Say cheese! Everyone is taking photos these days with their cell phones, from dinners to concerts to family events. It’s a good bet that a lot of those photos end up on Instagram.
Instagram is a popular photo-sharing app and social network that allows users to add funky cool filters to their photos, create Stories, post videos and connect with others. It now has over one billion users and sky-high user engagement levels, making it an attractive brand promotional tool.
As a marketer, you have to explore every tool that expands your reach. Instagram, with all its users, definitely presents a huge marketing opportunity. Plus after it opened up its photo feed to advertisers and rolled out a “Shop Now” button, the app continues to dominate in the consumer marketing space.
To begin your push at building a presence on Instagram, you first need to build an audience and learn how to promote your business without turning people off.
Want to know how to grow your audience on Instagram? Here are seven ways to build your audience and get your business seen on this growing social network.
1. Understand and Use Hashtags
You've read about hashtags here before, but nowhere in the online social world do they play quite as important of a role as they do on Instagram. The right hashtag can expose your photo to a large and targeted audience, even if those users don’t follow you.
Sure other platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn use hashtags, but Instagram users don’t seem to mind hashtag stuffing like they do on other social media. Don’t be afraid to load up on relevant hashtags that your target audience might be following.
Instagram allows up 30 hashtags per photo and 10 on Stories. Many power-users take advantage of this and max them out.
Research shows that around 11 hashtags work best for optimal engagement.
2. Follow Similar Users
In addition to using hashtags to attract attention and new followers, you should follow and engage with targeted users. Instagram is a social network. What's more social than...being social?! You’ll do better when you comment and like other photos instead of just posting and being silent.
One strategy to gain followers is called “follow, like, like, like.” You search for specific users using hashtags that relate to your business and your customers. Follow the users of the top photos you find and then like the last three photos they posted. This shows the user that not only did you follow them but you dug a little deeper and like what they are all about.
This strategy helps you engage with users that might be interested in your brand and you could earn a few new followers in the process.
3. Post Consistently
Being consistent with your messaging is a key to success in marketing, and that holds true when growing an audience on Instagram. Research says that the average Instagram user posts once a day. It also states that users with the highest number of fans post 2 to 3 photos per day. This data suggests that if you want to gain more followers then you should post with higher frequency.
Instagram is one of the only social networks with no algorithm that filters your feed. This means that there is no drop-off in engagement or reach for posting more frequently. So feel free to post more quality photos consistently, it will help you gain more followers and brand exposure.
4. Use The Right Filters
Instagram was originally known for its fun and inspiring photo filters. While it's grown beyond that, filters still make it fun. They make ordinary photos look interesting and dramatic.
But did you know that using the right filter can actually lead to more views and engagement? Research says that filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on than unfiltered ones. Filters that create high contrast, warm tones, and higher exposure tend to inspire more engagement.
5. Use Emojis
Depending on your target buyer personas, the use of emojis may be a way to build Instagram engagement and followers. An emoji is a tiny image that is often placed in text. And we all seem to use them.
In fact, every iOS update comes with new emojis people rave about in social media.
You’ll often see smiley faces, hearts, animals, people and other small images that convey an emotion. They have become a universal method of expression.
Instagram reports that nearly 50% of all captions and comments on their platform have at least one emoji. If it’s right for your audience, try adding emojis to a few posts and see if they help earn you more engagement.
6. Host a Photo Contest
Who doesn't love winning something??
Contests can help you grow your audience on Instagram. Planning and implementing a photo contest is a great way to bring followers, engagement and exposure to your brand on Instagram.
Using specific hashtags dedicated to your contest makes it easy for people to enter and easy for you to manage the contest. During the photo contest, ask the people to comment on their entry and tag one other person that should also enter. Doing this drastically increases not only the contest's reach but the reach of your brand.
7. Utilize Video
Instagram video, IGTV and live video allows you connect with users through more than static photos. When video first rolled out you were limited to just 15 seconds. But Instagram quickly realized longer was better, and we can now upload or record up to a minute!
While video has become more popular, there's still plenty of room to grow. Becoming more comfortable with video will allow you to take advantage of it as a marketing strategy, and you’ll be ahead of the curve when it becomes more mainstream.
Marketers are just now beginning to understand the usefulness of using Instagram when promoting brands. It can drive website traffic, purchases, brand awareness, positioning, delighting customers and more.
Up your game by reading all about this in our Video Marketing Guide.
Leave a comment below and tell us how you were able to grow your audiences and make an impact on Instagram.
For more information on how to use social media for business, download our free Social Media for Business ebook.
This article originally posted June 18, 2015. We've updated this for 2020.