One thing marketers like to see is solid growth over time. With social media, this can be tricky to achieve. There’s no guarantee that people are going to find or like your page each day, so you need to be taking consistent action to encourage them. Here’s a sample process you can use daily on Instagram to get more followers.
Step 1: Analyze Your Best Posts
This first step is more of a foundation step, something to give you a place to start, rather than something you should be doing every day. I consider this to be a once every two weeks endeavor. What you should be doing is analyzing your current Instagram posts to figure out which of them are the most compelling. If you’ve never done this before, analyze the last few months worth of activity. If you’ve done it before, you can stick to the most recent couple of weeks. Essentially, you’re looking for qualities shared by your top performing posts on Instagram.
You can find out this information in two ways. One is through Instagram Insights, which is their new Facebook Insights expansion. In order to access them, you will need to link your Instagram page with your Facebook business page. Further, they’re only available to a limited selection of Instagram users at the moment.
The alternative is to use one of the many free or premium Instagram analytics apps available. You can find a good list here, and play around with them until you find one that shows you the data you want to see in the way you want to see it. I recommend Crowdfire, myself.
When you know which posts are top performers, try to figure out why. Is there something in common between the images? Were there extenuating circumstances, like an event or a contest? Did you use particular hashtags?
Step 2: Analyze Your Audience Activity Times
For this method, we’re looking at posting twice per day, five days per week. You can expand to weekends if you want, and you can cut out certain days if you want; it depends on how fluid your content production engine is. If you have trouble coming up with 14 images per week, maybe cut back.
Every audience is different, so make sure to analyze when your audience seems most active. However, in general, you’re going to find that activity spikes in the 8-9am time slot and the 5pm time slot. There may be some variation from day to day, though, so feel free to adjust.
If you don’t think you can manage posting twice per day, use the earlier of the two time slots. The second one is largely to cement engagement with new followers, which can be handled with your post the next day, so it’s not a huge loss if you only post once per day. However, twice per day will make your engine run more smoothly.
For this step, I’m going to primarily refer you to this article, which covers the topic in great detail. Essentially, you want to pick a good mix of hashtags to use for your images, both each day and throughout the week. Your selection will inform which audiences are going to see your post, and in what volumes, so you know generally what sort of numbers you’ll be seeing. Keeping a good chunk of your tags consistent from day to day will help reach audiences consistently, while changing up a few will allow you to experiment with new groups.
Some people argue that you should limit yourself to 2-3 hashtags per post. This is valid advice, for some brands, though others have found that there’s no decrease in engagement when you add more tags. I recommend trying it out for a week or two, to see which method gets you more engagement and more new followers. Always remember that any advice you read online is only valid so long as it works better for you than what you were doing, so test and experiment.
Step 4: Create Two Posts
As mentioned in step two, we’re planning to post twice per day. It’s up to you what sort of posts you want to make each day. Do you want continuity between them? Do you want continuity throughout the week? Should every image stand on its own? This is where you tie in what you learned about your best performing posts in the first step as well. You want to do as much as you can to mimic those posts in substance, though not necessarily in direct copying or reference. Hit the same notes, not the same melody.
This means an image, a description, and a hashtag block all set up to encourage maximum exposure and engagement. Remember that you’re going to be running 10-14 posts per week, so you have a lot of room to experiment, and you can see each week which experiments performed the best.
The first three steps were setup for the actual process, which is this step through the final step, performed each day.
Step 5: Post One Image
The first post should be made in the early morning time slot, probably around 8am. Getting ahead of the pack, having fresh content at the top of the feed when a user signs on, this is your goal. Consider this the “foundational” post for the day, so if you have to choose between the two posts you’re making, make this the one that most encourages engagement and growth. Essentially, this is your primary post, meant to be around longest and do the most heavy lifting.
Throughout the day, you will receive engagement on this post. Make sure you’re engaging in return, letting your followers know you’re around and watching. Respond to comments, thank them for their thoughts, and start conversations.
The bulk of what you’re going to be doing throughout the day is in this step and the next one. Once you have your first post up, spend some time browsing through your top hashtags. These are not necessarily the tags you used, but also tags that are relevant to your industry, tags that get a lot of traffic, and tags that suit your brand. Don’t go digging into branded tags here; those are most likely to be in use by your audience, rather than by new users.
The goal if this step is to find compelling content posted by people who don’t follow you already. The content should be posted recently, so it’s likely that the person who posted it is still around and engaging with their followers. If the content is sub-par, it looks suspicious if you like it. If the content is old, it doesn’t necessarily ping the user in a relevant way. If the user already follows you, you don’t stand to gain a follower out of them, but you can cement their engagement with your brand with a like anyways.
Step 7: Like and Comment on Recent Posts
So what do you do with the content you found in step six? Well, you should give the image a like and a comment. You can also follow the user if you want, though if you do that too often you start to stray into follow-back territory, which can backfire on you. Instagram might not be as strict about it as Twitter, but it’s still not a great technique.
What you’re doing is fishing. You’re looking into the great big ocean of people on Instagram, and you’re finding areas where the people – the fish – are schooling. That’s what finding the active hashtags is all about. Then you reach into the water with bait to try to attract some bites. The bait, in this case, is the ego boost of having a post liked and commented on by a brand page with however many followers and however much clout your brand page has.
Regardless of whether the user takes the bait or not, you need to move on. That’s where it’s not really like fishing, I suppose. You don’t have the luxury of reeling in people one at a time, it’s much too slow for adequate growth. You’re chumming the water and hoping the fish leap into your net.
Step 8: Post the Second Image
By this point, you’ve spend a good chunk of the day filtering through people to attract them to your page. Some of them will have ignored you entirely. Some of them may have come and reciprocated with a like and a comment, but didn’t follow you. Put these people on a list – I like a simple web bookmark if I’m doing this from a PC rather than a mobile device – and come back to them in a few days. Some of them will have followed you, and that’s good; that’s the result you’re hoping for.
To cement the people who followed you, it’s time to make your second post. You have this already prepared, so it should be a simple matter to paste in the description and tags, upload the image, and let it go. I’d tell you to just schedule it, but Instagram is very limited with what sort of apps and third party services they allow to post on the behalf of an account. It’s almost more hassle than it’s worth to try to set up post scheduling.
The second post gives new followers and existing followers a new focal point. The content shows up right at the top of their feed, where they can immediately engage with it, and possibly get into a conversation with your existing audience. It’s like a cap to the jar you’ve been filling with bugs all day.
If you don’t have the means to produce such a volume of content, this is the post you skip out on. It’s not hugely necessary to put a cap on the engagement, since these people will see your post from the next morning as well, and some of them will end up seeing both in the same browsing session. I recommend testing to see if the second post ends up being too much volume, and dialing back if it hurts your returns.
Step 9: Repeat 4-8 Tomorrow
That’s one day. Now repeat the process, indefinitely. Ideally, your fishing will catch a few new users every day, and as your account gets rolling, more and more people will be sharing your content and will be following on their own.
Eventually, you’ll be able to dial back on the fishing and spend more time with off-site promotion and engagement.
To finish up this post, I’m going to leave you with some general tips for Instagram success. The process above can be entirely customized to suit your audience, so as always, make sure you’re testing and expanding upon your techniques to find what works best for your brand.
- Occasionally spend a week or two focusing on a theme. The easiest theme to use is a contest, particularly one with user generated content. Get users to submit content to your specific branded hashtag, and feature the best content submitted.
- Occasionally ask users to tag a friend. This is best done with action-oriented images. For example, if you post a recipe with an image of the food item, you can ask users to tag a friend who might like to try the recipe some time. This gets extra engagement and tags people who might not otherwise see your content.
- Don’t worry too much about Instagram filters. You should be capturing your images on a non-phone device and optimizing them on a computer using something like Photoshop or GIMP, so you don’t need to use filters to mask the relatively low quality of a phone camera image.
Finally, keep it up. This technique only works as long as you work at it, and it might be a little slow going until you understand how to best attract users. Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get immediate success, and don’t give up.