As a social media manager, my job is to find ways to increase Curaytor’s online presence and get more exposure for our brand.
In 2017, we spent a lot of time working on new projects that create a lot of content - we launched a podcast and a behind-the-scenes web series in the span of a few months.
One of our key services for our clients at Curaytor is Facebook advertising, so obviously we put a lot of our resources there when it comes to promoting our own content, too. Based on that success, we started looking at where else we could grow our audience.
One place we saw a major opportunity was with Chris’ Instagram account. If you’re not familiar with Chris Smith, he’s one of Curaytor’s founders and is known for his engaging and dynamic personality.
While Chris had been active on Instagram for quite some time, he only had about 5000 followers. While 5000 followers is not a small number, we wanted to see if we could get Chris’ account to the coveted 10,000 follower mark.
What's so special about 10k?
When you have 10,000 followers on Instagram, you unlock some enhanced features. A typical Instagram account (even if it’s a business account) doesn’t have these features (like swipe up on stories) until you hit the 10,000 follower milestone.
With the swipe up feature, you’re able to include links in your stories, so you can send people to a landing page or website.
We use Instagram with the goal of sending people to our website. Without the swipe up feature, we’re only able to provide a link in our bio. Stories are hot on Instagram right now, but very few people are going to stop watching a story, click over to your profile, and then on the link in your bio. For Chris to be able to reach a wider audience and send more people to the website, we absolutely needed to unlock the swipe up feature.
The first week of January 2018, we set the goal to get to 10,000 Instagram followers, which meant we had to double Chris’ current following.
The Challenge with Growing an Instagram Account
Right out of the gate, we knew there’d be a few hurdles, the biggest one being Instagram's algorithms. The Instagram feed used to be in chronological order, and now it's completely out of order so you can’t predict where your posts will show up.
Plus, many people are buying followers on Instagram in an effort to game the system, which makes organic growth even more challenging. We knew that our goal was honest, organic growth, so we had to have a consistent plan for what we were going to do.
Up to this point, Chris’ engagement on Instagram had been to post whatever he wanted to post, whenever he wanted to post, so there also wasn't any consistency or frequency to what we were posting. We knew that had to change if we were going to hit our goal.
Finally, we committed to experimenting with Instagram so we could try some new things and see what worked. As part of this, I had the freedom to test out different ideas to see what would and wouldn’t work for us to build an engaged and active following.
From 5,000 to 10,000 followers in four weeks!
Here are the exact three tactics we used to double Chris’ Instagram following in just one month:
1. Know Your Audience
Considering there are literally millions of people that Instagram users can choose to follow, catching and keeping their attention is a tall order. You have to be able to cater to your audience and understand what they’re looking for when they’re visiting Instagram.
Throughout the four weeks, we did a few giveaways, which is always enticing. (After all, who doesn’t like free stuff?) Typically, when someone does a giveaway, they don't get the audience to stay and after the promotion is done followers drop like flies.
We knew we needed to focus on keeping our giveaways relevant to the audience, so we focused on giving away things that our audience would value. As a result, these giveaways worked to our benefit because a lot of people who were interested in what we were giving away very quickly realized that Chris knew what he was talking about.
Additionally, if we were giving away a training or something, then Chris would promote that on a Facebook Live and drive people to the Instagram account. From there, people would start to follow Chris and then they’d be paying attention to his Instagram account.
The lesson here is to find out what your potential followers are most interested in. If we had just been giving away something random, then we wouldn’t have gotten the audience that we wanted and we wouldn't have been able to continue to grow Chris’ account.
Now, a month later, we haven't been doing any giveaways and Chris is already up another 500 followers, so we’re confident that our initial strategy to draw people in has been highly effective.
2. Create Good Looking, Valuable Content
To get more followers, you also need to have great looking content that’s valuable to your audience. The truth is simple: If you’re putting out engaging content, people are going to come to you.
To figure out what kind of content Chris’ account needed, I started with an assessment of the account. I evaluated what had been done to date and what the audience responded to. It was clear that posting was random and that we needed to take into account how the account looked visually. With Instagram being a visual platform, the images matter the most - they’re what draws people in.
As part of the account review, I also studied other people in our industry that had the type of following we were after. I carefully looked at the design of what they were doing and took note of their style and content.
On January 4th, as a team we decided that that was going to be the day to get things started. I started things off with a quote and essentially used all the different things I’d taken inspiration from to create our overall theme.
I did that first post—and it blew up. It was crazy! That post was timely because it was a quote that had to do with 2018, and it was only four days after the start of the year. It was very colorful and eye-catching, which attracted people to it immediately and organically. Once I saw how well that post did, we knew what the account had to do more of.
Chris’ Instagram account now focuses on catching people's attention. If it's not through the colors and the images they’re seeing in front of them, it's about the content that we are giving away. Once you realize people are really drawn to vibrant colors and are able to pinpoint different things that will catch their eye, it becomes easy to create the content.
Interestingly, the rest of Chris’ content that was more informational and designed to add value also performed well. It’s an example of how your followers want—and are interested in—variety.
You can experiment with different things on Instagram and get some great results. It’s important not to make any assumptions about what kind of content will or won’t work on your account until you’ve given it a shot.
3. Engage Your Followers While Being Authentic
If I had to give one key piece of advice to anyone looking to make a big impact and increase their Instagram followers, I would say that you need to have patience, be consistent, and be authentic.
Growing your Instagram account is going to take time and persistence, and not everything will pan out as you think it will. We quickly learned that the less we cared about making everything perfect and the more it was about being real, the more compelling the content was.
4. Finally, remember this—people invest in people.
You can operate as a brand, and you can do great things as a brand, but at the end of the day, if you're not telling an authentic story and followers relate to you as a individual, people won’t be compelled to follow you on Instagram or anywhere else.