Being active on Instagram is no longer enough. If you want to build a powerful following on this platform, which now boasts well over 500 million monthly active users, you have to do something different and unique. More than that, you have to invest significant time and resources in understanding your audience and building unique and optimal content to reach them.
Your success starts when you stop optimizing for top of line follower count and realize that not all followers share the same value to you and your brand. What is more important, rather, is that you are cultivating an active and engaged community of users that are carefully tailored to your company’s niche. These followers are far more valuable for your brand.
While there are no shortcuts, there are some things you should be doing on the platform to maximize your likelihood of success.
Here are 5 ways to attract your ideal customer on Instagram:
1. Truly understand your audience.
Before you experiment with any growth hacks or viral marketing strategies, take the time to understand the demographic of your intended audience. You’ll want to know everything possible about your ideal followers, and you may have multiple personas for different types of followers. You should also use an Instagram analytics tool to analyze who your core demographic is.
You should invest in understanding everything, from who these users currently follow to what they look like and where you can find them. One “low barrier to entry” way of doing this is to simply start direct messaging people that you believe to be in your target audience. While some of them may not respond, if you can get a few people on the phone for a user interview, you will learn tons really quickly.
Many marketers glaze over this step and jump right into building content. When you do that, you lose the ability to pick up on the little details that truly differentiate the biggest and best brands.
2. Engage with your followers.
You can increase the lifetime value of a single follower by developing a deeper, longer term connection with them. At the end of the day, marketing is about relationships (not transactions) and your audience needs to feel that.
One of the best ways to create this feeling and show your followers that you really care is to be active in the comments’ section of your posts. Your responses do not have to be particularly long winded, but they should prove to your audience that a) you care that they commented on your post and b) you took the time to not only read every comment, but also respond to them. This is definitely a longer term investment (with no immediate ROI), but one that can be crucial in developing a defensible brand strategy on Instagram.
3. Hold relevant contests.
Hosting giveaways that are hyper-targeted to your niche follower is a great way to reward current users for their support as well as expand your relevant follower base. Everyone likes free stuff! And for just a small investment, you can make your entire audience feel a part of something bigger than just themselves.
The easiest way to do this is publish a post with a picture of the prize you are going to give away. In the caption, tell your followers to tag three friends in the comments to qualify as an entry in the contest; this helps the giveaway spread to new and different pockets of the Instagram community.
In just a few days, you will have, hopefully, thousands of comments to randomly choose from to assign to your winner. Better yet, you will have attracted tens of thousands of new eyeballs who, at least you know, are interested in the giveaway (and potentially your content).
4. Leverage hashtags.
Organic growth occurs, generally, when you have “non-followers” finding your profile on their own accord. On Instagram, this happens most often on the “discover page,” where popular, featured, and relevant photos/videos surface to users’ attention. To increase your likelihood of showing up on the discover page, you should use hashtags relevant to your ideal customer.
You can throw in hashtags on all of your posts (up to 30 per post). That way, your content is more likely to show up in front of new people. Whenever there is trending news across the world, a hashtag surfaces to tie together the community. One quick hack is to make sure you are always keeping up with popular and trending hashtags so you can capitalize on the buzz.
Another thing you can do as a brand is make up your own hashtag. The simple phrase should be concise (so it is easy to use) and unique (so it is easily identifiable). You should encourage your followers to use this hashtag, so it gets popular and spreads horizontally.
5. Be real.
One thing that a lot of marketers get wrong is that they think their followers want to see a particular version of themselves so they mold their brand in a plastic and manufactured way. While this approach may have worked in the past, social media users are jaded. They are sick and tired of seeing the same spammy, unrealistic content popping up on their feeds.
They really just want to interact with brands that are willing to be real and honest with them. Showing the true side of your brand’s profile, through native posts and behind the scenes stories, will earn you respect among your followers.