Last week we discussed the steps to setting up your Instagram strategy around what I call an honest growth model. This week we’re going to dig deeper and get into the best practices for experiencing unprecedented growth using only a few tools, genuine conversation…and a little magic.
Day 4: Growing your Following Honestly
Once your content is launched, you can finally start working on follower growth. This is a process that you’ll be following for the rest of your Instagram life. If you want to see real organic growth, you will always have to work hard for it. But above all you’ll have to remain honest. IG users these days are primarily composed of millennials. These people grew up with social media and they can spot a ‘faker’ a thousand posts away. This is the mantra we live by with our social accounts:
Find a Hashtag: Ideally one that is extremely targeted and industry-specific. An example would be #marketinglife if you’re in the marketing industry. Here you’ll be able to find other accounts that are within your demographic.
Identify Similar Accounts: Once you identify other successful accounts in your niche from targeted hashtags, you can study their following by clicking on the “Followers” button. This is a treasure trove of leads that have already proven an interest in your niche by following similar accounts.
Engage Targeted Users Intelligently: I recommend really taking time to approach this in a genuine way. Many people will like multiple posts on other users’ accounts hoping they notice them and return the favor. Ultimately this method never really leads to sustainable growth. I’ve noticed a higher return by taking the time to write out a thoughtful comment or even liking only one or two posts that actually spoke to me. When thought comes before action, people will always notice. At times it can even be appropriate to send a personal message to your biggest fans telling them how much you enjoy their content. Don’t ask anything from them, usually just going out of your way to compliment them will be enough to keep you on their minds for years to come.
Use the Right Tools: My secret weapon is CrowdFire for so many reasons. This app can do pretty much anything, including help you tag key followers, unfollow inactive accounts, identify your most engaged followers, and even see who recently unfollowed you. The app is free for one account so it’s a must download. Knowing who your key followers are and maintaining a whitelist of your biggest fans will help you visualize where to focus your efforts. Having 10 brand advocates will always be more valuable than 100 ‘follow backs’.
*NOTE: This app does include a rather spammy feature that lets you bulk follow any other user’s followers or to buy Instagram followers. This feature will get you a huge amount of followers. But I don’t recommend using it very much, as these followers will not be very engaged, having no real attachment to your brand.
Day 5: Finding the Magic Hashtags
Really, you should be searching for hashtags from Day 1, but I recommend establishing your “core tags” soon after you start posting. Instagram only allows you to post 30 tags per photo, so go back to your list of similar accounts and see which they’re using consistently. Now that IG has included a “Top 9” feature for each hashtag, there has emerged a bit of a magic formula for finding quality tags.
Essentially, you want hashtags that are both targeted to your niche but also fairly non-saturated. The way to tell if it’s saturated is to click the tag and look at the photos in the Top 9 section. If these posts are seeing over 100 likes on average, you should avoid this tag as you’ll likely get buried and unseen. Tags that have under 100 likes can be more viable as you have more of a chance of being pushed to the Top 9.
Of course this formula is dynamic in that your tags should change as your posts get more engagement. For example, once your posts start seeing over 100 likes each you should search out higher traffic tags that you feel you’ll have a chance ranking within. This is a huge opportunity for free and easy exposure but finding that magic tag is the hard part.
Day 6: Tracking What’s Working
Like any social channel, you have to track each action to optimize all future efforts. I really only use Iconosquare, which is perfect for seeing the intimate details on nearly every facet of your account. This tool lets you identify content that’s working and your engagement levels on a monthly basis. It even lists your top followers, helping you know where to target your follower interaction.
When you know which content is seeing engagement, refine refine refine! When I noticed my posts involving related background images and shorter quotes working better, I decided to focus on these types of posts more often. After doing so, my posts saw a direct increase in engagement almost instantly. Iconosquare also has a feature that tells you which time of day is working best. With these small refinements you’ll continue to see steady, consistent growth.
Day 7: Keeping Momentum
Keeping momentum means staying active. Instagram needs to be a daily part of your routine. Think of it as a small pet that needs constant care and love to grow healthy and strong. Here’s how to keep momentum as your profile matures:
Reach Out to Key Followers: Way too many people underestimate the power of a simple gesture. First use Iconosquare to list your top 10 followers. From there all you have to do is routinely like and comment on their posts to foster a relationship. Trust me they will notice and we all know how powerful word of mouth can be.
Ask For Help Intelligently: The instagram community is a helpful and caring bunch of people. You’d be surprised how many people would be willing to mention to your account in a post, but I recommend you go one step further. Instead of simply messaging someone and asking them for a shoutout, come to them prepared with an original piece of content you made specifically for their profile. Don’t even ask for a feature or mention, trust me they’ll do that on their own.
When thought comes before action, people will always notice.
Keep Things Interesting: Your fans are likely following hundreds of other accounts. What is going to keep you standing out in their newsfeed? What makes you special? Running occasional contests or giveaways will always give you a burst of engagement however I feel these methods are too temporary and inauthentic. I recommend simply asking a question of your userbase, devote a post to asking what people feel about a certain subject. As one of our previous posts showed, users tend to respond 30% better with a call-to-action in the post. With a question you’re igniting conversation and nothing could be better for a brand.