Social Media Pros Spill Their Instagram Secrets

models taking a selfie

image: Imaxtree

With over 75 million daily users, Instagram just keeps on growing. Everyone is on it, well, practically everyone (why Emma Stone, why?). Even Rihanna came back to the social platform. Instagram can be a pretty powerful tool for growing your brand, business or social influence. So, let’s cut to the real reason why you’re reading this: You want to grow your followers — and there’s no shame in that. We consulted a few social media experts for some easy ways to increase your Instagram reach in no time.

DO curate content to suit your audience and brand.

Whether you’re just posting as yourself, a big brand or are trying to make your side jewelry-making business happen, keep in mind what you’d want your Instagram account to say to new visitors.

“Content is king, so the type of content that you post has to resonate with your audience,” says Taisa Veras, a New York City-based social media director, who works with various fashion and lifestyle brands. “When posting for a luxury brand, the tone and caption is different than when posting for a contemporary brand.” That doesn’t mean that every picture should be of the same thing, so don’t go too heavy on the selfies just because you bought a selfie stick. 

DO up engagement by improving image quality.

Instagram is popular thanks to its highly-visual appeal. Stand out from the crowd and remember that quality is key. Veras says the secret to getting likes and comments is to make sure the images you post are sharp, colorful and well-cropped.

There are lots of apps out there to help improve your images, such as VSCO Cam and Camera Plus. Or edit your image with the built-in filters and effects to polish them to perfection.

DO invest in the right tools.

Serious about growing your stats? Get quality followers by opting for an app to help you. “Investing in a tool like Crowdfire allows you to search out and follow ideal followers,” says Rich DeMatteo, co-founder and chief social rhino of Bad Rhino, a marketing agency in Philadelphia.

Pinpoint your key demographic. “You can go through and target all of the followers of competitors, local companies (if you’re a local, small business) or any lifestyle brand that matches what you do,” says DeMatteo, who uses this strategy to build client accounts and has seen high follow-back rates in return.

DO comment regularly on related pictures and accounts.

“One way to grow a targeted following on Instagram is to strategically place your brand in the right conversations,” says DeMatteo. “Start out by searching hashtags that relate to your brand. Once you see the stream, you can look for pictures that are getting a nice response with comments and then add to the conversation with your comment.” 

Important point: “Be genuine and don’t make it a sales pitch,” says DeMatteo. “They’ll be tempted to click on your username and see what you’re all about.”  

DO collaborate.

“If you have the opportunity to work with a larger brand or another Instagrammer, it’s always beneficial to utilize the power of cross promotion,” says Sabir M. Peele, GQ style ambassador, brand consultant and founder of Men’s Style Pro.

His recommendation: “If you’re working with a brand on a project, negotiate as a part of your promotion that they will spotlight you in one post.”

image: Imaxtree

image: Imaxtree

DON’T buy followers.

When your numbers skyrocket, you aren’t fooling anyone, especially yourself with those drone accounts. “It’s dishonest and will bring your credibility down,” says Peele.

Fake followers may make it look like you’ve got influence, but there’s no quality or substance behind it. The goal is to have people follow you that are genuinely interested and will engage. If you have an online boutique and the thousands of followers were purchased, then they aren’t likely to be buying any clothes from your store. Quality over quantity. Numbers don’t do much if there’s no worth behind it.

DON’T beg people to follow you.

Yes, you want followers, but do you really want to come across as desperate? “Too many times people have commented on a post of mine saying, ‘Follow For Follow.’ It doesn’t make sense to just follow everyone because they ask you to follow them,” says Peele.

DON’T fight with Instagram trolls.

Social media can be friendly and also really ugly. Hello, Instagram bullying does exist. “Not everyone will like you or what you do — so, be sure to stay positive when followers leave negative remarks,” says Peele. Don’t stoop to their level, especially since social media isn’t all that private. He recommends suggesting that they get in touch with you via email.

DON’T go overboard on the hashtags.

“Hashtag appropriately, everything doesn’t need to be hashtag,” says Peele. It may get you a few more likes, but overusing hashtags can also turn your current followers off and end up leaving you with less.