With over 300 million users worldwide, Instagram is a creative communication channel where brands and businesses can enhance the visibility of their products, showcase their expertise, or convey different messages. When used strategically, Instagram can also be an extremely effective marketing tool, especially in a cross-channel strategy.
Active subscribers and an engaged community are the key elements for the success of any brand on Instagram. But if you're not quite sure how to begin growing your subscriber base, the process can be overwhelming. Here are a few of our best tips for growing your Instagram audience.
Instagram is a social network that focuses on the sharing of photos and videos. The network's mobile application is currently available in iOS, Android and Windows versions, with the accompanying online platform growing steadily.
Photos shared on Instagram are visible to followers (subscribers) of an account, as well as through a hashtag or username search. They can also receive recommendations/suggestions based on the accounts they follow, or from influential users.
Instagram supports several types of interaction whereby users can like or comment on uploaded photo or video content and then subscribe to different accounts. It should be noted that users can also choose to restrict the visibility of their images to their followers. You can learn more about private Instagram accounts in our "How To" article.
Since its acquisition by Facebook in 2012, Instagram's population has increased considerably. In a statement made in December 2014, Instagram has already surpassed Twitter in terms of number users, with over 300 million active users, compared with Twitter's 280 million. As this image sharing platform continues to grow, it presents more and more opportunities for businesses and influencers to expand their influences.
Instagram for Business
Just as other social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter offer businesses the ability to connect directly with consumers online, Instagram also offers businesses a number of opportunities to present themselves in a creative and interactive fashion.
Business Benefits of Using Instagram
Instagram offers much more than the ability to showcase a company's expertise or "know-how." The social network also allows businesses to channel their creativity and share company values, to extend their visibility to a new audience, to promote products and offerings, and above all: to create a community.
The social network now integrates new features dedicated to businesses: advertising campaigns and verified accounts. Since June 2015, advertisers have the ability to deploy Call-to-Action-buttons in sponsored posts (Show Now, Sign Up, Install Now and Learn More).
Tips for Building Community Engagement
As with Facebook or Twitter, the success of an Instagram account can be measured using simple parameters such as the number of likes, positive user feedback (comments), and the number of subscribers.
In order to achieve high performance, however, a company must first expand its community and win new subscribers.
The first step in building your Instagram subscriber base is, of course, posting original content. Content should be visually appealing and consistent with the brand image you'd like to project. A consistent publication schedule will increase interaction with the community and open lines of conversation (through comments).
After content creation, one of the easiest ways to attract new subscribers is through the use of hashtags, or social media search terms that provide information about the content of a post and may be found by placing a pound sign (# before a key term). Hashtags provide another way of gaging audience interest and behavior. Users will be more inclined to reach out to a brand directly if they feel that their interests or needs are being met.
How To Use Hashtags
It may be tempting to add a slew of hashtags to each photo to generate awareness for a post, but it note that hashtags are not a cure-all, and should be used strategically. Here's a quick example of how to use hashtags strategically.
Let's say you're on vacation in Barcelona and would like to show off your digs for the next few days. You may use a caption that looks like this (note that even if your hashtag combines two words, the search term should never include a space):
I always knew that the #architecture in #Barcelona, #Spain would be impressive, but never expected to find that famous #deco at our #hotel!
Before assigning a tag to your images, better check the number of related images. Some tags are rarely used by Internet users and there are no real benefits in using them.
Example: The #hotelroom hashtag may be more relevant to highlight the decoration of a hotel room:
Managing Your Instagram Account
To stay visible in the newsfeed of your subscribers, it is recommended that you post one to two images each day. Nevertheless, it won't be enough to strengthen the bonds with your community. You can also promote interaction with users, by responding to their comments on photos and videos, but also by congratulating them for their new photos (like or comment on their accounts).
In its current version, the Instagram application doesn't allow users to share posts but this practice is made possible through the use of third-party applications. Before using a photo, don't forget to request permission from its author.
You can also engage your subscribers around a specific topic, using the appropriate hashtag. You can organize a competition to encourage users to send post their best pictures about a particular topic (#competition).
Link Instagram to Other Social Accounts
You can link your Instagram to other social accounts in order to benefit from a wider audience and simultaneously share content over different communication channels. Share your Instagram feed on the Facebook page, aggregate photos shared on Instagram directly on your company's website or blog, display links to social media profiles, and even apply for a verified account on Instagram.