It’s no secret. As the fastest growing social media platform with more than one billion monthly active users, Instagram is a top favourite for social media users of all ages and countries.
With over 80% of people using it to research products and services, 200 million users visiting at least one business profile daily and 130 million users tapping shopping posts each month, Instagram is the platform to be on as an ecommerce brand in 2021.
But there’s a catch that comes with all of this Instagram craze: real estate on this platform is smoking hot and like most smoking hot real estate – it gets increasingly expensive by the day.
If Instagram has been a regular part of your digital marketing strategy, you’ve most likely noticed a decrease in organic reach, engagement and site visits in the past year. That’s the normal course a growing platform will take: everyone wants to be on it and that means less showtime for each individual account. Most importantly though, that’s by design: Instagram makes its money from advertising and while we all enjoyed a free and flourishing platform for a few years, the bill is due.
There’s hope though. While “pay to play” should be a big part of your Instagram marketing strategies, the reality is that businesses can’t rely just on paid promotions to bring visibility to their posts. And Instagram doesn’t want a fully paid model either. Instagram rewards accounts that create a true audience of loyal fans that engage with brands and keep the scroll going. More screen time on Instagram will always mean more money in Instagram’s pocket.
Below, our top 5 strategies to grow your Instagram account organically, and by extension your engagement and website sales:
1.Engage with users following your competitors and relevant hashtags.
As simple as it gets, this is one of the best ways to make your account and brand name seen by a targeted audience of users that are interested in your products.
Curate and follow a list of 10 competitors and 10 hashtags that your target audience is interested in. If you’re not sure who your top competitors are on Instagram, search for a keyword related to your industry in Instagram’s search bar and then click on “tags”. Scroll through the top posts and pay attention to what brands are using those hashtags and boom – you have your list of competitors.
If you’re not sure what hashtags your audience follows, do the exact opposite: analyze what hashtags your competitors are using in their posts and insert them in Instagram’s search bar, then click on “tags”. Follow the relevant ones and then start engaging with the followers of these hashtags by simply liking, following and commenting on their posts.
Tip #1: don’t follow more than 20 accounts per hour and 50 accounts per day as Instagram may flag your account and it may result in lower reach and other penalties.
Tip#2: don’t engage with accounts that are too large. Keep your engagement with accounts that have less than 10k followers as large accounts have a high number of notifications and your engagement may just end up drowned in them. A small account will pay attention to all notifications.
2.Leverage Instagram Stories
500 billion users use Instagram stories every single day. And according to Hootsuite, 58% say they have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it in Stories. 50% of users also said they have visited a website to make a purchase after seeing the product in Stories. With that in mind, it’s clear that Instagram Stories is a crucial channel for any brand’s sales on Instagram. It’s also a great way to grow your account, reach and engagement.
- Post a series of 2-5 stories every day
- Include up to 10 relevant hashtags
- Include location with the location sticker when applicable
- Use stickers, animations, polls, answer boxes and any other engagement pieces applicable
- Include the “swipe up” feature once accessible to your account
Tip #1: while this is a great way to showcase your products, make it a habit to also use stories to truly engage with your audience; ask them questions, enable engagement, and implement fun games.
Tip #2: stories don’t have to stop at you posting them; engage with your followers and other relevant users by replying, reacting and engaging with their stories.
3.Make Instagram hashtags work for your business
Hashtags are like filing folders: when you use a hashtag on your post, that post gets “filed” into a folder of a specific hashtag so individuals with related interests and searches can discover your content.
Unfortunately, most posts are never discovered from hashtags and most often that happens because brands don’t analyze their hashtags enough so they end up using hashtags they think apply. In reality, we are humans and our human knowledge of Instagram’s proprietary algorithm pales in comparison to…Instagram’s knowledge of its algorithm.
So here’s how you can master your hashtag game:
Step 1: Use a tool to find hashtags for your account
We love using https://later.com/ as our go-to Instagram tool. Among many other features, Later provides hashtags suggestions and hashtag search to find new engagement opportunities.
Step 2: Use a combination of low, medium and high reach hashtags.
Include a minimum of 9 for every post as follows: 2 very popular hashtags (1M+ reach), 3 medium reach hashtags (250k-1M), 3 niche specific low reach hashtags (50k-250k) and 1 branded hashtag.
Mix and match your hashtags to make sure they are appropriate for the post content and keep core collections within Later to use on every post if they rank. For example, if you are a furniture company you may have the following core hashtags that are applicable to every post: #homedesign #homefurnishing #yourbandname. Every post will need its own specific hashtags too, though. A post featuring dining chairs will need hashtags like #diningroom #diningroomdecor #diningchairs, while a post featuring a couch will need hashtags like #livingroomdecor or #livingroomdecorideas.
The simplest way to organize your hashtags is to hash them out (pause for chuckle) at the beginning of your digital marketing strategy and compile them in lists based on your categories. That way, you won’t have to try to figure out what hashtags to use with every post but instead copy-paste from a pre-made collection. Later has a great hashtag collection feature where you can save batches of hashtags.
Step 3: Always analyze your hashtags to make sure they rank your content
Later.com also has a hashtag analytics tool and another favourite on our team is https://www.flick.tech/
Both platforms offer analytics on individual hashtags to gain insights on content ranking. Ideally, you will create a collection of hashtags that rank your content. That might take a while so a good practice is to analyze your hashtags every week, keep what’s working and trim what’s not.
Step 4: Shoutout it out!
There are many brands that serve your target audience and partnering up with them can be a strategic way to significantly increase your reach without a huge amount of effort added.
So, shout it out! At least once every week give a story shout-out to one brand in exchange for their shout-out for your brand.
We recommend collaborating with a group of brands that serve the same audience as you but don’t directly compete on products. Think a bath bomb company and a candle brand – they’re both in the wellness/self-care space and both of their customers would be interested in each other’s product. By partnering up and promoting each other, each of these brands can now offer added value to their followers and as a result they will increase their own visibility and sales. It’s a win-win-win.
Tip: include context and your endorsement in these shout-outs; simply resharing an accounts’ post or name won’t generate interest. Online buyers love recommendations so pay attention to the way you introduce this brand and how they introduce you.
Step 5: Post user generated content
Content creation is hard. Growing your account is hard. So, why not do both at once?
Your customers can’t wait to rave about how good your products are, so enable them to do it! By including user-generated content in your Instagram strategy you’re not only constantly receiving a fresh stream of content, but you gain the opportunity to broadcast your content to a broader audience: your customers’ audience.
Your customers may be eager to share but most times they will need a prompt from you. We recommend implementing an automated way to receive user-generated content:
Use an email platform like Klaviyo to create your post-purchase flow and set up an email to go out one week after the estimated product delivery asking your customers to upload a photo with your products and tag your brand. You can take it a step further and use a review app, like LOOX or Judge.me on Shopify where your customers can upload reviews with photos directly on the product pages.
Then, reshare your customers’ content on both Stories and feed, and always tag and thank the customer. This will make the post visible in their tagged collection and in return it will increase your reach. Plus, there’s a very high chance that your tagged customer will engage with this post and more engagement = again, more reach.
Welcome every single follower manually. It’s daunting, we know, but nothing beats real engagement on Instagram. And at the end of the day, nobody owes us as brands a thing and online reputation is earned, not given. Welcome and thank each follower for following you.
About the company:
SnapAdvantage is a digital marketing agency helping ecommerce brands grow by diversifying traffic sources and including platforms like Social Media, Pinterest, Content Marketing and Email Marketing to increase sales. We work with brands as small as startups and as large as $20M/year.