Instagram offers entrepreneurs a highly intelligent algorithm -- but then it offers that algorithm to a lot of people: Thanks to a host of creative brands and businesses competing for your customers, you're probably finding it harder and harder to convince people to hit that "follow" button.
Thankfully, there are still ways you can creatively and authentically gain more Instagram followers. Here are four strategies to implement this year to reach new audiences, get more engagement and grow your follower count:
1. Develop a strong and consistent Instagram aesthetic.
These days, your Instagram profile needs to function as your company website, business card and virtual shop window. You only have a few seconds to communicate what your brand is about and entice a viewer to tap the follow button before you lose him or her to the next shiny image. One of the easiest ways to gain that traction and make a good first impression is to offer a cohesive Instagram aesthetic.
Last year, we saw a brand take "aesthetic" to the next level by creating a lifestyle lookbook that its ideal follower would be drawn to. On top of curating a consistent and cohesive color palette, brands that are doing this right are conveying an appealing lifestyle through the images on their feed, which attract their exact “type” of customer.
Take a look at New York-based garden center The Sill. The Sill's green, leafy aesthetic is translated across its whole feed, as well as its Instagram Stories and its highlight cover icons -- even in the emojis in the brand's bio. Around the holiday season, instead of posting a traditional gingerbread house, The Sill posted an adobe-style holiday house with cactus plants adorning the outside. These stylistic choices are geared toward making the brand's followers feel a sense of belonging, and an aspiration to align with The Sill's lifestyle.
If you’re looking to revamp your aesthetic this year, think about your own brand’s personality and identity, and how you want to convey that through your Instagram profile. Once you’ve nailed down your aesthetic, you can easily plan your feed and schedule your Instagram posts using my company, Later.
2: Join the rise of vertical video.
With over 400 million daily viewers on Instagram Stories and the launch of IGTV this year, there’s no denying that video content is quickly taking over on Instagram.
Once you identify what kind of content works best for your audience -- whether it’s how-to the guides Benefit Cosmetics uses, or product guides like those of Lululemon -- you’ll immediately start to see results in your viewer rates and your follower count.
To find out what video content works best for your target audience: Find content themes that work for your audience. Look at what images or stories resulted in the most engagement. Was it a product photo or a piece of user-generated content? Take direction from your best-performing posts. If you saw strong engagement when you used the Question Sticker on Instagram Stories, consider hosting an Instagram Live or creating an IGTV video to answer those questions for your audience.
Pay close attention to your Instagram analytics: One key metric to look for is your Audience Retention Rate on IGTV -- this will show you at what point in your video's viewers dropped off and how many watched to the very end. The more videos you post, the easier it will be to identify the length your videos need to be for your audience to stay engaged.
3. Tailor your campaigns for a more engaged audience.
To really grow your presence on Instagram, start tailoring your profile and campaigns to focus on gaining more quality followers. Focus on your niche market, your audience's needs and how you can better communicate and serve them through Instagram. To make a difference, implement thse changes into your Instagram strategy:
Create smaller niche Instagram profiles that target a specific audience: Does your brand serve lots of different audiences or locations? You may want to create other, more focused, Instagram profiles that better serve your audience. For example, if you’re a fashion brand like ASOS, you can create specific womenswear and menswear profiles. Or if your business is global, tailoring your Instagram profile based on your audience’s location is a great way to deliver more relevant content.
Collaborate with micro-influencers to attract a more engaged following: Collaborating with influencers and brand partners can be hugely beneficial if you do your research and pay attention to those people's audience engagement levels. This often means focusing on smaller accounts, dubbed "micro"- or "nano-influencers."
These accounts have fewer followers (sometimes even fewer than 10,000), but also boast a highly engaged and loyal following. A regular partnership with a micro-influencer could result in your brand gaining followers who are equally as engaged and invested in your brand, thanks to the relationship and trust they hold with your influencer. The key is to make sure you find influencers who are representative of your target customer.
4. Create promotional AR filters.
The newest trend in Instagram marketing is branded AR, or "augmented reality" filters.
The streetwear label Off-White has been using AR filters to strategically show off its products and gain followers. Its sunglasses filter was launched ahead of their runway show at Paris Fashion Week, and Instagram users could “try on” sunglasses from the brand’s collection. In short, Off-White incorporated product marketing into its Instagram strategy while still keeping things fun and share-able.
Currently, Facebook is in the testing stages for its expected Spark AR Studio, which will allow only a limited number of brands to join and create custom AR filters. But there’s hope that the feature will be released to more accounts in 2019 so that even smaller brands can start creating AR filters for Instagram!
There's good reason to keep an eye on the "next big thing" Instagram offers. Because, while the platform is a competitive space, it’s still one of the best means for growing your business. By adopting some new trends and techniques into your Instagram marketing strategy for 2019, you’ll likely to gain more followers this year.