Social media is and has been a marketing gold mine for many businesses across the world (and more). Virtually anyone can build a brand through the hundreds of social media platforms available. One of the largest and most successful ones is of course Instagram.

With a ton of people taking pictures and sharing them using cool filters, the platform has over 300 million users and engagement levels through the roof to. All that you need is proper strategies in order to take advantage of it.

Following the social media etiquette I outlined, here are some strategies to consider when growing your audience.

Have A Social Media Plan

Before jumping into this topic, it’s important to stress that you need a plan and objectives. While social media is a powerful tool, it’s only as good as the person who is using it and the audience they are attracting. This is so important because social media is a long-term endeavor.

Growing an audience that’ll buy what you’re selling takes a long time. And so you can’t just get by solely by winging it or have no clear direction.

This isn’t to say you need to have everything down to the nitty-gritty details. After all, social media is grounds to experiment. However, at the very least, you want to be able to have an idea of what your brand is about and how you’ll generally convey that.

Are you going to post a lot of videos? Or will you go for more pictures? What sort of etiquette will you be practicing?

This will help with growing an audience as it paints a picture of what you want to do generally. By having this plan, you’re not posting haphazardly and without meaning. There is intention and a sense of authenticity that people will appreciate.

Understanding And Using Hashtags

Like I said before, hashtags are used for search purposes on Instagram. As a result, hashtags are used by posters and regular users differently than on Twitter. For example, since Twitter is so tight on characters, people opt to use hashtags there more frequently than on Instagram.

However Instagram has it’s own fashion of hashtag stuffing. Especially since Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags to be used. While you’d think it’s smart to use all 30 or get close to that amount, that’s not always the best decision.

For example, if your hashtags are too generic (like #christmas or #fitness) you’ll be competing with millions of other posts. Instead, you want to be mixing up trending hashtags with hashtags specific to your industry.

What’s also worth noting is the amount of hashtags. Again, you’re allowed 30, however it’s worth noting that the vast majority of top brands have seven or less hashtags in their posts.

To figure out how many you need, look at users similar to you and see how many hashtags they are using. You want to pay especially close attention to the bigger name people and influencers.

Following Similar Users

Another tip I mentioned was to engage with other people’s content. As such, one way to grow your audience is to follow similar people to you. Instagram is a social media platform at the end of the day and people want to see others engage and comment on photos.

There’s little merit to posting and then leaving.

That being said, you don’t need to be jumping through dozens of hoops to get someone to follow you. One strategy to get people to follow is a strategy called “like, like, like, follow.” It essentially means liking three photos from that particular user and then follow them. What’s a step above that is including a genuine or thoughtful comment.

This strategy is effective because not only have you followed that person but it tells the person you dug into their posts and clearly like who they are. This also tells you’re interested in their brand and that can be beneficial for future business with them, even if they are in your niche.

Using Emojis

This hinges on the sort of atmosphere you’re trying to create. Not to mention the target audience you are attracting as well. Regardless, emoji’s are a powerful tool that every business should use to some extent, the degree in which they are used is based on who you’re targeting.

I say that because according to Instagram nearly half of all captions and comments on the platform include at the very least one emoji. This makes sense as an emoji is often used to display feeling in comments and posts. It helps people understand the general sentiments of your comment or post.

Because of this, I suggest experimenting and including at least one emoji in your posts or in your comments. You might get some more followers that way.

Post Often But Know How Much To Post

Like with any social media platform, consistency is key. You are building a long-term relationship here after all. But the real question is how active should you be on social media? After all, if you are posting constantly you may lose followers and just waste your time.

According to studies, the sweet spot for businesses is to post content once or twice per day. The trickier aspect is knowing when to be posting rather than how many times.

This confusing aspect can be summed up by what many experts have said over the years for when to post. Some have said to post between 8 AM – 9AM or 2 PM – 5PM. Others have said to post content at 2 AM even.

Instead of following that advice, I’d turn to your analytics. Every account has access to these and they are a valuable tool to leverage. While they give you stats on your engagement, they also have insights on when your audience sees your posts.

This information will allow you to pin point when to best post and ensure your content appears in their feed.

Ensure Posts Tell Stories

Many businesses opt for messages that focus on their brand and seem to have forgotten what Instagram is all about. It’s a social network site designed for visual inspiration. Instead of going for a bland message, mix it up and captivate your audience through your content, both video and images.

To boost your engagement rates, make an effort to tell a story in each post. The goal is create a mini story seen through your captions, Stories, videos, and profile. If you want examples of this at work look to big companies like Red Bull, Lego, Nike, and Airbnb. Even if your brand isn’t related to those businesses you can get inspiration and a clear example of story telling.

Explore Video Formats

A picture is worth a thousand words, but videos today can be worth millions when used properly. Video in general is huge and is one of the most popular forms of content today. Instagram recognizes this and has embraced this. It’s why there isn’t just one form of video on the platform, but two.

One for long-form videos you can post on your profile. And one for Instagram Stories which can mash up videos and stills into a single story. Understanding both of those features and taking advantage of them is essential.

For example, you can use Instagram Stories’ live feature to post big reveals about new services or products you’re offering. You can also use a prerecorded ad to offer authentic and behind-the-scenes stories to boost engagement.

Try GIFs

While we have less and less attention span these days, this isn’t the case for really short videos. In fact research has found people will watch the end of videos if they are under 15 seconds long.

So one thing to consider to squeeze into that time is a GIF. GIFs have been around since 1987 and today they are more appealing and shared more than JPEG or PNG format posts. Not only that, but they are cost and time effective than making videos.

They are more or less a required skill to have in the marketing department these days.

Using Instagram Traffic To Boost Your Website

The dream of social media is to direct that traffic to someplace else. Whether it’s a product or service or even a website. While I did say Instagram is picky with links, you can use links in strategic placements: namely in Stories, and the single link allowed in your bio.

In order to maximize the benefits, make sure you leverage these two features by creating a strong call to action. Fortunately Instagram already has ad formats that offer call to action buttons already.

One other thing to look at is to see which content is driving the most traffic to your website or link. You can use analytical tools like falcon to help get that information.

Use Third-Party Apps

Falcon is of course a third-party app and there are many other practical ones available for marketers and businesses. While social networking sites have been tougher on third-party apps over the years, Instagrams are pretty safe.

The reason for that is that Instagram is for the vast majority a visually driven site. As such, a lot of third-party apps are mainly apps that provide various filters.

This is key for you and your business as you can use the filters on images or videos to provide a distinct look. This different look can be enough for people to identify your content. Provided you use the filter enough.

Of course there are other third-party apps outside of filters. Some other apps to look to is Pic Stitch which is a budget Photoshop app, and Captiona which creates engaging captions for posts.

Partner With An Influencer

Collaboration is key on any social media platform and can be a ticket to gaining mass exposure and growth. It’s two people sharing each others content to their audience in various fashions. Collaborations can also help you in getting more sales and generally more traffic to your website too.

Influencers efforts also legitimize your product or service as well. This tells other people that what you’re doing is legit and quality.

While all of this sounds great, the tricky part is being able to convince people to work with you.

When starting out, chances are likely you won’t be able to convince an influencer with 100K followers to collaborate with you. That is unless you can give them an amazing incentive.

Instead, when starting to collaborate, you want to start off smaller. An ideal start would be someone with at least 1000 more followers than you. As you climb up, increase that difference.

Naturally this is a massive net to be casting so how can you narrow it down?

First, take the time to look at the influencer’s brand and audience. Is the brand something you want to associate with? Is the audience engaged enough with that particular brand that you can benefit from it?

Second, propose a trial run. Use this to gauge the audience’s receptiveness to your brand and consider the results.

Once that is all done, the last thing to ensure is that the influencer you are with has the right tools and instructions necessary to do what needs to be done. Again, this is a group effort that needs hand-in-hand cooperation.

Host A Contest

Contests are an amazing way to create mass engagement. When you put together a great content, the contests can generate 3.5 times more likes and 64 times more comments than typical posts.

Fortunately, despite those amazing numbers, they are overlooked by a lot of brands. In fact in 2017, 2% of accounts host contents and 0.6% of posts offering contents. I can imagine not much has changed since then so it’s still a relatively untapped option to consider.

But how does one create a contest that people will want to participate in? Well consider these steps:

  • Plan out the contest fully. What will people win? What do they have to do? Make sure everything is clear and that you can show that in the contest itself.
  • See if you can partner up with another brand. This will increase reach and visibility.
  • Make sure you have other routes of promotion. Consider email blasts, website banners, and social network plugs. This too will boost visibility over the duration of the contest.
  • Finally make sure you have a way to monitor the contest. Make sure that the contest has a clear hashtag that you can track. You can also use Google Alerts and other social media management platforms to track too.

Over the years there have been many amazing campaigns. Here is a short list of some of them that you can use for inspiration.

Focus On User-Generated Content

On the note of contests, some contests can involve people partaking in what’s called user-generated content. This stuff is like the holy grail for marketers. This type of content is exactly what it sounds like: content that your audience is creating.

This form of content is incredible because it shows the audience clearly enjoying your products or services. Best of all they can require little effort to create. For example, Virgin Holiday created a campaign called #SeizeTheHoliday. They invited followers to share their vacation photos on social media using that hashtag.

The campaign was part of a bigger picture: an advertisement leading up to Black Friday in 2016. The campaign was a massive success with online bookings increasing by 260% compared to last year.

While starting out, this sort of tactic doesn’t work as effectively, this is something that your business can build up to. If you have a product or a service, you can find all kinds of ways to create user-generated content.

Promote Instagram On Other Social Media

A strategy you’ll find on most lists is to share your social media links everywhere. It makes sense because it works really well. Fortunately Instagram is a platform where you can promote to multiple accounts seamlessly. No need to copy and paste the same post over to other channels.

The only thing to keep in mind with this feature is to ensure you’re not doing this all the time. While this feature is neat, keep in mind that the content is still the same. You’re merely providing a link to that content.

What this means is that if you do this too much, people might not go to your Instagram at all since the content is right there.

Track And Learn From Your Best Content

Once you’ve started to post enough content, the next thing to do is to experiment and make adjustments to your strategy. As I mentioned in the first point, this is a long-term game and the game changes.

Fortunately there are so many options for styles of posts and other strategies that you can be experimenting for a while. The important thing is finding what content you put out is content you enjoy releasing and that your audience likes as well.

The only way to find out if your audience likes it is by looking to your analytics. You might also consider other analytical tools to help you get further insights as well. Either way, find that content and continue to experiment until your strategy is honed to a fine edge.

And remember, social media is meant to be fun. So enjoy yourself.