It doesn't matter if you're an up-and-coming photographer or a well-established brand, everyone wants to increase their Instagram followers.
Because Instagram is still an emerging social media platform, with 300 million monthly active users where more than 20 billion photos have been posted.
Regardless of your reasoning for wanting growth on Instagram, it's no doubt that a lot of Instagram users have trouble increasing their followers, and that's simply because they don't have a plan of attack. You need to go about this as if you're putting together your annual marketing plan, because Instagram itself can serve as a marketing channel that can work wonders for your business if you utilize it correctly.
With that said, we examine the five easiest ways to grow your Instagram following.
1. Post At The Right Time
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It makes sense, right?
If you're posting at peak times when users are active on Instagram, then you're opening up your posts to receive more impressions and engagement. There are a ton of tools out there that can help you establish the best times to post on the social platform, with Iconosquare, Simply Measured, and Piqora being a few of them.
To help users out, The Huffington Post partnered with Latergramme to find out the best times to post on Instagram. They studied more than 61,000 posts and found that 2 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST are the best times to post, with 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. reportedly being timeframes to avoid.
Using this information, you should create an editorial calendar for Instagram, outlining your posts and posting times. Be sure to study and measure your analytics, and within a few weeks, you should be able to hone in on when the best time to post is for your particular account.
2. Utilize Hashtags
By now we should all know how important hashtags are to social media, and that also goes for Instagram.
Hashtags help to make your content searchable on Instagram. So for example, if I post a photo at a baseball game and use #baseball, my post is more likely to show to users who are on Instagram looking at baseball photos. You should also pay close attention to trending hashtags, because those are obviously popular subjects that people on the social platform are currently engaged by. Just be sure not to hashtag out of context. There's nothing more frustrating than seeing 50 hashtags in a post that have nothing to do with the image.
It's also important to research the most popular versions of a hashtag subject that you want to use. For example, if I'm still at that baseball game and it happens to be a Yankees game, I need to do some research on the best hashtag to use here: #NYY, #Yankees, #NYYankees, #NewYorkYankees, etc. Instagram has a section right in the app that lets you look up hashtags and see the amount of posts around that tag while also showing you similar hashtags, which then gives you the best chance of putting your content in front of the largest audience.
A little research can go a long way.
3. Cross Promote Content
This is probably the easiest strategy of the five listed in this post.
Picture you're already a well-established brand. Your following on Facebook and Twitter is solid, but you just signed up for Instagram and aren't seeing the same correlation in terms of social following-it's probably because your followers don't know that you're now on Instagram.
All you have to do is take that photo you just posted on Instagram and also include it on Facebook and Twitter. Instagram can sync up with your Facebook and Twitter accounts, so before you post your content, all you have to do is check off Facebook and Twitter on the "Share to" page and you're all set.
Your Instagram post will now be cross-promoted to both of those social networks and will include a direct link to your post on Instagram. Now your followers are on your Instagram profile page and can start following you-it's as easy as that.
This goes for any social network, but Instagram especially-share your content on multiple social profiles to increase new followers and engagement.
4. Interact With Users
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Social media fans love to feel appreciated, and there's no better way to make them feel great than by interacting with them and showing that you care.
Now, this tactic will take a little more time and effort, but it's going to pay off. Follow your followers back, "like" their photos in which they show off your company or brand, and even respond to their comments to give them a sense of appreciation.
You also get the added benefit of transparency, which helps to drive brand success. Other Instagram users-who may not even be aware of who you are-are going to see this and will be more likely to follow you because they can see that you're an active social account and care about your followers.
Adweek tells us that social media users interact with brand posts twice as much on Instagram as they do on Facebook, so if that's not enough evidence for you, I'm not sure what is.
5. Run A Promotion
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This is your 'hand to the face, duh' moment: people love free stuff.
Piggybacking off of the previous section on user interaction, the absolute easiest way to immediately boost your Instagram followers is by running a promotion and giving back to your fans and followers. Set up your promotion so that users have to follow your account in order to be eligible to win your promotion/contest. To drive further engagement, make it so that users have to follow your account plus tag five friends in a post. When their friends see it, they'll follow your account and enter the promotion, and you'll have received six new followers off of a single post.
Also, don't forget No. 3 from this post and make sure that you use your cross-promotional skills to share your promotion across all of your social networks, and make sure your website highlights the promotion, too (assuming your website already has a link to your Instagram and other social media accounts, as this is best practice).
There are a ton of social promotion platforms out there that can help you set up your contest, with Wishpond being one of them. Just remember to make the prize worth while. The bigger the prize, the more people are going to want to join.
Now, get out there and deploy these strategies and watch as your Instagram followers grow.
Thumbnail image via Shutterstock