It can be challenging to get the attention you want for your business on a platform as popular as Instagram. With over 500 million daily active users, there’s a lot of competition. To be successful, you must figure out what type of content works best for your business and best resonates with your audience.
But, you need to build – and grow – that audience so you have people to engage with your content in the first place!
That’s where Instagram growth hacks come in. In this post, we’ll discuss:
- Why it’s important to grow your Instagram following.
- What to do before you try to grow your Instagram.
- Instagram growth hacks to organically grow your Instagram.
Why You Should Grow Your Business’s Instagram Following
Instagram’s popularity is hard to exaggerate. By the end of 2020, it was the sixth most popular social media platform by the total number of active users. It is currently the second most accessed network behind Facebook, holding users’ attention for an average of 53 minutes per day.
And while Instagram’s user base skews young, more and more adults are joining the site.
Because of its popularity, Instagram holds tremendous potential for marketing your business. At least 25 million businesses already have profiles on Instagram, and many of these businesses plan to increase their spending on the site. A recent Hootsuite study showed that of those businesses that plan to increase their spending on social media marketing in 2021, 60% plan to spend more on Instagram specifically.
What Is Instagram Growth Hacking?
Growth hacking is about gaining a large number of followers as fast as you can. It usually involves experimenting with multiple techniques to find content with viral appeal. It’s a great technique for companies that want to increase brand recognition quickly.
However, some experts warn that Instagram growth hacks can fail if they’re not targeted, planned, and executed well. Finding a balance between rapid growth that rapidly disappears and quick, steady growth often comes down to planning before you start growth hacking.
What to Do Before Growth Hacking on Instagram
Here are three things to keep in mind before you try to get more Instagram followers.
Check that You Have a Business Profile
The first step to growing your Instagram is to have the right kind of Instagram account. Only business or creator profiles have access to Instagram’s analytics data. If your business has been working with a personal account, you can easily switch to an Instagram business account by going into your account settings.
With an Instagram business profile, you will see an “Insights” tab on your profile right under your company bio. Clicking here will take you to Instagram’s built-in analytics. If you don’t see the Insights tab, you probably need to change your profile type.
Set Goals for Instagram
Before you implement growth hacks for Instagram, make sure you understand what your business wants from the platform. That way, you can implement strategies that will help you meet marketing goals that matter.
For example, if your goal is to raise brand awareness, then you want to ensure you are targeting people who fit the market for your product but are unlikely to have heard of you. This might mean targeting people in a new geographic region or age group. On the other hand, you will need a different strategy if your goal is to drive your existing audience further down the sales funnel.
A good way to make sure your Instagram marketing strategies make sense for your business is to set SMART goals. You can then tie these goals to specific metrics you want to track in Instagram Insights.
Know Your Audience
One of the best things about Instagram Insights is it tells you who your audience is, what kind of content they like, and when they are active on the app. Simply open the Insights tab and scroll down to “Your Audience.” Here, you can learn how many followers you have gained or lost, the top cities and countries where your content is popular, and the ages and genders of your followers.
Instagram only stores this data for 30 days at a time. However, there are tools like Keyhole, Pixlee, or Iconosquare that will track and store this data for longer periods of time. You can also use UTM tagging to track your Instagram activity in Google Analytics. That way, your Instagram traffic can be viewed for much longer if necessary.
Tips for Successful Instagram Growth Hacking
Effective Instagram growth hacking starts with a solid foundation. It’s important to remember the goal of your growth hacking — to build followers who will become brand advocates. That starts by increasing brand awareness, tracking progress, and adjusting your marketing plan as you collect data.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when implementing Instagram growth hacks.
Stay on Brand
You can’t do everything and do it all well. Rather than copying the latest fad, choose marketing approaches that fit your brand. Audiences respond best to marketing that feels authentic. This is especially true on a platform like Instagram if you’re looking to get more followers.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment while using Instagram growth hacks to grow your following. That’s part of the point! However, make sure you try new things in a way that reflects your company’s core values.
Sell Your Brand, Not Your Product
Audiences run from slick, salesy advertisements. Today’s audiences are less concerned with what a product does and more about how it will improve their lives. To feel more authentic, keep your value proposition at the center of your Instagram growth hacking.
Each Instagram growth hack you try should illustrate the lifestyle your brand offers. When every post reinforces that lifestyle, your brand becomes cohesive, clear, and memorable for audiences.
Use Instagram Analytics
Just like Twitter and Facebook, Instagram tracks how users interact with your content. This includes accounts reached, content interactions, total followers (and unfollowers), audience demographics, and more.
This data is a powerhouse of information that tells you how to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. If you blindly throw out content, you’re going to put in a lot of effort for little payoff. Instead, use Instagram Analytics to share content strategically and you’ll see better, faster results.
Post at the Right Time
Sharing the world’s most incredible post does no good if no one sees it. Use your Instagram Insights to schedule your posts for the best time. “The best time” doesn’t just mean sharing a post when most of your followers are active. Be sure to share content when the right audience for that content is active.
For example, say your content is already popular with a younger audience that is active around 9 p.m., but you are trying to break in with a slightly older audience as well. If you design content for that older audience and share it at 9 p.m., you might be sharing too early or too late for this new audience to see it. Instead, use your Insights to find when the older audience is active to ensure they see these new posts that are just for them.
Simple & Fast Instagram Growth Hacks
Some Instagram growth hacks definitely take more preparation, while others can be implemented immediately. A good growth hacking strategy should include a mix of prepared content and some super-fast, low-investment hacks.
Here are a few ways to get more Instagram followers that take little or no preparation:
Follow Your Followers
Followers will invest more in your brand if they feel you value them. When users follow you, follow them back. This keeps them engaged with your brand and gives you more insight into who they are. You can even like or comment on a few of their posts, especially if those posts are related to your brand.
Just make sure any comments you leave are friendly, but not overly familiar. Avoid jokes or sarcasm that might be taken the wrong way. The goal is to sound like a person, but not be invasive or make your followers uncomfortable.
Use Relevant Hashtags
While hashtags are not important on all social media sites, they are an essential part of Instagram. It’s important not to overdo hashtags, which can make a post seem spammy. But it’s equally important to have enough hashtags so that your post lands in front of the right audience.
Many experts suggest that Twitter posts with two hashtags perform best, while posts with three to four hashtags perform best on Facebook. However, research from QuickSprout shows that Instagram posts perform best with 11 hashtags.
In addition to including the right number of hashtags, researching your hashtags can make a big difference in how well a post performs. Even subtle differences like a singular versus a plural form of a word can be the difference between thousands of followers seeing your post. You can use your favorite keyword research tool, use a specialized tool like Hashtagify, or even just search Instagram itself to see how words perform and what content comes up for them.
(PS: We have 335+ hashtag ideas for you.)
Find Popular Industry Hashtags
Popular industry hashtags can be a great way to find users who are already interested in your industry. Simply search for hashtags in your industry and find some of the most popular tags that are relevant to your business.
Click on these tags and find a few of the most popular posts. Your goal is to find the users behind these posts so that you can follow their users. Since these users are already following thought leaders in your industry, they are more likely to be interested in your product or service.
Similarly, you can engage with popular accounts that are also following these hashtags. The goal here is to find people who have already expressed an interest in what you offer and to steer them more directly into your funnel.
Tag Other Users
Instagram allows you to tag up to 20 other users in a post. This can be a valuable tool for moving content in front of new eyes. Simply tag users or accounts that are likely to share your post and tap into those users’ base of followers. Just make sure the post you tag someone in is relevant to them, their brand, or something you have in common so they have an investment in the post as well.
When someone shares your post, take a look at which of their followers are engaging with the shared post. This can be a great place to find users to follow who will follow you back.
Mix Up Your Posting Strategy
Traffic used to be the name of the game with social media platforms. But more and more, these channels are rewarding actual social media engagement over passive views. For that reason, aim for making interactive content that gets people to take action. Not only will social media sites reward you, but users are more likely to remember and enjoy your content.
Here are some examples of content that will engage your users in fun ways:
Share Instagram Stories or Reels
According to Instagram, over 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories daily. Because Stories get a lot of engagement, they’re a great investment of time. Instagram Reels can also help you increase engagement and get found by a new audience and are worth trying.
On platforms like YouTube, videos usually perform better if they’re highly polished. But Instagram Stories or Reels can be short with minimal editing. Even something as simple as a quick tour of a cool spot in the office or coworkers goofing off together can be a fun peek behind the scenes for your followers.
Followers enjoy voicing their opinions and appreciate feeling heard by the brands that matter to them. Completing these polls gives followers a sense of stakeholding in your brand. But Instagram polls also offer insights into your audience that you can use.
For example, imagine a local coffee shop announces they will be selling a new type of danish. Along with the announcement, they release a survey asking their followers to guess the new flavor. If lots of their followers vote for apple even though the new danish will be raspberry, this tells the coffee shop that apple might be a good flavor to add eventually.
Create a Branded Questionnaire Template
Another type of content that does well on Instagram is custom questionnaire templates. You can relate the questions to your brand lifestyle and use free tools like Canva to create something that is instantly recognizable for your brand.
Make sure to complete the template for yourself first and then share the empty template with your followers. If you work with influencers or other brands in your industry that are not direct competitors, you might encourage them to complete and share your template as well. This can be incredibly successful if you link the questionnaire to a catchy branded hashtag.
Challenge Your Followers
Issuing a fun challenge to your followers can encourage them to tap into their creativity. Something as simple as asking users to share their experiences or perspectives can make your brand feel more human. As an added bonus, if your challenge is related to your brand lifestyle, your followers’ responses might help you further clarify your brand identity.
For instance, a company that sells camping gear might ask, “What keeps you wild about the outdoors?” They might get different responses from users who love hiking than from users who prefer hunting but seeing those different responses can be beneficial in making their brand identity clearer.
Hack Your Way to More Followers with Influencer Marketing
Working with influencers can be a very effective Instagram growth hack and an easy way to get more followers. However, it’s important to understand the types of influencers you should and shouldn’t work with and how Instagram audiences view influences.
The culture of Instagram values authenticity. Influencers who become too popular often lose credibility and are seen as sell-outs. As a result, they lose followers and engagement with their brand drops. Many brands find more success working with micro-influencers or users with between 1,000 and 10,000 followers.
Micro-Influencers Have Specialized Audiences
Most micro-influencers post content that is focused on one or two very specific interests. Because their content is specialized, it appeals to a small but passionate fanbase. If a micro-influencer’s interests overlap with your product or service, it’s likely their fans’ interests will as well.
Micro-Influencers are Seen as More Authentic
When a micro-influencer partners with a company that fits with their interests, that partnership is seen as more authentic by their fans. Therefore, the micro-influencer’s endorsement comes across as a genuine recommendation rather than a self-serving sales pitch. In fact, according to a HubSpot study, 82% of surveyed consumers said they were more likely to buy something recommended by a micro-influencer.
Micro-Influencers are Less Expensive
Many big Instagram celebrities expect thousands of dollars to endorse a company or product. While their endorsement may help your brand, that’s not a guarantee, and it’s not a realistic option for small businesses. In contrast, many micro-influencers will partner with a brand in exchange for a few hundred dollars or simply for products.
Micro-Influencers have Better Engagement Rates
Multiple studies show that users experience less engagement with their followers once their account reaches around 1,000 followers. The engagement rate continues to drop off the more followers a user has.
If you partner with a micro-influencer, it’s more likely their followers will actually engage with posts where they promote your brand. On the other hand, while an Instagram celebrity may have millions of followers, it’s likely only a fraction of those followers will actually see the celebrity plug your post.
Get Started with Instagram Growth Hacking
As one of the most competitive social media platforms in 2021, Instagram can be an intimidating place. However, there are a number of effective Instagram growth hacks that can help your business get more followers and build a loyal community.
About the Author
Brittany Howard is a freelance writer interested in writing, marketing, and web design. You can find her on Twitter.