Pastilla is a data-driven creative & marketing agency delivering inspirational brand experiences.
February 25, 2020
How To Grow Your Instagram Account in 2020
Over the years Instagram has become not only one of the most popular photo and video-sharing social networks for individuals but also an effective marketing channel for various brands from influencers, boutique brands to large global companies. According to Instagram 90% of accounts follow at least one business and these businesses realized that Instagram, with 1 billion active users, is key to building brand awareness and also driving sales.
Yes, it is trendy for your brand to have a presence on Instagram but it allows you to create a community and make meaningful connections with your followers. Then, when they are ready to make a purchase, your brand is on top of their mind and closer to their wallet :) The more engaged followers you have, the more you can make.
There are several known strategies on how to grow your following on Instagram. In some cases, many users turned to automation as a way to grow their following. In the summer of 2019 Instagram made major changes to their platform, which has limited most of those automation efforts. These changes are not something that should deter you from being on Instagram, quite the opposite in fact, eliminating those shortcuts that some took actually levels the playing field for us all.
So, how do you effectively build your brand on Instagram and grow your following in 2020? In short, be where new users can discover you. On IG there are only a few places this happens; on explore page, on top pages, on other profiles, and with paid ads. Remember them, these are the ONLY locations where others can discover your profile on IG!
Explore page, top pages, other profiles, and paid ads are the main places new people can discover your profile on Instagram.
Ever wondered about the page that shows up when you click on the magnifying glass icon? The fact that you find all of it’s content interesting and tailor made for you? Everyone’s explore page is different. Instagram algorithm made it personalized to you. It studies your behavior (what you follow, watch, like and comment) and displays content you may be interested in.
You will see an IGTV video, posts of people you follow, posts your followers like, posts with high engagement, accounts similar to those you already follow, brands that have purchased an add on explore page.
The feed of hashtags and geolocations is divided into two categories, Top and Recent. Top posts show the most highly rated posts as determined by Instagram algorithm. On desktop you have only top 9 posts before it starts showing recent posts. On mobile, where most of the activity happens, there is no set limit for the number of top items.
It’s normal practice that a story will feature another profile handle, post will credit the source of an image and commenter will link a friend. All links are clickable and will bring new people to the profile.
Paid ads (promotions)
Of course promoting your content will also reach people that are not currently following you. You can promote any content you post such as photos, videos, carousels (multiple photos in one post) or stories. You will however need to pay Facebook (the parent company of Instagram). Great thing is that once you set your budget and your promotion is approved, you will be able to check the performance of each and every promotion in the insights. Having these insights only helps you adjust and reallocate your budgets as needed.
Aside from the paid ads, which are simply pay-to-play, it is a combination of some techniques to reach the top spots of the above mentioned categories. We have summarized them into three main points and will guide you on your journey towards reaching that goal.
1. The Profile
Your profile is your voice. Setting up the right Instagram profile is the cornerstone of your success. Instagram is a visual tool and making a good first impression is just a starting point. Anything that you do from this point on will be directly impacted by having the right foundation.
Define your Niche
Understanding your niche is critical to effectively reach the right audience. How do you do it? Define the following:
What does your brand stand for?
How do you want to be perceived?
What message do you want to deliver?
What audience do you want to target?
Create an Instagram Business profile
You can choose between personal, business or creator profile (creator profile is a new feature mainly for influencers with high following, it is very similar to business profile, includes contact information and category labels, growth insights, two inbox categories, ranked requests and quick replies).
Business profile contains features for brands wanting their accounts to be perceived as a business. With an Instagram Business profile you can:
No matter what strategy you choose, your feed has to look attractive. The human attention span is 8 seconds, potential followers scroll through your feed fast, you have limited time to catch their attention, therefore it is important to determine your style and stick to it.
Come up with 5 key words, which represent you and your brand (for example Travel Influencer would select Inspiration, Positivity, Adventure, Colours, Love and make sure all of the posts would be in line with what he/she embodies)
Apply a consistent photo filter to create a visually uniformed look of your feed
Use similar colors or choose a main color for your theme
Build a brand, not a store. Unique and persistent style of your account gives a clear feeling to your audience, that this is your brand’s style. Following the above steps will ensure that your account looks professional and catchy every time.
What exactly should you post? There are several instagram tools out there, which will make it easier for you to have the perfect content.
Feed: Post top quality photos and videos on your feed and complete them with customized captions.
Stories: Utilize second quality content for your stories, show behind the scenes shots, give previews of new products. Aim to update your stories daily. Organize your stories into highlights. This will allow them to always stay visible above your feed. Alternatively instagram will remove them after 24-hours.
IGTV channel: For longer videos and has started to draw more and more attention. Unlike a video on your feed or story, IGTV isn’t limited to one minute and can hold both vertical and horizontal formats. This is a great way to get new followers because IGTV is personalized and has searchable topics. Instagram also announced a new feature in 2019 – IGTV Series where you can sort out your videos per category.
Post frequency and ideal post times
There are many suggestions on when and how often you should upload a new post to your feed. In the end you will still have to experiment and choose the frequency that is suitable and doable for you and stick to it. For example if you cannot post daily but only have the capacity to add a new post every three days, that is fine, keep the same pace, your followers will get used to this recurrence.
determine the best times for your feed posts. Start by checking the behavior of your past posts to find your ideal post times. In general, you want to concentrate on times when your audience is free to look at Instagram, usually 9am, lunch breaks, and 6-9pm in their timezone.
Once you are comfortable with your post times use the advantage of Instagram scheduling tools such as Later, which will upload the post exactly at the time you select and enable you to do it all from your desktop.
Do not get into a content block. Even if you feel that you have nothing new to post and it is the “same old”, try to look at things from a different perspective, post a flatlay (birds-eye photos) or an infographic connected to your vision.
Be active. Engage with your followers, share content created by your audience, save posts and send direct messages. Asking questions in your feed and/or stories can also help you create and maintain relationships with your audience. It is not just about getting followers but also interacting and keeping them.
>Like, comment and share posts of others, such as accounts you follow, accounts with the same niche, influencers with large audience, block fake accounts that follow you. If you decide to do follow/unfollow, which is still one of the most utilized ways accounts try to get followers, keep it under 200 profiles per day. Don’t forget, it’s not all about Instagram. You do have the opportunity to take people to your other profiles, website or build email lists:
Some profiles include an email address
Ask for email addresses in a contest
“Like, comment, follow, and share…”
The Instagram algorithm analyzes your behavior and takes many factors into consideration before placing you on your followers feeds, hashtag pages or the explore page. If you want to grow on Instagram you will need to invest your time in it. Simple likes are not enough. Start a conversation and get involved in people’s feed and stories, Instagram will remember it and over time start displaying your profile more frequently for others.
Be committed with engagement, frequency and general communication. The goal of the platform is to have more and more users, who spend time on it. IG will reward you if you help them do that goal.
Hashtagging your photos will help you reach a new audience and ultimately will grow your account. You can include up to 30 hashtags, but before using hashtags conduct your research first. There are the general appeal hashtags that you can use, however those might not be relevant to your products or brand, so how do you choose the right hashtags for you?
Consider the hashtag category (niche-specific hashtags like #selfpreserving, location based hashtags like #loveprague, general appeal hashtags like #lifeisgood, timely hashtags like #wintergear, contest hashtags like #giveaway)
Check similar posts of other accounts within your niche and your competition
Get inspiration from Influencers
Use Instagram hashtag research tools
Create your own hashtag and list it on your profile
Every hashtag and geo-location has a list of top and recent photos in the feed. Take your time and check them out to help you understand what Instagram considers being the top photos. Bump up your existing post. You don’t always have to create a new post. Adding hashtags to an older post seems to have a similar effect as if it was a new post. It will show that post in front of newer posts. The same can be done by tagging people. Do not concentrate entirely on hashtags with large following but use a combination of larger and smaller hashtags. Smaller hashtags may have less people looking at them but may have a more engaged audience.
Hashtags can be followed so use hashtags not only in your feed but also in stories to be seen by people who follow those hashtags.
Geolocations have similar functionalities as hashtags. They have their own feed and stories. Tagging locations to your posts and stories will also increase visibility and attract new followers. Geolocations can be places, landmarks, buildings, stores and businesses, basically everything you will find on Google maps.
Networking is super important in every industry, in your personal as well as your professional life. Instagram is no exception. The general goal of networking on IG is to introduce their network to your brand and vice versa.
Who to collaborate with:
In order for your collaboration to be effective you need to show meaningful connection. That is why you should work only with:
Creators large and small that you already know well and with whom you have authentic connections.
Creators within your niche that you may not know but with who you share the same interests
Other Creators that have a compatible brand (photographer <> model, traveler <> hotel)
Social media influencers have a high following within their niche. Influencers that you want to work with inspire their followers and relate to them in an authentic and not invasive way. This enables them to easily persuade (‘influence’) users to buy products they promote.
Search influencers within your niche. You can either look for them manually or use various online tools. You do not necessarily need influencers with massive fan base but rather ones with a high engagement rate (likes and comments relative to account size) called micro-influencers (20-100k followers). The trend is going towards preferring nano-influencers (10-20k followers) with an engaged follower base.
Note that if they have an email address in their account or invite you to DM them, they are more likely to collaborate. You can email them and ask to collaborate, request a price of a sponsored post, or offer to send them your product to review and showcase it.
There are Instagram accounts, who do not create but re-post content of other accounts.
How to collaborate
Instagram shoutout is when one user mentions another one, either by sharing their photo, @ mention or hashtag on their feed or story. There are two main types of agreements:
Sponsored Shoutout: Usually by a larger account than yours. You may need to pay depending on the account size (the recommended way is to pay through paypal)
Shout-out for shout-out (short S4S): Both accounts promote each other to share followers
Expect that an average 10% of their active followers will view the shoutout and around 1% of those will follow you. In other words, 1 out of 1,000 active followers follow your account.
Instagram Engagement groups can help enhance likes, comments, followers and get featured on the Instagram Explore Page but it takes effort, patience and drive. Each Engagement group has different rules, here is how it usually works:
A member (or administrator) announces to the rest of the group that a post will be published.
Remaining members have to like and/or comment on it.
This helps to increase engagement and visibility of the post. How to find Engagement groups? Ask around within your niche, browse the internet for engagement groups Reddit, try Instagram-related Facebook pages (Instagram Engagement and Promotion), sign up on Telegram or create one yourself and encourage others to join.
Who does not like to have the chance of getting stuff for free or winning a prize? Especially when they do not have to devote time and effort to it? Giveaways work well especially if you partner with other influencers usually called ‘loop giveaway’.
Loopon is our favorite tool for running Instagram giveaways, it is hassle free, straight forward and takes care of everything adhering to Instagram Promotion Guidelines.
Giveaway asks user to:
Like the post
Follow participating accounts
Add a comment (usually tagging a person that you want to also win)
Leveraging the information above will steer you in the right direction. Keep in mind that Instagram always evolves so conduct your research regularly and review interesting up to date info on About Instagram and Instagram’s own profile IG on IG.
Now all you have to do is invest countless hours and resources to beat your competition… or hire experts in Pastilla to help you and focus on the core of your business.