If you Google “Instagram growth hacks,” you’ll come up with 15 million results. Given that approximately 800 million people use Instagram, it is no surprise that so much content has been written about how marketers can optimize their accounts. However, all of this content can make it difficult to know what does and does not work when trying to grow an Instagram account.
This article provides marketers and Instagram enthusiasts with a list of the 15 most effective, but often overlooked, growth hacks designed to quickly grow Instagram as a reliable marketing channel.
1. Use Instagram as part of an omni-channel strategy.
The average social media user in the United States has multiple social media accounts and accesses these accounts through a variety of devices. Because of this, more brands are opting for an omni-channel approach, in which a customer has the ability to seamlessly interact with an organization through the channels he or she prefers.
An omni-channel approach means that Instagram would become one of many channels a brand optimizes to reach customers on the customer’s terms. In addition to growth hacking your Instagram profile, consider optimizing channels like organic search, email, direct mail and other social media platforms to allow customers to access your brand on any platform they choose.
2. Generate brand awareness through Instagram Stories ads.
About 250 million people use Instagram Stories every day. In fact, it is the fastest growing component of Instagram, and has outpaced the total number of Snapchat users in the year since it launched.
While posting organic content on Instagram Stories is a great way to grow brand awareness and increase follower engagement, using Instagram Stories ads is another effective (and underutilized) way for marketers to promote a brand.
3. Use “Account Swapping” to increase account exposure to target audiences.
Also known as an Instagram Takeover, this tactic has been employed by brands like GE and Burberry, among many others. To make this tactic work, you must provide someone else with access to your Instagram account. That person, whether they are an influencer, member of the company leadership team or just another employee, will create content that is unique and may also encourage their followers to check out your profile.
4. Bring an Instagram influencer on as a strategic advisor.
Most people think of social media influencers as people who produce content on behalf of brands. While it is true that influencer marketing usually involves this sort of relationship, a number of influencers are also available to provide brands with strategic consulting. Rather than create content for you, they help you to create a strategy that will work based on their experience.
This is a good option if an organization has a strict content policy that cannot be altered in order to accommodate an Instagram influencer.
5. Create Instagram live video content to make it to the Explore page.
Social media marketers interested in growing Instagram followers should embrace tactics that make it easier to be featured on the Instagram Explore page. This is where most people discover new profiles to follow.
One effective way to make it to the Explore page is by using Instagram live video. Instagram is so keen to promote live video content that they created a dedicated live video section of Explore. This page is likely less competitive than the main Explore page, since the page will only promote videos that are currently live.
6. Cross-promote Instagram account on your other social media networks.
While an omni-channel approach to marketing involves optimizing all channels that prospective customers might use, a cross-platform strategy simply means that brands should develop a strategy to engage prospective customers across social media platforms specifically.
As mentioned above, most social media users (at least in the United States) use multiple social media platforms for different purposes. A cross-platform approach may make it easier for brands to engage specific segments of the target audience.
7. Survey your target audience for feedback about Instagram content.
In order to create a successful Instagram account, users must consistently engage with content. Surveying members of your target audience is a good way to learn if this content is actually interesting to them.
There are a number of different ways to conduct a customer survey, including sending an NPS email to people who you know are following your Instagram account, and direct-messaging followers on Instagram.
Some of the questions you might want to ask members of the target audience are: What are you hoping to see on Instagram when you log in? What other brands do you follow and why? What would you need to see from our Instagram account in order to recommend it to friends or colleagues?
8. Invest in an Instagram analytics platform.
Modern marketers make decisions based on data, and not on intuition alone. This is just as true when it comes to Instagram marketing. Investing in a robust Instagram analytics platform like Owlmetrics will make it easier for you and your team to understand what is and is not working, and will help you to take corrective action more swiftly.
9. Hire a creative agency to develop stunning Instagram content.
Content is king on Instagram. Today there are a number of creative agencies that specialize in developing stunning Instagram content designed to engage members of your target audience.
Each year the bar for creativity and artistry is raised by the world’s leading Instagram brands. Users come to expect a certain level of content quality from all Instagram accounts as a result. Hiring an agency with a track record of developing successful content can be an effective way to live up to the ever-increasing standards of Instagram users.
10. Find inspiration in the world’s best social media marketing brands.
Social media marketers should analyze the strategies employed by successful brands on Instagram to find inspiration for new content or distribution ideas. For example, Apple (below) has recently invested in a series of video ads that have received great engagement.
One sees a similar story when looking at the content shared by Google (below).
In addition to looking at strategies used by large brands, it is a good idea to keep an eye on what direct competitors are and are not doing on Instagram.
11. Attend a social media marketing conference.
Social media is a fast-changing facet of marketing. Often, the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to attend a social media marketing conference. There, influencers, analysts and brand marketers share best practices and trends they have uncovered with attendees.
12. Look at website analytics to understand how Instagram-referred traffic engages.
Instagram is a fantastic channel to generate brand awareness; however, it is important to also analyze visitors driven to your website via Instagram to see how they engage with the site. Use a website analytics tool like Google Analytics, KissMetrics or Mixpanel to understand if visitors are actually engaging with the site and, if so, to see what content resonates with them most.
13. Put a seasoned social media marketer in charge of your Instagram strategy.
Some business leaders make the mistake of assuming that a young person will automatically be able to create a good social media marketing strategy. While it is true that younger people use social media more frequently than other demographics, that does not necessarily mean that they will be able to create a successful marketing strategy.
Instead, try to find a seasoned social media marketer and put him or her in charge of developing an Instagram strategy. Once the groundwork is laid, a less experienced person should be able to execute the strategy.
14. Ask employees to engage with and share company Instagram content.
Remember, engagement is a key metric that Instagram uses to assess the quality of content. Content that has high engagement is likely to be placed more prominently on the platform. One way to grow visibility is to ask employees to engage with Instagram content (at least early on) in order to capitalize on Instagram’s algorithms.
15. Learn how Instagram’s algorithms work.
Speaking of algorithms, it is important to understand how Instagram’s algorithms work in order to develop a strategy that will have a chance of “going viral.” Among the many variables Instagram uses to determine the quality of content, some of the most important are content engagement, timeliness and post location. Instagram will also promote content to people with similar interests or who are following similar profiles.
Instagram has the power to dramatically improve the performance of your organization. While it can be difficult to create a successful Instagram strategy, consider using at least a few of the tips outlined in this article to find success.
Remember that developing compelling content that receives high engagement is a good way to increase the reach of your account. Developing a cross-platform or omni-channel strategy can be an even more effective way of engaging your prospective audience.
Use Instagram and website analytics to determine audience behavior and preferences, and develop a strategy based on this data. In time, you’ll be able to turn your Instagram account into a marketing success story.