Instagram is not just fun and engaging, but it’s a great place to connect and interact with your followers. The most popular photo sharing app in the world now has more than 500 million active monthly users and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. So it comes as no surprise that for many businesses, increasing their follower count on Instagram is a top priority.
If you’re still skeptical about investing your time on Instagram, here are 3 solid research-backed reasons that’ll finally get you on board:
- Instagram brands enjoy regular engagement with 4 percent of their total followers. On networks like Facebook and Twitter, engagement is less than 0.1 percent. (Source: Forrester)
- 62% of Instagram users follow a brand account. (Source: Iconosquare)
- 70% of Instagram users report having looked up a brand on the platform. (Source: Iconosquare)
Unlike big brands which have deep pockets to splurge money on advertising to gain quick Instagram followers, small businesses and bloggers alike often have to resort to growth hacking tactics to increase their Instagram follower count.
In this article, you’ll learn 7 proven growth tactics to get more Instagram followers for free.
7 Proven Growth Hacking Tactics to Get More Instagram Followers
1. Post Consistently
According to a study conducted by Quintly in 2015, an average Instagram user posts once per day. Interestingly, users with a large number of followers post 2-3 times a day.
This indicates that posting consistently gets you more followers on Instagram.
Posting content on a regular basis has become even more important since Facebook announced that they would introduce an algorithm-based timeline for Instagram. If you want your content to stand out amidst the tidal wave of content on Instagram, consistency is key. So when you’re creating an Instagram content strategy, keep in mind the frequency at which you need to post content to keep your followers engaged.
Post at least once a day on Instagram. Brands with a regular flow of content tend to get more followers on Instagram.
2. Use Hashtags Popular in Your Niche
Hashtags are incredibly popular and important on Instagram, more so than any other social network. By using the right hashtags, your content is exposed to a larger, more targeted audience.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post and popular Instagram accounts often use this to the limit to increase the reach of their content.
Take a look at how Post Planner uses hashtags to increase the reach and engagement of their posts.
How do you discover popular hashtags in your niche? There are tools which can help you identify trending hashtags. Hashtagify.me and Websta.me are two such tools you can use to identify the most popular hashtags in your niche.
Research and find hashtags that are popular and used frequently in your niche. Tag your posts with these hashtags to increase your likes and get more Instagram followers.
3. Use the Right Filters
One of the first features that attracted some many users to Instagram was the fact that you could add different filters to improve upon your original photo.
Instagram filters are still popular to this day. Using the right filters can lead to more views and engagement.
According to research conducted by Yahoo Labs and Georgia Tech, filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on than unfiltered ones.
On Instagram, filtered photos are 21% more likely to be viewed and 45% more likely to be commented on than unfiltered ones. @99signalsblog
But how do you decide what kind of filter works best? The researchers at Yahoo Labs and Georgia Tech found that the top filters to increase chances of views and comments are those that create:
- Higher exposure
- Warm temperatures
- Higher contrast
Higher exposure was linked to more views and warmth had the biggest connection with comments. Interestingly, two kinds of filters had negative correlations – Saturation correlated to lower views and age effects were connected to lower comments.
The research findings make it clear that certain types of filters drive more engagement than others.
Check out this awesome infographic by Curalate on optimizing the look of your image on Instagram using the right filters:
Use filters on your Instagram images, but be selective. Don’t use filters that have negative correlations. Use the aforementioned research findings to your advantage and use image filters that drive more engagement on Instagram.
4. Include Emojis in your Caption
Here’s a fun fact – Instagram reports that nearly 50 percent of all captions and comments on Instagram have an emoji.
Emojis are getting increasingly popular on Instagram and users who use emojis with their posts often get lot more views and engagement. Even brands have started embracing emojis and use it frequently to engage with their followers. So don’t be left behind. Start including emojis in your post captions to drive engagement and gain more Instagram followers.
Take a look at how Hubspot uses a variety of emojis in this post.
Emojis are not just used by teenagers anymore. They’ve become ubiquitous on Instagram. To get more Instagram followers for free, include emojis in your caption.
5. Share User Generated Content
What exactly is user generated content and how can it help you get Instagram followers for free? Here’s a quick definition of user generated content (UGC) – brands selecting the best of the best user content from around the web and featuring it on their social media accounts while giving credit to the user.
Buffer grew their Instagram account by 60% in under three months by embracing and sharing user generated content. By using hashtags such as #BufferStories and #BufferCommunity and encouraging users to contribute content tagged with these hashtags, Buffer witnessed an exponential growth in their Instagram follower count.
Leverage user generated content to grow your Instagram followers. Create a unique hashtag for UGC and include CTAs in your posts, reminding your followers to contribute UGC content. This is one of the best tactics to get Instagram followers for free.
6. Use the Power of Cross Promotion
It’s highly likely that Facebook and Twitter are your primary social networks to connect and engage with your fans. A Buzzsumo study found that images posted to Facebook via Instagram receive 23% more engagement than natively published images.
Make sure your existing fans know you’re on Instagram through cross-promotion. Instagram makes it simple to share your images to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, which could be a great tactic to get some extra exposure.
Here’s a look at 99signals’ Facebook page with the added Instagram feed:
Click here to add your Instagram feed to your Facebook page.
Leverage other social accounts to spread awareness and to get more followers on Instagram. Remind your followers that you are active on Instagram and they can find some unique content there.
7. Run a Photo Contest
Running a photo contest on Instagram can help you get more followers, drive traffic to your website, and even help you sell a product.
The popularity of Instagram hashtags makes it extremely easy to collect photos from followers around a theme. Here’s a highly useful Instagram blog post on how to host a photo contest.
If you’re thinking that you need to announce an expensive prize to invite more participants, you are in for a surprise. Most users on Instagram will be happy with shoutouts and getting featured on your Instagram page.
Starbucks does an amazing job running photo contests. They give shoutouts to Instagrammers with the best pictures and feature their photos as cover photos on their Facebook page. Like the example below:
Use the popularity of hashtags and run a photo contest to get more Instagram followers for free. Specify which hashtag the photo should be tagged with and remember to pick a winner on a weekly basis. Don’t forget to give shoutouts to your fans.
Over to You
Now that you know these tactics to get more Instagram followers, it’s time to try them out.
If you have a unique tactic to get Instagram followers for free, please share it in the comments section.
This post was originally published at my marketing blog, 99signals on Aug 11, 2016.
Free Download: Link Building Strategies for 2017
Subscribe to our email updates and get instant access to our latest eBook!