In times when social networks have already become bread and butter for many, the popularity of such platforms as Instagram just keeps on growing. Based on statistics provided by Statista, with June 2018 Instagram has reached and since exceeded the 1 billion active monthly user mark.
But while the fruits are getting sweeter, reaching for the branch is getting harder. Determining the overall purpose of your Instagram account, coming up with the content strategy and designing it for the maximum engagement were the tricks that did wonders in the early days of Instagram. Now it’s just an expected norm and you have to go the extra mile to grow your channel.
This is THE list of tips and tricks that will ensure quick and smooth gain of real followers, provide the highest return on investment and will be worth your time.
1. Use hashtags to their full potential
Using hashtags is one of the most effective ways to get followers without following others. Hashtags let new people discover your content. You can have up to 30 hashtags for each post to increase its exposure. However, tagging random hashtags will not do the charm.
Easiest way to come up with the hashtags that are relevant and will bring more followers in is to explore the most general hashtags that fit your Instagram account. If you look up #sports, #fitness, check out other hashtags that are tagged in the post. See what’s trending as the chances of being discovered are way higher when using less generic hashtags.
Chris Hau is a successful seller on Sellfy and, as an artist, his Instagram account is well designed. However, even the greatest artwork needs a way to be discovered. That’s why Chris tags his posts with a list of hashtags that are relevant – to create a way for Instagram users to discover his work.
It sometimes might be challenging to come up with 30 relevant hashtags, so if a little spark of creativity is needed, you can always play around with hashtag generators like All Hashtag, Instavast and others. Although the tools are great, you should always hand pick the hashtags you feel fit your post the best so your content doesn’t come off as spam.
Hashtags are more than a one way ticket to the ‘’explore’’ section. Be creative!
2. Join micro-communities
Since Instagram introduced an option to follow hashtags, keeping up with micro-communities has become a breeze. You’ve already found the hashtags you’re gonna be working with and, to stay in the loop, follow them. See the hashtag as a social group that you want to fit in and be noticed. Like other posts, comment and start conversations and attract attention.
Once you have a solid and dedicated following, you can take this a step further and create your own micro-community like @sorelleamore has done with her own hashtag – #AdvancedSelfie. The tag has accumulated more than 40 thousand posts.
3. Interact with top influencers
The word ‘’networking’’ is in the very essence of social networks – that’s what you ought to do! You have already found your niche hashtags, your niche communities.
And if you’ve been persistent, you have probably noticed the key players in the group. Like, comment, ask questions, interact and see if you can establish a mutually friendly relationship with them.
The great thing about Instagram (and other social media platforms) is that the competition does not involve stealing a piece of a pie from another. It’s like… cloning your pies and exchanging with them. Make friends and promote each other’s content, do collaborations and organize mutual giveaways.
4. Get the best out of Location tag
While, from the first look, it might seem that the Location tag on Instagram is for businesses and flashy teenagers that want to brag about where they had their dinner, every Instagrammer can find their benefit there.
You can look at it as an ‘’extra hashtag slot’’ and use strategically picked locations or tag the place of the photo. Imagine a random person looking up the nearest Papa John’s and seeing your goofy smile and that controversial pineapple pizza on the table. That’s calling for a comment, or what?
@foodcoma_eats is an absolute winner when it comes to dominating burger joint place tag top photo section. Take a look:
5. Follow people who like competing pages
Sometimes it’s impossible to be noticed without tapping on the shoulder. If your Instagram account is all about blueberry cupcakes, there is a chance that you could find some potential fans in the follower list of the chocolate cupcake account. Imagine all the people that would love to see your content on their feed, but will be missing out on it just because they haven’t stumbled on your account yet. Tap them on the shoulder – follow them!
This is what Richard Lazazzera, Instagram Marketing expert did:
6. Follow a large amount of users
If you’ve been an Instagram user for a while you must have gotten random followers or follow-requests, right? The first ones got you excited, the next 15 were annoying, but then you started paying attention to what that account posts.
That’s because the follow/unfollow system has become a widely used and accepted form of advertising. And it’s still a fairly successful one.
While the process is straightforward, Instagram has not publicly disclosed the maximum hourly or daily amounts of follows allowed. It’s been speculated that different factors come in the play, such as account age, number of followers, overall engagement and potentially others.
However, it seems that 40 follows per hour is a safe amount for a new account, which can be gradually increased over time as the account ages and gains more followers.
@boostthebold is using the strategy and, based on the follow/follower ratio, seems like it’s working pretty well.
You don’t have to push yourself or risk your account by following the maximum amount of accounts allowed. Everybody will agree that 5000 follows and 64 followers don’t look that great, right? Keep it classy, increase the numbers gradually. Some stop following once they reach 10k followers on Instagram, others keep on going. The idea is to get your account snowballing first and let it develop itself later on.
Follower app to help you out with this is always an option, but a paid one and a risky one as Instagram terms of service does not appreciate automatizing actions.
7. Nail the captions
Storytelling, expressing feelings, providing a setting, giving the backstory will add to the post. A beautiful picture without a caption is still just a picture. A great caption is what turns a picture into a story and a memory. Captions will not increase your exposure, but they will, in fact, be one of the determining factors if the user is going to follow you or not. Turn the visitors into followers by impressive post descriptions.
8. Call to action
Since Instagram has changed the way posts show up on users’ timeline, follower engagement has become crucial. No user engagement will mean your posts will be put at the very end of the line.
On the other hand, if user engagement is high, your posts will be one of the first ones your followers will see. It’s Instagram’s way of giving users the content they are looking for.
Reduce the power distance. The closer you are, the higher engagement on your posts. It doesn’t always have to be a call to buy or download something – ask a question, ask to like if they can relate, make them choose between options and let your followers know that you care for them and they have a say.
Look at how creative.cliche does it.
9. Have a schedule
Consistency is a cornerstone of success. So whatever your posting frequency is – stick to it. Posting too rarely will result in low engagement and slow account growth, while overposting might seem spammy and lead to losing followers.
The top Instagrammers post once or twice a day and that is what researchers seem to have proven to be optimal. So why fix it if it’s not broken? If you need a helping hand, look up post scheduling platforms like CoSchedule and Later.
10. Post in peak times
It’s not something you can figure out right of the bat. You can of course research the peak times that promise the most likes and highest engagement, but it’s better to analyze your own statistics. Why?
Because, trust me, blueberry muffin pics peak at different times than Victoria Secret models photos!
11. Repost other users’ content with tags
You can note down the times that seem to work best or you can use free tools like Squarelovin and Union Metrics to do the math for you.
There are plenty of popular accounts that live off of other people’s content. It’s not bad as long as the creator gets the credit and is tagged. It’s a win-win situation. Creator gets exposure, while the reposting account gets content and increases its following.
Instagrammers were quick to adapt the ‘’reposting promo’’ even for personal photo memoirs. A simple and (mostly) free advertising option is a post for post where two Instagrammers come together and agree to repost 1 of each other’s posts by tagging the person and giving a shoutout.
This is a very popular and, when you think about it, a natural strategy utilized by photographers. Artist posts a photo of the photoshoot with a tag of the model, hence creating content for own account while promoting the other person just like photographer @samuelelkins does in his IG account.
The model (in this case professional model @mnkata) then posts a part of the photoshoot on own account tagging the photographer which ends up being a mutually beneficial activity.
This same strategy can be applied by any two accounts that have an overlapping target audience.
12. Get your Instagram account promoted on other networks
If you’re looking to gain followers on Instagram fast, this one is designed for you.
A Buzzfeed employee wrote a perfect example article promoting her social media accounts while being informative and professional about it.
She left the impression that she went the extra mile to do you a favor, to answer the most frequent questions relating her expertise instead of coming off as a salesperson. Readers will not boo you out and, if the article is really good, your post might get promoted.
Don’t limit yourself to buzzfeed. Dig around, look for blogs in your industry, find think-alikes on reddit, look up Twitter accounts with the same interests. It might not be easy to find the right target and even more difficult to hit the bull’s eye, but once it happens, it can blow up your account overnight.
P.S. If all this sounds like too much of a hassle, you can always skip the lobster night and get a paid article or an add on the very same blogs.
13. Host Giveaways
Giveaway is a low cost promotion and a follower engagement boost, if it’s done right. @wake.up.nutrition and @eatprotes are collaborating on this one. A like, a follow and tag a friend for a free protein goodie? Anytime!
Giveaways will not only increase engagement on your posts, but can snowball your account follower wise. It all depends on how they are planned and organized. There are different ways of how to play out this card. You can go for increased engagement and require the user to be like the post in order to participate in the giveaway, or you can collaborate with other creators asking your followers to like the post and follow the co-host of the giveaway and the co-host does the same for you. Or you can just ask to tag a friend in the comment section, hence the post engagement is high and new people will be exposed to your content.
14. Try videos, live videos, and Stories
World has already adapted to today’s information overload. People let the information past and ignore it, if it’s not easy to filter or quick to grasp. A study shows that 80% of consumers would prefer to watch a live video from a brand rather than read a blog, while 82% prefer live video from a brand over social media posts.
Stories, videos and live videos is a great opportunity to introduce your followers to the backstage, show your routine, tell a story, host a Q&A session – it will all add a spark of life to your account.
- Story highlights are great to pitch your account to the newcomers. Tell them what you do and why they should follow you.
- Stories will keep your account name in the air and keep your followers active.
- Videos can get you highlighted in the explore section just like regular posts.
- Live videos do magic when it comes to community building.
Popular fashion vlogger @itsmarziapie likes doodling around with Instagram stories by posting bits and pieces of her daily routine as a story. Compared to regular posts, the stories are quick snaps with thoughts, stories or questions, while her regular posts are professionally looking pictures, like you would imagine a fashion vlogger would take.
15. Run Instagram ads
A common English saying goes: ‘’You have to spend money to make money.’’ And it stands true today. Instagram ads is a way to simply but effectively grow your account without doing any additional work besides providing quality content. On-network advertising takes little effort as you don’t have to prepare a special format material. The era of ‘’how to reach the target audience’’ is over, you just simply pick and choose the characteristics of people you want to see your ad! The best thing about Instagram ads is how naturally they are included in users’ feed without being annoying at all.
The cost of running a highly targeted ad with especially particular user specifics is around $5 per CPM (cost per thousand impressions) which is half as much as the same ads would cost on Facebook, according to WordStream.
The great thing about running Instagram ads is the fact that you don’t have to spend all your savings, you can easily do $10 campaigns and see how much it benefits your account and then decide, whether to increase your investment in the ads or not.
16. Use analytics and keep track
There are many apps and softwares that can come in handy besides the ones mentioned above. For example, link shorteners like Bitly, Buffer and Capsulink are excellent tools to track what content brings the most traffic to your links in the bio, where your visitors are coming from and adjust your future campaigns accordingly. Moreover, they allow you to create branded links which can better attract your customers’ attention, build brand awareness and increase your visibility online.
It’s crucial to note down of what works best for you and what doesn’t work at all, what takes more time and what can be done quickly, what you enjoy doing and what you would rather not do. It’s all about making choices and prioritizing to be consistent and successful. You’ll only find your recipe of success by doing.
These 16 tricks will keep your Instagram to-do list full. Like any other aspect in life, Instagram too requires either chunky time investment or some dollar bills. Perfect, if you can do both. If not, there are plenty of other tricks you can try to make sure your Instagram account grows. If a frog can achieve 4 digits of followers, so can everyone else.
Alexander @Bickov is a Riga based digital product designer with over 15 years of UX design and digital marketing experience. In his work, he aims to connect people and products by using strategy, creativity, and technology. Alexander has built digital services and products for organizations ranging from agencies, startups to large companies. His work is featured in the iOS App Store, Wall Street Journal, CNN, Business Insider, Forbes and Big Think.