5 ways to build your brand’s Instagram following

With an estimated two million plus Australian active users last month*, Instagram has evolved from a simple photo-sharing app when it launched in October 2010, to the powerful storytelling platform it is today. And with the introduction of Instagram advertising, its reach and influence is tipped to grow exponentially.

There’s no set formula to building a healthy Instagram following, and unlike Facebook and Twitter, it’s not as easy to promote your posts (although Instagram ads have just launched in Australia, there’s no self-service tool yet).

Growing a following takes time, but with the right tactics, you can significantly boost your brand’s exposure. Here are some tips.

 1. Start with a hashtag strategy

Don’t use a hashtag just because it’s popular. #love #instagood and #picoftheday are amongst the most overused hashtags on the ‘gram, but do they really lead you to your target audience?

Instead, think niche and think local. If you’re Instagram strategy focuses on healthy eating and wellbeing, why not pair a popular hashtag like #paleo or #cleaneating with Sarah Wilson’s #iqs. And if your post is relevant and location based, tap into local hashtags like #bondilife or #brisbaneanyday.

Think about your own, unique hashtag too. People often share images of products and brands they love, so make sure your hashtag is discoverable in your Instagram profile. And don’t forget to keep it short – we’re more likely to add #FUIC than #farmersunionicedcoffee.

2. Work with the Instagram influencers

The power of the Instagram ‘influencer’ (for want of a better term) is undeniable. From models and fashionistas to food and mummy bloggers, some of these users reach more people with one post than a magazine might do in one monthly edition.

Collaborating with Instagram influencers usually requires an additional cost, either in the form of paid sponsorship or product, but the investment can pay back in spades.

FORWARD recently teamed up with Rachael Finch to launch Vitasoy Coconut Milk. Rachael has a following of over 67K on Instagram, many of whom share her health and nutritional values. Rachael was given the opportunity to create a number of Vitasoy Coconut Milk smoothies and breakfast recipes, which she later shared with her followers. The response was dramatic. Hundreds of followers liked and commented on each post, giving Vitasoy a chance to gauge public opinion of the new product.

If you’re thinking of partnering with an Instagram influencers, it’s worth considering these points.

 3. Take advantage of special events

Special events provide us with opportunities to give handles and hashtags a little extra exposure. Whether it’s a media and influencer dinner, product briefing, launch party or experiential activity – special events give your audience an opportunity to capture content for their own Instagram channels.

FORWARD recently hosted a series of intimate dining events for one of our clients, and a number of highly influential guests were invited to attend.  To maximise the chances of guests snapping content for their social channels, the following was taken into consideration:

  • The hashtag and brand handle were seeded before the event via invitation or in email correspondence
  • Hashtags and handles were printed on event materials – signage and menus
  • Guests’ Instagram handles were followed by the brand before each event
  • Our MC was asked to politely remind guests (in a charming way) of the hashtag before the start of each event

When planning your event, it’s also worth considering what visual opportunities will be available to guests throughout the event. How’s the lighting? Do guests have time to capture the images they need?

Most importantly, don’t forget to like and repost your guests’ images and thank them for posting and attending.

 4. Run a competition

Another simple way of boosting your follower count is through an Instagram competition. Contests are relatively easy to execute and the prize pool doesn’t have to be outrageously expensive.

There are two main types of Instagram comps:

  • Enter to win, which requires users to post a photo with the relevant hashtag and your handle
  • Share to win, where the user is required to share your content (including your hashtag and handle)

Some things to consider when running Instagram comps are:

  • Make sure you ask fans to follow your account
  • Remember to draft Ts&Cs, and host them somewhere people have access to them – a Facebook note is a good back-up. And don’t forget to make sure your Ts&Cs comply with Instagram’s
  • Don’t make the entry mechanic too difficult – you won’t receive many entries if users are required to take a pic of themselves bungee jumping from the Harbour Bridge

For more tips, explore the Instagram blog here.

 5. Instagram ads

And finally, you could consider paid media as a means of boosting numbers.

Instagram has just launched ads in Australia, with Vegemite, Toyota and McDonald’s among the first to go live. The platform is still in a testing phase, so it might be a while before brands have access to a self-service tool like Facebook.

Keep in mind, all ads are required to go through a centralised global process – including approval by co-founder Kevin Systrom – so premium execution is a must.

For more info on Instagram ads and general tips for brands click here.

*Data estimate obtained via socialmedianews.com.au