Back when we were just a scrappy new entrepreneurship magazine on the rise, Foundr started looking into what this whole Instagram business was all about.
Things haven’t been the same for us since.
In our first two weeks on the platform, we went from zero followers to more than 10k followers on Instagram. We achieved this by following a pretty straightforward process we hacked together during the relatively early days of the platform’s growing popularity (although the principles we used still hold up).
Then, with some experimentation and elbow grease, we went from 10k followers to amassing more than 1 million real Instagram followers, making us one of the top Instagram accounts in our niche. Thanks to Instagram, we’ve also been able to crush sales and conversions, drastically increase our online exposure and audience, and scale our business at a rate that’s exceeded the norm and even our own expectations.
In the following comprehensive post, we’ve outlined, step by step, exactly what we did to find such wild success with Instagram.
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How to Get More Followers on Instagram in 2018
- Choosing the Instagram Content That’s Right For You
- Creating Content Your Audience Will Love And Interact With
- Treat Your Community Like Gold
- Post Regularly
- There’s Gold In Your Instagram Bio
- Use Hashtags to Get More Instagram Followers
- Network, Network, Network: The Power of Shoutouts
- Working with Influencers
- Bonus Instagram Growth Hacks
- Our Favorite Instagram Tools
Instagram was a key turning point in making Foundr what it is today. If you’re reading this now, in fact, there’s a good chance you got to us via Instagram.
Throughout our journey, first from zero to 10,000 followers in two weeks, and then to over 1 million real Instagram followers, we’ve been using many of the exact same techniques and strategies that we’ve been using since our very early days.
However, as Instagram and its audience have continued to evolve, so have we. In order to continue scaling, we’ve had to take note and adapt to these changing conditions with different strategies.
Some didn’t work out so well, and others have been crucial to getting us to over 1 million followers in such a short period of time. So now we’re going to tell you all about the ones that worked the best. Without further ado, here are our detailed results and findings so you too can cultivate a massive following and start taking advantage of the power of this exciting and ever-flourishing social network.
How to Get More Instagram Followers in 2018
1. Choosing the Instagram Content That’s Right For You
This part is going to take some thought and effort. To gain a huge following of real people on Instagram, you have to produce content that’s not only made specifically for Instagram, but also content that’s the right fit for what your audience wants. Finding the right approach and style is crucial, because it’s going to become the way your followers recognize you.
Generally speaking, there are types of images that work well with a lot of industries; posters with inspirational or humorous quotes, quality food photography, or scenic images are safe starting points.
That being said, carefully consider what type of content it is that you’re producing. You have to remember that Instagram is such a hit because it’s a wholly unique platform, and the experience it provides the user is completely different than something like Facebook or Twitter.
Consider things like: How are people going to find your content? What hashtags are you going to use? If someone searches one of these hashtags and finds your posts, are they going to be intrigued enough to click through to your account, or will they be disappointed that there’s no correlation between your post and the hashtag?
What is it about the images you produce that will make people do more than just scroll on by? According to Zabisco, humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than plain text. In less than a second, a person decides, based upon the images you share, whether or not you’re worth their time. That means you need to stand out.
Once you settle on your content type and strategy, it’s extremely important that you stick to that theme. The number one thing that keeps people coming back to any brand or business is consistency, whether it’s a Starbucks Macchiato or a Snickers bar. It’s exactly the same with the kind of content you produce.
The reason Foundr has so many real Instagram followers is because people can expect a consistently high level of quality from us. They know that on Instagram, we produce a certain kind of post, and that trust is what keeps them coming back for more.
This is also why we’re highly selective of the type of accounts and posts we select for a “share-for-share” (S4S) (more on this later). We’re extremely protective of our brand and our audience, which is why we only ever want to be producing content we’re absolutely certain our niche wants.
A common problem a lot of people face when starting out on Instagram is that they’re not entirely sure what type of theme or content it is they want to produce. Unfortunately, there really is no simple solution, because at the end of the day you don’t want to be a copycat of a larger account. To be really successful on Instagram, you need to be a little unique.
The best way to get started is to do some hashtag research (don’t worry, we’re going to dig deep into hashtags in Section 6). Check out SaaS’s (software as a service) like Iconosquare to find out what hashtags are trending and which one fits you best. Find competitors who use the same hashtags as you do, or even find users who follow these hashtags and see what other kind of content they like.
From there, it’s just a matter of testing out your content. Do some A/B testing, try one type of content one week and try something else the week after. Find out what works best, and really get to know your audience.
To get you started, be sure to check out apps like WordSwag and Typorama for text-focused Instagram posts. We use these very same apps for our own Instagram account!
2. Creating Content Your Audience Will Love And Interact With
Once you know what type of content is right for your brand, it’s time to really focus on creating great posts that you know are going to connect with your audience. This might seem obvious, but we always see the content creation itself getting neglected. Find out what your customers enjoy seeing on Instagram or what themes resonate with them, and populate your account with relevant images.
But you’ve got to connect with your audience, specifically. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
That’s why it’s so crucial to develop a good relationship with your audience, so you learn what type of content it is they like. There have been numerous times when we’ve posted something that we thought would absolutely crush it with engagement, but it turned out to be a dud. Other times we’ve been left scratching our heads as to why this one post is so popular.
One good way to find out what your customers like is by checking out what your competition is posting, or what kind of imagery is used on the websites or blogs that are popular in your industry.
If you’re in an industry where what you’re selling is already visually appealing, photos of what you do is not a bad idea either. However, keep such images in the minority; posting a lot about yourself on social media is just like being the person at BBQ who only talks about themselves.
On that note, it’s really important that you don’t run the risk of “oversharing.” A celebrity can get away with it because a large part of their appeal and brand is their personal life. Fans are genuinely curious as to what Beyonce is having for dinner or what exactly it is the Rock is cooking. If you’re running a personal account, that’s also totally fine, because it’s explicit and clear that this is an account for sharing your everyday life.
However, if you’re running a professional account, unless your personal photos actually fit in with the theme of your brand, it’s not a good idea. For example, as a CEO or founder, a personal photo of how you’ve organized your work desk would fit in with your theme. A personal photo of you in Vegas doesn’t have the same effect.
Oversharing means that you lose out on engagement because your content is just too off topic and confusing to build a consistent audience.
On Instagram, engagement is king. For best results, we found images that trigger an emotion or questions that elicit some thought work really well. For example, this image below got over 95% more engagement than our regular posts. For Instagram, we’re told that 1% engagement in terms of likes is a good metric to follow.
People Like People
Include faces in your photos. Images with faces have been known to increase engagement, because our brains naturally want to interact with other people. Also, images that don’t include faces, but using a point-of-view shot where the camera acts as the eyes of the audience can help them make them feel like they’re a part of the image. Despite having fewer likes, you can see how the following post by Mecca Maxima has far more comments compared to their posts that don’t include faces.
Calls to Action
Every post should have a strong call to action or CTA (marketing speak for an instruction for your viewer to do something) encouraging people to follow you or like the post in the caption. By adding in a call to action, people are 25% more likely to follow through on that action than without it.
This CTA should be relevant to the photo, and not the same as the one you used in your bio (more on your bio later). It’s a softer ask.
Think of a CTA as a way to remind people that there is an action they could take. By adding a CTA to your image, all you’re doing is reminding your followers that they don’t have to just scroll on past, they can actually do other things, including liking your picture, or writing a comment.
Ask questions in your captions to encourage people to respond. This is a very simple tactic to make sure that your Instagram followers are interacting with your account.
“Putting a question in your caption always creates interest and forces people to read and hopefully respond.” – Bianca Cheah, founder and MD of Sporteluxe
Remember, the one thing you want to achieve the most with your audience is engagement—you want them to be interested in and personally connected to your brand and your account. Gently encouraging them to invest less than a second into each post does wonders for cultivating that engagement.
Examples of CTAs are “tag your friends who are like this,” or “double tap if you agree.” Always give your fans something to do. This helps your account spread like wildfire.
Develop a story with your posts. Capture people’s attention by providing a narrative; don’t just settle for a generic line of text. Get people invested and show off how much value you can provide in one go. One of my favorite accounts to follow is cereal.entrepreneur. Each Instagram post is accompanied by either a small bio, or interview with the featured entrepreneur so you get a chance to know a bit more about them and what they do.
Developing a story also ties into emotion. Always look to elicit an emotion with your posts. Whether you’re looking to inspire people, make them laugh, or stun them, your posts should always aim to trigger an emotion with your audience. A great example to look at here would be Chubbies, and note how they’re always looking to make their audience laugh by posting an assortment of jokes and memes.
Post user-generated content whenever possible. Not only will this give your brand social proof and make people far more likely to follow you, but it’ll also help you build a vibrant and engaged community around your Instagram account. Frank Body have almost built their entire Instagram strategy by curating user-generated content. This has helped them build a community of engaged Instagram followers, as well as create hundreds of loyal brand ambassadors. To find out more about their social media strategy, do make sure to check out our interview with the founders of Frank Body.
Regularly use your posts to ask followers to share their content with you. Make sure to give them an incentive for doing this, though, like running an Instagram competition or giveaway. You can easily curate their posts by asking them to use your branded hashtag.
Your Instagram Theme
Getting more people to interact with you also involves maintaining a consistent aesthetic theme so that your Instagram feed reaffirms your brand identity. A simple way to do that is to use the same filter. It makes your images more recognizable and your overall feed look more professional. Notice how Herschel Supply maintains their aesthetic theme by constantly making sure their posts have similar tones and colors. Not only do these posts look great, but because of the consistency you can see how their feed has a natural flow to it that builds familiarity and affinity.
Remember that quality always beats quantity when it comes to Instagram posts. Don’t post something for the sake of posting. Always make sure your content is providing value to your audience in some way.
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3. Treat Your Community Like Gold
One of the biggest mistakes people make when building their Instagram account is that they only ever see their followers as numbers.
Followers aren’t the only metric that matters when it comes to Instagram, but you can get caught up and become so obsessed in growing your follower count that you forget that each person who chooses to follow you is actually a living, breathing human being. It doesn’t matter what kind of account you’re running, whether it’s personal or business, the same is true everywhere.
You must always respect your audience.
I really can’t stress that enough, and it’s become even clearer to us as we’ve gained experience with the platform. If you’re not paying attention and listening to your audience, then you’re no longer building something that has any sort of meaningful impact. All you’re doing is stroking your ego.
So how do you know if you’re connecting with your audience? While your follower count may be the most important metric, our journey to 1 million followers taught us that you must also pay attention to your engagement levels. This means how many likes you’re getting, how many people are bothering to actually comment on your posts, how many people actually go through your Instagram sales funnel.
According to the famed Pareto principle, 80% of your results only come from 20% of your audience, or 80% of your revenue only comes from 20% of your customers. While more of a rule of thumb than a hard scientific fact, the Pareto principle should make you realize that it’s not about having a large follower count as much as it is about having a large core of engaged followers.
You don’t want a huge follower count because it gives you bragging rights; you want a huge follower count because by increasing your reach and exposure, you increase the likelihood of finding one true follower.
A true follower is someone who absolutely loves your content and what you do. They’re the one that, if asked, will put down money because you asked them to, or purely because it’s something that you made. Think about any time you’ve been loyal to a brand and chose them over something else.
If you ever want to develop any sort of influence or exposure, this should be your primary goal in growing a huge follower count. Ten thousand followers isn’t impressive unless you have at least 1,000 true followers.
That’s why we treat our community like gold.
For example, we are very strict on making sure we reply to every comment possible.
You want to inspire comments that go beyond the generic “nice pic,” and “awesome post!” variety. Actually show that there’s a human behind the screen. It’s a surefire way to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Be as conversational as possible when engaging with other users, and be true to how you speak in real life. Emphasize the personality behind your brand and let people know that you’re not just another robot. Again, take a look at how Frank Body uses their “Frank” persona to engage with their followers to great effect.
It’s amazing how many brands forget the social aspect of social media networks. It’s no longer a one-way communication model where the audience passively has to accept what you have to say. If someone takes the time to actually write a comment on your post, the very least you can do is reply.
It’s a simple reward for those who bother to engage with you in a dialogue. Something as simple as that goes a long way toward turning someone into a true fan. We’ll even send private messages to our new followers when it’s appropriate. The key here is to make your Instagram followers feel welcomed and happy to be a part of your community.
As we discussed in the last section, you’ll find posts that have calls to action asking people to comment tend to garner the most shares and tags. By starting a conversation this way, you can show your audience that you’re not some faceless corporation, but a person or people who actually care about others’ opinions.
It might even yield unexpected results, as we often find real gems within our comments for ideas on articles and different people to interview.
4. Post Regularly
Aim to post on a regular basis, about once every three to four hours. However, don’t bulk post a whole bunch of photos in one sitting; users will often regard this as spam and unfollow you. Think of it like sowing seeds. You don’t want to just plug all your seeds into a hole in one go; you want to spread them out.
You’re going for consistency. If your audience can’t comfortably rely on you to post regularly, you’re not going to find many people willing to follow you on the off chance that you’re going to post something every now and then.
Fortunately, you can schedule your content if you use a tool like Later. Unfortunately, Instagram’s API doesn’t let other services post for you, but you can pre-fill and batch them.
*Please note you can only post from the Instagram Mobile or Tablet app. You cannot post via the Later website when you are logged in.
One other posting tip is to always post on Sundays. Sunday is usually a pretty quiet day on Instagram, making it the perfect opportunity for you to get ahead of the pack and get your posts in front of even more people.
5. There’s Gold In Your Instagram Bio
On Instagram, your bio is a crucial piece of real estate. You can best make use of this section by having a strong call to action. You can use up to 150 characters, so a short snappy CTA works best.
A strong CTA should be an absolute no-brainer for your audience. You already know that they can see your content, so make it worth their while to actually take a look at your bio by offering something that you know they’ll love.
To create a strong CTA, you want to be as simple and no-nonsense as possible. Because you only get one live link when it comes to Instagram, which is in your bio, you want to be able to get as much value as possible out of that link.
Your bio should also be compelling. Your potential followers have a few seconds to decide whether or not they want to follow you. Your bio should capture their attention and make them want to follow you, or at the very least, scroll down further to check out your content.
Notice how we added the tagline in our bio, “Building a business is hard.” We added this to arrest the attention of people who visit our profile for the first time. We want to establish a point of connection and evoke some kind of emotional response so Instagrammers follow us and continue the relationship.
Your bio should also be searchable. We included the keywords “startup,” entrepreneurs,’” and “entrepreneur magazine” so when people search on Instagram using these terms, our profile will show up in their search results.
6. Use Hashtags to Get More Instagram Followers
Hashtags (keywords preceded by #) might seem like something only annoying teenagers use, but trust us, that’s not the case. They are a way for viewers to navigate easily to topics they’re interested in. Attaching #hashtags to your image, therefore, enables your content to be found more easily by those who don’t already follow you.
First, research the most popular hashtags in your niche, and then compile them. For us, this involved building a huge list of keywords that we found were relevant to what we do and what our images generally are about (#entrepreneur, #business, #startup, for example).
- Check out what the top-trending hashtags are with Tags For Likes. Use Hashtags, TagFire, and Grama to find hashtags relevant to your niche.
- Copy the hashtags that the top influencers in your niche are using. Use this as a way to not only generate more exposure and gain more followers, but as a way to get on the radars of other influencers.
“Users can use Instagram’s Explore feature to find posts related to trending hashtags such as #LoveWins, #CanadaDay, and #FullMoon. If these trending tags are relevant to your brand, include them in timely posts to aid discovery. On the topic of search, Instagram also introduced the ability to search by emoji.” – Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media.
- Round up about 30 that include a mix of high-performing and low-performing hashtags. Use around 10 hashtags that have over a million posts, then another 10 hashtags that only have 10,000 to 50,000 posts, with another 10 anywhere in between. This way you make sure your posts get as much exposure as possible.
- Find out what the hashtag of the day is and use it. Whether it’s something like #motivationmonday, #fitnessfriday, or #trumpettuesday, get in touch with an even larger audience by participating in these hashtags.
- Create multiple sets of hashtags to maximize exposure. Don’t just settle for one set of hashtags, create around three different sets of 30 hashtags each. Regularly rotate them so that your posts reach a variety of people relevant to your niche. Save them in a notes file so all you need to do is copy and paste them, and not have to worry about writing each one out every single time
Once you compile your hashtags, add them to a comment below your post.
Don’t put your hashtags into the description of the photo itself. Putting them in the comment section instead will hide your list of keywords after others have added comments. You also won’t unnecessarily bulk up your photo description, allowing you to you keep your description section free for a compelling blurb about the photo.
Reference each post with a full 30 hashtags. Instagram allows you 30 hashtags per post, so use each and every one of them to maximize your post’s exposure.
Create a branded hashtag to make it easier for others to find you. Original hashtags can help you facilitate conversations, increase your brand’s reputation, and help you build credibility.
Use your custom hashtag to build a community around your brand, and to regularly engage with your Instagram followers. It’s an incredibly easy way to make your followers feel like they’re a part of a larger community. You can see how customers and followers of Frank Body follow the custom hashtag #thefrankeffect, and how large a community has come together because of this hashtag.
You can also use a hashtag in your bio so that your account gets more exposure. This is a very easy way to make sure that your account shows up in hashtag searches as well.
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7. Network, Network, Network: The Power of Shoutouts
It’s not all about pretty pictures and keywords. To thrive on Instagram, you’re going to have to reach out and interact with some real, live humans. Networking can work wonders, not only IRL, but also in the social media sphere. It was a big driver of Foundr’s success.
When we started, we managed to get introduced to this huge network of entrepreneurs, all with accounts of over 20,000 Instagram followers. They helped us out big time by sharing our content, and there are similar networks for all kinds of industries, with users who are all willing to help out, so long as you return the favor of course!
Remember, if you help people and don’t expect anything in return, not only is it good karma, but it comes back to you tenfold. So don’t approach joining and teaming up with other accounts with an attitude of, “What’s in it for me?” Rather, think of it as just helping your fellow person out, and you never know, good things may happen to you down the road.
Use Shoutouts To Get More Instagram Followers
When it comes to growing a huge following on Instagram, you’re going to have to get used to the idea of collaboration over competition.
This is where the incredibly powerful concept of S4S comes into play. For newcomers, S4S stands for “share for share.” If you’re looking to land a million followers on Instagram, or even tens of thousands, you need to get used to the idea of sharing other people’s content.
The basics of S4S are quite simple. You ask another influencer in your niche if they would like to share your content, and in return you will share theirs.
This way you’ll be able to expose each other’s brands to each other’s audiences, some of whom likely have never even heard of you before. The best part is that if you choose who you do S4S with carefully, you’ll probably find someone with an audience who you know will like your content too. You’ll quickly discover that one of the greatest things about Instagram is that it allows you to tap directly into a niche with distinct likes, interests, hobbies, and needs.
As you can see from the image above, it doesn’t have to mean directly sharing each other’s content; you can just give a shoutout to someone else’s account in the caption.
These types of transactions are unique to Instagram and absolutely invaluable for anyone who wants to cultivate a huge following. But remember that you should always look to be providing a mutual exchange of value.
Don’t think of others in your niche as your competition, but as potential partners.
If you’re afraid that someone is going to “steal your followers” and, as a result, refuse to work with others, then it is highly unlikely you’re going to develop any kind of real traction on Instagram.
So with that in mind, here’s the next secret on how to maximize your S4S potential: join a shoutout group.
A shoutout group is basically an informal group of Instagrammers who have come together in order to support each other by doing S4S for one another. So instead of having to constantly find someone new to do S4S with every single time, you’ll instead have a dedicated group of people who you can reliably depend upon to exchange shares.
Of course, shoutout groups come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes you’ll find a group with up to hundreds of people who are simply “shopping” for other people to do S4S with. Kind of like an ad-hoc Instagram marketplace.
Other times you might find a more dedicated group of people who are very selective of their members and might have even created a set schedule for all members to follow.
You might be surprised by how well you get to know one another beyond Instagram, and even accidentally set up your own mastermind group. You might do more than just exchange tips about Instagram, and even start helping each other’s businesses out more directly. You might even make a friend or two.
But don’t start thinking that these are some sort of red triangle illuminati groups that require cryptic initiation processes.
All it takes is having a friendly attitude while doing S4S and looking to build a relationship beyond Instagram. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself being invited to an S4S group yourself. Or you might even want to create your own and invite others!
Types of Instagram Shoutouts
When you’re just starting out, it can be a little intimidating to ask other accounts to do a shoutout for you, but the benefits really do outweigh the costs. Having a large account shout you out will do more for your follower count than anything else. But it’s super important to make sure that you’re choosing the right accounts to get a shoutout from.
If you’re choosing an account based on pure followers and their theme or audience doesn’t match yours, then all you’ve done is wasted time and money, because there’s no guarantee that such a shoutout is going to get you a good ROI.
There are a few different types of shoutouts you can pursue.
- Caption only shoutouts: The page uses its own image and style that it usually would, and mentions your page in the caption. This works, but is not as effective as your own image or branded image. Caption only can be a cheaper alternative.
- Your own image with your product or service + caption. This works better than just a caption-based shoutout, but you have to make sure the call to action is good. Some accounts will only let you put up the image for a certain period of time, and others will let it stay up. Usually the higher traffic the page, the more you see rules and restrictions.
The strategy behind the shoutouts can also vary. What we recommend is adding a CTA to follow your page instead of one that leads people to subscribe or optin, as you can capture the audience and engage with them more. We have tried both pushing the Foundr subscription and getting the viewer to follow our page, and we have found it’s way more effective to get them to follow you. You have to remember you can’t put clickable links in the captions, so it can be hard to get people to perform specific actions. It takes more time for people to go to the bio, find the link, click on it, and then subscribe, than it does for them to click the follow button.
S4S Bargaining When You’re Just Getting Started
Just like any other transaction in the world, S4S is all about having a mutually beneficial exchange. You have to ensure that both parties are getting something of similar value out of this exchange.
If you have an account with only a few thousand followers and ask another account with 500,000 followers, you’re either going to be ignored, politely refused, or outright laughed at. What possible benefit could that larger account get from the smaller one?
Unless you have something equally valuable to leverage, then you shouldn’t be asking someone to do S4S for you. That’s pretty much the equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight (don’t worry, nobody is really fighting).
That leads to one of the questions we get asked the most at Foundr, “How do I provide leverage in S4S?”
A lot of people get discouraged by the idea of approaching bigger accounts for an S4S, because it seems like they don’t have a comparable follower count. But while your follower count may be the most important metric on Instagram, it doesn’t mean that it is the only metric on Instagram. If it was, then anyone could be an influencer with a couple of bucks and few thousand bots as followers.
The best way to find leverage, in any business deal, not just Instagram, is to take a step back and think about what it is that only you can offer. What is that unique aspect you can bring that the other person might have a hard time getting?
For one, you can compare your engagement levels. If you can guarantee a highly engaged audience with many true followers then you can easily use that as leverage in S4S. Because the level of respect and loyalty you command from your audience is only something you can give, and that makes it a valuable commodity.
Beyond that, think about what else you can offer.
You can easily bring value and generate a ton of goodwill by being a regular commenter for a larger account. A valuable comment is something that is more than just the generic “oh wow, this is great!” statement. Stand out by taking the effort to be different.
Start an interesting discussion and let your targeted influencer know that you exist. Who knows, you might actually catch them in a generous mood and maybe they’ll give you a shoutout just because they like your moxie.
Using Your Bio Link as a Bargaining Chip
One extremely easy way to offer leverage in a real and tangible way is by offering other accounts your bio link. On Instagram, the only place you can put a live link is in your bio. This is vitally important if you’re running any kind of sales funnel, but it’s also an extremely useful tool when trying to grow your follower count.
As long as you keep the link short, fresh and you’re sure that the landing page leads to something your audience wants then there’s no reason not to offer your bio link as a way to leverage value. It’s a great way of establishing a business relationship by becoming an affiliate, and by offering something valuable in your bio link there is no reason you won’t be able to drive your follower count up.
Paying for Shoutouts
As in all walks of life, money talks. That means you can buy shoutouts. Prices for shoutouts will vary by account. We found that the pages with the best results are motivational or business accounts, so you need to find high-traffic pages that have good engagement. We constitute good engagement as at least 1-2% of likes per how many followers the account has.
Also be sure to stay active in the comment section of every shoutout post. It’ll significantly drive up your own engagement levels and increase the chances people will bother to click through to your account.
For an account with decent engagement and 200,000 followers, we wouldn’t pay more than $50 per shoutout, and we would want to use our own image.
8. Working with Influencers
This is by far one of the best ways to increase the number of Instagram followers you have. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any other tactic to generate as strong of an ROI.
Create a list of 10-20 influencers you’d like to regularly engage with. Know exactly who it is you want to get in touch with, because these will be the people who can help take your Instagram account to the next level. Get influencers to share your content or shout you out. Arrange for influencers to give you a shoutout by participating in an S4S deal.
“It’s the #1 way to grow for free.” – Jason Stone, founder of Millionaire Mentor.
Use hashtags to find out who the top influencers in your niche are. Take a look at what the top hashtags in your niche are and see if you can identify any particular account that consistently appears in the “top” or “trending” posts. You can pretty much guarantee that they’re an influencer and someone you want to connect with.
You can also pay influencer pages to share your content. If all else fails, pay someone to give you a shoutout. But before you do, make sure that you can get a guarantee on ROI. What you’re looking for is someone with an engaged audience, not necessarily a large number of followers. Remember that 1-2% engagement is a minimum for working with someone. The higher, the better.
Influencer Account Swaps
Do an account swap with other influencers in your niche. Take over someone else’s account for a day and show off who you are to their audience and vice versa. This is a great strategy for anyone with a personal brand. Buffer would also sometimes let their employees take over their Instagram account for a day. This way their Instagram followers could get to know more about Buffer, their workplace culture, and what went on behind the scenes.
9. Bonus Growth Hacks
Need some more growth hacks to supercharge your Instagram follower count? Here are 10 of our favorites!
Hold giveaways on Instagram that require users to follow in order to enter. Everyone loves free stuff. Get a bunch of followers overnight by running a giveaway, but make sure to promote it, otherwise you won’t be seeing many results.
Require followers to tag their friends in order to enter. This is one of the best, and most organic ways to quickly build your Instagram followers. A general rule of thumb to follow, though, is to hold your Instagram competitions when you have at least 10,000 followers in order to see the best results.
If you have a budget, and an Instagram Business account, we highly recommend that you take advantage of Instagram ads as a way to capture new Instagram followers.
Create viral images encouraging your fans to tag their friends. Get ideas for what types of posts tend to be popular by watching what’s trending in your targeted hashtags. Create similar posts in your own style, and ask people to tag their friends.
Use geolocation targeting to identify followers relevant to your niche in a certain area. If you happen to run a brick-and-mortar business, this is an excellent way of getting the attention of local clientele.
Take your promotional efforts offline and promote your Instagram account through the use of physical products like branded stickers or pamphlets, for example. If you happen to have a custom hashtag you’d like to promote, use these physical products as a way to get people more interested and excited about your accounts.
Create fan pages and use them to drive followers to your business pages. Instagram now allows you to run multiple accounts through their app, so take advantage of this by creating another account designed to support your main account. Use it as a way to experiment with different strategies and connect with other influencers.
The ‘Thunderclap’ Strategy
Organize a “thunderclap” and get multiple accounts to share a post of yours at the same time. This is a fantastic strategy to drive more traffic to your account, especially if you’re looking to sell a product. A shoutout from not one, but multiple influencers in your niche will guarantee that several thousand potential Instagram followers will see your post.
Automatically share your Instagram posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Create a simple process with something like IFTTT so your Instagram posts are automatically shared on your other social media accounts. Give your posts that extra bit of exposure while simultaneously growing your other social media accounts.
Invest some time in creating Instagram-specific lead magnets available only on your account, whether it’s an ebook, a webinar, or even a simple PDF. This will incentivize people to follow your account, and it should be an integral part of your Instagram marketing strategy if you’re planning on generating sales and conversions through your account.
Join and participate in like-for-like groups to improve your post’s organic reach. Find and connect with a group of like-minded people who are in a similar niche to yours. Help each other out on Instagram by liking each other’s posts or leaving comments. These groups are a great way to further your network, and develop stronger relationships with other influencers.
Use your like-for-like groups to drop “like bombs” or “engagement bombs” on posts to increase their chances of trending. Create a custom hashtag that only you and your group are aware of so that it’s easier for you to find each other’s posts. Then, as a group, everyone like or comment on one person’s post to give it a huge boost in organic traffic.
10. Our Favorite Instagram Tools
- ink361 – run scans on your competitors’ accounts and finds the most commented and liked images.
- Track your growth and your competitor’s growth using Social Blade.
- Use Iconosquare Pro for in-depth Instagram analytics. This is our personal recommendation for anyone looking for an analytics platform for Instagram, but Iconosquare Pro can be very expensive, so only invest in it if you’re serious about your Instagram account.
- Check out apps like Wordswag, Rhonda, and Typorama to create quick and easy text posts. We use these apps to create the majority of the content on our Instagram account.
- We recommend VSCO to edit your images and give your account an aesthetic theme if you’re not doing quote images and using mainly photographs. It’s a great app with a ton of functionality that’s perfect for social media editing.
- For desktop users, definitely use Canva to create most, if not all, of your social media images.
- For royalty-free images go to Pexels, Unsplash, and Pixabay.
- Use Grum to schedule and automate your Instagram posts. Take some of the work out of the equation by simply automating when your posts go out.
- Share popular posts with Repost and Instagrab. Whether it’s an image post or a video, use these apps to download popular posts from other accounts. But remember to always credit the original creator.
- Plan out your Instagram feed with Planoly. This is great if you want to get an idea of what your feed would look like, or if you’re planning on creating a collage-type feed with multiple posts. I’d recommend using this for the first few months or so of a new account to help figure out what the aesthetic theme is going to look like.
- If you have Hootsuite, make sure to try their TrendSpottr app to help you find out what the top trending posts and influencers are.
- Use Kik to connect and communicate with other Instagram users. If the other user doesn’t have their Kik publicly listed, you can always message them directly through Instagram’s native messaging tool.
- Apps like Hyperlapse are great for creating videos with tons of energy and fast-paced movement. Videos with a lot of movement immediately grab people’s attention and creates interest. Tell an entire story in the matter of seconds.
- Apps like Flixel or Pictoreo are great for creating subtle cinemagraphs. While fast-paced videos tend to grab more attention, the slower cinemagraph-type posts are more likely to generate higher engagement.
- Create stunning text animations with Legend. This is a great tool to help your quote images stand out even more.
Go Get Those Instagram Followers! But First…
So those are the steps that we went through and some of the growth hacks we used to go from zero to 10k followers in two weeks, and then scale to 1 million followers and counting! Before you go running off to do all of that though, we’d encourage you to think about why you’re on, or want to be on Instagram.
We can’t guarantee this method will work as effectively for you as it did for us. It served our purposes because of our particular niche and what we wanted to get out of the platform. Instagram is certainly a powerful tool, but it’s not really for everyone or every business. A few questions you might want to ask yourself are:
- Is my industry, or what I sell visually appealing?
- Am I willing to share stuff that isn’t directly related to what I sell?
- Do I have time to engage in a new social media platform?
If you answered no to one or more of these questions, you might want to rethink why you want to jump on Instagram marketing. You don’t want to be wasting resources on something that just isn’t for you. Otherwise, we’d encourage you to use this guide to boost your followers!
What are we missing, Foundr family? I know you all have a few Instagram tricks up your sleeve. Share your favorite, or let us know if you have questions on any of these in the comments below.