With over 700 million active users and counting, Instagram is growing faster by the minute. More importantly, it’s generally considered one of the more engaged platforms: 75% of users will take action — like going to your website — after seeing an advertising post. That’s a huge percentage! But how can your business get fully connected with such a thriving community? Insta is a totally different planet compared to Facebook or Twitter; it’s (obviously) incredibly visually-oriented, and as such there are a few tools and trick you can utilize to get the most out of your time invested on this aspirational little app.

  1. Have a consistent look or theme. The photos you publish need to look beautiful in two frameworks: the timeline, and your profile. First of all, every photo needs to be gorgeous and engaging enough to catch the eye of the user scrolling through their timeline. Editing apps like Snapseed or A Color Story are incredibly useful to make those pictures pop; practice using them until you’ve got a quick system you can breeze through! That will help with the second framework: you also want to make sure those photos look consistent when they’re seen all together on your profile. Maintaining a similar theme, color scheme, or even just using the same filter every time, can give those photos a much more cohesive look when they’re all lined up. That look is a big part of what will inspire inquirers to click the ever-evasive ‘follow’ button, so don’t neglect it.
  2. Use your analytics. One of the best parts of the business profile on Instagram is the analytics. My favorite tool? The bar graph that shows what time of day your audience is most active! Study after study can tell you that Monday at 5 pm or Friday at 10 pm are the ‘busiest times on Instagram,’ but that’s out of 700 million people. It won’t matter if 80% of them are active around 9 am on Sunday, if none of those 80% are your followers. Your analytics shows you what time your followers are the most active, given the history of that day of the week. That way, you know to post your photo riiiiight at one o’clock, not three hours later when your engagement has dropped.
  3. Take those selfies! Or any face picture, really. It’s just a fact of life: photos with faces in them get more engagement. So stop being shy and smile for the camera every once in a while! If that seems off-brand to you, try reposting content that includes your product — featuring your followers is a sure way to keep them engaged.
  4. Connect with a pod. Teaming up with and collaborating with your peers is key for growing your own community on Instagram, and a pod is a great way to start. In a pod, each person commits to liking/commenting on the photos of everyone else in the pod. Every pod has slightly different methods and styles, but that’s the basic idea. Because the Instagram algorithm rewards engagement, getting a quick flurry of likes and comments on your photo right when you share makes it more readily visible to your other followers, because it will have a higher ranking on their timeline. Be careful of pods, however — joining too many, or any that you don’t care about too much, can start to feel forced (and ultimately exhausting). The key to keeping it organic is to engage with a pod of people you’re genuinely interested in; work with folks who are like-minded, who post images that you want to see regularly. Then you’re getting all the ‘numbers’ benefits of the pod, but you’re still keeping it authentic!
  5. Consider hiring influencers. Instagram influencers can reach huge audiences and grow your own following significantly with shout-outs in their posts. For new businesses this can seem intimidating, but the price might be more reasonable than you think. Reach out and DM someone you admire with a following of 10k or higher (the higher, the more expensive it will be) and ask them if they have a media kit or a rate-per-post. After you hear from a few different folks you’ll start to get a handle on the standard rates in your industry, and you’ll know the type of reach you can afford.
  6. Switch up your website link! Way too many businesses just keep that clickable real estate as simply a gateway to their website. It can be used for so much more than that! If you feature a product in your post, change your link to that specific product purchase page on your site for couple hours. If you’ve got a new content upgrade, make sure the link goes right to the download/sign-up page. Whenever you’ve got a new blog post, share about it on Instagram and adjust the link accordingly. Help your followers engage in the more effective way by giving them interesting places to visit!
  7. Play with Stories and Live. So many business owners are intimidated by these two features, but here’s the thing: Stories and live videos need much less curation and cultivation than your average photo, because they disappear! Live videos disappear immediately, which is counterintuitively great for engagement — everyone knows that if they don’t watch now, they won’t be able to see that video ever again. Fomo works in your favor. Stories, on the other hand, are a fun way to playfully engage with your audience without worrying about editing or stylizing your photos; these are true behind-the-scenes pics and videos where you can let loose and have a little fun. Try the face filters; try the doodle tool; connect to your website and use hashtags. What’s the risk? If it doesn’t look good, it will be gone tomorrow! But if it works, your followers will know you in a more interesting and engaging way — which means they are that much closer to becoming customers.

Remember, although there are all kinds of strategies to grow your followers on any social media platform, each one has some special quirks you can harness to maximize your marketing. Instagram is no exception, and if it’s where your ideal clients lives (or plays), you’ll want to jump on board, stat — and start growing your tribe!

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