No matter your stance on your personal use of social media, one thing’s for sure: Instagram is a super powerful marketing tool for businesses. Whether you’re selling e-comm, raising awareness for your company, or growing your personal brand, there’s no doubt that the social media platform has become an effective (and potentially lucrative) way to do so. With usage still on the rise, there’s really no better place to tell your story and connect with your audience. But you’re also competing with millions of other accounts for a few seconds of their attention. And just like money, followers don’t exactly grow on trees (but what a world that could be).
Experts will tell you that in order to start getting more users on your side as active followers and even better— as brand advocates—you’ll need to set aside some time to commit to a serious social media strategy. By investing some time in a few of these best practices below, however, you can start to watch that all-important number start to grow.
First things first—if you want to grow your numbers, you’ll have to look at them! Anyone can get access to Instagram’s Insights feature by setting up a business profile, which only requires a few simple steps. This will provide you with easy-to-use, top-level data that can help you start to understand who your audience is and what kinds of posts they like and engage with the most. As your account grows, you may want to consider investing in a more robust analytics platform—or hiring someone else to keep an eye on the numbers if that’s not your forte.
“It’s not just about haphazardly posting fun pics,” reminds Hélène Heath of Dash Hudson, a visual marketing platform for Instagram. “Planning your content ahead of time can bring some clarity to your job and make you so much more efficient.” They recommend not only making sure you have enough content on the back burner to post in between your campaign shoots and selfies—whether that’s BTS, memes, or UGC—but also making sure you have a schedule of when you want to post them.
“A content calendar is inevitably going to initiate foresight, which will have a ripple effect into your content strategy as whole,” states Dash Hudson’s blog. “You’ll be able to anticipate things that once felt difficult to keep abreast of, like seizing opportunities during certain holidays and other important timely viral moments.” Know when you want to post important updates, and when you’ll need additional filler photos to post in between, to keep your account active and therefore, growing.
“When building up a new, or relatively small, Instagram account, it is so important to give yourself a test period to see which posts people resonate with and what times and days posts perform best,” shares Jessica Poillucci, a social media consultant and publicist at Ring Communications. When it comes to scaling a new account, she recommends an initial “trial” period to post different content at different times over a few months. Then, use your new Insights tool to determine what your best content and schedule is moving forward. As she explains, “If your target audience is 30-50 year-olds with corporate jobs, posting midday may not be seen by as many eyes as if you post during their commute home or around dinner time.” Make sure you’re factoring this into your overall posting strategy.
“Engagement with others is so important,” says Olivia Chan, a burgeoning blogger (who also works at Girlboss as an Account Manager for Brand Partnerships). Chan recently hit the 10K mark on her Instagram handle, @thelivstyle. In particular, she mentions, “The blogger community is huge and super supportive. I feel like I have so many blogger friends that I’ve never even met in real life, who are all so encouraging.” The more you genuinely engage with your fellow community members and customers, the more they’re likely to return the favor or share your account. Ask questions in your captions, and respond to comments in your feed. Utilize all the new features on stories to get your followers chatting and sharing. Chime in on other posts and convos you see, too, but avoid anything copy-and-pasted (that’s called spam, and it doesn’t make anyone feel special).
If you really want to see your account grow, you should dedicate a chunk of time each day or week to catching up on and leaving real notes on your follower’s or potential follower’s posts. An easy way to find new people that might want to follow your account is by going through the followers of accounts representing similar interests or aesthetics to yours. The more effort you put into the community, the more it will respond.
Don’t stop at the comments section though—remember that real-world connections can also translate into some of your biggest online fans. Olivia also added, “I also luckily live in NYC where there are a lot of blogger events, so I’ve been blessed with meeting other blogger gals and staying in touch.” No matter where you’re based, don’t ignore the benefits of some IRL meetups. Print your handle on business cards, or ask for other’s handles when you meet someone new, so you can reach back out to them online.
Whatever you do, buying fake followers is not an appropriate solution to your business or marketing goals. For one, it’s blatantly obvious, based on the slew of non-active or non-relevant accounts now publicly present on your followers list (if your account is public) and the disproportionate engagements rates. Considering brands may partner with you—or even pay you—based on your followers and audience demographics, it’s also totally unethical to knowingly provide falsified numbers in these exchanges, and likely to make it difficult for you to deliver on your end of the bargain. On top of all that, Instagram recently announced, “We will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity,” making it clear there’s no use wasting your hard-earned money on it now. If you’ve made the mistake before, you’ll just have to work extra hard to get your followers and engagement rates back up to par. But don’t worry! The rest of these tips should help get you back on track.
Want more tips for mastering social media? If you’re looking to grow your brand—or your personal brand—we’ve got IRL workshops on beating the algorithm and creating better content in the Social Circle at the Girlboss Rally. Register now at girlbossrally.com.