Instagram used to be for Hipsters only. However, it still is about beautiful images and great visual stories. I think this is a great thing because good marketing is talking to peoples‘ hearts and speaks about values. And speaking of values is much more authentic if you add a personal aspect to your communication. However, we all would like to have a few more Instagram followers.
Ok, enough marketing talk. No matter if you are a brand or a passionate photographer like me, you want your photos to be seen. Therefore you need to get as many relevant Instagram followers as possible. Before I elaborate how you could do that, I give you some basic info about the history of my account and the photos there, as well as some learnings from the past.
I started my Instagram account about 7 years ago and used to post random photos from my daily life. After a year I discovered the weekend hashtag projects which are organized by Instagram and I also started to use more hashtags from then on. This seemed to have a minor but noticeable impact on the likes I received and gave me a few new followers from time to time. Regularly participating in contests and hashtag projects definitely increases the engagement rate and it’s fun anyway.
In the beginning, I took almost all my pictures with my iPhone 5. A few months ago I began to use more of my DSLR photos and I also tried to focus on certain motives like architecture, people, and plants. Providing constant quality, style and similar motives definitely gave me a little follower boost. And it’s something that all the big accounts have in common as well.
Another thing all the great photographers e. g. kat_in_nyc, meetjulian or bdorts have in common is the consistent cadence of publishing content. They are posting one picture a day or more (on average). What does that mean to you, if you don’t have enough content: go out and take more pictures!
If you don’t have the time/motivation/whatever to take seven good pictures a week you can participate in the #tbt action or generally post old photos you took in the past. But try to post at least five pictures per week (I saw a few bigger accounts who also post only five pics per week) if you can’t create more content.
However, engaging on an average base (20-30 minutes of liking, commenting and following a day) did not take me further. At least not with the speed I wanted it to go. Therefore I did a quick research on the web and found out that there are lots of tools which promise you to help you get more followers and/or likes. Since I came into marketing quite recently and I wanted to put more effort into my photography anyway, I thought it’s a good idea to do a small experiment and use those tools on my Instagram account.
For all images posted during this experiment, I used around 10 – 20 hashtags to describe them. The first three or four tags were always my own words which I would use to describe the image. The rest came from TagsForLike. To measure and track my success (or failure) I used Iconosquare which is a free tool that allows you to see un-followers, new followers, possible optimizations and many other things.
3 Tools Which Promise You More Instagram Followers
There are tons of tools that promise to get us those followers. But do they really work?
This iPhone app allows you to see the latest images of other users and either follow them or move on to the next user. Following will give you credits which you can use later to „buy“ Instagram followers. Here are the statistics:
- started with about 260 followers, 300 followings, 156 comments
- spent about 8h over 40 days – followed 700 people
- posted 3 photos per week
- got about 250 followers, 100 likes, 15 comments
- lost about 150 followers in the following month + 55 after Instagram’s cleanup (205 in total)
- conclusion: costs a lot of time and does not get you a sustainable Instagram followers
This awesome tool is a website that takes your Instagram credentials and then starts to follow and like others‘ people content automatically. I tried the three days trial version and got those results:
- started with 375 followers, 252 followings, 171 comments
- spent 1h and tried the free trial for 3 days – automatically followed 1.170 people
- posted one photo a day (so 3 in total)
- got 175 followers, 630 likes, 61 comments
- lost 38 followers in the following 10 days (also posting one photo a day)
- conclusion: very efficient (but not for free)
3. Follower Boost
Follower Boost is pretty much the same as GetFollowers so I did not put too much effort into it since I already made my experience with those tools before. However, I wanted to see if a similar tool with a different user base generates different results. It doesn’t. See here:
- started with 513 followers, 290 followings, 223 comments, 3980 likes
- spent about 3h
- posted 5 photos in 7 days
- got 12 followers, 32 likes, 2 (spam) comments
- lost 7 followers in the following 7 days (posting 5 photos)
- conclusion: the users of that app provide on average nicer images (not only selfies) than the ones of GetFollowers but the app is too slow and has a lot of connection problems, so it’s no fun to use and also not very efficient.
Basically following hundreds of people and liking + commenting a lot of photos is the best way to increase the number of followers and engagements. This can be done manually on Instagram or with the help of different tools. Tools can help to increase the number of Instagram followers but it’s doubtful, if those are sustainable followers and if they are interested in your content at all. In my case, I got a lot of companies or pro photographers who followed me until I followed them back. Then they immediately started to unfollow me.
For the next experiment, I could change one of the following variables
- content type – from picture to movie
- image motives – sports photography instead of architecture for example
- image style – less saturated or more faded
- use different hashtags
- increase post frequency
…or step out of the Instagram (tool) environment and try to promote the content through other channels, like Instameets for example.
EDIT: I highly advise against these tools. Why? Read more in the follow-up article „How to Build Digital Relationships.“