On April 9, 2012, the 18 month-old company known as Instagram was bought by Facebook for a cool one billion dollars.
That’s a one with nine zeros behind it… Wowza!
Since then, the company has hit their stride with just about everyone and their mother jumping onto the growing platform. With the increase of users on Instagram, many are seeking ways to use it as a marketing platform and grow their following.
There are many ways to do this, but it takes a plan to grow a following effectively.
In this post, I’ll take you through the steps of how to set up an engaging profile, maximize the potency of each post, and interact with people in order to continually grow your following and gain exposure to your brand on Instagram.
What can Instagram do for you?
Each popular social media platform has something about it that makes it truly unique.
Instagram is no different.
However, unlike Facebook and Twitter that are used to generate traffic back to a website, Instagram takes a slightly different approach.
With a profile on Instagram, you can include one clickable link back to your desired URL. You cannot, on the other hand, link your images to a post or URL like you can with Twitter.
That isn’t a bad thing per se, but it does clarify what your goal should be with the platform.
While Instagram can lead to traffic to your site, its main marketing power is its ability to help you establish your brand and increase awareness of that brand.
Is brand awareness important? The simple answer is yes.
Data has revealed that sites with an established and trusted brand have a higher conversion rate.
Using Instagram can help to increase trust and brand awareness that leads to the ultimate goal of conversion.
Posting pictures may leave some scratching their heads as to why or how this would ever help them with their business, but really, it’s not that hard to see why Instagram works.
Pictures are very intimate and are often cherished possessions for many people. A single photo can evoke a flurry of emotions that take us by surprise.
Thus the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’.
Therefore, using photos and sharing them with people can help create an emotional connection to your brand that can be hard to create otherwise.
Interesting facts about who’s on Instagram
If you’re anything like me, then data and statistics have a way of getting you really excited.
But even if they don’t, there’s a lot of good that can come from figuring out just who is on Instagram.
When you have a clearer understanding of the crowd there, you will be better equipped to post content that speaks to them and funnel a part of that crowd into your own mixing pot of social followings.
These are just a few of the statistics out there, but data like this is impressive for many reasons.
There is almost a 50/50 split between men and women on Instagram, with the majority of them being under the age of 24. And the most active are the ones within this demographic.
Once you understand the people on the possible receiving end of your posts in relation to your target market, then you can better craft your posts for maximum exposure.
How to setup your Instagram account
Setting up your Instagram account is rather easy, but there are ways you can set it up that help you make a great impression on your potential followers.
- Download the Instagram app to your smartphone or tablet
- Select the option to sign-up
- Add a profile picture, your email address, a username and a password (you can change your username later if you don’t have the perfect one figured out right now).
- Enter a name for the account and a phone number (both are optional, but you should definitely add a name)
- Next, you’ll be connected to Facebook where you can choose to follow other friends that have accounts on Instagram. It’s up to you whether or not you want to follow them.
- After that, you can also find other people to follow, but you can save this for a later time too.
And that’s about it for setting it up.
Getting the most out of your profile
Now that you have your account all ready to go, it’s time to start gaining a following.
Before you jump into any of the methods below, you should first spend some time sprucing up your profile a bit.
When you visit your profile page, you’ll notice that it probably looks a little bland when compared to others. To change that, you simply tap the ‘Edit Your Profile’ button to open up the other entry options in Instagram.
Here is where you can change your profile name, username, add a link to a URL and add a short descriptive bio.
Now the most important areas to fill out are the link and bio sections.
Add a link
For the link section, you can place any clickable URL here.
Pat Flynn of ‘Smart Passive Income’ links back to his blog using a full URL.
The point is that you can link to whatever you want, but if you’re trying to build your name, brand or traffic to a particular site, then include a link that makes the most sense.
Write a bio
Just like Twitter, your bio on Instagram is there for the world to see. You only have room to write 150 characters in your bio, so you can’t go crazy in this section.
Much like Twitter, Instagram allows you to use hashtags in your bio area. Marketing Land (image above) is a great example of a profile that does this.
The hashtags they use are common ones that relate to their niche (such as #social) and doing this comes with two distinct advantages:
- It helps people who use these hashtags to be able to find them.
- It helps define to the audience on Instagram; what they are all about.
You can use hashtags to do the same. Of course, this is entirely up to you, but even using a few popular ones can be a good thing. On the flip side, you don’t want to be super-spammy either.
Whatever it is that you place in your bio, be that a hashtag or otherwise, make sure you come across as personable and somewhat descriptive — though there’s no single rule that works best for this.
Just remember that what you write in your bio and your tone should reflect the brand you’re creating or solidifying. If you’re a professional business or business professional then let your bio reflect that.
I know that it can be tempting to use Emojis in your bio, but unless you’re creating it for personal use only, try and leave them out. Emojis and strange fonts aren’t all that great looking and tend to give a sort of spammy impression that can hurt your follower count.
Okay. No more of the fluffy stuff.
Ready for the fun part?
Allons-y! (That’s French for, “Let’s go!”)
Instagram best practices for gaining followers
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
Below are some of the best ways to grow a massive following on Instagram.
You’d be surprised at just how many things you can do that you may not have thought of before. This list is quite thorough, so I suggest saving it so that you can review it again and again.
Pin it to a board on Pinterest, bookmark it or save it to Pocket.
Whatever you do, don’t forget this one because it really is a huge list.
Define the person you want to engage
Before you post your first picture, you’ll want to nail down who you want to engage.
If you’re a mom blogger looking to gain followers for your blog, then your target market is more than likely going to be other moms. Therefore, whatever image and corresponding description you post should have a bend towards that. (i.e. elegant, feminine, helpful, cute, informative, etc.)
However, if you’re a fitness trainer, then your market is likely going to be those interested in healthy living which can cover ages ranging from younger people to much older ones — both male and female.
Your posts should still reflect your message, and posts with inspirational quotes can be a big help when growing your follower base.
Whatever you plan to do on Instagram, knowing who it is that you’re trying to attract as followers will help you to post more effectively.
Do hashtag research; use hashtags in every post
Whether you have zero followers or thousands, hashtags are your best friends on Instagram. Instagram makes it easy for users to type in keywords (hashtags) to find new things to like and new people to follow.
Therefore, finding the right hashtags to use for your post is essential for effective Instagram marketing.
It can be a little difficult to do research for hashtags with Instagram when you use the app. But one easy way to get started is by researching which hashtags your competitors are using.
The use of hashtags is a substantial topic by itself. Fortunately, Later.com has a detailed guide if you need more help with hashtags.
Create engaging photos
Instagram is all about pictures; that is the entire premise it was built on.
It’s not enough to just snap a photo, add a description with some hashtags and call it good — nuh-uh.
You need to craft your images to engage your followers — both those who follow you now and the ones you want to gain.
There are a ton of online tools as well as smartphone and tablet apps to help you create images that stand out.
Here are a few online tools you can use to create amazing Instagram images:
Since it’s sort of a headache to create an image on your computer, and get it over to your phone to send it, creating images using a phone or tablet is usually the better option.
There are likely plenty of other apps out there, but a quick search in your phone or tablet’s app store will quickly display the most popular that you can give a go.
The great thing about these is that they give you editing options outside what Instagram offers. You get options like text overlays, stickers and extra filter options to really help you create a great picture.
Don’t forget the videos
Even though Instagram was built on the premise of sharing pictures, you can also share short video clips.
It used to be really hard to make a nice video with this feature because you could only use the videos you created right in IG. However, an update changed that, and you can now upload a short video instead.
This means that you can spend some time creating amazing videos using your computer and then send it to your phone or tablet in order to upload it to your Instagram account.
Obviously, you can still do point-and-shoot videos with your phone, but if you really want to create something awesome, you can take the videos you create and use the editing software with your computer to make it really shine.
Think these through before you post them, though. Do you think it will help or hurt your brand? Will it reflect well on you years down the road?
Remember, what’s on the internet stays there FOREVER. (Don’t think so? Just ask Tom Hardy *wink*)
Post often, but not too often
Just like any other social media platform, you need to post in Instagram often, but you don’t want to go overboard with this either.
As a general rule of thumb, you can get away with a post a day without being irritating, but if you create great images and posts that get a lot of interaction, you could easily post 5 times throughout the day without causing a fuss.
If you want to see followers, then you need to post often. By posting more often, you can see what posts work, which ones don’t, and when are the best times for you to post on IG.
Interact, repost, and follow
Instagram is a highly interactive social platform. To gain followers, you need to interact with them and gain some respect.
It’s not hard to do, but a little strategy never hurt anyone.
Like posts of people, you don’t follow
Photos are very personal, and people love sharing them. When someone likes their post, it’s like a little emotional (even ego) boost that they love to get.
While you can (and should) like the posts of people you follow in your feed, you should also branch outside your of what shows up in your home feed.
With time, you’ll likely grow a following and you probably won’t be following everyone who follows you.
From time to time, go through your list of followers and like some of their posts. Also, use hashtags to find images that relate to your profile and like images that stand out to you.
It doesn’t go unnoticed.
Comment and interact with people
You have probably noticed this, but Instagram is a social media platform that is actually very social when compared to other networks.
Comments and @mentions are a large part of communicating on Instagram and get connecting with others.
When you find a post you already liked, take a moment to leave a comment.
Is there a comment in the thread that you’d like to reply to? Join in the conversion with an @mention of one of the other people who commented on the post.
This sends a notification to the person who posted the picture and the person who commented on it — so you’re killing two birds with one stone.