There is a ton of advice online on how you can grow your social media following – create valuable content, engage with your audience, use the right hashtags, and so on. The trouble here is that a lot of these recommendations only work if you already have a sizeable following.
But what if you have just launched your own business and are looking at growing an Instagram account from scratch? A lot of these strategies fail to work in this case. In this article, we will take a look at some ways you can build a following when you have no real following on social media. These social media strategies can be applicable for a lot of popular platforms including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Table of Contents
Narrow down your social channels
The average American has about 7.1 social media accounts. It is natural for a startup business to launch multiple social media channels (on Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.) in the hope that the popularity of your content on one channel can help grow your other social media channels as well.
While this strategy does work with established social media accounts, focusing on too many platforms at once can be resource-intensive and counter-productive. So the first thing you must do is pick a social channel that works best for your business and focus on growing it first.
Picking one social media channel is not easy. However, the ideal way to do this is by looking at your competition to see what channels they are focusing on. If you notice that your biggest competitors enjoy their maximum social media engagement (growth in followers, likes, comments,etc.) on Facebook over Instagram, it is perhaps a good idea to start with Facebook.
Once you have picked the right platform to focus on, the next step is to invest in content production. The best way to do this is again through competition analysis.
Here is a step by step guide on how to do this
Pick the top five or ten accounts that target the same audience. This need not be businesses competing with you in your industry. For instance, an interior design firm from London could also include London based real estate agencies for this purpose.
Look into their latest submissions from the past six month. It is a good idea to launch a spreadsheet that contains all details like what the submission was about, the likes and comments on each post, etc. If there is too much content to analyze, you could perhaps limit yourself to the latest month or three month period.
Sort the submissions by engagement to find the top 100 submissions that have gained the maximum engagement.
Identify a pattern in these submissions. These could, for instance, be memes, feature announcements, Q&As, etc.
Once you have adequate information about what works and what doesn’t, invest in content production. It is recommended that you produce at least 30-50 high quality pieces of content ready with you before you move to the next step.
Hashtags can be a pretty important component of your marketing strategy on social media networks like Instagram. Using the right hashtags can spell the difference between reaching millions of target users and reaching none.
You can start with competitive analysis much like what we discussed in the previous section. However, this is not always recommended since you leave money on the table with hashtags that your competitors are not after.
The right way to go about this is to look up the list of the most popular hashtags in your niche. Hashtags with millions of mentions tend to be cluttered with too many posts and is thus not ideal. It is a good idea to go with hashtags that are moderately popular in your niche (between 10,000 to 100,000 mentions). This ensures reach while keeping visibility high. Build a database of 50-60 such hashtags.
Building your profile
The next step is to curate your profile with content that you have produced. Nobody likes to follow a profile that is inactive and has no content to speak of. So before you begin promoting your profile, start building content.
Make use of a content scheduler app like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule content for the next several days. Be sure to generously randomize the quality pieces of content you have produced with the hashtags you have picked for promotion. Schedule not more than 3 posts a day and include not more than 10 hashtags.
You now have an active social media profile that appeals to your target audience. The next step is to start engaging with them. Here are some tips that should fetch you quick results.
Solid profile – Make sure that your profile information is solid and contains all information related to your business, your website URL, phone number, etc.This demonstrates credibility that makes it easier for a user to follow.
Make sure you include helpful CTAs in your description. This can be something as innocuous as “Like our collection? We publish new collections every Monday. Please follow our Instagram account to be updated”. This ties in smoothly with the rest of your description while nudging your visitors to follow your account. In order to avoid looking spammy, restrict your CTAs on specific posts that are either popular or ones that you plan on promoting extensively.
Ease into your engagement
Engaging with users who post on competitor accounts is a great way to build a following. But do not go full-throttle and comment on every post. Instead, build a list of active profiles you want to target and ease into your engagement. That is, start by liking a few of their comments over a week’s period. Then, start replying to their comments. This makes the engagement organic and also builds familiarity about your brand in the minds of your target users
It is important to remember that not all users are equally important. Active profiles with a solid following of their own can serve as influencers who can spread the word about your brand a lot better. By creating a short list of such users and targeting them with your engagement helps you in creating a strong base of followers who can help you in attracting more viewers to your account.
A lot of marketers make the mistake of segmenting their marketing efforts into silos. That is, social media marketing is handled by a different team than the one handling content marketing or PPC. The result is that the marketing efforts across these various channels run asynchronous to each other. This brings down the overall effectiveness of your campaign.
Nudging your website visitor to follow you on Instagram or Facebook is never the primary objective for any marketer. However, this is an “upsell” over your key objectives.
For instance, if you have a landing page to gather email addresses of interested subscribers, you can optimize your ‘Thank you’ page to get these visitors to also follow you on specific social media channels. Make use of heatmap analysis tools to find the best spots to place your social media buttons.
Early on in this article, we talked about competition monitoring from the perspective of studying what content works and what doesn’t to engage followers and build an audience. In addition to this, there is another way to monitor competition that can help you in building a social media following – brand monitoring.
While you may be a new brand on the block, you are likely to have competitors who are established and enjoy great brand recognition. Monitoring their brand on social media should find you several highly targeted prospects who also engage on social media. Establish a connection with them and engage with them in order to introduce your brand and bring them into your social media fold.
Fliers and mailers
Printing and distributing fliers is one of the most traditional and effective forms of advertising. Depending on where you operate from, this can also be highly cost-effective. If you are looking at growing your following on a mainstream social media platform like Facebook, you could distribute fliers across neighborhoods that contain your prospective customers. Services like Fiverr can help you find freelancers who can print and distribute your fliers anywhere in the world.
If your customers are in the United States, the USPS lets businesses distribute mailers to every post box along specific neighborhoods. All of this is possible with a simple web app that anyone in the world can access. This is great for local businesses whose target group falls in certain zip codes.
This process can be long and can easily take a couple of months to execute. But what you achieve with this strategy is that you will build a following that is highly engaged and interactive. Building a following of such users can help you accelerate your Instagram growth when you start publishing more valuable content and possibly hiring paid influencers to scale your growth.
About Anand Srinivasan
Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources. The Hubbion Project Management app was ranked among the top 20 in its category for 2017 by Capterra.