A few months back I was on facebook and came across this post.
The man in the photo is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Zlatan is an international football(soccer) superstar with over 22 million facebook fans. In this particular post, he was promoting VitaminWell’s Instagram page. I followed the link to the Instagram page to see it have 2000 followers. Interestingly, I clicked on the same link a couple of hours later and saw that their follower count had risen by another 4000 followers. I found this follower growth fascinating. Looking at the numbers though, it wasn’t that surprising. The post has over 200,000 likes and the number of impressions must run into the millions. The fact that the @vitaminwell instagram account was being promoted would have had an important impact on the number of followers.
I’d never heard of the brand before and I had just found out how powerful influencers on the web can be.
During our customer development period, we found that large brands did not have a problem with growing their following. However, the inability to grow a following was the number one reason small businesses struggled with Instagram marketing.
So, you’ve started an Instagram account for your business and are wondering how to grow your following. How are you going to grow your following? We decided to build Stribr because we came across plenty of business Instagram pages (especially local businesses like restaurants, bakeries, etc) that have this problem.
Is Instagram only big brand friendly? Absolutely not! Small businesses can steadily grow their Instagram following to start seeing ROI from Instagram Marketing.
The Basics: Why and How People Follow you on Instagram
The simplest and most straightforward way to grow your followers on Instagram is to post great content – regularly. The first question I get asked when I tell people this is that content cannot be shared on Instagram – how does it reach people outside my followers? The answer to this question lies in the app itself. More specifically it lies in the discover tab of the app.
The discover tab shows you photos liked by your connections. When you post great content that gets many likes, it gets discovered by the followers/connections of all the people that liked your photos. This is the Instagram equivalent of virality.
The biggest problem in this process and relying on it to grow your following is that it may be very slow till you build a considerable set of followers. To get a considerable number of followers for every post you make, you need to have a considerable following in the first place. Only beyond this point is there organic follower growth for really posting quality content.
Having said that, it should be your top most priority to post great content, consistently.
So how do you get started on Instagram? How do you build a following and grow your profile to the first few thousand followers?
Growing your Following by building Real Connections
For all practical purposes, until you have a considerable following, you have to assume that your Instagram activity is like a person trying to grow his network. Just like how a person goes to events and other places to get found, networking plays an important role in growing your initial Instagram following.
Your job is to find the right niche and get your profile found. On Twitter, a lot of people follow you back when you follow them. The same thing happens on Instagram as well. The process however feels more authentic on Instagram, mainly due the large number of bots and high spam on Twitter.
People will follow your account for a couple of main reasons:
- You are relevant to them
- You post good stuff
You can understand now why it is essential that you are able to classify your audience into niches. Picking the wrong niches means not connecting with the right people, which in turn means more effort for fewer followers.
Set your expectations right: Some types of Instagram profiles gather fans faster than others
Some Instagram profiles gather followers a lot faster than others. A lingerie model will grow her following faster than most other people can. The same applies to business Instagram profiles as well. Organic follower growth largely depends on a variety of factors (mainly your industry and the size of your brand).
The good news is that almost any business can grow a healthy Instagram following by posting consistently and making the right connections.
The 4 steps to Networking Effectively on Instagram:
Step 1 : Optimizing your profile
Having an interesting and fully complete profile is key in ensuring that people understand what you do. If you are a local business – mention which city/locality you operate in. E-Commerce store – mention what sort of stuff you sell…where do you ship to?
Think of the questions your ideal customer will ask before he chooses to follow your profile. Your description should come as close as possible to answering all these questions.
Step 2: Promote your Instagram Page on Other Social Channels
Chances are that you are active on other social networks as well. Make sure you let your other followers know that you have an Instagram profile. You can promote your Instagram account by adding an Instagram tab on Facebook. You can also cross post Instagram into other social networks like Twitter. You can also embed Instagram Images into blogs. These embedded images automatically come with a “follow” button.
Step 3: Get eyeballs on your optimized profile
Having a great profile and posting great content is very important. It’s very important to get this content (and more importantly your profile) noticed. Your profile in particular needs to be noticed because this is where people follow you back.
The best way of doing this is to go out and connect with other people in your niche. By ‘connect’ we mean following others and liking their pictures. Neil Patel found that randomly liking pictures leads to a x% increase in followers. This is for random people – this number is usually greater when you are engaging within a community that is local / has a particular interest.
Step 4: Define Your Target Niches and Set Up channels to Listen
A channel is basically a stream of posts that pertains to a particular niche/topic. Lets take a small restaurant looking to grow its local following. The most appropriate channel for this business to listen to would be the local instagram community around his business.
Similarly an E commerce store specializing in fashion accessories may want to set up channels for popular fashion hashtags and engage with the people using these hashtags.
When you like posts and follow people in the right channels, your profile gets discovered more often. Not just that, if your target audience is really able to relate to your message, the ratio of people who follow you back can be really high.
Step 5 : Following + Unfollowing on Instagram
This is the standard and most reliable method for smaller brands and businesses to grow their following on Instagram. When you follow people from the right stream, they check out your profile and choose to follow you back. This process is very authentic in Instagram and has a genuineness about it that is somehow missing on Twitter.
Ensure that you are following and unfollowing regularly and maintain a decent ratio. Don’t get bogged down by looking at power users/celebs that have way more followers than the number of people they are following. Remember that Instagram gives your brand a voice. For all practical purposes you are making human connections with your customers. It is important to be personal and take a keen interest in the lives of your customers.
TIP: You can follow a maximum of 60 people per hour on Instagram.
Bonus Tip: Reengage with Connections
Find the people you followed who haven’t followed you back. You can spend time liking some of their photos. This gives you another chance to get eyeballs on your content and your profile. Liking these photos will probably give you a small growth in your follower count.
Keys to success:
- Make sure that you set up a daily schedule to do these tasks. Once a schedule is set, it takes lesser time to build more connections.
- Making sure that you have the correct niches picked out. Having highly targeted streams of posts and people to interact with will have a huge impact on your follower conversion rates. If you are mostly interacting with locals, there is a high chance that they may already know your brand (and will be happy to follow you back – example).
- Respond to comments – stay active.
- Post nice stuff and control the schedule + number of posts per day / week. You don’t want to lose your existing followers. A lot of stuff has been posted on some of these topics – we’re not going to get too deep into this. All the best with your Instagram Marketing!