Instagram is a fantastic branding opportunity for many small businesses. However, growing a large and engaged following can take a long time and be incredibly time consuming. The following nine tips will help you build your small business’ Instagram account and gain a large and profitable following quickly and efficiently.
1. Post great content your audience will love
Everything starts with great content. Instagram has over 400 million users. You have to find a way to get your account to stand out from the crowd. The content you create needs to not only be great in design but perfect for your audience. Lovely images of things your ideal audience couldn’t care less about won’t get you the following or engagement you’re seeking.
A fantastic example of the right content mix for a particular audience is Foundr Magazine’s Instagram. Foundr magazine grew their Instagram account to 10,000 followers in two weeks by posting motivational and inspirational quotes geared toward their target audience of current and aspiring entrepreneurs. You can have similar success by taking the time to research what kind of content works for your target audience. Search accounts with similar audiences and see what kind of content is working for them, then create similar content for your account.
2. It’s all about the hashtag
While hashtags may seem trivial and annoying, they are a critical part of the Instagram ecosystem. Hashtags expose your account to thousands of users who may not have found it otherwise. Use Websta to find hashtags relevant to your industry and use them on all of your posts. The maximum number of hashtags Instagram allows per post is thirty. Power users will often max out the number of hashtags they use. However, on average, the most popular posts use eleven hashtags per image. Do your homework and load up on those hashtags to grow your account.
3. Steal followers
To grow the Instagram for your small business quickly, you need to steal your competitors’ followers. Stealing followers is a great strategy because you don’t have to guess about their interest in your content since they are already following similar accounts. To get the most out of your efforts, you should employ a Like + Comment + Follow strategy. For example, instead of just following users or liking posts, you would follow a user, like one of their pictures and then leave a comment on the same or different image. One business owner achieved a follow-back rate of 34 percent when using the above engagement strategy.
4. Post often and consistently
Post consistently to grow your business’ Instagram following quickly. Quintly.com, a social media analytics tool, analyzed over 5,000 Instagram profiles in 2015. They found that the profiles with the most followers posted two to three times per day. Average Instagram users weren’t slouches in the posting department either; the average account added a new image once per day.
5. Have a strong call to action
Each image you post should have a strong call to action. Sometimes getting users to do what you want can be as simple as asking them to do it. Popular calls to action on Instagram for small business include asking fans to “double tap” if they like a post or to “tag a friend” in the comments. You can also direct fans to sign up for you email list or purchase your product. Including a call to action is a gentle reminder to your fans that they can do more than just look at your content. It also does wonders to increase your engagement while getting more eyeballs to your posts.
6. Run contests
Contests are an excellent way to increase engagement on Instagram. A well-run contest can result in thousands of new followers with little effort on your part. There are many types of contests you can run on Instagram. However, regardless of the type of contest you decide to run, the price of entry should be any combination of liking a post, following you, tagging a friend or some other action that will expose your account to a wider audience and increase engagement.
7. Pay for Instagram shout-outs
An Instagram shout-out involves a user mentioning your account in one of their posts either through a caption or on an image. Instagram shout-outs are one of the quickest and most efficient ways to grow your following. It places your account in front of thousands of new users that you likely would not have had access to before. To find the right profiles for shout-outs, research the most active Instagram accounts in your industry and find the ones that not only have a similar audience but also have high engagement based on the number of likes and comments their posts receive. Then just contact them to see if they are interested in doing a shout-out and how much it will cost.
8. Schedule your posts
As a small business owner, you likely don’t have the time to manage your Instagram account on a daily basis. Scheduling is essential to growing your Instagram and to freeing your time to focus on other aspects of your business. Scheduling platforms such as Hootsuite and Schedugram make it easy to schedule your posts well in advance, ensuring you consistently have fresh content to share.
9. Automate your engagement
The dirty little secret of most large Instagram accounts is that they use software to handle their likes, follows and comments. Services such as Instagress and Archie will engage with other Instagram accounts based on parameters you set. These tools are very powerful and can grow your small business’ Instagram followers quickly. They are also against Instagram’s terms of service and can lead to a permanent ban of your account. The good news is, if you don’t abuse the services by engaging too many users too quickly, you aren’t likely to get your account banned and can reap the benefits of growing your Instagram on autopilot.
T.S. Johnson is a Florida based freelance writer. She writes about all the ways small businesses can use design and social media to increase their brand awareness.