Are you looking to grow an online following? How do you choose where to double-down? And why do it in the first place?
Feeling as if you’re doing all the ‘right’ things but not seeing results?
These are all questions I had myself, so I sat down with Instagram growth expert Zach Benson, Founder & CEO of Assistagram. A former contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, Zach has seen first-hand the power of having an engaged online following. So, two years ago, he founded his company, grew it to seven figures in revenue, and has generated real results for his clients.
Let’s dive in to get you results like he generates for his clients:
Why put the energy into growing an Instagram following at all?
“With all of the Cambridge analytica and Facebook privacy stuff going on in the news right now, the attention shift from Facebook to Instagram is moving faster than ever before. If you aren’t on Instagram now, get on it so you don’t get left behind. With an online following, you will be able to get more business and opportunities because of it.”
He continues, “Instagram is the fastest-growing social media platform in the world, with over 800 million active users on the platform per month, and will keep growing. Right now over 51% of all brands in the world are on Instagram, and I predict this number will keep going up.”
Reading culture has shifted
“The only reading most people do everyday is Facebook and/or Instagram. It’s your choice if you want to be a consumer or a creator. With great content and captions, you can definitely win friends and influence people,” advises Benson.
Turn in-person friendships into digital ones
“We live in a digital world where it’s now easier than ever to make new online friends and stay in touch with them. Anytime I meet someone with whom I really get along, I tell them to add me on Facebook and stay in touch on Instagram.”
How to grow your following from 0-1,000 followers:
Start a repost page
“By this I mean, choose a niche that you are passionate about. That could be fashion, fitness, food, travel… do some research and start following repost/feature pages. An example is @tribeinfluencer. See how they share photos from other travellers and photographers on their page and give them credit. These pages are easier to grow because they are posting epic viral content, and with great content comes growth. This is the best way to start for 2 reasons: 1. You are already passionate about the niche and 2. You can see what all of the big niche pages with thousands of followers are doing,” explains Benson.
Choose a great username and bio
He explains: “Keep your username short and sweet and combine two keywords. For example, tribe and influencer [email protected] Then, think of words that describe your page. For example, mine is about travel, nature and lifestyle, so I have those 3 keywords with a corresponding emoji next to them.”
“Once you have come up with a handle name, a cool SEO trick is to put 3 keywords that you want to rank for in the name section. So instead of just putting your name, you can put 3 keywords that are related to what your page is about. For my page, I put travel, nature, and lifestyle. If you search those keywords on Instagram, my profile will show up on the first page for that keyword. This will help you get more followers.”
Growing from 1,000-10,000 followers:
Benson breaks it down: “Using hashtags on Instagram, the right way, is the single best tool you have to gain exposure, followers, and the attention of the more than 800 million active users currently on the platform. Think of hashtags as the Google keywords of Instagram. You search a hashtag so you can post and see other people’s related posts, pictures, videos, and experiences. One of the best ways to start finding the right hashtags is by manually searching for them. In short, this involves seeing which tags regular Instagram users and your competitors are using, researching hashtags in niches related to your content, and breaking them down by the number of posts that these hashtags are already attached to.”
“The trick is to find the lesser-known hashtags that will allow you to really stand out to your target audience. Since you have a small following, use hashtags that have fewer posts in them, like 10,000-100,000 posts. That will increase your chances of receiving more exposure and gaining more followers. The reason for this is that the likelihood of your ranking at the top 9 posts for a hashtag/keyword that is super generic and popular are zero. Create a few different sets of hashtags, rotate them throughout the week, and see which ones perform the best.”
Consistency is key
“Post two to four times a day, everyday, for more growth. Post one time a day for a little bit of growth and maintenance. Just as in life, it’s the small actions that you do each and every day, even when you don’t feel like doing them, that add up to massive results,” urges Benson.
Growing a following beyond 10,000
Join engagement groups
“As you start to grow on Instagram, you will start to make friends who have similar interests and who are in the same niche as you. Take initiative and create a direct message (DM) group, with 14 other people who are in the same niche as you. As soon as you post, drop your link into the group and say, ‘Posted, please like, comment and return’. Then, everyone likes and comments on your post. This will help your post and Instagram page get more exposure and followers. Note: you need to be in a lot of DM groups with accounts of the same size as you, as well as accounts that have huge followings, to be effective and work.”
Premium engagement groups
Benson shares, “The key to getting a lot of followers is by reposting viral content (pictures and videos) on your page, and getting hundreds of big accounts with large followings to like and comment on your posts within a short time window.”
Growth hack: Buy a popular account
“The best way to get into high-quality engagement groups is to buy a big Instagram account that has 100 or 200 thousand followers, and use that to get into premium engagement groups. Have those big accounts like and comment on your smaller account. You see, having a huge account gets you into premium engagement groups. Either you can either receive engagement on that huge account, or you can drop a link to your smaller account. Then all the other huge accounts in that group can engage with your smaller account and grow that one.”
“Growing a personal page or business page is hard to do if you don’t know what you are doing. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on photographers, models, graphic designers and content creators, first create a repost feature page until you start to get the hang of it and learn the ropes. Once you’ve built up a solid repost page, then start strategizing and making goals for your personal page. With great content comes growth. Now that you know some of these tips and tricks, use them to grow your personal page.”
Benson continues, “On the other hand, I see a lot of business pages and companies struggle because all they post are product posts. They appear desperate and trying so hard to sell their products and services. Remember, it’s all about piquing people’s interest through your content, creating value, being informational, and building trust with your followers first sales. Sales comes after you’ve done a good job at that.”
“Keep in mind, to grow a quality page with thousands of followers takes a lot of time, hustle, consistency and sacrifice. With all of the algorithm changes, it’s really hard to grow these days. We used to grow pages thousands of followers per day; now we can grow pages only around 10,000 targeted followers per month.”