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Simple tips for growing an Instagram account for free

Written by  Guest Contributor: Sara Marks - Media Consultant Jun 01, 2020

Whether you are small or medium sized business growing your social media presence for free is always a smart choice.

You don’t need big budgets and groups of empoyees to grow an Instagram account, you can do it all yourself and best of all – you can do it for free.

How many direct messages do you receive on your personal Instagram from business in a week? Personally, I don’t get any. Because hardly anyone is doing this.

Every day I send 10 direct messages of varying types. You would be amazed by the response you can get from this.

What types of direct messages can you send?

1 – Thanks and welcome

Send a simple ‘thank you and welcome to the account, let me know if you have any questions’ direct message

2 – Current offer or promotion

If you’re running a current offer or promotion let people know. It’s a little like a mini email campaign, just much less fussy and elaborate. Let potential followers know you have an offer that might interest them.

marketingAlso see: A UK small business marketing plan that works

3 – Offer advice / help

I love to say ‘Hey, got any questions? My DMs are open if you do!’ This lets people know you are there but is not pushy in any way. I often get replies saying thank you to this one, it shows you care and want to help

‘Why only 10 a day, is that a limit?

You don’t want Instagram to flag you as spam. Sending 10 is totally reasonable, you wouldn’t get a ‘bot’ to do that. You don’t want to get your instagram account ‘black listed’ – that’s a definite no no.

You can only DM people with Instagrams open to the public. A great way to find these people is to search by location. I pick places I think my customers would go, like cafes in Birmingham, and I know I’ll only find accounts that are open and therefore I can direct message. This is a huge time saver, as you won’t waste your time clicking on people just to find out they are private and you can’t slide into their DMs.

2. Interact on social media

Keep a list of hashtags relevant to your type of customer, I have around 20. Each day pick I 3 or 4 to search and see what new images have been posted with that hashtag alongside it. Like that picture, and leave a comment underneath but here’s the important part…

Make sure that comment is relevant to that picture and makes your brand look like it’s a credible part of that conversation. BUT don’t try and sell anything, it's a subtle and effective approach that's needed here.

The great thing about leaving comments on pictures that you know are relevant to your customer, is that the comment stays there and creates this kind of affinity between your target customer and your brand. We do business with people we like, right? Well we follow them too.

video conferencingAlso see: How your colleagues judge you whilst video conferencing: Study

3. Add (invisible) hashtags to your stories

When posting to the grid it is important to add hashtags but everyone knows what you’re doing when you add 20 hashtags after a caption – it can feel a bit spammy. Imagine if you could make them invisible.

Well, on Instagram stories there is a hack that allows you to do just that.

Upload your image, add your text, your GIF, button or poll and make it look as pretty as you want. Then drop in your 20 or so hashtags (relevant to your industry) use the eyedropper tool to grab colour from somewhere on the image where you have the most space and this makes that text the same colour as the background.

Make your hashtags as small as you can and place them over the space where you got the colour from and they will disappear into the background.

And there you have it… your pretty image won’t be ruined, you won’t look ‘salesy’ or ‘spammy’ but your story will still be able to be found when someone searches one of your hashtags.


4. Find and follow

Follow accounts your target customer would follow, and start following their followers. Go to accounts that your target customer would follow. For example for Small medium Business UK my target customers who are new to video conferencing. So I would find people that follow accounts new small businesses or startups, office tech help and advice.

Follow them, double tap their pictures if their account is open, or just give them a follow if they’re private. If they’re interested in what you’ve got to say they will follow you back. Be sure to unfollow accounts you don’t communicate much with, as you can’t follow over 7,500 accounts on Instagram no matter what size your following. To do this use the ‘least interacted with’ feature when you click on who you’re following to unfollow people.

5, Make your grid stands out

Simple really, even if you put all of the above work in you won’t get a follow if your grid doesn’t offer someone something for them. You need to have a variety of images present on the grid that you think your customer would like.

I go for quotes, ‘insta’ cool style pictures, product images and big informative titles and keep the top 9 squares varied, in case someone doesn’t scroll any further down to see what you’re all about. Chances are, they won’t.

I do this by alternating what I post and keep to a guideline. Check this out:

My top 9 from top left to bottom right goes; person, quote, cool graphic, informative headline, product image, review, person, quote, product image. I keep to this so the first 9 images are always showing variety.

coworkingAlso see: Should You Buy Or Rent Office Space For Your UK Business?

Research shows that 1 in 4 people do not scroll below ‘the fold’ (basically where they land).

I also know my target audience would appreciate a ‘professional’ looking Instagram account. I make sure to keep to the same colours and theme, that reflect my brand. You should be doing the same.

And that’s it! 5 simple hacks for growing an Instagram account for free! It can be a little time consuming but worth it as you will build up an audience that is engaged with your brand and will keep coming back.

This article contain Amazon affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our articles are independent and are in no way influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative.

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