September 07, 2014

Instagram for Retailpreneurs: Part V

Building + Growing your Instagram Following

In part 5 of the 6-part series on Instagram for Retailpreneurs, I will cover at a high level strategies and the associated tactics for growing your Instagram following.

Depending on your brand, and your content, some of these may work, or none of them may.

Everything I list below, I have personally tried with my brand on Instagram, Encircled. I'll add commentary as well based on my experience.

A note on a few things I won't cover.... buying Instagram followers. Not a practice I endorse or advise.

Instagram Strategy

On IG in my experience, less is more.

Although you may feel the urge to post every single picture from your backyard BBQ, if this is your business account, you really need to learn how to hold back.

You may think that more posts = more followers. Not the deal. Overposting and posting overly personal, irrelevant and plain ugly photos is a good way to scare off and lose followers, quickly.

Your number one goal on Instagram should be to build a quality following of people interested in your brand and product.

Honestly, I could care less if you have 20,000 followers, if none of them are linked or engaged to your brand's message, it's not worth a minute of your time.

Spend most of your time identifying your Ideal Instagram Followers, finding where they hang out + attracting them to your feed.

To start this process, you need an uber-clear, laser focused view on who your Ideal Customer/Client/Consumer is for your brand. I won't go through how to do this as many other blogs cover this topic in depth, but this is fundamental to your IG strategy.

With this persona, you need to know where they hang out, what other brands they are likely following, and what hashtags do they search.

Start Posting Quality Content

In an earlier post in this series, I covered how to develop your Content Strategy for Instagram. Posting engaging, relevant and meaningful content on Instagram utilizing the right amount and popularity of hashtags is an excellent way to start building your following.

I've found that using a combination of several really popular hashtags, plus hashtags that you want to own (I.e. your brand or product name --more on this in next week's post), and several not as popular but relevant hashtags to your target customer is a recipe for success.

Many very popular Instagrammers don't even use hashtags. Most likely because they don't have to as their following has gained that critical mass that you really want to get to -- and me too, I feel like I'm right on the edge of it!

Post at the Right Times

Iconosquare is a free-app that I mentioned in last week's post on must-have apps. The analytics can show you a comparison of when your posts are most being engaged with, versus when you typically post. 

Aim to post in that sweet spot when your followers are ripe to comment and like your posts.

Ask for Interactions

Posting content that people can really get behind -- quotes, statements, shout outs, is a starting point for high engagement. Asking people to engage is next level. I did a post last week with a photo of New York City asking people to double tap (like) if they love new york. And guess what, people did.

Follow your Target Consumers

This may seem high on the creep factor but, welcome to social media. Since you've hopefully already determined where else your IG target customers are hanging, and what other brands they are it's time to do some recon.

Select one brand, and look at who is following them (this is the box that says "Followers"). Click on it, and you'll see a list. You'll have the opportunity to add the followers one by one, or to click through the profiles to learn more.

The first step is to visualize your target customer in your mind as you click through these profiles. If the profile is public, and looks engaging and relevant, follow them. Like a few photos. Comment on one.


And again. 

Repeat again.

This is an arduous process that hopefully an intern can do, or maybe yourself while riding the bus or something, but it's a worthwhile strategy to get highly engaged, and relevant followers. Takes a lot of hustle, but has a lot of reward. 

It's proven that when you do the follow-like-comment tactic, you get 30% more follow backs than using only one or two of those tactics.

And oh, if you've followed a ton of people that haven't followed you back, feel free to drop them. (oooh harsh right?). can help you manage this.

Follow your Target Consumers' Fav Brands

Say for example, you own a Yoga studio in Vancouver. Your students and potential students likely love lululemon. Following them, might not be a bad idea. A better idea in addition to the above tactic is to comment on their posts. Start engaging.

Don't spam. 

Be engaging, relevant, whimsical, witty. Whatever! Show up in their comment feed. 

This achieves a few things. One, it puts you on their radar.

Second, it helps you gain followers (this is why your profile needs to be on-point as people will often click to see who you are!).

Test this strategy as it may not work for everyone!

Partner with Top Instagrammers

Partnering up with Instagrammers with larger followings than you is a great way to increase your followers base. However, my caveat on this one is to again, focus on someone who serves followers you would want. Not just someone with a massive following.

Some ways you can partner are to buy a promoted post photo, do a giveaway, seed them with a product and have them talk or model it. All of these posts should be accompanied with both an in-photo tag + a mention in the photo caption + permission for you to repost and tag them.

This is a very expedient way to grow your following super fast, if you can find the right partner.

Do an Instagram Campaign

Encouraging your already hopefully loyal customers to join you on Instagram for a reason, will help you gain momentum. Run a campaign or a challenge for a week.

Be it a fitness challenge, or challenging customers to show off your designs, or get creative with your product. This can help build your following and extend your reach, especially if your customers are tagging you --it's also great for content for you! 

Another tactic that is relatively good is to host an Instagram contest (remember to research the best contest tags and promote on other channels to push people to IG). Make the entry simple (I.e. repost, follow and tag the photo or something). Own a contest hashtag, and make it fun!

Convert your Existing Followers on Other Channels

It's definitely worth your time to put mentions on Facebook (and activate the IG tab), Twitter, your Website, Email newsletter and other channels of your Instagram feed and try to push your existing audience there.

Sure, they are already engaged but it's even better if they are engaged across multiple channels.

In studies, multi-channel shoppers are shown to spend more than 3.5x than a single channel shopper.  

Any other tips that have worked to grow your IG following? Leave them in the comments below + share in the good karma.

Next week in the last post of the series, we will cover....

  • How to Effectively "Sell" (without selling) through Instagram

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    Wishing you blissful retail!

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