10,000 Instagram followers. It's a common social media milestone that a lot of people are trying to work towards when building a brand—be it their company's or their own personal account. It's really reaching this first tier that demonstrates you have the potential to be a serious online influencer in your industry.
However, with influencer marketing on the rise, Instagram users sometimes purchase lists of potential followers in the hopes that they'll get at least a portion of these people to pay attention to their account. But in many cases, particularly in a business setting, buying a list can lead to poor quality traffic being directed to your website—along with unintended consequences... like a higher bounce rate, less time spent on pages, and bad-fit leads.
It's a much safer (and more rewarding) route to grow your social following organically. Engagement with your brand will be much higher, members of your target audience will be sharing your content, and you'll have more opportunities to convert or nurture qualified leads that are actually interested in what you're selling.
Below are 10 simple tips for getting to 10k Instagram followers without buying your way there!
1. Experiment to find your voice.
If you’ve been posting on Instagram for a while and you’re not getting the social traction you're looking for, switch it up! Change the type of content that you’re posting, and strike a different tone in the captions. Then refer to the analytics, and see what content people are connecting with. You can also look at brands that you'd like to emulate on social media, and incorporate a few new ideas. Once you’ve identified the content and voice that resonates with your viewers the most, publish more posts like that!
2. Stay on brand.
It's true that too much experimentation can disrupt the growth of your following. I’m personally guilty of going "off brand" every now and then. As an illustrator, there are times when I get bored creatively, so I do something different with my style for a short period of time... and I start to lose followers. Establishing a solid brand is about consistency. After following you for enough time, people come to expect something specific from you—something that they enjoy! While peppering in new types of content is important (as you might find a golden nugget in there), once you find your niche, don't deviate too far from it without a well-thought-out strategy.
3. Be active.
Are you active on Instagram? Do you like other people’s photos, comment on them, and engage with their content regularly? This is a great way to start to get noticed, especially if those posts are closely followed by people in your target market. That said, if you are too active, you can actually look like a spammy bot to Instagram's algorithms, and they might ding you. There really are lots of obnoxious people out there who automate random comments to show up on influencer channels with URLs to their websites, etc. We even see that on the PMG blog and immediately delete them. So the key point here is to keep a frequent—but socially acceptable—level of interaction going.
4. Don’t follow for follow.
It’s tempting, but don’t do it. If I see someone with 10,000 followers but they follow 15,000 people, that usually implies their content isn't actually high-quality—and they’re just trying to pad their follower count by clicking every follow button that they come across. Building an engaged audience does take time and patience. If you truly have a social media strategy for your brand, following others for the sake of them following you back isn't going to bring you the results you want.
5. Be real and honest.
Things can begin to feel fake on Instagram. Is that person’s life really that perfect? Who has a kitchen that clean? Don’t be afraid to be authentic and create content that people can relate to. Highlighting the quirks of your business can win people over. While it's still going to be curated to a certain degree, posting user-generated content, third-party content, or even employee quotes will also shed light on what your brand values and prioritizes. Using the Instagram Stories tool is also a great way to showcase your company culture or your unique personality; if you're comfortable with video, give it a try!
6. Don’t brag too much.
So you've won an award. That’s great, and you should definitely post about it. Just avoid making accolades, certifications and reviews the only type of thing you post. Along similar lines, don't spend too much time talking about your product or service and why it's amazing. In fact, spend very little time doing that. People aren't following your Instagram account for solely promotional content. They want to see a side of you or your organization that makes you appear more human, they want to be inspired creatively, and they want to laugh!
7. Publish timely content.
Staying on top of current events, industry news and pop culture is going to help you boost interactions with your account. Keep an eye out for what is up-and-coming or trending and how you can leverage it on your page. Is there a new meme that's going viral? See how you can personalize it to fit your brand or specialty. Did something happen in the media that impacts your industry? Write an article on your blog with your own spin and promote it on your social channels (including Instagram!) Capitalizing on current affairs and online trends can help get more eyeballs on your content, especially when you use appropriate hashtags.
8. Identify influencers and interact with them.
Find the top influencers in your respective area of expertise, and follow them. Keep an eye on what they’re posting and what people are saying in the captions. Then join in the conversation. The people following and interacting are most likely in your target audience as well, and if you respond to something they say, you might just get a new follower out of it!
9. Get a birds-eye view of your Instagram.
Take a step back and get a quick look at your Instagram as a whole (you know, the page that has all of the squares on it). What’s missing? Does it look cohesive? Make sure that all of your images look good and on brand, that you have Instagram highlights set up, that all of your bio info is updated with hashtags and a current link to either your website or relevant content.
10. Cross promote your Instagram on your other channels.
If you already have a decent following on another social platform, make sure those followers here about your Instagram account, too! You should also drive people to your Instagram by promoting your channel on your website! A few ways to cross-promote include:
- Embedding Instagram images from your page in your newsletter
- Embedding Instagram images from your page in your blog posts
- Adding a link to your Instagram in your email signature
- Adding your Instagram handle to the bio of your other social media sites
- Linking your Instagram to your Twitter and Facebook so that it posts on all three sites
There is surprisingly little fanfare when you hit the 10,000 follower mark, but by following these tips and keeping them top of mind, you’ll be on your way to authentic Instagram growth. If you want to learn more, check out our customer story—Wolfers Lighting on Instagram: A Howling Good Time—and find out how we started generating a sizable (and engaged!) organic IG following for one of our clients!