Feb 20, 2018

How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Customer Base

Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social platforms today. With a whopping 700 million monthly users (up from 600 million just last year), it’s clear that its growth is not about to slow anytime in the future.

It’s such a huge platform, and everyone is using it, so how can you use Instagram to effectively boost engagement? Keep reading for a few ideas.

Know Your Audience

According to Omnicore Agency, 32% of internet users are on Instagram, and the majority of these are females between the ages of 18 and 29. Furthermore, the majority of these people actually live outside the US. With a platform this big, these basic figures may be of much use; however, it’s important to get a grasp on exactly who your audience is now, as well as how this has changed or might change into the future.

Customer research and targeting is a key part of any marketing strategy, as many of you probably already know. But with such a huge platform, it can be tricky to narrow down your audience – and that’s where engagement tools come in. You need to ensure that you aren’t just “telling” them to buy your product; instead, remember that it’s the conversation that leads to conversion. True engagement not only benefits you in terms of cash flow, it’s key to informing your marketing strategy so that you can keep offering your followers an exceptional experience.

In other words, to really grow your business with Instagram, you will need to exceed their expectations.

Understanding Hashtags

Most of us know about hashtags these days, but do you really know how to use them strategically? It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the rules since they are always changing.

One thing that you should be aware of is the very recent move by Instagram to offer people the chance to follow hashtags. What does this mean for businesses? By homing in on particular hashtags, you have more of an opportunity to gain an organic following – but you may also have more competition in this arena.

But there’s another important thing to mention regarding this new hashtag rule: to the extent that people can choose to follow a hashtag, they can also choose to unfollow that hashtag later. If this is happening a lot with a hashtag you use all the time, it could impact your business negatively without you even knowing it.

The solution to this – and a good rule of thumb in general – is to practice switching up your hashtags often.

Choose Collaboration Over Competition

Okay, this might sound like we’re suggesting you plagiarize – do not do that! But asking permission to use other people’s photos, either through a partnership or even a simple contest. There are many people on Instagram who are looking for visibility, so if you like each other and have a similar product, you may as well join forces.

Influencer marketing is a perfect example of a partnership using someone else’s “personal” content that can get you a huge following – but if you want to do this, ensure that you are keeping everything transparent.

Have the Right Tools

You know those people that you follow that have such a massive number of followers that it seems impossible? Well here’s some good news – they probably “cheated” by getting a little help with some innovative tools. Luckily these tools are available to anyone to help build their following!

There really are a ton of amazing tools out there to help you grow your Instagram following – here are just a few examples (check out a great list of tools for branded content here).

  • VSC O is a really fantastic image and video tool for any type of business that has a highly visual component. The user-friendly platform improves the quality of your videos and photos and brings it up to a professional level.
  • Ink 361 helps you manage your content while actually watching what your collaborators are doing as well. It’s free and perfect for those just starting their branding and business activities on Instagram.
  • Later is a way to store and schedule media and is great to integrate with your editorial calendar. You can link it to chrome and use it to repost, as well as upload large quantities of media at one time.
  • Use a tool like the AI-based SocialDrift to find and engage with other Instagrammers via hashtags and other parameters.

Use Video Strategically

According to Omnicore, something like 5 million videos were uploaded during the first day that Instagram offered a video option, which speaks to its incredible popularity. Whether you are using the Instagram Story feature, running an ad or just posting something interesting, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

When creating videos, you’ll want to make sure that you make your brand name completely obvious during the first few seconds of the video. You may also want to use other features like music, writing, or even ephemeral content (like Instagram Stories) to give it an urgent, fleeting feel. There’s a lot of room for creativity here, but the main thing is that you need to structure every message with a clear call to action in order to get users engaged right from the start.

Another great thing to do when using video is to try a variety of formats and applications. There are so many interesting tools out there to check out (like Boomerang) that it’s easy to do something different and creative to make your brand stand out. Time-lapse, slow motion, and mixed media videos can all work wonders for getting people interested and gaining followers.

Run a Contest

  • Be crystal clear about your call to action (prize)
  • Partner with a business, influencer or get some brand ambassadors to share your contest far and wide
  • Keep the time window of your contest fairly short
  • Use a scheme that gets people to tag friends in comments
  • Make sure the prize is something your followers would love

Base a Contest on Likes

“Likes” are a simple and easy tool for contests and giveaways, and they’re a great way to get started as well as grow your following on other social platforms like Facebook. All you need is a clear image telling people to “like” to win, then choose your winner at random. Doing an old-fashioned draw via video is a fun way to let them get to know and trust you. Then all you have to do is announce the winner with their handle and with any luck, you’ve got yourself another few hundred followers.

Selfie Contests

Selfie contests are great for businesses that focus on highly personal products such as makeup, if you offer a service that has an emotional focus (such as counseling), or if you can find a spin on a campaign that focuses on individuals or faces. They are also a great idea for travel, adventure, and events companies. You can pretty much find a great reason to have a selfie contest no matter what, just make sure it ties in with your product, and don’t forget to announce the winner when you find them!

Hashtag Contests

Hashtag contests are a super simple way for users to share their own photos as well as your business hashtag in order to increase reach. This is an easy way to generate brand awareness by getting your followers to share your hashtags with their followers.

Voting Contests

A voting contest requires users to enter their own photos using your hashtag, and then other people will vote for the best photos. This type of contest offers an incentive to users to not only engage with your product, but also have their own chance at fame and notoriety that they may need to boost their own personal brand or business, so it really is a win-win situation.

The only drawback for this type of contest is that it can require quite a bit of tracking and energy from you, as you have to ensure that each contestant is tracked properly and follows the rules.

What’s Best for Your Biz?

Another controversy in the Instagram world -- at least for small businesses – is whether or not it’s valuable to switch to a business account. There are some claims floating around out there that switching to a business account has the potential to negatively impact Instagram engagement. But the truth is that the effectiveness of this switch really depends more on how you are making the Instagram algorithm work in your favor.

While all of the activities above can be extremely effective for boosting your Instagram following, it’s important that you choose the types of activities that best match your business product as well as your time commitment.

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