As Instagram continues its march to being the most popular mobile social network and photo-sharing community in the world, figuring out the app can be difficult.
Brands that are new to Instagram usually ask the same question:
How can we get more followers?
After more than a year managing one of the most active Instagram communities and starting a company based on Instagram, I’ve learned some key strategies and best practices for a new brand interested in connecting with people on Instagram.
For added inspiration, check out this list of brands on Instagram.
1. Jumpstart with existing audiences
An initial push to your community is a great start. Announce your presence on Instagram using your current channels, such as:
Explain to these existing audiences what Instagram is (since your audience may be new to it), and encourage them to follow your account.
2. Content and engagement
Instagram may be low on a brand’s list of priorities, but if the account is managed poorly it can hurt your brand’s overall message. Assign someone to the account who has experience with community management and an understanding of and interest in photography.
Don’t just post a photo because you haven’t in a while. Don’t treat Instagram as a channel to occasionally push extra photos.
NBCNews and its account manager Anthony Quintano do an excellent job in this department.
3. Have a content plan
While you probably don’t have to create a spreadsheet just yet, you should have a general content plan so your Instagram feed is consistent. Sure, the “this is what we are doing right now” is a great photo to share, but without a plan you may lose track of the channel as a priority and your account will grow stale.
On the other hand, don’t over post. Three or four photos a day is a recommended limit. For example, Ben and Jerry’s is a brand that’s getting it right on Instagram.
Also, don’t post all of your photos at the same time. You will end up taking over the full stream of your followers and risk being unfollowed by a large number of your Instagram community.
4. Utilize relevant hashtags
After you’ve joined Instagram, search hashtags that are relevant to your brand (such as #fashion, #design, #beauty) and engage with users.
If you find a user who is actively promoting your product or brand, they could become a brand evangelist (more on that below).
Much like other social networks, striking a balance between producing content and interacting with your audience will benefit your overall goals and increase the amount of mentions you get organically on the platform.
Letting users know that you exist by interacting with them will increase your follower numbers.
5. Consider running a contest
Take engagement to the next level with a contest or competition.
Much like a long-term campaign on Facebook or Twitter, this should be well thought-out, especially how winners will be selected and contacted.
Select a hashtag that hasn’t been used, such as #WDesign when W Hotels NYC ran a successful contest in the spring of 2012. Test a search for the hashtag first to make sure it is not being used.
Cross-promoting a contest with your more established social media channels is also a way to remind your audience you’re on Instagram.
6. Partner with Instagram influencers
Today, more and more influential bloggers are working with brands as they host an event or promote, endorse, or use a product. You can hire or partner with an influential Instagramer to cover an event or guest-photograph on your account.
This will introduce your account to new followers and give your brand a sense of understanding of what is trending.
7. Use third-party websites
Instagram’s interface is great to share photos but not ideal if you are trying to grow your numbers. There are a variety of websites you can use to manage your account, track your numbers, like, comment, follow, etc.
If you work for a brand that sees value in Instagram, don’t just close the app after you post a photo. The Instagram community is passionate about photography and social networking.
It’s in your best interest to interact with your followers and engage with them much like you would on other popular sites.
Brian DiFeo is co-founder of The Mobile Media Lab, a startup that works with brands on Instagram, and founder at Instagram NYC, one of the most active Instagram Meetup groups in the world.
A version of this post first appeared on Social Fresh.