Instagram recently announced it reached 700 million users!
Of those users, 100 million signed up in the last four months, marking the platform’s fastest-ever growth rate.
If you’re wondering how it stacks up against other major networks, see for yourself:
It’s currently the third most popular social networking site and has a commanding lead over Twitter.
Here’s another visualization of this data:
This, of course, means there’s a serious opportunity to build a following.
And the beautiful thing is Instagram doesn’t discriminate.
If you know what you’re doing, post epic content, and genuinely entertain your audience, your following will grow.
But in order to expedite this growth, I find it helpful to establish a regiment, a routine.
You need to be practical and tactical with your approach.
I’m a huge fan of routines—daily processes you can follow to achieve massive results.
Recently, I developed a focused strategy to help one of my clients—a B2C e-commerce brand—to curate a massive following (25,590 to be exact).
Here’s the sequence of steps to follow daily that will help you build a 25,590-member following.
(For more information on building your Instagram following quickly, be sure to check out another article I wrote on the subject.)
Respond to your followers’ comments and questions
Let’s start from the top.
I’m not trying to bore you with trivialities, but the first two steps are an essential part of the routine.
The first order of business is to spend a few minutes engaging with your followers.
Identify all valuable comments and questions, and respond to them individually.
If you’re just starting out and currently have a minimal following, you can do this in no time.
Leave at least three comments
I like to be on the offense when building a following.
Unless you already have a built-in audience, it’s up to you to make the first move.
Look through the photos of the people you follow, pick three photos, and leave comments.
Stay away from the generic comments like “nice pic!” and say something that stands out and shows you put some thought into it.
This will put you on people’s radars and should eventually lead to return engagement.
Post at least once per day
One of the great social media debates is how frequently you should post.
This, of course, depends on the specific network in question, but the average Instagram account posts once per day.
However, profiles with larger followings usually post more often than that.
Organize your instagram post ideas in one place across all the document apps you use.
A 2015 study from Quintly found a correlation between a higher frequency of posting and a higher follower count:
Notice that profiles with 10k-100k fans post 41 times per month, or 1.32 times per day.
However, those with over 10 million fans post 95 times per month, or 3.06 times per day.
By examining these findings, you can conclude you should post at least once a day.
But if you can post three times a day, you’ll be in even better shape.
The bottom line is you need a steady flow of content.
Don’t allow yourself to become complacent and have major gaps between posts.
Research proves that brands that post often tend to have bigger followings.
You may even want to batch your posting by auto-scheduling on a platform such as Hootsuite to save time.
Post at the optimal time
You probably already know the timing of your posting is a major factor dictating how much visibility your content receives.
According to an article from Later,
Instagram announced that they would be replacing the chronological feed with an algorithm that gives more priority to posts with higher engagement, which means the more likes and comments your post receives, the more people will see your post!
Here’s a screenshot from Instagram’s blog that confirms this:
What are the implications of this algorithm?
It means if your content gets a lot of engagement shortly after being posted, this tells Instagram you’re posting quality content.
In turn, your content will move toward the top of your followers’ feeds.
This means one thing.
You need to figure out the optimal time to post.
Numerous variables go into determining this factor, including where the majority of your audience is located, when they’re most active on Instagram, etc.
Different studies suggest different optimal posting times.
For instance, one from HubSpot found that the best time to post on Instagram is anytime between Monday and Thursday, except between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
A 2015 study from Mavrck found that “midnight, 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. were the most popular times to post, with Thursday, Friday and Wednesday being the most popular days.”
They also said that “posting between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 p.m. during off hours when posting is low could work to your advantage, because users are still browsing their feeds.”
The point here is that there are different types of logic you can use when determining when to post.
I recommend doing some of your own experimentation to pinpoint the sweet spot for your brand.
The Later article I mentioned earlier offers some solid advice for doing your own testing.
For instance, you can start by posting at different hours Monday through Friday for week one and measuring engagement.
Record your results in a spreadsheet. Google Sheets works great for this:
Week two, repeat the process, but switch the hours.
Again, record your results:
Keep repeating the process until you know for sure what the optimal posting time is.
Once you’ve figured it out, rinse and repeat.
Your engagement level should continue to increase, which will help your content rise to the top.
This ultimately translates into a bigger following.
Use 11+ hashtags
Hashtags are a big deal, especially on Instagram.
Countless studies have attempted to figure out the ideal number of hashtags for each social network.
While some people may use only one or two hashtags on average, others may use as many as 30 (the maximum).
Here’s a post with a ton of hashtags:
Although using “X” number of hashtags per post won’t necessarily guarantee you a 25k+ following, it can definitely give you an edge.
To determine the ideal number of hashtags, let’s look at the data.
According to a study from TrackMaven, “interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags.”
A separate study from Max Woolf seems to concur.
Here’s what the distribution of likes on 120,346 Instagram photos looks like:
This means the odds of engagement increase when you include 11 or more hashtags on an Instagram post.
So don’t worry about “hashtag fatigue.”
Just be sure your hashtags are relevant to the content and not spammy, and you should be good to go.
My last point demonstrates that hashtags are a good thing on Instagram.
But how do you go about choosing hashtags to populate your posts with?
Should you just pick them at random, or is there more of a science to it?
Well, of course, each individual post will require certain hashtags to properly describe it.
That’s common sense.
But if you’re consistently posting around a central theme, it’s smart to do a little hashtag research to spot winners.
From there, you can make a list for quick reference.
One of the easiest ways to generate quality hashtags is to type a relevant keyword into the Instagram search box and see what pops up.
First, click on the search box:
Then start typing a keyword. I’ll use “content marketing” as an example:
Just like that, you’ve got several ideas for hashtags.
You can also gauge how popular a hashtag is by checking how many posts are using it:
Another approach is to use a tool called Hash At It.
It’s really simple to use.
Type in a keyword in the search box, and click “Search”:
Here’s what pops up:
Scroll down, and you should be able to quickly generate some good ideas for hashtags.
I suggest making this part of your daily Instagram routine.
This way you’ll always have a rock solid list of hashtags ready to go every time you post.
To research hashtags, check out this tool from Kicksta.
Kill it with your captions
The way I look at it, captions can turn a great Instagram photo into an epic one.
Some people just have a knack for writing awesome captions that hit all the right notes.
Take this one from Doug the Pug for example:
It’s super funny!
I suggest spending some time looking through lists of captions and recording some you could use in the future.
Here are a few resources worth checking out:
Of course, originality is important, so try to tweak them whenever possible to fit your brand.
Follow three accounts
Finally, be sure you’re continually following new brand-related accounts.
I recommend seeking out at least three or more each day and following them.
Ideally, they’ll be major influencers because any engagement from them can quickly boost your following.
This will ensure you stay on the radars of others, which should bring additional exposure to your account.
As long as your content is high-quality and relevant, a sizable percentage of people should return the favor and follow you back.
Let me summarize everything I just discussed in a step-by-step sequence for your daily Instagram routine:
- Respond to comments and questions
- Leave at least three comments
- Post at least once a day (two or three times is even better)
- Post at the optimal time (based on your own research)
- Use at least 11 hashtags on each post
- Spend a few minutes researching hashtags (and add to your list)
- Study and record awesome captions
- Follow three accounts
A steady routine like this should help even the most obscure account build a 25,590-member following fairly quickly.
If you follow this routine daily, you’ll gain followers steadily and consistently.
Having more Instagram followers provides a ton of benefits, including increased brand exposure, continual lead generation, networking opportunities, and ultimately increased sales.