Used correctly, Instagram can be a highly-targeted, visual advertising channel for your brand. In fact, in a recent study it was discovered that Instagram provides brands with 25% more engagement over other social platforms. This means that Instagram is a prime channel to build your brand for your e-commerce business.
Like any social network out there, there are right ways to use it, wrong ways to use it, and clever ways to use it.
In this post, we will show you how to most effectively use Instagram to increase engagement and build a massive following.
How to Get Followers on Instagram
There are five tactics that will help you get more followings on Instagram.
Use the right hashtags
Use the right filters
Post at the right time
Steal your competitors followers
Sponsored posts and product reviews
Let’s dive deeper into how to implement each tactic.
1. Use The Right Hashtags
Your goal on Instagram is to engage your current audience while also growing your following. Posting new, interesting and engaging photos will satisfy the first requirement but to begin growing you’ll find hash-tagging your photos to be extremely important. Hash-tagging your photos makes it easy for people to find your photos that are searching for those specific terms.
So which hashtags should you use?
Just like with Twitter and other social sites, users on Instagram use certain hashtags over others. If you use the right hashtags within your photos, you’re much more likely to reach new users and be discovered.
Here are the current top 10 hashtags on Instagram according to Websta:
#love (1,027,917,810 posts)
#instagood (552,537,705 posts)
#photooftheday (394,332,818 posts)
#beautiful (367,636,422 posts)
#tbt (360,522,758 posts)
#happy (2353,202,629 posts)
#cute (351,930,751 posts)
#fashion (351,195,493 posts)
#followme (326,083,312 posts)
#me (314,611,081 posts)
If you looked at the list above and said “But none of those apply to my products or brand”, you’re likely correct.
Using hashtags is one thing, using the right tags is a completely other thing. Popular tags like the ones listed above will likely net you additional engagement and likes, however, they will not lead to increased long-term engagement, new interested followers and most importantly, sales.
If you want to tag your photos properly, you’ll need to find and use the most relevant hashtags. This means doing the appropriate research to make sure you’re using the most relevant hashtags that not only describes your brand, but is also being searched for on Instagram.
To find relevant hashtags, you’ll want to use a free online program like IconoSquare or Websta.
Protip #1: Keep in mind that Instagram allows for a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. Additionally, the popular words will change over time, so make sure you revisit your hashtag keywords every few months to make sure you’re using the best possible terms.
Protip #2: If you’ve been posting to Instagram for a while and feel like you’ve missed out on all these opportunities to build your audience by using keyword hashtags, fret not. You can still go back and post a comment with your new hashtag keyword lists and watch the likes and followers roll in.
Don’t have the time for photography?
Burst is a free high quality stock photo site powered by Shopify. Browse 1000s of product and lifestyle images to use on your Instagram account.
2. Use The Right Filters
Keyword hashtags aren’t the only thing you should pay attention to. The Instagram community respond to certain photo filters more favorably than others. Using these preferred filters can have an impact on your engagement.
Here are the 10 current most popular filters on Instagram according to Iconosquare:
Normal (No Filter)
TrackMaven recently did a study on Instagram accounts to see how filters affected engagement and found that Mayfair, no filter and Inkwell drove the most interaction.
More important than the overall Instagram communities favorite filters are your particular audience’s favorite filters. Consider this custom graph which correlates filter usage to engagement from your own Instagram account:
You can use IconoSquare to review the performance of your own account to understand what is and is not currently working for you.
3. Post at the Right Time
Beyond adding the appropriate hashtags and using the best filters, you should also be considering the timing of your posts.
4. Steal Your Competitors Followers
One of the best ways to find and attract new following is by seeking out your closest competitors’ Instagram accounts and engaging with their audience. These people have already shown some level of interest in the products you carry simply by following your competitors’ account.
So how do you effectively steal your competitors’ followers?
You can steal your closest competitors’ followers by engaging with them. There are several ways to engage with Instagram users, and predictably, the more work you put in, the more followers and return engagement you’ll get out of it.
The three types of engagement on Instagram are:
Follow a user
Like a photo
Comment on a photo
I ran an informal test with my business account to see how my competitors’ followers responded to my marketing advances. I targeted the followers of a close, local competitor. Since I know many of his followers would be local, I added my city to my profile to create a greater sense of familiarity between my brand and the people I am targeting.
I began by simply following 100 of my competitor’s followers. Later, I followed another 100 of my competitor’s followers but I also took the time to like one of their photos. Finally, I followed another 100 of my competitor’s followers and commented on one of each of the 100 user’s photos as well as liked that same photo.
Here were the results:
Follow: 25% followback
Follow + Like: 25% followback
Follow + Like + Comment: 50% followback
Although the are many variables and the test was far from scientific, the results were clear. The more you put in and engage with people, the more you’ll get out of it.
Note: While it’s against Instagram’s terms of service, some people use automated tools to follow the same process. House of Hannie discusses this tactic on the episode of Shopify Masters embedded below.
5. Sponsored Posts and Product Reviews
All this optimized posting to your account is great but if you really want to make an impact, you need to take advantage of influencer marketing on Instagram, exposing your brand to a wider audience.
Start selling more on Instagram with product tags.
Instagram is partnering with Shopify to offer easy product tagging in 2018.
First, unlike the tactics above to grow your account this one isn’t free. However, if done correctly, it’s good value.
To get started, you’ll need to make a list of large accounts in your niche. For example, if you sell beauty products, you’ll want to find large accounts from beauty bloggers.
You may already be following these accounts, if not you’ll need to find them. One of the best ways is to use Webstagram and search for some of the closest hashtag keywords you uncovered in the beginning of this post. When you do a search for your keywords, not only will it show you the related keywords, but it also shows you the top Instagram accounts that feature those keywords.
There are a few things to look for in the profiles results:
Large following – Usually 20k-200k
An email address in the profile
If there is an email address in the profile, it usually means they’re open to sponsored posts. You’ll want to email them and ask them their sponsored post pricing. In general, I have found the average rate to be around $20-$50 per post, depending on the size of their following. However, if you’re selling an unique and original product, you may also want to consider sending them your product to review and post. The more natural and less advertisement like the image, the greater the engagement and response usually.
Kit helps thousands of Shopify store owners market their online store. Hire Kit to drive sales and customer engagement with Facebook and Instagram ads, email marketing, social posting and more.
The results from the Instagram sponsored post promotion was a flood of traffic to their Instagram account and website, supposedly causing their server to crash.
In a final example, Classified Apparel used the tactic of getting featured on a larger account to jump start their Instagram following. Starting with only 22 followers, they were able to net nearly 3,500 new followers in less than 24 hours. A few months later and they are now sitting at 10,000 followers.
Instagram Tool Roundup
There are hundreds of Instagram tools out there that can help you and your Instagram strategy. In this post I mentioned three key ones help you build your audience and engage with them.
Schedugram – Schedule your Instagram post for the most engaging times.
IconoSquare – Info, analytics and insights into your account and followers.
Webstagram – Find the best hashtags for your posts and people for your sponsored posts.
In this post we talked about the most effective ways to use Instagram to build a targeted following, but it’s not always a numbers game. As with any social network, the most successful strategy overall is to be authentic and social.
If used correctly, Instagram can be a highly-targeted, visual advertising channel for your products and brand that can lead to a healthy stream of revenue for your e-commerce business.