I have had the pleasure of meeting SO many people through social media. My partner…
Times have changed, guys. It used to be kind of easy to get your first 5,000 Instagram followers. You opened an account, posted some pictures, slapped on some hashtags and hey voila! A few weeks you’d be basking in the glory of 5,000 brand spankin’ new Instagram frands.
It didn’t require strategy. It didn’t require hard work. As long as you were posting interesting content consistently, it just HAPPENED.
Those were the golden days, and unfortunately I wasn’t around for them.
Whilst other savvy Instagrammers were racking up the followers, I was working in corporate and Instagram was the last thing on my radar. If you’re reading this right now, I’m guessing that you missed that good-times-easy-ride Insta boat too right?
It wasn’t until the beginning of 2017 that I started a social media blog and decided to open an account. With the days of easy Instagram exposure looooong gone, my first 1,000 followers were a tough slog (side note: if you’re just starting out on Instagram and you want know more about growing a brand new account, I document opening and growing an Instagram account in this series of social media growth posts).
Six months ago, I decided to turn my blog baby into a biz.
As a social media consultant, that meant getting serious and leading by example when it came to all things social. It meant testing out different strategies so that I could report on them, teach them, and implement them for my clients.
Most importantly, it meant shooting for (and achieving) some serious growth in my follower count and engagement levels to show people what is possible with some best practice strategy and a little (okay, a lot) of elbow grease.
So, here it is guys.
A summary of my Instagram follower growth and the things that worked for me when it came to getting my first 5,000 Instagram followers – and how you can get your first 5,000 Instagram followers, too.
The best thing about my tips and recommendations?
They represent what is working RIGHT NOW. The amount of old, outdated Instagram advice out there still being taught and implemented by so-called ‘social media experts’ is staggering. Follow these tips, and you can be rest assured that you’ll be doing the right things, and not wasting your precious time.
Here’s a timeline of the growth of my Instagram account to give a snapshot of how and when I built up to 5,000 Instagram followers.
Keep in mind that I opened my account in March 2017, so those first 1,000 – which will always be the hardest slog – took about five months.
There’s a couple of spikes in my follower growth. One was just after 2,000 followers, in which I jumped by another 1,000 shortly after. Another smaller spike was at the beginning of March. I’ll explain exactly what I did to generate those growth spurts shortly.
But first, a quick word of warning.
The reason why I’m writing this blog post in the first place is because I know it will be popular. Hands down, the number one question that I get from businesses is ‘how do I get more followers’? Literally, this question outnumbers any other by a factor ten to one.
So, I’m just going to preface the remainder of this article with a quick but very important caveat.
Instagram followers as a metric is, quite frankly, a stupid goal to be shooting for.
Before we continue, I want to frame this whole ‘Instagram follower count’ quest differently. Ultimately, the question we should be focusing on isn’t ‘how do I get more followers?’ It’s ‘how can I use Instagram to help me get me more business?’
When framed this way, the focus becomes more about trying to attract people to your social accounts that may actually one day do business with you, rather than followers for followers sake.
There’s a very important distinction there.
Getting to your first 5,000 Instagram followers is great, IF they are 5,000 people that fit the target market and that may one day do business with you. In fact, if that’s the case, it’s bloody fabulous. It’s certainly the reason I’m cheering about my most recent milestone.
If it’s not though, what’s the point?
Seriously. What is it?
Now that we have that clear, let’s continue.
Okay guys, here it is.
The top ten tactics that have worked for me when it comes to generating your first 5,000 followers on Instagram. Some are general principles supported with real life examples, and some are tactical.
ALL will work, if you are willing to put the time (by doing it yourself) or the money (if you outsource to the right person) into actually implementing.
If I had just ONE piece of advice to give you when it comes to social media in general, it’s this.
All social media, including Instagram, is at the end of the day just a value exchange. Plain and simple. People will like your stuff and follow your page ONLY if there’s something in it for them. If you’re overly promotional, or you aren’t helpful in the content that you produce, or you’re just plain BORING? You’re not providing them with enough for them to give you a ‘like’.
Imagine you’re in a shop. You find a book you like, and you pay the cashier $20 for it. They get money, you get the book. It’s the same with social. In order to get a ‘like’, you need to be providing something valuable in return.
It’s how I have grown my account over and above absolutely anything else.
When I sat down to put together my Instagram strategy, I thought firstly about how I could help people that might one day do business with me.
As a social media trainer and strategist, the simplest way for me to do that was to give away social media tips. I made a list of 100 things that people had ever asked me about social media, and I sat down each week and wrote down a quick tip around 3 – 4 of those at a time.
Here’s an example, related to this exact section of the blog post.
It was one of my most popular posts – ever.
The key takeaway here? Don’t sell! That’s not value. Instead, think about how you can HELP people? Educate them? Assist them to make a decision? Entertain them? List 20 things you can do to help your ideal client and craft posts around it. With no expectation. WIthout being salesly. Without there being anything in it for you. Just add value.⠀⠀
There were two significant spikes in my Instagram follower growth. Cumulatively, they were responsible for adding over 1500 new followers to my Instagram account.
Both were the result of giving away massive value in return for, simply, a good ‘ol like on Instagram.
The reason why most people don’t grow their account is that they simply can’t be bothered to put in the work required to do so. This strategy isn’t easy. It requires a fairly considerable amount of work up front in order to produce something meaty and valuable. It requires foregoing dollars in the bank because in order to work effectively, the thing you’re giving away needs to be so good that people would happily pay for it.
The result, though?
It attracts a whole lot of your ideal customers to you, and connects them to you and your Instagram account. That’s pure gold, because if you can then back it up by continuing to provide them with good quality content, over time you’ll have a solid pipeline of clients and customers dying to buy your stuff or to work with you.
It’s how I’ve built my business, and it’s a game changer if you’re looking to get your first 5,000 Instagram followers.
So, I’m guessing you want to know how you do it?
For me, it meant putting together two freebies.
The first time around, it was 100 free social media tips all packaged into a high quality, 20 page eBook (you can get it here, if you’re keen).
I then promoted it on my socials and in a number of Facebook groups that allowed me to do so, giving it away in return for a like on Facebook and Instagram.
Both grew by 1,000 in a day.
The second time, I put together a free Instagram mini course, in which I taught people all about Instagram over the course of five value packed lessons. If that sounds appealing too, you can sign up to that here.
I did the exact same thing, and it generated 500 new Instagram followers.
The key here is to think about what your ideal client really struggles with or wants to know, and then to produce an eBook or something of value which solves that problem. HALF ASSED SOLUTIONS WON’T WORK.
Give away your best stuff, and reap the rewards.
You could have the most amazing Instagram content in the UNIVERSE and yet no-one is gonna find if you’re not telling people that it exists.
This tip is going to sounds so very basic, and yet it is hands down one of the most effective.
If you want to grow your account and get your first 5,000 Instagram followers, you need to put links to it everywhere.
A great little driver of traffic for Stevie Says Social is, believe it or not, my email signature.
This is what my email signature looks like (note: I’ve deleted my address, email and phone details for privacy reasons).
It’s pretty, right? The BEST thing about it, though, is that it includes links to my social media channels and features a real time Instagram feed at the bottom to encourage people to jump over and give it a follow. Because those that email me already know me, they’re fairly likely to head over and follow. It’s an easy win!
Promote your Instagram on every online and offline marketing touchpoint.
Besides your email signature, here are a few other quick examples of places that you can promote it:
The graphic below sits at the bottom of my website to encourage visitors to sign up. I also have reminders to head over and follow inserted into every single one of my blog posts, along with a reason WHY following is a good idea (in my case, for free daily social media tips). This last bit is important. You need to give people a reason to follow, otherwise, why would they bother?
These little touchpoints ALL add up, and I can assure you that they have made all the difference for the Stevie Says Social Instagram page.
If you’re not currently active in Facebook groups, you are missing out on business. Full stop.
You’re also missing out on a key opportunity to grow your Instagram following. I am currently a member of a number of Facebook groups full of other amazing business owners. A happy added bonus is that some of those people are also potential clients that perfectly fit my target market demographic.
Most of these Facebook groups post ‘Instagram follow threads’ every week or two.
These thread are an opportunity to promote your Instagram account, and similarly to go through and find other accounts to follow.
Actively participating in these threads has had a noticeable impact on my Instagram follower count.
Here’s an example of the type of thread that I mean:
Here’s how to use follow threads properly:
When I add my link, I always add a little about my account to give people looking through the thread a reason why they should follow me.
Here’s what I mean:
This will ALWAYS result in more people wanting to come across, check out, and follow your account.
But, it DOESN’T STOP THERE.
Please, for the love of all things good and holy, do NOT just drop your link and then take off. I mean it. Long term Instagram success relies on you actually being social, and interacting with other accounts that take your fancy.
Link threads like these in Facebook groups provide the PERFECT opportunity for you to go through and find the accounts of people within your target market and to follow (aka SUPPORT) them.
By doing this, they will appear in your feed and you will have the opportunity to start socialising and interacting with them. In other words, you can start to develop a relationship which over time can lead not to business.
This exact tactic has positively impacted my Instagram following, but far importantly has led to new friendships and solid leads and business for my social media company.
Dropping a link and taking off won’t get you very far, and kinda makes you a bit of an online dick.
Don’t do it.
Want to know which Instagram posts will ALWAYS perform best?
Here’s a screenshot of my three most popular Instagram posts ever.
Hint: NONE of them relate to social media, at ALL.
Interesting, right? Especially considering that I work in social media and the majority of my followers are following along for – you guessed it – social media tips.
In just about every instance, the posts that perform best on Instagram are those that create human connection with an audience.
The BEST way to achieve this is by telling stories which give people an insight into you (if you’re a sole operator/the face of your business) or your business and its personality.
This is where smaller businesses have a huge advantage on Instagram over their larger corporate counterparts. They have a unique opportunity that big corporates don’t to connect on a real, personal and authentic level with their audience.
If you’re a small business, take advantage of that.
Give people an insight into YOU, your staff, your brand and what makes you tick. Be authentic and don’t try too hard to be perfect. The days of perfectly curated content performing well are over. People want REAL. Tell the stories behind your business, get people to relate to you, and you’ll attract more Instagram followers as a result.
Want the remaining five tips on how to get your first 5,000 Instagram followers?
Download my free 20 page eBook with all ten tips!
Note:: Not currently available, but you can sign up for my FREE five day Instagram course here!