Based on a quick scan of everybody’s computer in the M2 office, Instagram seems to be the social media network of choice right now. Somebody’s looking at a heavily filtered photo of a roast dinner, somebody else is looking at a pug dressed as Count Dracula and somebody else is viewing a living room that screams “hygge”.

Of course, the M2 office is not a unique scene – offices across the world will be full of employees whittling away their working day on Instagram (I did scan the room at lunch time, to be fair to my lovely, hard-working employees).

Back in June, Instagram announced that more than 500 million people now use the photo-sharing service, making it one of the fastest-growing social networks of all time.

In the period from September 2015 to June 2016, the Facebook-owned platform added more than 10 million new users every month. Some 300 million people now use it every day, with more than 95 million photos and videos being shared a day.

However, for all those juicy figures, building an organic presence on Instagram is no easy task. Unless, you’re a celebrity, of course – then all you need to do is turn up to get a whole load of followers. For most of us norms, though, we’ve got to graft and use any means possible to grow our followers.

Here are some tips provided by Social Media Examiner with the aim of helping you garner a ‘worthwhile’ amount of Instagram followers:

1. Cross-promote

If you’re on Instagram, chances are you’re on Twitter, Facebook or Snapchat, too. Use these other platforms to sell your Instagram profile. However, it’s not enough to just call on your followers to follow you to Instagram – you’ve got to give them some incentive; content they are not able to see by following you on Twitter, Facebook, etc. How about using Instagram to promote behind-the-scenes content? After all, Instagram and fancy stationery are a match made in heaven.

2. Drop in some emojis

Emojis don’t come naturally to all of us. The Tongue emoji, for example, requires a deft touch. If it’s not used smartly, it can make people recoil. In the main, though, emojis help to clarify the tone of a sentence, or seek to add some flourish. That’s why nearly 50% of all captions and comments on Instagram now have an emoji or two. Instagram has reflected the popularity of emojis by making them searchable on the social network. Using an emoji in your name or as a hashtag, then, can boost discoverability.

3. Own your Instagram page

Your followers should be able to decipher one of your posts without having to look to the username or the caption. Own your Instagram page by adopting a theme or vibe. That might just mean you use the same filter for every photo, or you could be even more creative by carving out your own style. Whatever you do, don’t just take a photo and then upload it without any tinkering – the world just isn’t worth seeing unless it’s through a filter, as far as Instagram users are concerned.

4. Use relevant hashtags

You can add up to 30 hashtags to a post on Instagram – some people see that as a target, it seems, cramming in as many inane hashtags as they can. However, brands should stick to the hashtags that are relevant to their audience and only use hashtags that make sense in context of the post. Don’t just randomly stick #dog into a post, for example, because you know that it’s one of the most popular hashtags on the platform. Also, even if you’re in the restaurant business, please don’t use #nomnom and #foodgasm – yes, they’re hugely popular, but they make me cringe. Ok?

5. Learn from previous posts

Sometimes it’s hard to say why a post proved so popular in terms of likes and comments, but that doesn’t stop you from trying to replicate its success with future posts. Perhaps you posted it at the optimum time of the day? Perhaps you used a hashtag that elevated its discoverability? Perhaps it was just a doozy of a picture? Whatever it is, keep doing it!

6. Create quote graphics

Quote graphics have this ability to stop social media users in their tracks – maybe it’s because we’re all sentimental beings at heart. The trick is to select posts that are relevant and meaningful, and teaming them with high-quality images that do the quotes justice. It’s a pretty simple formula, but it almost always returns a healthy number of shares and likes – which should boost your followers accordingly.

There are more obvious ways to attract new followers, of course, such as running giveaways and offering “share for shares”, but see how you go with the entirely organic methods first. The last thing you want to do is run a contest for a £100 item or service, only to receive a paltry number of entrants, or be rejected for a “share for share” because it’s not in the other firm’s interest, i.e. you don’t have enough followers…

Ben Hollom

November 8, 2016