Gaining Instagram followers as potential customers is a lot more valuable than building a list of random people.
If you’re planning on expanding your marketing to one of the fastest-growing and most engaged audiences online, you need to approach building your followers in a results-oriented, laser-focused method to get ROI potential.
As a startup, we looked at ways to build our Instagram audience for its mammoth marketing power, to promote and sell our services and to create a community.
After testing many techniques, we built our list with these 10 laser-focused strategies.
Get Smart With Your Likes
It’s basic, we’re reciprocating creatures: liking other people’s Instagram photos generates more followers and likes for you.
Laser-focused “liking” means staying in your ideal customer space. Find photos of potential customers, not just a random sampling of popular accounts.
Take time to click “search” and find areas or hashtags that suit your target market and like the photo that’s there.
Comment With Heart
Statistics show that Instagram users prefer commenting over liking.
If you comment on other people’s photos with relevant and interesting comments, they are much more likely to click on your profile and reciprocate with a follow.
If you want to increase your ratio of follows for your time on Instagram, writing comments can build your follower list a lot faster than only double tapping on images.
Become a Hashtag Ninja
Hashtag monitoring is basically finding niche hashtags that are in your genre and following and watching for posts with that hashtag.
You can do this by signing up for a hashtag monitoring service and selecting popular and relevant hashtags. It can be a topic, interest or location.
Watching these will help you gain insight on market trends, keep an eye on your competition as well as show you people who are likely your ideal customer. Comment and like images with relevant hashtags to open up to new followers.
Regram With Love
If you start looking around and you’ve been sharing great pictures, you may be surprised how many Instagram users are already sharing photos of your products, services, quotations or business.
These same users will be delighted to let you share their great photos with your followers if you ask. Regramming one of your follower’s photos is a great way to give back to your community, create a vibe of mutual respect and also get in front of their followers in an authentic and fun way.
Trends and statistics on Instagram over the last couple years show that accounts with the most followers post a bit more than once a day up (on average these accounts are posting 2-3 photos a day).
Setting up a regular schedule, or using a posting service such as Buffer will help you maintain your frequency. But remember, above all else, post engaging content.
Because, especially on such a visual application, quality matters more than quantity.
Promote Your Instagram Account Offline
Start by making sure you have links and feeds to your Instagram account on your website. Add a widget that shows your most recent pictures and a quick follow button.
Set up signs in your physical location, add images on your products. If your customers are Instagrammers, they will recognize the logo right away and look you up if you’ve piqued their interest (especially if you give them a contest to enter).
Get Brand Influencers
Find your most loyal customers who are also on Instagram. Ask them to be brand ambassadors. This may cost a little money, especially if they have a large following, but it’s definitely worth your dollars.
Influencers can then share your product or message in their own style that will resonate with their followers.
Get them to post and tag you. If you run this along with a contest that they can mention, you’ll be sure to build your list a lot faster.
Run a Contest
Create a contest that attracts followers but also creates excitement and sharing appeal.
Most Instagram contests include incentivizing people to upload and share pictures of themselves (selfies), linking themselves to you with a specific hashtag while tagging you (your account name) in the picture so you can see their entry.
Remember, people will only enter socially if it’s worth it for them.
Hashtag Some More
A TrackMaven study discovered that posts that got the most interactions have 11+ hashtags. Time to get busy discovering the best hashtags because creating your list is very important.
Search through Instagram, and check out businesses and posts similar to yours. Make a list of at least 30 hashtags and save them in your notes so you can easily copy and paste them when you need them.
When you’re ready to post your images, write an original description of the photo, add a question or request a response from your followers. Copy and paste your list of hashtags into the first comment so you don’t clutter your post message.
Ask Users to “Tag a Friend”
This is a simple, yet very effective strategy, especially for events or launches.
Ask your followers to tag a friend they want to share whatever experience/product you’re showing with. The response is usually great because you’re offering a point of connection and a way for people to build their relationships.
Use images that are common and shareable – food, quotes or beautiful locations work well for that.
Taking a methodical approach to building your following will open you up to a wider audience and can increase your impact when it comes to online promotions and sales.
Instagram sales are in their infancy as far as a sales platform, but there will be many advancements in using Instagram for direct sales in the next three years, so start building your audience today.
A version of this post originally appeared here.