How to grow your following on Instagram to boost business
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Growing your following on Instagram can be a really effective way of getting more business.
It's the new email list and the new Facebook - a way to communicate to your audience instantly and for free.
These tactics will boost the awareness of your profile and in turn your business. And the greater awareness for your business the better, right?
Right. Because that means more potential customers have heard about your ice-cream truck or your boot camp or your new funky sunglass range. And that usually means more customers.
Why should I grow my Instagram audience?
People say growing your following for “the sake of it” or to “look good” is pointless.
But even growing your following to “look good” can be worthwhile.
It’s called social proofing. If you have a significant amount of followers, people landing on your profile will see heaps of other people like what you do. People already trust your page enough to follow you so there must be some value in it for them too.
More than that, Instagram reports 72% of users have made a purchase after seeing it on the platform. See more benefits here.
It will also open up doors - for example when you have 10k followers you can put links in your IG stories so people can swipe up and be immediately taken to your link.
These are the 5 tactics that I have used in the past to grow pages:
Share for share
Follow / unfollow
Before you use any of these tactics, there are a few fundamentals you have to get right first or none of these ideas will work:
You've gotta have really good content
If you post shitty or even just okay photos, it doesn't matter how many eyes you get to your account, people won't follow you.
Hire or skill swap with a photographer, use Unsplash or direct message accounts on Instagram asking if you can post their photo on your page with credit.
Then use Preview app or Planoly to plan your photos out on your feed before you post them so it looks aesthetic. This is what people first will see when they land on your page and it makes a big difference.
Post as often as possible without sacrificing quality content. Minimum 2-3 times a week and daily if you can.
Get a business account or use Iconosquare so you can track what posts are doing well, get data on your audience, see best post times, etc.
Now, the tactics...
1. Share for share
Identify profiles in a similar niche to you that have an audience around the same size as yours.
If you post travel photos, find other profiles who also posts similar travel content.
Reach out to them either through Instagram direct message or through email if they have it up there.
There's a chance your direct messages can go unseen in their private message folder. You can get around this by leaving a comment on a photo of theirs asking them to check their private DM folder.
Identify a post on their page you think your audience will like and propose one of yours you think their audience will like.
Ask them if they're willing to share the post of yours in return for you doing the same.
Be specific about what you want the caption to say, making sure it has a call to action. E.g. "For more awesome travel content, make sure you follow @jason" (or whatever your Insta handle is).
Share for shares using stories are also effective. Works well because it won't impact your feed at all, but you won't get the same reach as a post.
Share for share is great because the rewards are exponential. If you have around 1000 followers, expect 5-10 new followers from each post, if you have 5-10K expect 20-30. The bigger you grow, the greater the impact
You can also pay much large accounts to share your page on theirs but this will set you back a bit of coin. Big pages range wildly in their prices for posts. So it's worth reaching out to a bunch (make sure they have good engagement not just followers) and going ahead with some of the cheaper ones. I'd only suggest this option when you're starting out - it's not feasible to keep doing but it can help get you started.
Some people don't like this one. But it works.
Find a large account in your niche with really good engagement.
The indicator of good engagement for big profiles are posts with roughly 10% likes to their number of followers e.g. if they have 100K followers and posts with 10K+ likes then we're good to go.
Find a recent post and follow all the people that have liked it.
These are people have have already expressed interest in similar content so when they get a follow notification from you and check out your page they may follow you back to.
We've found this has a 25% follow back rate e.g. follow 4 and get followed by 1.
Be careful, there's limitations Instagram have put on from stopping people doing this e.g. you can only follow 60 accounts an hour and a maximum of 7500 all up.
Give it a few days then unfollow those that didn't follow you back and continue the cycle.
We are currently using this tactic growing a travel account for @traveltracksaus. We've grown it from 0-9k followers with really good engagement.
You can use a free app called Captivate to help you automate all this.
3. Use hashtags
This really works. Read our blog post on how we do it here.
Since writing that post, @thepineapplepeople has had even more success from hashtags.
For a page with just 2k+ followers, a recent post reached over 80k people!
The last 4 posts on the page have together reached 247k people, 97% coming from hashtags. Here are some numbers from the last 4 posts.
Giveaways are a great way to increase your following.
You offer to giveaway something of value (related to your business). You then get people to like and comment tagging friends to have a chance at winning the giveaway.
The idea is that people love free shit and you'll get a heap of engagement, which will put your post in front of more people - higher up in their feeds and on explore pages.
You can be creative with what you giveaway, just make sure it's relevant to your business. If you sell a physical product, it's easy. If not, try teaming up with someone who does (like we did below) or offering a free service*.
*Offering a free service could be a great way for anyone just starting out to grow your Instagram page alongside your portfolio e.g. a web designer could build up an Instagram page by curating a profile of awesome web design photos from other profiles and using the follow / unfollow technique. Once you have a few thousand followers with good engagement, promote a giveaway offering a free website. Do this a couple more times and you'll have yourself a tidy little portfolio you can then use to approach paying clients. Plus, your Instagram will also benefit from the engagement of the giveaway posts.
For @traveltracksaus we teamed up with a local photographer who was willing to offer up one of his prints in exchange for exposure on the page.
This wasn't as successful as others we've seen but still worthwhile. It's all about giving your audience something they will want.
Posts that are contests get 64x more comments and 3.5x more likes than non-contest posts.
Here are some great examples of successful contests.
5. Create an Instagram Story Ad
Even if you don't have coin to spend, this is a really cheap way to increase followers for a few dollars.
Create an Instagram story ad (video is better than a photo). You can use iMovie for video or Canva for image.
In the ad you have to tell people what benefit they'll will get from following you e.g. if you're a money making wiz, say that you share daily tips and tactics to making money. Even better share a rare strategy with it.
Using Facebook Ad manager, create an ad with the audience Worldwide 13 to 65+. Literally everyone. Optionally select a broad interest category like "travel" for travel pages or "finance" for for finance pages.
Set your budget for as little or large as your comfy with. Even $2 a day gets results.
We made a video ad for @traveltracksaus and used this strategy. We got the ad in front of 280,000 people for $8.68.
681 people clicked through to the page, which resulted in a few hundred followers.
Pretty good for 8 bucks...
6. Reach out to "influencers"
As acidic as this tactic sounds, it is a really cheap way of reaching thousands and thousands of people in your niche.
Particularly if you're selling a physical product, this one is easy. Find profiles with large followings and engagement related to your business. e.g. if you sell clothes find a fashion / lifestyle figure.
If you don't have a physical product, again, be creative. As a web designer, you could offer to create a free website for them in exchange for a shoutout on their page. If you're a hairdresser offer them a year of free haircuts. The key is to offer some value.
Reach out to them with your offer and go from there.
Some tactics are going to work better for different pages. Try them out and see what works for your business.
I'd recommend writing out a weekly plan. It might look something like this:
3-7 Instagram posts
5 direct messages to similar accounts with share for share opportunity
3 x follow 60 people
Create content for Story ad
Find the tactics that work for you and stick to a structure accordingly. Go well!