Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform, with advertising revenues projected to surpass 2.8 billion dollars by 2017. The exceptional growth of Instagram shouldn’t come as a surprise if you have a hint about its incredible social and marketing power. Instagram, like so many other things can be “hacked” for growth.

Instagram’s engagement rates are as high as 4.21% per follower, a jaw-dropping 580 percent higher than Facebook’s engagement rates. Businesses that hack into this marketing goldmine successfully experience uproarious growth in traffic and – if your website can convert – revenue. But, with over 40 million photos being uploaded daily to Instagram, you need to do something extraordinary if you really want serious growth.


Infographic source

What would you regard as serious growth? Well, how does $4,000 on the first day of sales for a brand new startup sound? That’s what Austen Allred achieved selling hipster neckties priced at $80 each! So what did he do, and can you do it too?

Instagram Hacks for Rapid Growth

It turns out he followed a simple and logical sequence that you can fairly easily emulate. Here are the simple and totally legit (well, almost) steps to hack into Instagram for some incredible business growth. There’s some great checklist information on this hub page for Instagram marketing but for specific growth hacks, read on.

Get Your Targeting Right

Segmentation and targeting sound like complicated marketing puzzles meant to be solved by professionals. Maybe that’s why most online marketing articles skip this critical step and rush on to advise posting great content (ie, photos). But how can you know what kind of photos will resonate with your customers and get you likes and followers? The secret lies in knowing and understanding your customers. It’s really simple, and there’s no prior marketing expertise required, as you’ll see.

Step 1: Create a Real Life Stereotype

Let’s say you want to sell fashion jewelry on Instagram. Think about who would wear your jewelry. Look around at the people you know and spot the one who seems closest to your target customer. Let’s see… Sarah will wear your jewelry. She likes the kind of modern designs that you want to sell. Now imagine you are Sarah.

In order to think like you customers, you have to try to become your customer. Talk to people who fall in your target market and get into your customer’s mind. Who would you hang out with? What websites would you frequent? What would be your favorite topics? What kind of photos would you like on Instagram and more importantly, who would you follow?

Step 2: Analyse their Instagram Profile

Sarah’s Instagram profile will answer many of these questions. See what kind of photos she likes? What are some of her favorite topics? See if there are some big Instagram accounts she follows, and whether they are relevant to your customers or product.

You don’t want to deep dive into checking all the people Sarah follows. That would be too time-consuming, and most of her connections might just be family and friends, who may not qualify as your target customers. Instead, the easiest way to find your target audience’s favorite topics and trends is to look at some of the hashtags they use. You might find a picture of Sarah in worn jeans and a jacket. She might have the photo tagged #streetstyle. Does that resonate with your brand? Why not research this hashtag and see?

Step 3: Find Out Instagram Influencers for Your Niche

Jackpot! You can see the collection of pictures posted with this hashtag. Someone has posted a picture of her hand and she’s a some beautiful ring…similar to what you sell. 736 people have liked the photo. Could she be an influencer? It turns out she has over 30k followers. And she could really be into your kind of jewelry too. Congratulations, you just found your first influencer on Instagram.

Instagram #streetstyle

This should start a chain reaction, as our influencer uses many more hashtags, which lead us to many more potential customers and influencers. You should also look for some big groups where your target customers hang out. Research a few hashtags and you’re likely to stumble upon many clusters of customers that you can subsequently reach. The beauty of Instagram is that you can be active. You can reach out to these people. On platforms like Facebook you have to be passive and wait for your audience to interact with your page.

Create Stunning Photographs to Share

Before you start interacting with and following people, you must have your profile page and website ready to handle and make the most of the flow of visitors that you’re hopefully going to generate. Most importantly, you need to stick with the themes that you’ve discovered through your keyword/hashtag research. In the above example, the hashtags that appeared most relevant included #streetstyle, #streetwear, #mystyle, etc. Hence your website, Instagram profile picture, account name, and updates must reflect these ideas.

Of course, Instagram is about photos and mobile, and the sky’s the limit as far as creativity and quality are concerned. You should take the creation phase seriously because the traffic and sales you generate are ultimately going to depend upon the quality of the content you create. Fortunately, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Looking at what some of the big brands in your category are sharing should tell you what sorts of ideas are getting the most attention. Always use high-resolution photos and apply the right filters to make your photos stunning. As you develop your profile and audience, you can adapt your style to suit.

Make It Easy for People to Contact You and Buy Your Products

There’s another thing that you should do before you start following people and posting photos. You need to make it super-easy for your customers to reach you. The most common way to do this is to provide your website’s link in your account bio and include the phrase “Link in bio” with every photo you post. However, if you have time to handle Whatsapp inquiries, it works even better/faster.

WhatsApp Marketing

Remember that your customers are on a mobile phone when they use Instagram and may not like to fill out lengthy subscription forms or wait for your website pages to load. Make sure your sales pages offer a smooth “mobile user experience”. It can also be hard for people to purchase from their mobile screens. Hence, you should think of another way of tapping the traffic that your Instagram account is going to generate. You can offer a discount in exchange for their email address for people who may not be ready to buy right away.

Reaching Out to People on Instagram

Alright, so with your arsenal full of photos and your mind full of ideas, now would be the time to kick into action. The strategy here is to interact with the profiles that match your target customer. You’re hoping that they will see a mention of your name and visit your profile (which you must have set up immaculately). If you’re doing things right, some of them will also follow you, like your posts, and check out what you’re selling. Instagram obviously becomes more difficult if you operate in a niche which people might consider boring or lacks the sharable quality. This doesn’t mean it’s impossible though. The Workplace Depot ran a series of blog posts which coincided with sharing photos on their Instagram account. The idea was to come up with a collection of crazy ways you wouldn’t use their products. Here’s a great example of one of their campaigns. The product itself is not exciting in the slightest but the humorous and creative ideas are entertaining.

Follow Us on Instagram

There are four ways you can interact with people on Instagram—tagging, commenting, liking, and following. As with Facebook, tagging is annoying for people, unless you know them personally and have a good reason for tagging them. Commenting is good as long as you are not spamming by copy/pasting comments such as “hey, check out our profile @so-and-so!”

When you like someone’s photo, there’s a chance they could check out your profile and become interested in your products. The same is true for follow. However, you should follow only the people you’re targeting. There are Instagram accounts with hefty following that will follow you back just because you followed them, but they are of no use to you. Your goal is to build a community of people who really like your products and ideas.

Pro Tip:

A good way to ensure that the people you follow check out your profile/products and follow you back is to (1) start following them (2) go to their profile, and (3) like three of the recent photos that they’ve posted. This shows them that you’re not only following them, but also like what they’re posting. You’ll be more likely to attract their attention and attract them to your profile page.

The tip comes from Austen, who was able to achieve a 25% follow-back rate using the above formula. It was a lot of work, but by the end of the first week they already had 10,000 Instagram followers. This should be a good target to set for your Instagram marketing strategy!

Automate Instagram Marketing

Finally, when you see traffic and sales from your Instagram account growing, it’s time to think about automation. There are a number of tools that you can use to put your Instagram marketing on autopilot, but the best of them would fail if you don’t know how to use them correctly. When deployed intelligently, they multiply the results of your efforts and reduce workload.

Tools such as Instagress, Huntgram, Latergramme, and FollowLiker help you manage your whole Instagram marketing, from finding your target customers, to following them, or liking what they share. Instagram officially doesn’t approve of these bots and deleted millions of suspicious accounts some time ago. So, you shouldn’t go overboard when using autobots and keep the number of interactions close to what a human would be able to handle. Deploy your bot to behave like a human. Think about the times they would be active, the times they would be sleeping, the speed in which they interact. Never use bots for commenting, as the results can be disastrous. Only use them to find and follow people and like their photos.

Final Touches

You have to share great photos, monitor the analytics, and keep improving and progressing. But much before that, you have to understand your customer and follow the sequence that I’ve just described. Austen Allred got 10,000 followers in a week. Even if you get half of those in a month, that’s still 5,000 potential customers you can reach every day with your photos, products and offers. Customers who are 58 times more responsive than your Facebook followers.