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Many companies and brands recognize the power of Instagram as a marketing tool. Given this platform’s immense popularity, both individual users and businesses find ways to get Instagram followers to boost their branding and marketing efforts.

But while it’s easy for celebrities to build a strong following on Instagram, it’s not the same for businesses especially SMEs and startups. And with the social network getting crowded than ever, it’s impossible to attract new followers without putting in some hard work.

So, what makes Instagram marketing worth the trouble? Just look at the following Instagram statistics that matter to your business, according to Hootsuite:

– Instagram boasts more than 1 billion active users monthly
– It has 500 million+ active users daily
– 35% of online adults are on Instagram
– 60% of users search for new products on the platform
– 75% of users take action
– It has 25 million business profiles
– 80% of users follow businesses
– Over 200 million users visit at least one business profile a day
– It has 2 million monthly advertisers
– It boasts 2.2% engagement rate, making it better than Facebook with 0.22 percent rate

Given these figures, it’s no wonder business opportunities continue to grow on this platform. Amid the popularity of other social media channels like YouTube and Facebook, Instagram is still a great marketing platform for many of today’s businesses, including yours.

Therefore, it pays to establish your brand on Instagram by engaging new and current followers. But the question is, do you have enough followers to engage?

Here are 10 actionable tips and best practices you can implement to grow your Instagram followers in 2019:

1. Create a complete, follow-worthy Instagram profile

Instagram is a prime tool for visual marketing. That’s why it’s hard for an IG profile – be it personal or business – to stand out and attract followers without prioritizing the aesthetics.

First impressions are everything when it comes to Instagram marketing. Make sure your profile is complete, optimized and visually appealing to give visitors a reason to click that “Follow” button.

Also, make sure your business profile is set to public so anyone can view your posts and increase your chances of getting “likes” and new followers.

So how do you create a follow-worthy Instagram profile? You need to set an easily searchable and recognizable username, pick a great profile picture, write a complete and effective bio, and curate your Instagram feed.

Even if your account is still new, it’s best to already plan your feed aesthetic as it will help you convert visitors into followers. Use consistent colour palettes that match your brand’s look and visually plan your feed to make your page attractive from the get-go.

It’s important to have several posts already up before trying to engage other users. This way, visitors will have something to look at when checking out your new account. Again, you need to give them a compelling reason to follow you.

To achieve a professional-looking Instagram feed that is aligned with your brand’s overall aesthetic, you can use marketing platforms like Later.

StepForth Instagram bio

2. Maximize your bio to get Instagram followers

It’s not enough to have a visually stunning feed if your goal is to get Instagram followers. You should also learn how to create a killer Instagram bio that will attract your ideal audience.

Many Instagrammers underutilize this part of their profile. But as a brand you cannot miss out on the opportunity that your Instagram bio provides. With a complete and engaging bio, you increase your chances of gaining new followers, driving more traffic, and generating sales.

What you write in your Instagram bio communicates what your brand is about and who your target audience is. Just like the homepage of your website, your Instagram bio defines your brand identity.

But while it’s a valuable space for self-promotion, remember that your bio should not only be about you but also your customers.

So, maximize the 150-character space in writing copy that resonates with your target market. It’s recommended to use emojis as they help humanize your brand and make your bio appealing.

Finally, use the bottom part of your bio to add a link to your website or the recent content you want to promote (blog post, YouTube video, etc.). Instagram allows you to add only one URL in your bio so make sure to use it well.

Also, write a compelling call-to-action or offer an incentive that will encourage visitors to click your link.

RELATED: How to Brand Yourself on Instagram

3. Always use high quality photos

Again, a visually appealing feed helps you get noticed on this crowded platform. Several studies have shown that consistently uploading visually attractive material attracts higher engagement on social.

As a platform that prioritizes visual content above all, Instagram requires that you know at least the basics of photography and photo editing. You cannot afford to share subpar quality photos, especially with high quality camera phones and photo editing apps at your disposal.

Instagram quality photos

Image Source: National Geographic Travel

Instagram used to be a dedicated photo-sharing app before it introduced other features like videos and stories. And while you can find success in video marketing and IG stories, publishing quality static images is a top priority for Instagram marketing.

Take a look at the accounts of some top brands and influencers on Instagram. You’ll notice that most, if not all, showcase crisp and polished images in their feeds. Blurry or pixelated photos are a rarity on this platform.

There are a variety of photo editing apps you can use to create those Instagram-worthy posts. You don’t even need to buy fancy photography equipment or to be a professional photographer. These apps can help you achieve an eye-catchy IG feed with their different filters and advanced editing functions.

Some of the most widely used photo editing apps among IG content creators are Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Prisma, Snapseed, VSCO and AfterLight. To know more about each app and how it can boost your feed, click here.

As mentioned above, it’s recommended to plan your content ahead. To do this, you need a great scheduling tool. This will help you organize your feed and ensure everything sticks to your brand’s aesthetic before you post.

Examples of popular Instagram scheduling tools are Later, Buffer, Iconosquare, Sprout Social, Zoho Social, Planoly and Sendible.

4. Create and share engaging videos

Photos are not your only priority for Instagram marketing. Videos are also a great way to attract visitors and get new followers.

In fact, studies show that video posts receive 38% more engagement than photo posts. There’s a reason why Facebook and Instagram have begun showing more video content in the users’ feeds in recent years. And also why IGTV has quickly become a trend among Instagrammers.

IGTV is an IG integrated app that allows users to create and watch engaging, long-form vertical videos. Vertical format is preferable for mobile use. And as most social media users are on mobile, brands can leverage vertical videos to reach a wider audience and get more engagement.

(Note: IGTV originally supported only vertical videos. But since June 2019, IGTV has allowed users to view video content in both landscape mode and full-screen vertical format.)

IGTV

With IGTV, you’re no longer confined to making a minute-long video to promote your brand, product or service. The platform allows you to create and upload videos that are up to 60 minutes long. And while IGTV is a separate app, your target audience can still view your videos from Instagram itself.

Posting videos on IGTV and Instagram can benefit your brand in different ways. For example, you can showcase a new product or service, highlight an ongoing promo, or share valuable tips for your followers.

In addition, you can share videos to provide a behind-the-scenes look at your brand or business, just like how reality TV shows get popular nowadays.

Sharing a glimpse into your brand with your audience can help you build a relatable image. And the more humanized and relatable your brand is, the more followers you can attract.

RELATED: Basics: Why You Should Use Video On Instagram

5. Prioritize engagement to get Instagram followers

It’s true that content is king even when it comes to Instagram marketing. But don’t be mistaken — Instagram is a social platform above all. That’s the operative word here: social.

This means producing value-based content is not enough. You need to interact and engage with other users on this platform. And this is more important when you’re targeting to build an audience and attract new followers on Instagram.

Engagement builds connection, and actively communicating with your followers helps make them stay on your list. Similarly, investing time to interact with other Instagrammers helps increase your brand visibility and grow your following.

How do you get Instagram followers this way? Here are some actionable steps to take:

1. Find key IG accounts within your niche. For example, if you’re into fashion, you can follow pages of popular fashion brands, runway models and celebrities.

2. Turn on post notifications for these profiles. Ideally, follow accounts that are not your direct competitors.

3. Leave a comment for their every new post, or as you deem fit. (Take note: Be as genuine as you possibly can so you won’t be mistaken as an engagement bot.)

4. Check out their list of followers and follow the real ones. You don’t want to risk following bots.

5. Observe if the accounts follow you back after some time. Unfollow some that don’t. This is to keep a healthy ratio between your follower and following lists.

Other users are likely to check you out and follow back if you leave comments that are relevant to their posts. Don’t like and comment on posts just for the sake of likes and follows.

Authenticity is the name of the game, and genuine engagement beats active but spammy comments any time.

6. Be strategic with Instagram hashtags

Originally popularized by Twitter, hashtags are now prevalent in other social channels like Instagram and Facebook. Today, hashtags have become indispensable to Instagram growth and marketing.

Hashtags are clickable words that Instagram users can follow. They work like search engine keywords in a way that they help accounts and specific posts become searchable on the platform.

Hashtags allow you to participate in global discussions, support a cause, and drive engagement on your posts. In fact, an Instagram post that includes one hashtag or more gets 12.6% more engagement on average than a post without any hashtag.

Therefore, using hashtags strategically can certainly boost your branding and marketing efforts.

instagram hashtags

But remember, there are best “hashtagging” practices that you’d want to follow if you want to attract authentic IG followers. The least thing you want to do is to appear spammy and attract spammers by using irrelevant or excessive hashtags.

Here are some tips on using hashtags to grow Instagram followers:

1. Check out trending tags that appear in the Instagram Explore page. See if there are brand-relevant keywords that you can include in your post.

2. Use branded hashtags. Create one for your brand and follow what others are saying about it. According to Sprout Social, 70% of hashtags on Instagram are branded. So, make sure you have one for your brand and your campaigns, too.

3. Get more specific. Hashtags that are used by millions of other users are hard to rank for. Unless you’re a big brand, you’ll find it best to use smaller-volume hashtags that bring more value to your target audience.

4. Identify your magic number. Some marketers found success in using all 30 hashtags in their posts, while others limit their magic number to 7-10. Keep experimenting until you discover what range works best for your business.

RELATED: How to Create a Social Media Strategy for Your Brand

7. Use the interactive features of Instagram stories

Gone are the days when IG was all about sharing of still images. Since Instagram introduced Stories to its users in 2016 (after adopting Snapchat’s disappearing stories feature), it has grown in popularity among personal brands and businesses alike.

As a brand, it’s important that you leverage Instagram Stories to build and grow your following. In fact, Instagram research shows that about 400 million users view Stories daily, and 1/3 of the most viewed Stories are from businesses.

In addition, 68% of millennials opt to consume Stories on IG, compared to only 49% on Snapchat and 44% on Facebook.

This means you’re likely to get higher engagement with IG Stories than on other social platforms. This feature gives you an incredible opportunity to showcase your brand uniqueness, expand your reach, and interact with your audience.

Given their ephemeral nature, Stories are given more prominence on both Instagram and Facebook. They appear at the very top of a user’s feed. Even those who don’t regularly interact with you can see your Stories, unlike the regular posts you share which often can get lost in the feed.

Since its launch a few years ago, Stories has seen more and more options added to it. These include polls and Q & A’s, stickers, ads, and a wide array of editing features. All these have made Stories a more interactive and powerful tool for users and marketers.

The Stories Highlights feature is also worth mentioning. While normal Stories stay for only 24 hours, Stories Highlights allows you to keep selected stories visible for your followers for as long as you want.

So use this feature to save Stories that promote your new product or service, or the best performing Stories you have shared with your audience.

8. Run Instagram contests to boost engagement

Of course, nothing is more engaging than Instagram contests. Who doesn’t love prizes and giveaways anyway?

If you want to build a solid following, you may consider offering something valuable first. What can you offer that your existing and potential followers will find it hard to resist?

Think of it like a lead magnet for an email marketing campaign. If you want people to subscribe to your mailing list, you offer them something in return like a free e-book or PDF file that could give value to their business.

Similarly, if you want to delight your current Instagram followers and attract new ones, you should be proactive with your marketing strategy. And hosting Instagram giveaways and contests is an effective example.

But remember, not all Instagram contests are created equal. There are various factors to consider such as your overall goal, the prize for your giveaway, the entry criteria for the contest, and more.

Instagram giveaway

Usually, brands collaborate with influencers or other brands for their contests. This is important especially when your brand has a relatively small following.

By partnering with another brand or content creator, you can leverage their existing audience and gain more exposure for your giveaway. As they say, two heads are always better than one.

Another tip: Before running an Instagram contest, come up with at least one unique campaign hashtag that participants can easily use. Campaign hashtags differentiate your giveaway from the countless others being run on Instagram.

It’s best to include your brand name in the main hashtag. Also, use other generic hashtags like #Instagiveaways, #Instagramcontest, #giveaways, #freebies and the like to increase your content’s visibility on Explore channels.

Need more tips? Check out this article for a more detailed guide on running Instagram giveaways.

9. Leverage influencer marketing to get Instagram followers

Partnering with content creators or influencers is not only beneficial when running Instagram contests. If your goal is to grow your Instagram followers, then you can definitely use the power of influencer marketing.

This strategy can be more time consuming and daunting than the ones we’ve already covered. But when done right, using influencers can yield great results for your business. This is why many brands big or small reach out to influencers on Instagram – it’s a worthy long-term investment to make.

Building a brand on a highly competitive platform like Instagram takes a lot of time and effort. Thus, many businesses piggyback on other Instagrammers’ success and influence in their respective fields and niches. Influencer marketing gives them a faster way to gain exposure and amplify their voice on Instagram.

Having said that, it can be tricky to choose which influencers to work with for your business.

Many people identify influencers as those who have built large followings, including celebrities, athletes and YouTube vloggers. But to pick the right influencer, you have to do a little more digging and not just look at their follower count.

The best influencers are those who have earned their followers’ trust and have truly engaged audiences. You wouldn’t want to work with an Instagrammer who has thousands of followers but receives low engagement on their posts. Engagement, after all, is a top metric used to measure influencer marketing performance.

So how do you determine the ideal influencer?

According to the Influencer Marketing Hub, here are some points to consider when identifying the best influencer for your brand:

Niche – Is their area of specialty relevant to yours?

Reach – Whether you choose a top-tier influencer or a micro-influencer depends on your marketing goal. Is your goal to increase brand awareness or to drive engagement?

Voice – Be clear whether you want an influencer with a casual or friendly tone or one who is more serious and professional.

Engagement Rate – Again, engagement is an important metric regardless of the influencer’s reach and number of followers.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Develop Your Facebook Marketing Strategy in 2019

10. Promote content through other channels

All the tips above are considered best practices for growing your Instagram followers organically. But these are strategies you can implement within Instagram itself. Remember, you can further boost your Instagram marketing efforts and attract new followers by going outside the platform.

Unfortunately, many brands – especially those that are just starting out on Instagram – assume that they will get followers on the platform easily if they have existing accounts in other social channels. But how can your target audience know that you’re on Instagram if you’re not promoting it?

So, don’t underestimate the impact of inviting people directly to follow you on Instagram. You can do this through your website, emails or other social pages.

Make sure to install an Instagram follow button to your company website or blog to make it easy for visitors to follow you on Instagram (if they haven’t already). You can also use an Instagram button or icon in your newsletters so that it will direct readers to your Instagram page.

In addition, you can promote your Instagram page by actively mentioning it in your Facebook and Twitter posts. You can create a post announcing your current Instagram giveaway to encourage your audience on these platforms to check out your IG profile.

If you have a significant following on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, then you already have a great start in building your following on Instagram, too.

Conclusion

It definitely takes time to establish a brand and to grow followers organically on Instagram. Plus, the platform does present real challenges to those just starting out. The game is starkly different between large brands with teams of content creators and small businesses with limited resources.

Nevertheless, it pays to play the game fairly and to avoid resorting to tactics that will do you more harm than good. For example, it can be tempting to buy fake followers and likes from shady websites. But doing so can get you banned from Instagram altogether. It’s also never ideal to use bot services even when some users see quick results from it.

Therefore, play by the rules and focus on sharing quality, engaging content for your followers. Establish relationships with the right influencers and stay updated with the latest Instagram trends and features. In time, you will get Instagram followers who are engaged, loyal and more likely to turn into paying customers.