[[updated May 18, 2017]]
Businesses using Instagram, like businesses using any other social network, seem to have a perennial burning question: “How can I get more followers?”
Let me tell you how to get more Instagram followers – the fast way and the smart way.
The Fast Way to Get Instagram Followers
Our favorite keyword tool tells us that “Instagram followers” is the third most searched termed related to Instagram. Over a million people ask Dr. Google about Instagram followers each month.
Fast. If you’re about to run to Google for the same reason, you’ll soon learn that everyone wants to help you get Instagram followers — and get ’em fast. Peruse the blogosphere or YouTube and you’ll uncover common tips like
- use hashtags like #f4f (follow for follow) or #followme in comments of popular users
- follow, then moments later, unfollow popular users
- like at least 1,000 photos with a popular hashtag
Faster. Does that sound like too much work? Try an app to automate the process of building your Instagram follower base. If you search for Instagram apps on your mobile phone, your results will yield a whole bunch of get-followers-quick solutions.
Fastest. If that’s too much scrolling and tapping for you, there are pay-to-play options. Simply fork over your marketing dollars for a particular number of Instagram followers, and POOF!, you have an instant following.
What’s the catch with these fast methods?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with these methods if you simply need to tell your boss that you have 10,000 followers. But if that boss will soon ask for ROI on your Instagram efforts, you’ll be up a creek. Let me explain.
In all the articles, videos, apps, and paid programs I’ve described, you’ll never see a mention of gaining TARGETED followers. They’ll never address
- WHO you’ll get as followers using these methods
- WHERE these followers come from
- WHY these followers will be interested in you
- WHAT value these followers will bring to your business
In other words, these schemes, especially the pay-to-play ones, focus purely on quantity, not the quality of the followers you’ll get on your business account.
If you gained 10,000 Instagram followers in a week using a “quantity” method, how many of them do you think will be interested in your sushi restaurant in Chicago? Gluten-free baking mixes? Composting bins? Hardly. Any.
There is slim chance that these newly acquired followers will like you enough to like, comment, regram, or tell their friends about your Instagram account. And if anyone, like your boss, takes a moment to peruse your account, she’ll soon wonder, “Why is it that this account with 20k followers only gets 5 likes per post?”
With that, your Instagram cred will implode.
You know what else might implode? Your Instagram account. Many of these tools violate Instagram’s Platform Policy. Popular sites like Instagress have been shut down by Instagram for that very reason — leaving people scrambling for other “fast” Instagram automation to build a following without lifting a finger.
The Smart Way to Get Instagram Followers
Let’s dig in on how to get GREAT followers for your Instagram account. While these following five methods will undoubtedly take you more time than a method of getting “quantity” followers, they hold the promise of giving your business more qualified followers who will be in it for the long haul. These users will be much more likely to give you the return you seek in your Instagram marketing efforts.
1. Monitor a hashtag in your niche to find those who fit your buyer persona. When done on a daily basis, hashtag monitoring will not only gain inside scoop on market trends and competitive information, but it will also introduce you to people who are likely to want to learn more about you by following you on Instagram.
So if you’re that sushi place in Chicago, you may wish to monitor the following hashtags:
When you find a post of interest, tap on the user bio to see if his description merits a “follow” tap on your part. If indeed he and your business care about the same things, he most likely will follow you back.
If that post gives you the itch to leave a comment, do it. Just be sure to make the comment about the post — not about you. (If the user wants to know about you, your bio is just a tap away for him.) Your kind words alone about something you have in common might be enough for a user to follow you.
Repeat this method, whenever applicable.
You can monitor hashtags and locations with the Instagram dashboard.
2. Monitor a hashtag in your niche to gain user generated content — and followers. This is taking your hashtag monitoring a step further. Unless you’re in startup mode, you’ll be surprised how many Instagram users are already posting photos of your business, products, or services. And users will be happy to let you share their photos with your followers if you ask nicely.
Users often get flattered that a business finds their post worthy of a regram. In order for them to see your regram, they’ll most likely follow you so that they can see your borrowed photo in their feed. They might also give you a shoutout to their followers about your love of their original post. See how it happens with color taste makers Pantone.
3. Cosponsor a Instagram contest. Partner with another Instagram user in your niche for a contest in which the entrant must follow the both of you. See how athletic apparel store RiseNY hosted a contest with the Website SneakerWatch?
This contest required that entrants follow both brands. At the time of this contest, RiseNY had over 7,300 Instagram followers; neakerWatch had more than 337,000. This simple-to-implement contest can potentially gain either brand a healthy number of new followers in its mutual niche (athletic wear).
4. Post to Instagram on a regular basis. While there is value in charming other Instagram users through commenting on their posts or offering a contest prize, it’s also important to show the value of your account — and business — by consistently sharing great photos and short videos. Be sure to use targeted hashtags (a la #chicagofoodscene) to be found by others who will be interested in what you offer.
You can schedule posts to Instagram from your mobile device or desktop using Agorapulse.
5. Promote your Instagram presence wherever you can. Inform your circles and customers about your business Instagram account. Start by telling folks on your Website. Add a widget that gives visitors a flavor of what your account looks like and gets them to your account with a tap or click.
Let your email subscribers know about your Instagram account and encourage them to follow you there. Both Constant Contact and Mailchimp have Instagram integrations so that you can boldly display what your Instagram presence.
Got a brick and mortar business? Then you have literal real estate to encourage customers to follow your Instagram account. This Massachusetts (USA) branch of Pottery Barn Kids used a simple chalkboard easel to announce its Instagram presence.
If you have a tangible product, consider adding a bit about your business’ Instagram account. Domino’s uses its packaging to get its customers interested in posting Instagram photos of its pizza using its username @dominos. Users will most likely begin to follow Domino’s with the hope that their pizza will be featured to the pizza king’s 852,000+ followers.
You can also follow brands that are already successful on Instagram and find inspiration there. For example, this blog post about top 23 e-commerce Instagram marketing campaigns has plenty of insightful examples.
And don’t forget that you can monitor the success of all your posting right from your Instagram dashboard!
(Want to try Agorapulse? Sign up now for your free trial!)
In the end, it’s up to you what you’d like to do with your Instagram followers. If you’re that Chicago sushi restaurant, and you want to point to your follower count and say “Because of these followers, we’re the biggest Chicago sushi restaurant on Instagram,” go for it. Business owners in it for the long haul, however, will point to their Instagram count and say, “Because of these followers, we’re the biggest Chicago sushi restaurant in Chicago.”
You in it for the long haul?