The right way to grow your business using this powerful branding, audience and content marketing tool

We have been talking lately about how to boost your marketing business with Instagram. Contrary to what many people still believe, Instagram is not just a fun app where you can post food, vacation, and family photos.

Instagram has become a powerful branding, audience building, and content marketing tool for businesses. It has over 200 million monthly active members who share 60 million images and 1.6 billion likes per day.

A note of caution: There are plenty of people out there who promise to increase your Instagram followers by the thousands, but be careful. Most of them use fake accounts created by bots to inflate their numbers.

These types of followers have zero value. In fact, they can even be dangerous, wanting to steal your password or photos or infect you with a virus.

According to data security company Imperva, these malicious bots account for 28.9% of bots on Instagram.

The best way to build a following on Instagram is to be authentic with your brand and your audience.

Here are 3 tips to help you get real Instagram followers:

1. Tell a story with hashtags

It’s great to use your business name as a hashtag, but you need to think beyond that.

If you want to use your Instagram posts to gain followers, use other hashtags that tell the story of the image you’re sharing. You want to start a conversation when you share posts for things like:

• Events

• Promotions

• Contests

• Product’s release

A good example of a brand that does this well is @Tostitos. They use the hashtag #GetTogetherYaready to encourage people to get together and share their cards, and they also use the hashtag when sharing photos of their meetings.

By using catchy and relevant hashtags, you can get discovered in Instagram searches and hopefully amass Instagram followers.

2. Be creative

Instagram is all about photos, which is why many people think that the caption is an afterthought.

Do not neglect the title of the image! You can build engagement and promote sharing by using descriptive words that engage, inspire, and entertain your followers.

Here are some ideas to help you build a following on Instagram with your posts:

• Use questions in your caption. Write your question at the top of the post so people see it first.

• Be personal with your post. Tell a story about yourself or how your product helped or inspired someone else.

• Ask people to tag others. Asking people to tag three of their best friends or tag someone they’re grateful for brings other potential followers into the equation.

A great example of a brand that gets personal posts right is the @NatGeo Instagram account.

They create awesome Instagram Stories with informative captions to educate the user about the plight of animals around the world.

Remember that when it comes to using Instagram posts to gain followers, it’s all about being authentic. Don’t use questions on every post or tell a personal story that isn’t genuine.

3. Go local

One of the best ways to build a following on Instagram is to get to know your neighbors!

Whether you’re creating Instagram ads or want to promote your event in a specific area, you can see what’s happening near you by going to the search page and clicking the Places tab.

Type in the location to see geotagged posts for that area. Then visit relevant and recent tagged posts (not those from competing companies, obviously) and leave a comment or even an emoji and follow the person if you like what you see. Hopefully this will be the beginning of an organic interaction.

For example, if you offer life coaching services, you can write your location followed by “entrepreneurs.” Local entrepreneurs may be looking for a better work-life balance or help with life goals or career challenges.

Likewise, if you have a physical location that people have signed up to on Instagram, comment on those banner images to make sure they’re aware of your Instagram presence, and then follow them.

Here are some of the best ways to build Instagram followers the right way: no bots, no shortcuts, just tried and true ways to engage with your audience and convert them into followers!

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