You’ve probably never heard of Burbn, and it no longer exists. It was an iOS app from 2010 that allowed users to check in to their favorite bars, meet up with fellow bourbon lovers, and share their whiskey tasting experiences online. It was complicated and cumbersome, and way too much like Foursquare. They removed the whiskey angle, doubled down on photo sharing and in October 2010, Instagram was launched.
Today, Instagram sees nearly one billion month active users, which is no surprise considering its acquisition by Facebook in 2012, and being the second most popular iOS app in 2019. 71% of its users are under the age of 35, users spend an average of 53 minutes per day on the platform, and nearly 70% of all US businesses use instagram for marketing.
Instagram is a vital and visual part of any marketing campaign. The problem most will face is that with no one seeing your content, what does it matter? How did your competitors get thousands of followers seemingly overnight, while you’re stuck in the "close friends and your mom" range? Let’s look at some ways to maximize the potential of major Instagram growth – and major business growth through Instagram – in this article.
1. Authenticity and aesthetic
"Authenticity" and "Instagram" aren’t two words that people associate much these days. Sure, there’s a lot of users out there faking the fame and fortune in order to be Instagram influencers and build an impossible lifestyle that others can find jealousy in. Most are average, discerning people, looking for visually stimulating content.
Authenticity works on Instagram, especially for businesses.
When we talk about authenticity, we’re not saying every photo you share has to be one you took, by yourself, of your business/product/etc. Often, high-quality stock photographs can have a powerful impact on content engagement. What we mean is that the average user knows when you’re being honest with the - both in the image and the caption.
Strive to develop a brand voice and stick with it always – just be yourself. If your account is for a weight loss clinic and you only share photos of rail-thin models, you might be missing the mark on authenticity. If you’re a direct to consumer brand selling subscription-based toilet paper, a snarky tone and bright colored photographs might fit. If you’re in financial planning, again, maybe not.
The second point here is the aesthetic. It’s often said that people have very, very short attention spans. While that’s not exactly accurate, it’s been proven many times over that online, we jump from thing to thing faster than ever before. This is truer of Instagram than almost any other platform, with the average viewing time of an Instagram profile being ___ seconds. That means you only have ____ to capture their attention, and earn a follow.
Visual coherence is the secret to keeping eyes once you have them. While there are many approaches to having an attractive grid, one of the best is keeping the style and processing of shared images consistent. Like always, content is king. Your profile should show off your business and convey the tone almost instantly. If there’s a lot of inconsistent graphics with lots of text, it seems overwhelming and most users would bounce. A pleasant grid of complimenting color palettes which work nicely with your profile picture is sure to keep eyes glued.
Another piece of your Instagram profile you can’t overlook is your saved stories. These little circles underneath your bio provide an excellent way to show visitors a bit more about your brand voice and aesthetic, while also highlighting grouped content that’s easy to digest. Some of the best uses of these saved stories is highlighting products by category and showing off the types of content you tend to share on Instagram.
2. Regular posting and engagement
Knowing who your business is and showing that to the world is vital to Instagram growth, but like with any organic content marketing: content is king.
To stay relevant, you have to post regularly and be part of the conversation. One of the most commonly asked questions on this subject is "how often should I post on Instagram?" This is an incredibly subjective question and depends a lot on your audience, when they’re online, and how they interact with Instagram in general. Regardless, some good basic rules of thumb might be starting with once a day, and growing beyond that as you find the demand is there.
Posting that often can be hard. Using a social media scheduler is your best friend in that respect. Creating that much content can be hard, too. We created Bordo to help your social media journey every step of the way, and it’s totally free.
Of course the next obvious question is "what do I post?". Same answer, with a few good rules of thumb: post a mix of educational and entertainment content. Education content is anything that helps followers learn. It can be anything from an infographic to a photo of your latest product, and highlighting its benefits. Entertainment posting is more engaging, fun, and purely visually stimulating. Entertainment posts don’t have to be comics and memes, and usually shouldn’t be, unless it fits your brand voice. Better examples might be cool computer setups if your target audience is gamers, or giveaways and contests. Both types of posts will have elements of the other, but in general, the 80/20 rule says 80% informational, 20% entertainment.
Still can’t think of what to post? Why not try our 2021 Social Media Holiday calendar! It has one fun social media holiday you can participate in every single day in 2021.
Last thing here, don’t forget to engage with your followers. When they comment, you comment back. When they like your posts, feel free to like them back. Cold following active users in your target audience is a great way to get your name in front of new faces, and often get a follow back. The follow back, of course, depends on good content, and a good profile. Are you seeing a pattern yet?
3. Stories, Reels, IGTV
Instagram stories work. Since they’ve been introduced, Instagram has put a strong emphasis on their stories, and reward accounts that use them. Their short format and easily-skippable nature are a double-edged sword: it needs to be good, but it’s easier to get in front of current and potential followers. If you need ideas for good Instagram stories, try employee takeovers, contests, announcements, and just sharing your latest posts. Think of stories as your daily bog: just share the immediate, what’s happening, and make it authentic and fun.
Reels are Instagram’s attempt to take on Tik Tok. These short and fun video clips, much like stories, are small and digestible, but don’t go away at the end of the day. As a brand, using Reels in an authentic way may be harder to pull off, but following trends, and keeping the content fun and light is the key. Got a quirky branch voice and a couple of employees with sweet dance moves? Show it in a Reel.
The last option for video on Instagram is IGTV, a great way to highlight longer videos, right inside of Instagram. If your brand already has a YouTube channel full of video content, sharing to your Instagram through IGTV is a no-brainer. For businesses, sharing explainer videos, case studies, employee interviews, product reviews and commercials are great uses that can provide a different kind of content to your followers, plus reach new followers through the Explore page.
4. The Explore Page
Okay, I have a confession to make: I saved the real secret of Instagram growth for the end. Doing numbers on Instagram really comes from making it to the Explore page. This magical place is how users find new accounts to follow, products to buy, videos to digest, influencers to watch, and more. It’s like the highway billboard of Instagram. Why save it to the end? Because all the things above are what get you to the coveted Explore page.
If you want to boost your chances, you need lots of likes and comments quickly after posting an image. That all starts with great, regular content, using good hashtags, and having a profile that people want to follow. Diverse types of content, including video, grow your chances of making it to the Featured page.
While there may not be a quick-fix way to get 10,000 followers overnight, building a strong, sustainable Instagram presence like we’ve outlined here can all but ensure your long term success. Working hard to understand your audience and what they respond to is the hard part of the job that we didn’t go into depth there. In order to understand what content will do best in the future, you have to know what your follower went for in the past. Chart your engagement, keep iterating, keep posting, and soon you’ll find your follower account is growing daily.