For many years, following Instagram users and leaving comments on their content has been the single best way to grow your following.
But with the platform now becoming more mature, and the users on it more savvy, it’s time to look for new ways to market your channel. Instagram has a hard limit on follows anyway, and if you want to grow quickly, you need to use other growth strategies too.
To help you along, this article contains 6 creative ways to get new followers, starting with…
1. Brand Hashtags
Hashtags are the primary means of finding relevant content on Instagram. Followers and users you’ve engaged before can use your channel name – but most of the time, people explore the platform using hashtags, not screen names. As a result, you’ll find yourself using hashtags often while on Instagram.
So why not make your own brand hashtag? That way, you can…
- Monitor and participate in conversations that pertain to your brand
- Incentivize users to use (and) popularize your specific hashtag with promotions
- Reinforce the brand’s values like Lululemon did with #thesweatlife:
Building up a brand hashtag takes time, but once you reach “critical social mass” and people start using it organically, it’ll turn into another source of organic traffic. People will want to know how the content they find on Instagram is related to your hashtag – and check your page out.
Here’s another example of a brand hashtag – this time, from BMW:
Note the use of two brand hashtags here: #BMW and #5series. Large brands often have entire families of hashtags across various platforms; remember that in case you run a large organization yourself. Check out this article for more examples on how popular brands use hashtags in their Instagram marketing strategy.
The next way to get more subscribers is by…
2. Hosting Contests
Hosting Instagram contests isn’t a new strategy by any means. From solopreneurs to large brands, organizations of all sizes use Instagram to attract contestants and even accept entries. Heck – even Instagram (the company) runs a weekly Instagram contest!
But even though the idea isn’t new, many marketers either fail to use it or do so poorly. This is a shame because a quality contest can cost thousands of dollars in time spent and prizes awarded.
To help you avoid this fate, let’s go over some best-practice rules for Instagram contests:
- Make the prize appropriate to your audience. Cash and items like iPads attract professional contest entrants who do nothing for your brand. Instead, offer items that are most valuable to your target audience – e.g. a set of tires if you’re a dealership.
- Follow up! Make sure to engage winners and losers after each and every contest to let them know their submissions were appreciated.
- Promote! The whole point of a contest is getting Instagram followers. This isn’t possible if you don’t get out there and promote – so use mentions, hashtags, geotags and 3rd-party strategies (like e-mail newsletters) to get the message out. Also, make sure to choose the best time to post on Instagram as it impacts reach greatly.
You may also want to use…
3. The “Tag-a-friend” Strategy
This is one of the older strategies in the Instagram playbook which can be performed via a reliable Instagram bot. At its core, it consists of asking users to tag a friend below a piece of content – but we recommend you offer an additional incentive. Here’s an example of how you might do that:
If your incentive is strong enough, and the content delightful enough, you can even go viral this way.
Next up, let’s look at how you can leverage the power of another channel (or influencer) to get more followers.
If you’re marketing on Instagram, why not team up with someone else who’s doing the same thing? This will give both channels access to one another’s audiences, and result in an influx of new followers for both sides.
For an example of what we mean, look at this ad promoting Estée Lauder’s insta-collaboration with Cupcakes and Cashmere’s Emily:
Of course, you don’t have to let someone else take over your Instagram. Cross-promotion ideas include:
- Posting each other’s content (with tags and mentions) on your channels
- Posting videos, images, and stories together
- Highlighting your partner’s content or offer with an honest review and promotional messages
If you (or your partner) are local brick-and-mortar businesses, you could also benefit from using…
Instagram lets users tag content with geographic locations in addition to hashtags. This is helpful because checking a specific location’s geotags helps users discover:
- What’s happening at the moment
- Valuable or entertaining content connected to the location
You can also use geotags to drive traffic to a lead magnet or product that’s relevant to specific locations. For example: if you’re selling a guide on traveling on a budget, you’ll gain new followers by tagging an airport through your channel.
Last but not least, let’s get to the last (and newest) way to gain followers without commenting and follow-backs:
6.Marketing with Instagram Stories
Instagram stories are massively popular with 200m daily active users. What most people don’t know is that stories have all kinds of extra features – like the “learn more” swipe feature that reveals extra content, as pictured below:
You can add this swipe option, as well as place hashtags and mentions, via your Instagram stories. You can also add verbal and image-based cues to subscribe to your channel. This makes it easy to do things like…
- Ask for a subscription while directing users to your Instagram page
- Take people to other social media pages so they can follow you there
- Take people to product pages where you can try and sell them instantly
To make the most of Instagram stories, read the article on how stories can plan a vital role in promoting your brand.
But for the purpose of this article, of course, you can (and should) use all these extra features to ask for (and drive) follows!
Now let’s go over the 6 ways to drive traffic we covered above:
- Brand hashtags
- Tag-a-friend type strategies
- Collaborations with other influencers and channels
Use these 6 tactics, and you’ll be getting Instagram followers without the whole follow/comment/un-follow cycle in no time.
About The Author: Stewart is a full-time content marketer at Foundr and part-time reader, games & footballer. You can follow or tweet him @stewydunlop.