First of all: Fake followers are for losers. Quality always beats quantity.

That's why we want to give you a zero-bullshit guide on how to grow the following of your brand's Instagram account - you're welcome.

This guide contains no ugly tricks or bad stuff, just 100% honest and highly-effective marketing. If that doesn't sound like something you might be interested in, please slowly step away from the Internet. 🤡

  1. 🧬 What science and studies is this guide based on?
  2. 🤓 The big picture: Your Instagram account.
  3. 🎥 The big question about the little image: The upload.
  4. 🤯 Are you creating creative creatives?
  5. 😍 The action list, packed with nuggets!

1. 🧬 What science is this based on?

I'm working at a Facebook Marketing Partner & Instagram Partner (called Zalster), we're continuously doing research on the most optimal ways to become a better marketer - specifically on Facebook & Instagram.

Four years ago, we started doing analysis on 400+ Scandinavian brand's engagement rates (= avg. likes per post / number of followers) on Instagram. Doing this, we learned a lot about what brands were successful on growing their following in a qualitative way (where followers tended to actually engage with the posts - and not just follow the account).

2. 🤓 The big picture: Your Instagram Account

When someone visits your Instagram account, it needs to look crisp AF*. You have to make it irresistible for people to hit that follow-button.

Crisp AF means that the account should have some kind of visual consistency and clear brand identity. Also, that there are no rookie-mistakes in the uploads (such as poorly cropped images, ugly video thumbnails, a lot of text in images, boring screenshots and so on - there are some examples further down).

😍 These accounts are beautiful:
  • @dayglowcoffee (coffee roasters) - take a long scroll through their feed, it's 103% eye-candy.
  • @unajp (restaurant) - INCREDIBLE content with big variation. Wow.
  • @bukowskis (auction house) - even though they are challenges with a huge variation of their product (second hand stuff), the feed looks tight and consistent.
  • @noblerotbar (restaurant) - simple, yet crisp.

3. 🎥 The upload.

One really effective way of analyzing a post before posting it is asking yourself the question: If you hadn't been working at the company you're posting for; would you care about the post you're about to publish? (read that question once more to make sure you understood the concept of it).

If the answer is 'yes', then why? What's making you engaged with the post? Can you maximize and utilize that further? Taking the post from engaging to explosively engaging? 🔥

If no - don't publish. Don't hesitate, just cancel the upload and think about something else. Your brand's followers are always close to unfollow or hide your post/stories. 😳

User-generated content (UGC) has been a rapidly growing content tactic for the last couple of years. That's also a very cost-efficient and authentic source of content. Analyze customers hashtagging your brand or geographic locations and reach out to those whose posts you'd like to use. But please, avoid regrams through 3rd party apps or screenshots where image quality gets poor. Ask for the original image/video. It's a win-win.

4. 🤯 Create creative creatives, yo!

"There's an app for that", so, you don't have any reason to say that you don't have the resources to take nice pictures and videos. No matter what you sell, you can always make a reaaaaaaally crisp upload (if you have like 4 minutes to spare).

Here's a couple of apps to check out:
  • Plotagraph
  • RIPL
  • Videoshop
  • Quik
  • Legend
  • Cinemagraph Pro

Examples always make it easier to understand - have a look at some good and bad Instagram posts below.

⭐️ Some really unique, eye-popping uploads 🍿

🤦‍♂️ Some really bad uploads ❌

❌ This brand uploads an image of a chair. Wow, how "inspirational". No wonder you get 751 likes even though you have 1.200.000 followers.

❌ One of the very few video uploads on @ikeausa's Instagram account - and it's the most boring and plain video ever.

❌ Having text in the image, that should be used in the caption - is just lazy and uninspiring.

❌ Let this sink in. Sony posts a low resolution illustration (no, it's not a photo) of a TV - with 4K-badge. And the social media person wants to make it contemporary by mentioning Game of Thrones. Wow, it's just laziness personalized. (Sony has a lot of nice uploads as well!)

5. 😍 The action list you've all been waiting for

  • Follow all instructions above on how to visually design your Instagram account and put a lot of effort in your uploads.
  • Always engage with your followers; If they answer or react on an Instagram story - answer. Same goes for regular post comments, always like and/or answer. You don't want to be a 🍆, right? Also, your engagement will be stronger in the eyes of Instagram algorithms when comment counts increases due to your answers on your follower's comments (and that followers will comment often when they see that they always get answers).
  • Post (at least Stories) daily. It's proven to increase follower growth pace with +100% compared to only posting once per week.
  • Now when you're only going to post crisp content, set up rules for auto boosting posts on Instagram. It will grow your Instagram account through cost-efficient paid boosting of your organic content.
  • Look at your Instagram insights to see what your account's individual "best time to post" is and utilize on it.
  • Use few but highly relevant hashtags (not to broad tags, like #food or #inspiration - that's just lazy and unnecessary).
  • Memes are (sigh...) a great way to grow an account - but if you're doing it, please don't repost with low image quality. You could at least try to make it look like an original meme, made by your brand. And please keep it relevant to the brand, not just random Game of Thrones-memes.
  • Have patience and don't obsess over the number of Instagram followers. When you have consistency and zen in your strategy, you'll see results on long-term.