If I got a penny every time people asked me “how do I get followers on Instagram” or “can you bring me to tens of thousands of followers in a few months”, I would be flying private with Oprah right now.
The truth is Instagram is now at 800 million active monthly users and growing a community of followers now from the ground up is more difficult than a couple of years ago. As with everything, you’ll need to find your very own unique angle and strategy, and with the Instagram algorithm always changing, you’ll need to adapt your strategy as you go, because nothing is set in stone for too long. So keep reading.
1. SOME STATS
The folks at Mention recently released their Instagram Report 2018 after analyzing more than 115 million Instagram posts. However, I take these stats with a grain of salt because they’re sometimes skewed by the massive number of Instagram celebrities. Here’s a summary:
- Instagram posts get an average of 1,261 likes. Again, IG celebrities and macro influencers heavily affect this number. So when we consider the median – the midpoint between the most and least popular posts – we’re looking at 200 likes per post.
- The top 5 Instagram hashtags in 2017. These are the five most-used hashtags: #love, #instagood, #fashion, #photooftheday, #style. Which means, you should not use these. Hashtags don’t actually increase engagement rates, they will just help you reach relevant audiences if you’re using strategic ones. The quality of your content matters way more than the hashtags you use.
- Tagging other people does increase engagement. The more social you can make social media, the more effective it tends to be. Number of users tagged: the more users tagged, the more likes a post receives. Comments: more tagged users also leads to more comments. Limit: posts can contain up to 20 tagged users. Be smart: please don’t be spammy, tag only when absolutely relevant and you’ll easily increase engagement.
- Video posts have the highest reach rates (not necessarily engagement). Videos aren’t posted nearly as often as images on Instagram, but they trigger higher reach, because the IG algorithm tends to prioritize video content. However, while consumption has increased 40%, photos generate 36% more likes than videos. This could be due to any number of reasons. For instance, users could just watch your video then keep scrolling. Or in some cases, your videos might not drive people to take action. So have a mixed format strategy (video/photo/carousel) and make your videos relevant, short and engaging even when the audio is off.
2. THE PLAGUE OF FAKE FOLLOWERS
Many things seems to be fake these days; fake news, fake engagement, fake followers. This becomes important for you to consider, because it really does impact the effectiveness of your influencers marketing initiatives, both as a brand or as an influencer.
Not only Instagram is starting to penalize accounts with high ratios of fake followers and bot engagement, but a few companies, like Fohr Card, are successfully providing tools to evaluate the actual influence score of an account.
👉🏻So if you are a brand, you should carefully pick the accounts you partner up with by checking their scores and engagement ratio, before you end up paying for a collaboration with an influencer with fake followers, which won’t give your campaign a good return.
👉🏻If you’re an influencer, you should clean up your ratio (with apps like Cleaner) if you want to be relevant in your industry. A community of 10K engaged followers is worth much more $$$ to brands, than one with 30K-50K of partially fake followers.
3. BEST PRACTICES AND STRATEGIES (COLLECTED)
We work with brands everyday by developing effective content strategies and growing their communities on Instagram and social media. So we’ve collected a few techniques and practices based on what seems to be working best in repeated testing for our clients and within our network and community of top Instagrammers.
*Note: we don’t work at Instagram, so we can only make calculated assumptions based on A/B testing and shared best practices from relevant sources.
Track your growth and be consistent: consistency is the secret to effective growth and keep in mind that it needs to be exponential, not linear; which means that with consistent, daily effort, you’ll see you will grow week-over-week, ideally 5% to 10% more each week/month.
Establish an engagement routine: the real differentiator lays in the engagement on other pages. If you’re serious about your growth, off-page engagement is the way to go. Have someone in your team engage on other accounts’ posts with authentic comments - not only emojis; ask questions, post relevant comments of 4 words or more, and know that systematically like other people’s posts won’t cut it as much as real comments. And yes, it takes time: 1/1.5 hours per day can give you up to 40% follow back rate!
Your work is not done after you post: most of your off-page engagement work should happen right after you post new content. Engage with people/posts that use same hashtags of your most recent post or connect with people that may like your latest content. Most of your post engagement happens in the first 24 hours, so connecting with relevant people during this time will increase your reach and attract more users to your feed.
Make your message more social: ask permission to use other people’s content where relevant, work on special features and partnerships with accounts that align with your brand, and reach out to a set number of people every day to make your growth consistent and ensure you have enough content planned out.
Hashtags (UPDATED): Opinions differs on the matter. a. Where do you place them? See our new post for updated hashtag strategies.
Consider to start implementing one or two proprietary/branded hashtags per post. You’ll obviously need to promote those hashtags, showing your community how to use them best with incentives, collabs and contests. A good example is #mapacup used by @madewithmap, a trusted community of discerning travel influencers, that featured coffee shop cup photos by users using the hashtag.
Don’t edit your posts within the first 24 hours: maybe you’ve forgotten to tag someone or you need to add a location or fix a misspelling mistake. Avoid it if you can, we’ve noticed and heard from reputable sources that Instagram tends to penalize the engagement and reach on that post if you do so.
Reconsider DMs and stories: direct messages and IG Stories are starting to count in within your overall ranking. Particularly, Stories can boost engagement to the roof if they’re fun, interactive and have that OMG factor.
Don’t get blocked: sources at Instagram told us specifically that they have limits in place to prevent behavior that other people on Instagram may find disruptive or abusive. According to our Instagram Rep, "these limits are usually triggered when someone is mass tagging or mass following users, sending repetitive messages, or posting too frequently. This is only a temporary block and one that they do not remove once that happens once. It usually only lasts about a day, and once the block lifts on its own, you may need to slow down this behavior so your actions don't get blocked again."
A winning Instagram strategy is a comprehensive one: community management and the creation of beautiful, valuable content go hand in hand if you want to ensure consistent growth. You can’t expect to build a solid following if only one of these factors is in place; so there’s no shortcut: you must be committed to develop a beautiful and useful feed, while actively and systematically engaging with other users in your niche, while - where possible - developing complementary external marketing strategies like special features and original content that adds real value (podcasts, blog posts, being featured on other accounts, giveaways, etc.).
Content and look: try to maintain color and filter consistency, implement a special angle or style for your story, and stand by a strategic plan and schedule (use mood boards and content calendars).
Instagram Stories are for daily content, but not only: keep your best Stories pinned to your profile as “highlights” to gather additional engagement and tell the story of your brand.
Use Geotags and tag other accounts: as mentioned above, geotagging and tagging other accounts increases your reach and engagement. Posts with location have 79% more engagement than those without.
Photos with faces get 38% more Likes: research found 62% of top-performing brand posts on Instagram feature products - which includes lifestyle and influencer content. And photos that feature faces or people get 38% more Likes than those without. However keep in mind that: this totally depends on your niche and following and - if you’re a brand or promoting some kind of product - you should follow the notorious 80/20 rule: approximately 80% of your content should be focused on educating, enlightening and engaging your audience, and only 20% should be self-promotional.
Check best performing times: posting at the right time gave us up to 30%-40% more engagement per post. Use Iconosquare or your IG Analytics to verify best performing times.
Your bio and profile photo are your most valuable real estate on IG: use them strategically, not only by mentioning what you do or what you like, but mentioning what you’re about and what you have to give and offer to your followers.
Business over Personal (UPDATED): Instagram doesn’t give extra feed presence to personal accounts or business accounts, so switching won’t help your reach. Yet, consider switching to a business account to access key analytics. You can do that by connecting your Facebook page.
Make your IG feed shoppable: if you’re a brand or an influencer who sells physical or digital products you should make the most of it and add a proper call-to-action for customers to buy those products with a click. Shopify and many other platforms offer shoppable feed feature integrations.
Apps are your best friends:
- Evergreen VSCO & Snapseed for photo editing and filters;
- Display Purposes and Instagram Search for hashtag research;
- Instagram analytics, Websta, Iconosquare and Sprout Social (featured from free to more expensive apps) for analytics;
- Peoplemap and Fohr Card to track and optimize your Influencers Marketing at top level. However there are many platforms and softwares that can be useful. For beauty and fashion brands, we found that Tribe Dynamics works incredibly well. Invest in some research to find the best tool for your niche and effort level.
- Linktree to maximize the potential of your link in bio.
4. A FEW NEW FEATURES
Ability to schedule without push notifications: this feature has been finally made available through third party apps (since last month). Apps like Later and Planoly are now allowed to post directly to the platform.
Hashtag and profile links in bio available as of March 21st: now when you include a # or @ in your bio, they become live links that lead to a hashtag page or another profile.
Changes to the IG feed algorithm: on March 22nd, Instagram introduced changes to give users more control over their feed and ensure the posts they see are timely. The’ve just started testing a “New Posts” button that lets you choose when you want to refresh, rather than it happening automatically. When newer posts are more likely to appear first in the feed, it becomes more important than ever to maintain a consistent scheduling plan.
Get ready for more changes (UPDATED)! Details available here.
What’s YOUR experience? Have you found different practices and strategies working for you on Instagram? Let us know your comments and ideas by connecting with us on IG @remotelycollective.
Does this seem like a lot? It is indeed a full time job and that’s why we’re in business! If you need help, you can always contact us and we’ll see if we’re a right fit to work together.
If so, fill out the contact form here.