Benjamin Franklinstraat 513
3029 AC Rotterdam

6 tactics that helped us increase our Instagram following by 13,500%

May 4th, 2017

I recently received an e-book from one of our Instagram followers. It was an Instagram guide that helps people grow their audience and build a personal brand. I agreed with lots, but also felt some parts were left out. It made me think back on all the steps that we, as a company, took to grow our audience to 30,000 people in just 16 months. This list consists of the top six tactics that helped us get there.

1. Company culture

The @madeawkward Instagram account was born in 2013. In an attempt to share our daily office adventures, we sporadically posted some images. It wasn’t even all that bad, it just missed some thought. Eventually, it bled out because we were focused on our work and Instagram was just a side issue.

For our 2016 strategy, we felt Instagram deserved our attention. It was important for us to engage our current audience, grow a following and raise brand awareness. We focused on our identity. We wanted to inspire, motivate and show how we immerse ourselves in creating products. And all that with a personal tone of voice. It meant that we shared our company culture.

2. Quality

Quality is an important value for us. We decided early on that we wanted to post images shot with a DSLR camera and use our own presets. We felt this would ensure a certain quality standard. It also gave us a recognizable style and overall clean look. It isn’t always ideal, as posting with mobile camera shots is much easier and faster. However, we still feel we made the right choice holding on to our value.

3. Top post hashtags

Hashtags are a tool to let your audience find you faster and easier. After you tag a post with a hashtag the post will become available on a hashtag page. See it as a discovery hub that every user can contribute to. Instagram lets you use 30 hashtags per post. The more hashtags you use, the bigger your potential reach.

Choosing the right hashtags is essential. When searching for that perfect hashtag, you should ask yourself two questions:

The hashtag love is the most used hashtag on Instagram. It’s actually been tagged over a billion times. If we were to tag a photo with #love, a lot of people could potentially see it. But in reality, they wouldn’t care. Love doesn’t have anything to do with our company and the content we post on Instagram. Users have different expectations when they search for love, so they will probably overlook our content. Keep in mind that it’s extremely important to cater to your audience, even with your hashtags.

Every hashtag page has Top Posts and Most Recent Posts. Reaching the Top Posts should be one of your goals. Top Posts are featured posts, selected by an algorithm. These posts receive the most attention as they are first in view and stick longer. It isn’t clear how the algorithm is built up, but it seems to be a combination of engagement and the amount of followers.

So, what’s the best chance of reaching Top Posts? An example: the hashtag macbook is a popular tag with over 1.8 million posts. The average amount of followers of the accounts with Top Posts is currently 94,000. The average amount of likes of the Top Posts is 5174. If we look at the @madeawkward account, we have 30,500 followers with an average of 1110 likes per post (last 9 posts). There’s a huge gap between the Top Posts on #macbook and our account, so it’s not very likely that we’d end up in the top. Instead, try to find hashtags in lower rankings, but with medium or high potential to reach the Top Posts.

4. Timing

When to post, that is the question. Yes, there are definitely good and bad times to post your content. There are helpful tools to help you define the best times to post, but I always suggest to try it out for yourself. Play with the frequency of your posts. Play with time with timezones in mind. Play with weekdays and the weekend. It will take some time (pun intended), but you’ll eventually hit that sweet spot. The plus with experimenting is that you not only feel more involved, but also learn to know what works and what doesn’t. Eventually, timing taught us that we’re best off posting three times a week, on weekdays around the afternoon.

5. Backlog

Creating good content is a time-consuming process. That’s why we’ve decided to work with a backlog. Almost every week, we take fresh pictures around the office. We create a selection, edit the images and upload the files to a shared Dropbox folder. Not only does this speed up the process of creating content, but it let’s us focus on Instagram as a tool and not as a side issue.

Even with a renewed strategy and the hopes to reach mountains of followers, we didn’t really know what we were doing. I mean, we had an idea, but it was still trial and error. After a while, we discovered a pattern in the shots we uploaded. Some images received incredible engagement ratings and some were mere filling to the void. Everytime the office or a screen was involved, our following went nuts. What was going on?

Instagram revolves around trends and without our even knowing, we found ours. There are 2 trends we stumbled upon: office porn and computer setups. These trends proved to be extremely fruitful to convert users to followers and helped us grow with leaps. We even caught the eye of repost pages (or influencers), curated pages that bring the best of Instagram together. The reach of our posts became unimaginable by just sharing what we love.

Instagram is an amazing platform that offers big opportunities. Not only did it help us grow our brand, our online presence and traffic, but it also helped us meet the most interesting people. I hope that these tactics might help others find their Instagram magic. You can follow Awkward on our Instagram.