for some of the closest hashtag keywords you uncovered in the beginning of this post. When you do a search for your keywords, not only will it show you the related keywords, but it also shows you the top Instagram accounts that feature those keywords.
6. Use geotags on Instagram for local discoverability
Besides hashtags, you can also make your Instagram posts and Stories discoverable by tagging your location, either the city you’re in or the venue where the photo or video was taken.
Locations not only have their own feed on Instagram but also their own Story just like hashtags that you can contribute to when you use the location sticker in your own Stories.
Local businesses can get the most value out of location tags by posting regularly to these feeds and also engaging with posts from prospective customers who are physically in the vicinity.
7. Organize your Stories into Highlights
Whenever a potential follower lands on your profile, you have a short span of time to convince them to follow you.
One way to do this is by using the “Highlights” feature on your profile to organize your Instagram Stories in a way that communicates what your account is about.
Since Stories have a 24-hour lifespan, Highlights can be used to give them a second-life and entice others to follow you so they don’t miss out on more Stories in the future.
8. Ask for more followers
It sounds obvious, but it deserves to be said: Don’t be afraid to occasionally ask your audience to follow you.
The same way YouTubers ask their viewers to follow them at the end of their videos, you can also ask viewers to follow you for more content.
Sometimes people might really enjoy what you put out on Instagram but need a nudge before they actually follow you. Sometimes you just need to remind the users of a platform that they can subscribe to get more in the comments of a post.
You can also do this in your captions or even work it into your content by pitching what your audience will get if they follow you or hinting at content that’s coming up that they won’t want to miss.