Will Blunt is the founder of Sidekick Digital by Will Blunt - B2B Marketing Expert - Sidekick Digital, a publishing business that launches, manages, and grows brands with content marketing.
Getting more followers on Instagram…How to do it is an age-old debate (well at least a decade, since Instagram’s inception in 2010).You’ll read tons of articles out there about “hacks” for growing your followers. Many of those tips work, many don’t, and some will get your account suspended.Most of the time, a “hack” is a very short-term way of achieving something. It will work temporarily, at least from a vanity perspective, but then you’ll be chasing your tail for the next one. Then the next one. Then the next one.An example is the old follow-unfollow strategy for gaining attention on social media. Sure, you will see your followers increase using this tactic. But the engagement rate won’t match - which is all the Instagram algorithm cares about these days - and you won’t achieve the things you’re trying to do on the platform. Such as increasing brand awareness, driving customer activity, and growing your business.So my goal with this article isn’t to add to the hundreds of other outdated Instagram “hack” articles floating around in the ether. Instead, I want to focus on five ageless tactics for growing an engaged following on Instagram. These tactics worked in 2010 and they’ll work in 2022 because they’re tied to fundamental human desires - not flippant trends or tricks for gaming the system.Let’s get to it.
1. Excellent Content
It’s hardly newsworthy to suggest that you need excellent content to grow your Instagram following, but many brands take this for granted. They think that by simply posting regularly the rest will fall into place.Instagram users are picky. They won’t interact with content unless it is exceptional and your brand needs to understand what that type of content is and deliver it every day.There are numerous approaches to creating Instagram content in different industries. For example, a sports marketer on Instagram will take a different approach to a real estate agent.But here are two examples of content that get next-level engagement and will help you grow your reach.
If you’re not creating some form of video content for Instagram, you’re leaving a ton of value on the table. Videos are killing it at the moment and that trend is showing no sign of stopping.Whether you’re creating IGTV content, Reels, or Stories, weave video into your strategy somewhere if you want to grow your following.Say you’ve only got the capacity to focus on one, make it Reels. Reels are Instagram’s answer to TikTok videos. Their fundamental purpose is to be entertaining, which is why they’re limited to 15 seconds in length. The engagement levels and subsequent reach of Reels are out-of-this-world compared with other content.For example, check out the SPANX Instagram profile. Their average post gets around 1,000-2,000 likes, but their Reels are cracking 20,000 views on average. Some are even in the hundreds of thousands of views![caption id="attachment_48453" align="alignnone" width="600"]
SPANX Instagram Profile[/caption]
Another type of content you may like to try out is in-post games. Not as many brands are trying them, but they get extremely good engagement and are worth considering.Game posts include things like word scrambles and A/B alternative questions that encourage users to comment. Check out this Planet Fitness word scramble as an example. It has over 1,300 comments compared to the typical 200-400 comments they usually get on a post![caption id="attachment_48452" align="alignnone" width="600"]
Planet Fitness word scramble[/caption]The key is to have a diverse content strategy. Don’t rely only on videos, games, photos, or stories - combine them in a well-executed strategy that speaks to your entire target audience.
As a social media giveaway software, it would be silly not to mention giveaways in a ShortStack blog post. But as you know, I’m not just suggesting this tactic because of the brand name - giveaways are a proven approach to rapidly increase engagement on Instagram and get more followers.Take women’s clothing brand, ROOLEE, for example. For its 7th birthday, they ran a comment-to-enter contest on Instagram. Users had to follow the ROOLEE account, like the post, and tag someone in the comments to enter for the chance to win a $700 shopping spree.[caption id="attachment_48451" align="alignnone" width="600"]
ROOLEE's comment-to-enter contest[/caption]The results? Over the 9-day period of the giveaway, ROOLEE collected 35,016 comments, 14,489 likes, and 2,200 new followers. Impressive!Giveaways on Instagram are easier than you think to set up, too. With ShortStack’s templates and back-end entry management system it will feel like a breeze.[caption id="attachment_48450" align="alignnone" width="600"]
Back-end entry management system in ShortStack[/caption]
Working with other complementary accounts is one of the fastest ways to grow your Instagram following. Whether it’s non-competing brands with a similar audience, influencers, or happy customers, collaborations are a must for your growth strategy.Examples of collabs include:
- Takeovers - Let an influential figure run your Instagram account for a day.
- Partner posts - Have another account create a post, video, or story that features your brand.
- Giveaways - Partner with a business or influencer(s) to create a giveaway prize and double (or more) the audience it reaches. For example, Valvoline partnered with AutoZone for its “Ultimate Dream Garage” giveaway - using several of its influencers to drive awareness and collect over 38,000 entries.
[caption id="attachment_48454" align="alignnone" width="600"]
Valvoline and AutoZone partnered to offer the Dream Garage Giveaway [/caption]
- Ambassador programs - Work with influencers on an ongoing basis as brand ambassadors so they post regular content about you to their followers.
- User-generated content - Entice customers to share their experience with your business via Instagram and repurpose the content on your own profile. It’s authentic and compelling!
Marketing a brand is about more than just one social platform and the growth of your Instagram following is often correlated to your promotional efforts elsewhere.Perhaps you’re growing an email list, managing a Facebook page, publishing blog content on a website, or any other number of audience-building tactics. Not every brand will use these methods, but wherever you are active be sure to cross-promote your Instagram profile.For example, when you send an email broadcast to customers and subscribers, include your Instagram profile in the footer. Or be even more direct about the call-to-action, like DIYODE are with this email specifically aimed at growing their Instagram followers:[caption id="attachment_48449" align="alignnone" width="680"]
Include a call-to-action in an email footer[/caption]Or, if you have a following on another social platform, consider directing them straight to your Instagram profile and cross-pollinating the audience.Any extra-warm traffic you can send to your Instagram profile will benefit your follower growth efforts.
Followers want to see the faces behind your brand and hear your authentic story. Soul-less photos and clickbait videos don’t cut it for meaningful audience engagement.One study, for example, found that sharing selfies attracts 38% more likes to your Instagram profile. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or have your team drop their guard as a way of connecting with users. They’re not looking for faceless brands but humans they can relate to.Brooks Running does a great job of showing its brand personality by highlighting authentic runners in its posts:[caption id="attachment_48448" align="alignnone" width="600"]
Brooks Running highlights authentic runners[/caption]Genuine accounts that hold similar values to their followers will attract more interest in the long run.
There is nothing easy about growing an Instagram following. More than ever, the best approach is to be authentic, engage with your audience, and publish exceptional content.No hack or trickery will help you achieve the success you’re looking for in the long term.Above all else, you need to be resilient. Show patience. Turn up every day.And yes, think outside the box every now and then so you stand out. But there’s no need to recreate the wheel.Follow the tips above, observe other great creators on Instagram, and take action on the tactics that align with your brand.The followers will come.
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