With over 1 billion monthly active users, it’s no surprise that many startups wish to use Instagram to increase their online presence and generate excitement for their growing business. The fact that Instagram accounts generally have a much higher engagement rate than their counterparts on Facebook or Twitter further adds to the appeal.
But to create a strong account that actively drives new customers to your startup, you need to build a following that actually cares about your content in the first place. By utilizing a few key strategies, you can build an engaged following that will strengthen your startup’s chances for success.
1. Create Discoverable Content
As basic as it sounds, quality content is the foundation for any effort to building a strong Instagram following for your startup. Naturally, this means posting attractive, on-brand images that help tell the story of your startup and the problem it seeks to solve.
However, there are a few things you can do to make this content more easily discoverable. Hashtags will allow your posts to show up in searches — some reports indicate that using hashtags improves post interaction by 12 percent. To help your target audience find you, use specific niche hashtags rather than broad, extremely popular hashtags.
Instagram Stories can be another great way to give your audience a steady stream of content. Because Stories generally disappear after 24 hours, they don’t need to be as polished as the rest of your posts. However, giving current fans a behind the scenes look at your work or other exclusive content will keep them coming back each day.
2. Build Excitement With Contests
If you’re looking to expand your current audience, few tactics can prove more effective than a contest. As Instagram growth platform Kicksta reveals in a guide on follower growth in 2019, “Instagram accounts that hold contests can achieve 70 percent faster follower growth compared to those that don’t hold contests. Hosting an Instagram contest is a tried and true method to not only reward your loyal followers, but also gain exposure and get new real followers on Instagram.”
A quality contest will entice users to essentially promote your brand on Instagram thanks to the promise of a free product or a special offer on your services. Some of the most effective Instagram contests include having followers tag friends in a comment on one of your posts or having current fans create their own posts featuring your brand (often including a branded hashtag).
These giveaways essentially serve as a form of word of mouth marketing for your startup. Current followers become more engaged thanks to the possibility of winning a free prize, while also introducing your brand to their friends who are likely to share similar interests.
3. Partner With Niche Influencers
Influencer marketing is a popular buzzword these days, in large part because it allows startups to connect their brand with influential people within their market niche. Startups with a relatively limited budget can find great success partnering with micro-influencers, or influencers with somewhere between 1,000 and 100,000 followers.
For example, a Media Bistro case study noted how beauty brand Glossier partnered with a college student who had 8,500 Instagram followers, paying her to promote their moisturizing cream. The brand also partnered with a beauty vlogger who had 47,000 YouTube subscribers.
Though such influencers have smaller audiences, their niche following tends to be highly engaged, which increases the likelihood of bringing quality traffic to your own Instagram account. An on-brand partnership will help you attract followers who are more likely to become dedicated fans of your brand.
4. Engage With Your Audience
The previously mentioned tactics might help you attract followers, but a key part of Instagram success is keeping your audience continually engaged with your content. Beyond posting on a daily basis, you can further enhance audience loyalty by regularly engaging with your followers — particularly in the comments section.
As marketing blog Endless Aisles explains, “Replying to your followers on Instagram shows that you care about your customers, that your business is up to date with social media, and lets your customers and potential customers know that you are there for them.”
This also fosters even greater engagement on your posts, which will give your content a greater boost in Instagram’s algorithms. This will make it that much easier for your posts to show up in followers’ news feeds. Asking questions or hosting polls are easy ways to get the conversation started.
5. Turn to Analytics to Improve Content
As with any other marketing endeavor, analytics are your friend as you try to keep your following actively engaged with your Instagram content. Are you posting at the right time of day? Should you try a different call to action on your posts? Are certain types of content resonating more with your audience than others?
Startups who use the Instagram Insights tool available through their business account will more easily find answers to these questions. This dashboard breaks down audience demographics as well as engagement statistics for individual Posts and Stories. Adapting your content to give your followers more of what they like will keep them coming back for more.
Building an engaged, loyal following on Instagram isn’t always easy, but it can yield big dividends for your startup. As you prioritize the creation of quality content and follow best practices for interacting with your audience, you will be able to find the individuals most likely to benefit from your products or services.