According to some marketing pundits, increasing your Instagram follower count is the holy grail. There is a lot of noise about how to get free Instagram followers, more likes, more shares, more engagement. A new report from Mention and HubSpot looked at more than 48 million Instagram posts and has some good advice.
After analyzing more than 48 million Instagram posts and 306,278 of the top users, HubSpot and Mention observed trends about Instagram engagement rates, hashtags, and other insights that matter to both brands and marketers. Here’s a bit of what they found:
- Video posts receive more than 2x more comments than other types of posts. This is not surprising, of course, given all the attention on video, live streaming, and real-time stories.
- Tagging more than 5 users in a post does not increase engagement rates. For all you crazy taggers out there, stop.
- 80 percent of major brands consider the Instagram engagement rate (again, engagement on whatever social media platform you’re using) to be the top key performance indicator (KPI) of a campaign. (See below for what that means exactly.)
There are many posts and programs and apps with 10 step programs or 12 ways to reach people and get them to follow you on Instagram, depending on which day of the week you research this topic. Follow the data is my mantra. Fortunately, there are lots of real data scientists out there who can inform this idea to get free followers (and I highlight free because you truly do not want to pay for followers — that’s bad karma). By the way, I’m loving the Mention blog. It is loaded with Instagram Marketing advice worth reading. Download link at end of post.
Based on the data, I pulled out four main steps to succeed at Instagram. I use this phrase lightly about steps because I know that how you define success is up to you — getting new (free) Instagram followers is important if you have very few. Increasing engagement, aka comments, likes, conversation, shares, is important if you have a base of followers and want to build awareness of your brand. Again, although you will find apps that advertise that they can get you many free followers, be wary.
Step 1. Add Video on Instagram
Post more video content if that’s your thing. If it is not, try to splice in some video in addition to your standard (but amazingly beautiful) photos and use the carousel. But the Mention/HubSpot report clearly shows video is outperforming just about everything else (not just on Instagram).
Step 2. Sprinkle Lightly with the Hashtags on Instagram
Be super smart with hashtags. Don’t go crazy with them in terms of volume, but be thoughtful and strategic. The data shows that more than a few doesn’t really move the engagement needle, so to speak. There’s a definitely correlation: More hashtags leads to less engagement.
Pick relative hashtags for your greatest Instagram success.
Step 3. Tagging Instagram Users – See Above on Hashtags
Some of the hashtag advice and data applies here, but they have a detailed section on tagging that is worth studying. More tags does not equal more likes or followers necessarily.
Step 4. Building Community and Engagement
“If you’re finding it harder to increase your Instagram followers, the report says you are not alone. Competition has increased on the platform so consider it the new norm. It’s far more valuable having a smaller, more engaged community than millions of followers who don’t interact with your content.” –Mention / HubSpot Instagram Report 2019
- 46.6 percent of Instagram users have fewer than 1,000 followers
According to the report: “They (this group of 46.6 percent) make up the largest segment of users. A further 33.5% of users have between 1,000-10,000 followers. This segment of users and the ones with 1,000 followers or less, make up the majority of total Instagram users.”
This leads into the final section on Micro-Influencer Marketing which is that micro-influencers make up 2.7% of total Instagram users. By now you’ve probably heard of these influential individuals with smaller communities. Micro-influencers typically have between 50,000-100,000 followers. That’s still a large number for many brands.
What is Instagram Engagement, Exactly?
“Direct from the report: “Simply put, engagement is the number of interactions a user has with your content. This usually comes in the form of likes and comments. However, as Instagram has evolved and launched new products such as Stories and IGTV, engagement now can also mean the number of views, shares, and direct messages.”
The Mention report is one of the absolute best I have seen for explaining what to do on Instagram (and it could easily apply to other social media platforms) in order to gain new followers. Now, to be very clear, as well-known Gary Vee (Vaynerchuck) would say, it is not all about the numbers. It is about engagement, relationship, and far more than simple follower count. But, as another data scientist, Alan Timothy, founder of i-Snapshot (as sales management tool that has analyzed a ton of sales data) often says, “Quality is found in the Quantity. You need both.”
In order to get free Instagram followers, you have to be real. And that takes a lot of time. As a business owner or marketing executive, you often don’t have a lot of time, so it is tempting to go looking for shortcuts. Ethical shortcuts, for sure, but things to save you time and remove repetitive tasks from your day. Even though I highlight some of the main ways, based on data, to grow your Instagram account, the reality is you have to dig in and be more human, be present, and really engage. It is not rocket science as the HubSpot and Mention folks prove, but there’s data to back up this common sense approach of simply being real with your customers.
Here is the download page on HubSpot. After filling in a bit of form data, you can download the report.
The report promises and delivers on:
- How to calculate your Instagram engagement rate
- The types of content you should be posting
- The latest Instagram data to inform your social strategy
- When to tag Instagram users to increase your reach
- Creating Instagram ads that build a following
- How micro-influencers can grow your business
If you need way more advice, there are some excellent resources here on our blog. Here are a few of my favorites:
- This was an Editor’s Pick in 2018: Want More Instagram Followers? Here Are 12 Proven And Successful Organic Strategies
- Jayson DeMers nails it here with 50 Free Ways To Increase Your Instagram Followers (Even though it is a few years old, there are tons of good, tactical tips.)
- If you are just getting started building a personal brand, then read this one from Elaine Pofeldt: How To Build A Personal Brand Without Being Annoying.