Before we dive into how to grow your Instagram followers, let’s get a full view of the power of the social media platform itself. Instagram is one the most popular social media sites with over 1 billion monthly active users and 600 million daily users. There are also over 4 billion likes each day (that’s a lot of double taps)!
Instagram can be a very powerful tool for a lot of businesses and influencers alike. With the vast reach and an engaged audience it can help to drive sales, brand awareness, customer engagement and more. But the big question many marketers and businesses are asking is how do I get more followers – more specifically, valuable followers (not just bots, buying followers or using “growth” techniques). Sophisticated and data-driven marketers can predict revenues and allocate how much value a “real” Instagram follower can attribute to their top line growth. With that in mind, finding ways to increase your following with valuable followers is of the utmost importance and a cornerstone objective for a lot of social media strategies. It’s not just about vanity, it’s about driving real results to achieve business goals.
Before jumping into investing time and resources into growing your Instagram followers, consider the value Instagram plays or can play in your overall marketing strategy. For example, if you’re a local B2B professional services firm, putting a lot of time and effort into growing your Instagram followers likely won’t help you achieve your marketing or business goals. It may be nice to have a strong Instagram following for recruitment needs, help with brand reach and engagement, but likely isn’t the best platform to focus your time and effort to drive the best results if resources are tight.
If you are an in-house marketer or business owner and targeting any of these leading demographics below, you’ll want to keep reading to see how you can grow your Instagram followers.
- Gender: 43% of women use Instagram while 31% of men use it.
- Location: The largest Instagram audience is 140 million in the U.S. while Canada has 15 million. The platform is popular internationally, making it a valuable platform for businesses targeting international markets
- 75% of 18-24 year olds use Instagram
- 57% of 25-30 year olds use Instagram
- 47% of 30-47 year olds use Instagram
- 23% of 50-64 year olds use Instagram
- 8% of 65+ year olds use Instagram
- Income: 42% of people that make $75,000+ use Instagram, the highest of income demographics.
- 43% of people that have more than college education use Instagram
- 37% of people with some college education use Instagram
Why you need to focus on growing “real” followers as opposed to buying or using “growth techniques”
You can easily hop on Fiverr and buy a bunch of followers or likes on almost any social media platform for a very small investment. The problem with doing so is that Instagram has been cracking down on removing fake or spam accounts so you could go from 10,000 followers one day to only 5,000 the next. If you are exposed for having a fake following, it can really impact your brand equity and trust with your customers and followers. It simply is not worth the risk.
In addition, it is very easy to spot fake followers and fake engagement. If all of the comments are very generic or a simple emoji, they are easily noticeable as automated comments from bot accounts. Using these growth techniques to try to increase your visibility in algorithms could end with your account being blocked or restricted by Instagram.
In addition to looking like a non-authentic brand, which resonates very poorly especially with the youth of today, fake or bot followers just won’t convert into any tangible results for your business.
Now that you’re armed with targeting demographics and not to be tempted by quick bot growth, let’s get into 7 tips to help you grow your Instagram followers in 2021.
Use Targeted Hashtags
Hashtags are still one of the best ways to grow an organic Instagram following for your account. That is no secret but so many marketers and businesses still don’t get it right with what hashtags to use. You need to use targeted hashtags as opposed to the most popular hashtags. The issue with using the most popular hashtags on Instagram is that it becomes very difficult to differentiate and have your content stand out when you’re competing against millions of other posts all using the same hashtags.
Think of it logically, for your post to be seen and showing up as a featured top post for the hashtag, you will need to have just as many likes or engagement as the ones listed under the hashtag that are showing up first. Try searching for more niche or targeted hashtags that you can achieve top post status.
Here’s what we suggest: You’ll need to do some hashtag research to find relevant hashtags to your business and products/services. Write down all the hashtags you find and include information about each one (how many posts, the amount of posts using it each day, how many likes the top posts within the hashtag have). This may seem daunting but if you want your hashtags to be effective this will be extremely helpful. There are tools to automate this like Hashtagify to help you research and find the best hashtags to use.
Use Instagram Reels
If you haven’t started creating content for Instagram Reels you are missing out on a trending opportunity to engage and grow your following with an open-minded audience. Instagram Reels is basically their version of TikTok (there are now 500 million active monthly users on TikTok). Think of it how when SnapChat became popular Instagram released “Instagram Stories,” which seems like a staple on the Instagram platform now. My guess is that “Instagram Reels” becomes a staple as well and takes a decent chunk out of the TikTok market share for videos created to 30-second clips of music.
Reels seems to be where Instagram is navigating users to explore on the platform right now to grow its popularity and encourage users to share more Reels in 2021. Sharing Reels on your business page feed as well as the Explore page will help reach audiences that both follow you and those that do not yet – it is a great way to increase reach beyond your followers!
Since it is a fairly new feature, many of your competitors may not have jumped on it yet, allowing you an opportunity to gain a step with your audience and build a loyal following before your competitors do.
Post the right type of content that your audience wants to see at the right time
You can’t be a marketer without being a numbers person. Data-driven marketing applies to Instagram as well and it’s not just about creating visually appealing content. You need to post the right content at the right time to maximize your performance.
First let’s start with “when to post” your content. There are a number of sites that have statistics on Instagram times that have high and low volume and which days of the week generate the most traffic on Instagram. Sprout Social is no doubt one of the most popular platforms for scheduling content and analytics on engagement. Sprout Social has used their data to create heat map charts to better showcase what time of day and what day of the week gets the most traffic. Take a look and understand when your content has the best chance to reach optimal performance.
Testing different types of content and different types of captions is of the utmost importance. Different content will perform better than others and understanding what your audience prefers will go a long way to attracting new audiences and followers with similar interests, demographics and personalities. If you haven’t already, invest in an Instagram analytics platform and compare captions, content type (videos vs. images), hashtags, etc. Analyze your competitors posts and see what is working best for other brands in your industry and use their data to optimize your performance as well.
Make your Instagram account as visible as possible
Promote your Instagram account on your website as well as other social media networks. Once someone is engaged with your brand already, it is easier to convert them into a follower. There are still a number of brands that do not link or make it is easy to find their Instagram account on their website. If you provide a positive experience on your website and they have an Instagram account, they should be directed to follow you on your home page, contact page and as a call-to-action for relevant content on your site.
In addition, if they follow you on LinkedIn, Facebook or another social media platform, ensure that you are able to capture them on your Instagram. By sharing your Instagram content on your other platforms, you’ll increase the visibility and awareness that they should also follow you on Instagram if they are engaged and like the content that you are producing.
Use Influencers and brand advocates to post your content or to post about your brand
Identify influencers or customers that have an Instagram following that fits with your target market and have them create user-generated content to get in front of the most-likely to follow audience.
Using Instagram contests is also a great way to increase your reach and have others post about your brand on your behalf and increase your followers. By creating Instagram contests where visitors and followers need to “like, follow, or tag friends” to enter is a great way to grow your audience with relevant visitors that are connected to those that already follow you.
Find niche influencers who have an engaged audience that is loyal and engaged with what they say. Use those niche influencers to start conversations about your brand to increase your brand proof and credibility.
Use call-to-actions to drive your audience to take desired actions
According to Sprout Social, “89% of consumers will buy from a brand after following on social.” With that said it is important to convert visitors on your Instagram page into followers. The best way to do so is to engage with your audience and create loyal followers. By joining in the conversation on Instagram and replying to comments from visitors or engaging in posts that you are tagged in, it will create loyalty from visitors and your current audience. If visitors notice that you are engaged with your audience, they will become followers to engage with you and connect with your brand. Use comments and captions as a way to guide the customer journey, whether it’s to engage in other related content, send them to your website or offer them an Instagram exclusive promotion in order to increase your engagement and convert followers into revenue.
Once you are able to grow new followers and drive your audience to action, you will realize the true value and real results from your efforts on Instagram.
Target Lookalike Audiences With Instagram Ads
By creating Instagram campaigns and targeting the campaign objective as “traffic”, you can direct as many people as possible to your account to follow you on Instagram. Based on my experience, “lookalike audiences” are the best audience to target to increase your followers on Instagram. If you set your audience for your ads to a “1% lookalike” based off of people that already interact and follow you on Instagram. Basically, if you create an ad and deliver it in front of an audience that look like your current audience, those people are more likely to follow you on Instagram as well. The cost per follow will be much lower targeting a “lookalike” audience as opposed to any other audience based on our experience.
We have tested video ad content on the Instagram Feeds vs. Instagram Stories vs. Instagram Explore, and Instagram Stories out-performed at converting followers by far. Place your ads only on Instagram Stories and create video content that is personalized to your audience.
When you are running just a Stories ad, you do not need any “primary text” in the content – the video itself is all that you need. The link to direct the audience to should be set using “website” and directing them to the link to your Instagram profile.
Need help growing your Instagram followers?
Use these tips to help grow valuable Instagram followers in 2021. If you need assistance, get in touch with us at Meerkat Marketing to optimize your Instagram to drive desired actions and results.