Increasing your Instagram followers: Practical ideas, tips and examples.

Posted On October 22, 2020 Digital Marketing

How to increase your followers on Instagram? The question on every marketers lips. Why? Because they know what happens when people start following your Instagram account. Oh the riches and spoils! 

The topic is almost a science within itself, and with so much key information we’ve made this a two part series. 

What follows is the psychology behind it all, and the first 4 ways on how you can practically apply this to your Instagram. Check out the second blog to find out more on how you can increase your followers.

Before we start, let us remember why online retail is so enamoured with Instagram, and why it’s so important for ecommerce businesses to get involved or get left behind.

  1. Instagram is taking over. Instagram is growing faster than any other social network.
  2. Instagram has now reached the 1 billion active user mark.
  3. 83 % of Instagram users find new products through Instagram.

Having a functioning Instagram account is simply not enough. With 71% of US businesses now using Instagram – the noise is deafening – for your brand to get noticed you need to turn down the volume and get your voice heard, but how?

5 Key things your Instagram needs to do to get more followers 

Ecomitize recently published a great (if I do say so myself) guide on how to create an effective Instagram Bio, and in the article I outlined 3 key things that every fully functioning bio should do. Those points apply to the rest of your Instagram account too. However, with the added ability of posting content with images, videos and stories there’s other things you will need to do to make sure everything is watertight. These are a set of principles that should thread through your account seamlessly, in one consistent vision.

Tell potential followers who you are, and what you do! Simple. Do this through your handle, name, bio, posts. Yes you can be creative, colourful, tell stories, but if your shop doesn’t have a sign saying what you do potential followers are going to walk past.

Brand personality. As consumer behaviour changes your instagram account needs to advertise it’s personality. Users want brand affinity, meaning they want to know who you are, and if your traits align with theirs, if they do they’ll follow and engage. Do you have a consistent brand identity that is consistent across all channels? Think about how you want to be perceived and then highlight it.

Social emotional Instagram.That’s right, ecommerce and psychology have become one. In the search for more Instagram followers marketers and businesses need to understand that although social media is a modern phenomenon, it fulfills social urges that humans have had since cave people days. And when you’re able to arouse users’ emotions the science says people are more likely to share.

Tell people why they should care. eCommerce isn’t just about code it’s about emotion. Increasingly people shop with their emotions. Users want ‘meaningful’ online experiences, beyond what you sell, what do you do as a retailer that brings about this feeling? Think corporate social responsibility, social consciousness and environmental awareness. 

Happiness. It’s really not rocket science, however if you want followers you need to make people happy. That doesn’t mean dropping office jokes on your Instagram feed every half an hour, it means (as always) knowing your audience, knowing your brand and communicating with authenticity. Positive sentiments are far more likely to be retweeted than anything else, and this is more likely to get you more Instagram followers.

Sense of belonging. Research has shown how users value the social connection that Instagram provides. Humans want to be accepted as part of a group, and to increase follower numbers you have to create space for this to happen; answering queries, discussion, free content, anything that creates discussion and sharing. Sense of belonging is so important that recent investigation has shown it to be more powerful than trust when considering consumer loyalty. Create community, create discussion, create belonging.

The Algorithm – getting to the top

The above points will hopefully create an Instagram account which gets people interacting, sharing and following. But one significant way of increasing your followers is climbing up to the top of users (and prospective followers) feeds- it’s like having your shop front on the high street rather than down some dingy alley frequented by cats and such things. But there’s a science to all this, and it is useful to understand how this science works. 

‘The Algorithm’ – why is it important? Instagram uses a clever algorithm to determine what is at the top of feeds-including potential followers. If you’re able to get to the top of someone’s feed you’re more likely to get followed. To do this you need to follow the three key rules to create:

  • Interest – this isn’t just based on who you follow, it’s also based on who and what you like.  In essence what you see in your instagram feed is a result of all your interactions on the platform; likes, photos you tag, videos you watch etc. This means you need content which is captivating in multiple ways- amazing images, writing, seo hashtags, the list goes on.
  • Timeliness – simply, if you post something at the wrong time and your target audience isn’t there they don’t see it. If a tree falls in a wood and nonbody…
  • Relationship – Instagram is a social networking site. Your Instagram account wants to show you stuff that your friends, and family interact with. For businesses you have to get people sharing – create community, sense of belonging, reasons to care and share! 

Why would anyone want more followers anyway? 

The evidence is clear, more Instagram followers equals greater returns. Once a user followers:

  • 91% visit the brands website/ app.
  • 89 % buy 
  • 85% recommend to friends/ family 
  • 84 % choose over a competitor.

How do you apply all this practically?

Let’s recap. You want to get more followers. You do this by following the five key points above, make it interesting, engage your audience and if you’re doing it well move up to the top of users’ feeds to increase the chances of getting seen, heard and followed. 

But practically how do you do this? There’s a myriad of different functions you can make use of on Instagram. Here are the most effective ways.

1. Optimize your Instagram Bio

Your bio is your landing page, it’s the first thing prospective followers will see once reaching your account, and as everyone knows first impressions count. 

I won’t go into too much detail as you can find all you need to know about optimizing your Instagram Bio in the previous blog. However, being such a pivotal aspect of your account let’s review some key things which you simply have to do inorder to garner the attention of visitors.

  • SEP optimized @handles/names – you want to come up in searches more- play around with different handles, what are your key words? Can you incorporate them? You don’t have to use the same name in the ‘name’ section- why not use this as an opportunity to use a second key word? Spread your net wider and get more visitors.
  • Visual! Make it pleasing to the eye-get a quality profile pic.
  • Language – the bio is for words, make it interesting, appropriate and use #hastags get attention!

2. Content that captivates

As any marketer knows, knowing your audience is key to any marketing strategy. Create audience personas. What will resonate emotionally with your audience? Imagine what will work and then apply it. Remember the content you’re sharing should; grow brand affinity, show users why they should care, create belonging, and keep them smiling. I

There’s a good chance if you’re able to do this your audience will share and follow. According to research interesting content which emotionally arouses users is far more likely to be shared- makes sense doesn’t it. 

Usefully the University of Michigan undertook a huge study on how posts (they made 500 million) predict ‘link formation’ otherwise known as followers. Things that worked.

  • Positive sentiments go further, get more traffic, will be reshared more.
  • Design purposely built shareable content.
  • Use Hashtags, in moderation.
  • Use appropriate language, be eloquent, check grammar, you’re being evaluated.
  • Create a curiosity gap- use ‘here’s why’ ‘how to’ ‘the truth behind’ ‘we’ll explain’, to entice users- 50% of users have FOMO, so play to that.

3. Images tell stories

Well all know images tell stories, and they often do a better job of doing so than text. For a start 90% of information sent to the brain is visual. Research has also shown there is far better engagement in posts with visuals than without, furthermore once users are engaged there is a higher chance of re-sharing and spreading your message. 

Instagram is the leader of social media platforms when it comes to providing image rich functionality, so how to use it? As always, be consistent, whether it’s the colour palet, backgrounds or theme- you’re showcasing the big 5. Make use of the different functions; post images in your feed, make stories and create live content. 

With three times greater engagement than images, the standout of Instagram’s features is the ability to make ‘stories’. What’s so good about stories? They provide a  great way of maintaining visibility and connecting with your audience, remember we’re trying to humanise your brand and engage on an emotional level; convey personality, sense of belonging and make people smile. 

In addition to all this, if you make use of ‘Instagram live’ you can create interactive connect with users being able to connect in real time, and… live jumps the queue and heads straight to the top of stories increasing the chances of users viewing, engaging and following. Good stuff, I’m sure you’d agree.

4. Conversation

Conversation, a dialogue between two or more people. A simple thing, but it has the profound ability to tell so much about the person (s) we are conversing with. For the purposes of growing Instagram followers it allows your business to; show you personality, humanise your brand and connect emotionally with users. 

How? 

Become a reference point

Instagram is becoming the reference point for customers-random questions, customer care, feedback, this is the conduit. 

Do-make sure you are quick to respond to inquiries, if you can do this and provide good service you’re likely to increase brand loyalty, and this means the individual is likely to share their positive experience with others. 89% of users will make purchases after following, if your brand has got great conversational skills there’s a way bigger chance this is going to happen.

Calls to action, community and User Generated Content (UGC)

So, social media marketers are loving Instagram. Why? Research and reports from all over the industry have shown why people love Instagram- it’s ability to create communities and sense of belonging and which allows them to to express themselves and feel happy. Calls to action and the use of UGC are a prime example of this. To do this you need to start conversation, conversation which leads to calls to action. 

How? A prime example would be asking your audience to share images which include your product, and ask people to hashtag said post with a particular branded hashtag. What’s in it for them? Consumers want to align themselves with your brand values, by posting they’re showing something about themselves via your product. 

A similar but different example can be seen by ‘Outdoor Voices’, this time they ask users to use the hashtag #doingthings. 

Why does UGC work? 

It ignites engagement and collaboration, it helps build community and move users along the marketing. As visibility increases you’re more likely to get traffic, you’re also likely to get existing followers sharing your message.

It provides ‘social proof’. When a user chooses to post and tag other users deem this as ‘social proof’, in the same way that word of mouth is so powerful, posting images and has tagging provides evidence to other users that your brand is trustworthy. 

85% of users find it is easier to trust UGC than content published directly from businesses.

The overriding effect of this, is a sense of authenticity. It’s not pushy, it’s organic. There’s no trust issues here, users want to engage and they’re more than happy to share – if you do it right.

So there it is, the first part of our two-part series on how to increase your Instagram followers. We started off this journey by considering the importance of psychology and how this can be applied practically, highlighted how to get to the top of feeds via the Instagram algorithm, and discussed great ways you can make it all happen. Check out the next blog to find out more about how you can get more Instagram followers.