Do you want to grow your Instagram following organically?
Don’t doubt it: your brand should be on Instagram.
Facebook used to be the de facto social network for digital marketers and small business owners trying to reach their audience online. However, Instagram may be poised to overtake it when it comes to sheer marketing potential.
The stomping grounds of influencers and brands alike, the platform now boasts an estimated 1 billion monthly active users. More importantly, though—it’s got a high interaction rate (2.2% compared to Facebook’s 0.22%) and a mobile-oriented audience poised to shop online.
So having an appealing profile and a good follower base is ideal for businesses looking to promote their products and services. Admittedly, obtaining new followers can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. So why grow your Instagram following organically rather than take the easier (and most likely cheaper) route and buy followers instead?
Simply put, fake followers may bloat your numbers, but they won’t engage with any of your posts—which doesn’t bode well for any new users checking out your profile. You’ll look suspicious, lose credibility, and the fake followers won’t be translating into sales anyway. While it does take a while to grow your account using organic methods, it’ll reward you with a more active community in the long run.
Note: There are ways to buy real Instagram followers through organic tactics. But we won’t be discussing that in this post.
Here are five ways to grow your Instagram following organically…
1. Establish a signature aesthetic
At some point, especially if you have a personal Instagram account of your own, you start to notice that posts begin to seem a bit familiar. Browsing Instagram for a while might inadvertently lead you to absorb other people’s posting and editing habits. Gleaning some inspiration is fine, but when photos start to look indistinguishable from one another, that’s a problem.
Standing out by establishing a unique aesthetic for your brand stokes intrigue among Instagram users—and they’ll follow you to anticipate your next bout of creativity. In other words, use a theme. Color improves brand recognition by 80%, and having a consistent presentation across all channels has the potential to increase revenue by 23%.
Some tips for creating an Instagram theme:
- Plan ahead and create posts with your overall grid in mind before posting them.
- Choose a unifying element you can tie into all your photos. This can be a color, an object, or how you incorporate your logo.
- Tell a story. Don’t pick a color just because it looks nice. Align how you edit your photos with your brand’s message and values. You wouldn’t use soft pastel tones and a vintage look for intense, high-octane athletics products, for example.
Here are some feeds that have a unifying theme through color.
What does each color tell you about the individual? Warm and rustic tones and organic imagery like leaves and trees, alongside wooden furnishings, tells you the person loves nature and the outdoors. In contrast, a dark and moody profile exudes a more cosmopolitan charm.
2. Make customers the star of your profile
Social proof—our psychological tendency to mimic the actions or habits of others in order to act in the “correct” way—has been key to advertising since the beginning. It isn’t the celebrities who we should always be looking at when it comes to Instagram, though, despite the undeniable effectiveness of paid influencer marketing.
What works is user-generated content: posts made by everyday Instagram users talking about a product or service that they love. Not because they’re selling it, but just to express their own satisfaction and personality. The brands someone supports reflects their interests, after all.
User-generated content also provides authenticity to a brand’s social feeds. TINT’s 2018 User Generated Content Report found that 45% of marketing professionals agree UGC helps improve social media metrics. This includes engagement, follower counts, and impressions—great for the top of your digital marketing funnel.
(Source: Instagram, @californiadonuts)
How to leverage UGC:
- Have your branded hashtag visible in your Instagram bio.
- Promote your hashtag’s use by placing call to action phrases when applicable. You can opt to have one in your Instagram bio and post captions.
- Regularly monitor mentions of your Instagram hashtag with Instagram’s search and follow tools.
- Do a brief background check on users before you repost their photo—skim through their profile to check if they’re someone you’re okay with featuring on your page.
- Download the photo and post it to your own feed, or use an app.
- You can choose to either keep the original caption or make your own. Just remember to keep a tag of the source account in your caption.
3. Share limited, exclusive content through Instagram Stories
This feature isn’t just a part of a regular user’s daily life. It’s being well utilized by businesses on the platform. Stats on Instagram Stories show that while 500 million users post a Story every day, one-third of the most viewed Stories are from businesses. Additionally, 50% of all businesses on Instagram worldwide create at least one story a month. That’s a lot of competition—but it also means you can’t afford to ignore how it can grow your Instagram following organically.
Here are five creative Instagram Stories ideas to reel in new followers.
- Share press features and shoutouts
- Q&A sessions
- Links to posts on your feed
To tell if these are effective, check the back end. Instagram Insights for Stories provides metrics like:
- Reach and Impressions – These metrics will help you estimate the size of your Stories’ audience. Reach refers to the number of individuals who have seen your story, while Impressions is the total number of views it has (regardless of how many have viewed it).
- Taps back and taps forward – These are the number of taps users make on their app to either go to your next Story post or go back to the previous one. Too many taps forward is a bad sign—it may be because that particular Story isn’t interesting enough for viewers.
- Exit Rate – Instagram calls this “swipes away,” and it shows whether users have left before finishing a Story. Use this to think about what you can do to make the sequence of your Story posts more cohesive with one another.
- Actions on locations and hashtags – Pretty self-explanatory, this is the amount of clicks your Stories can drive to locations and hashtags. Use your own location as well as a branded hashtag to gauge people’s interest in your brand.
4. Engage with your Instagram followers
Don’t neglect the “social” aspect of “social media.” Conversing with Instagram followers is a way to build connections and trust with them—improving your relationship in a two-way manner is what makes social media such a good marketing channel.
Customer service stats for social media show you need to respond to all questions and complaints in a timely manner. 40% of customers who complain on social media expect an answer within an hour, and answering a complaint can increase customer advocacy by up to 25%.
Other than answering questions, a good way to engage is to look up your branded hashtag and comment on posts you love. You can also ask permission to repost their image—they’ll be pleased you noticed! If users who browse through your account show how active you are with speaking with followers, that shows you have their trust—and are a profile worthy of a follow.
5. Stick to a consistent posting schedule
If you want to use Instagram as one of your main social media marketing platforms, you need to keep your profile top of mind. No matter how visually appealing your content is, or how engaging your calls to action in your captions are, that won’t matter if you don’t post as much as your audience would like.
People will drop off of your account (and may even unfollow) if you don’t post regularly. Not posting consistently means a low chance of appearing in people’s feeds. That’s why it’s extremely important to post using a schedule.
Here’s an infographic of the best time to post on Instagram:
This is a good place to start when you haven’t been able to set your own benchmarks just yet. Test these for about a month, and adjust your posting schedule according to results in Instagram Insights. Don’t worry if you end up with something completely different to these averages!
To make a well-organized social media calendar, create a sheet that includes:
- Date of posting
- A thumbnail of the photo you’ll be using
- The accompanying caption, written in advance
Schedule posts in advance leaves more room for daily monitoring and engagement throughout the week. Remember to mark any holidays as well—making special posts or even offers for these days shows you can keep up.
It will take time, but growing Instagram followers organically is worth the effort. Doing all these activities will flesh out your profile, communicating to Instagram users how trustworthy and—most importantly—approachable your brand is. That doesn’t just increase followers, but engagement as well—and good engagement is the goal for any brand on social.
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