Did you know more than 80% of accounts on Instagram follow a business? That alone should tempt you to see how Instagram can work for your company. But success on Instagram requires more than just pictures—you also need to connect your activity to a business goal, and you need to attract the right people to engage with.
You might have heard about people who gained thousands of followers in just a few days. The sad truth is that not all those followers are real—some people buy followers or use automated processes to exaggerate how much reach or influence they have. If you’re using Instagram for business, fake followers won’t help you for one simple reason: they will never turn into real customers.
To grow your bottom line with Instagram, you want to build a following made up of real people with interests that are genuinely connected to your business. To do this, you need to do two things: First, give people a reason to follow you, and then connect with the right people. Keep on reading to learn how you can do both.
Before you pick up your camera, you need to think about what you want to get from your Instagram account. If you know what you’re trying to achieve, then you can set yourself up for success and measure your progress.
But before we do that, you should make sure that your Instagram profile and bio are complete. Check out Neil Patel’s advice on how to do this well:
Know what you want to achieve
Let’s get back to goals. For your business to be successful on Instagram, you should limit your goals to just one or two, but make them specific. Here are some examples of how to frame your company’s Instagram goal: “My company is using Instagram to:
- Increase traffic on my website by 20%
- Gain 300 new email subscribers per month
- Increase product sales by 15%, or
- Get 150 pre-orders for our new widget.”
Once you know what your goals are, you can think about what kind of content will support those goals. In other words, what kinds of photos should you post? If your content is too random, people won’t find value in following you. But if your content is strategic, you will attract followers who can help you grow your business.
Use pictures to tell your story
The easiest place to start is with pictures of people, which bring a personal touch to your business. The trick is to link the photos that you post to your goal. By matching these two things together, your photos will tell your followers a visual story that conveys the message you want them to take away. If your goal is to recruit new employees, you could post people-centred photos that show happy employees in action. If your goal is to increase sales, you could share photos of people using your products.
You could also opt for product-focused photos. For example, if your goal is to boost sales by piquing interest in the technical specs of your product, you could post behind-the-scenes photos of your manufacturing processes or the tools that you use in your work.
You can also use text-based images to share key messages. Quotes are a huge favourite. So if your goal is to inspire loyalty or demonstrate credibility, you could share inspirational quotes that align with your brand, customer testimonials, or mind-blowing statistics.
Aim to post at least one or two photos each day, and if you can, at least one video.
Regardless of what type of photos you decide to share, original photos are essential. As a photo-sharing platform, people on Instagram expect your posts to be original, not recycled stock photography.
Project a cohesive image
Just like with your content strategy, you also need visual consistency in what you share to give your content a cohesive look that makes your brand look professional. Test out Instagram’s photo filters to enhance the photos you take. If you find a filter that you like, use it regularly to give your posts a polished image.
Likewise, consider using the same colour scheme and font for quotes, or having your employees pose in a similar way, or always featuring the same prop or logo in your photos. All of these are ways to make your brand memorable to your followers—pick one or two that feel right for your brand and test them out.
Make captions count
Once you have a photo to share, you need a caption. Be descriptive and engaging, and be sure to put the best information first so that it’s immediately visible in your followers’ feed.
Hashtags are also critical, even more so on Instagram than on Twitter or Facebook, and you need to use them a bit differently. Think of hashtags as a catalog system for people you haven’t engaged with yet. What would they search for if they were seeking content like yours? Put yourself in their shoes and come up with a list of relevant hashtags that will make your content easy for them to discover.
Hack for hashtags
Once you have some ideas, search for them on Instagram. Take note of what other hashtags are used with them and consider whether they are relevant to you. As always, specific is better. General hashtags might have broad reach, but you likely won’t reach your target audience. Your goal is to be discoverable by the right people, not just any people. Once you have a list, record them in a document or spreadsheet for future reference.
How many hashtags should you use? Between 5 and 15 seems to work best. Want to stand out from the crowd a little bit more? Put the hashtags in a comment instead of directly with the photo. This approach makes your caption easier to read without compromising users’ ability to find you.
As well as hashtags, you should also use Instagram’s geolocation feature. This is especially important for bricks-and-mortar businesses where you want people to visit your physical location.
Now that you have great content, you can start to attract more quality followers.
This is where the magic happens. You don’t need to wait for relevant people to find you—you can go find them! Where do your ideal followers hang out? Check out the accounts of your competitors and other people in your industry. Who follows them? Click on the “followers” button to find out. Don’t be shy—follow them! Many of them will follow you back.
You can take this one step further. Remember when we were searching for hashtags? You can do that again, but this time take a closer look at some of the top posts that come up in your search results and the accounts that posted them. Based on their posts and their bio, do they have interests that are similar to yours? Would their followers potentially be interested in your content? Click on followers, and have a look at who they are. Follow them as well! As before, many will follow you back.
Collaborate with influencers
Influencers are typically Instagram users in your niche who enjoy a huge following of real users. Collaborating with influencers can be a very profitable way to build real followers quickly. This is because these influencers have already done the hard work of bringing together a targeted following in one place. Working with them can help spread the word about your account to this group. There are a number of ways to collaborate with influencers. While paying for a brand mention is the easiest and the most common strategy, this may be expensive. You can also seek a shout out in exchange for promoting the influencer’s website from your blog. Alternatively, you may share free goodies or sample products for review in exchange for them spreading the word about you. Regardless of what influencer marketing strategy you choose, make sure that you follow the FTC guidelines with respect to disclosure and liability issues.
Real Instagram followers want you to be genuine and engage
Instagram sets limits on how many accounts you can follow each day to protect users from inappropriate behavior. However, if you regularly post quality content and dedicate just a few minutes several times each day to following others, the number of followers you attract will continue to grow without raising flags because you’re being thoughtful and deliberate in your approach. And the effort is worth it because the people who follow you back are doing so because they have a genuine interest in your brand.
Once you start to follow more people (and have them follow you back), you also want to be active in the community. Scan through your feed and “like” the photos that catch your attention, and comment on the ones you love. This engagement will reap rewards—the more you reach out, the more people will come to you.
Monitor your progress
How do you measure success? Keep track of the key stats that matter to you. But remember: this is also a long-term investment. You won’t know what’s working unless you give it time to succeed. Here are some metrics to consider tracking:
- How many unique visitors are going from Instagram to your website?
- How many new followers have you gained?
- How much engagement are you generating (e.g., likes and comments)? Are some hashtags attracting more than others?
The most important thing is to remember that success doesn’t come overnight, but that with the right effort, you will gain real followers that help your business reap long-term dividends.