Grow your Instagram followers organically (for free)

Instagram is becoming a key platform for small businesses. The platform has evolved from a simple social media platform to one where businesses can generate sales straight from the app.

I recently worked with a local small business on a social media strategy where the key performance indicator was follower growth. She sold her products mostly through direct message orders and used her profile to showcase her work. She didn’t have a website, so Instagram and Facebook were the place where potential customers would go to see her work, find pricing, and reach out to place an order or inquire more.

For many small businesses, this type of strategy is hugely successful. Gone are the days where you need a website in those early stages. To get off the ground, a solid Instagram account can do the job for you; the cost of setting it up is nothing but your time.

A solid social media content strategy can help you grow your follower base, generate new customers, and build your business. By creating a social media plan that encompassed multiple elements, research, and engaging features, I was able to build a solid following on Instagram.

In a 90-day period, I was able to grow her follower base by 75% – an average of 25% growth month over month! All with $0 spent and a 100% organic social content strategy.

With a little bit of time, planning, knowledge, and the willingness to try new things, you can definitely accomplish organic social growth for your business.

Here’s what I did:

Posting frequently (minimum 3x/week)

Posting a minimum of three times a week is the bare minimum you need to be posting a week in order to see significant results. The more you post, the more likely your posts will end up in people’s feeds and the more likely you are to get engagement. If you can post daily, even better.

Hashtags

 Hashtags help your post gain visibility by showing your content on relevant topic pages and in the “discover” section on the app. While it’s important to include hashtags relevant to your post or industry, such as #smallbusiness #buylocal, it’s also important to try and take part in national hashtag holidays or themes.

Before I start the content calendar that I mentioned in step one, I Google “Monthly hashtag holidays”. There’s usually a great roundup by someone that has all the hashtags for that month listed. I choose ones that are relevant, and then include other more common hashtags like #MotivationalMondays and #TipThursdays.

Variety of content types

I try to always follow the ‘3 E’ rule for content: Educational, Engaging, Entertaining. Instagram is a platform people use to engage with brands, and you want to post a mix of content to truly build engagement.

Types of content examples:

  • Educational: How-to’s, tutorials, tips and facts, product information, industry information, testimonials, team bios
  • Engaging: Question of the day, funny posts, sneak peaks, quotes, sharable content like graphics, resharing customer posts that include your product
  • Entertaining: Silly posts, personal posts, behind the scenes, memes

Mix it up, try new things, and see what really resonates with your audience.

Engaging Stories

Every time a new post went live, I teased it through an Instagram story. I would use a “new post” graphic sticker that said “new post”, or had a scribble over it, to encourage followers to click through to the post and engage with it.

I also posted a custom story once a week that was more in-depth and had 5-10 pieces to it. I played with things like quizzes, the poll feature, an Ask a Question box, or voting.

Some ideas you can try:

True or false quizzes: Ask a question and include the poll with “true or false”, show the right answer on the next photo

This or that: Use the poll feature and ask your audience if they prefer this or that – make it fun “Coffee or tea?” “Beach or forest?”

Voting: Let followers weigh in on what you’re working on or small areas of opinions

Quiz feature: Try hosting a little quiz using the ‘quiz’ feature; have fun and let followers learn more about your brand

Process/behind the scenes: Share images or a story about the behind the scenes process. I did one for “how it’s made”

Reasons why: Make a story about “5 reasons to buy local…” or “5 ways to use…”. Anything related to what your company does works well

Share other posts: Round up your favourite small businesses, inspirational women, your favourite Instagram accounts, or must-have products and share away

Contests

Love them or hate them, the “tag a friend” type contests are a great way to generate word-of-mouth buzz and gain new followers.

How “like and share” contests work:

  1. Post an image of a prize
  2. Include rules for how to enter. Typically, contests include three steps:
    1. Follow this account and like this post
    2. Save this post
    3. Tag a friend in the comments, each comment + tag = 1 entry
  3. Include the time and date the content ends, and any other relevant info (ex. Must be local for pickup, 19+ years of age for alcohol, etc.)

Growing an organic following requires you to plant the seeds and water the garden

It’s no secret that growing an organic following and achieving impactful engagement takes work. However, with careful planning and a good strategy, you can automate a lot of the tasks and make it a routine thing.

Take time every morning to interact with your followers. Reply to comments, like other posts, share content, and comment on posts in your feed. Think of all your posts as planting the seeds of your garden, and your engagement as watering the garden. You need to do both in order to watch it all grow!

What has worked best for growing your social media following? Share some of your best tips and ideas below!

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