When Stanford grads Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger founded Instagram in 2010 - they didn't envision that two years later Facebook would purchase their company for $1 billion dollars. When Facebook bought out Instagram, the company had only 13 employees - and today it continues to be one of the most used apps in the world and an industry leader as a photo sharing platform.

While Instagram continues to see rapid growth in its user base - brands of all sizes have also recognized the benefits of being on Instagram. Whether you're a celebrity, organization, enterprise or small sized business - Instagram is not only being used for photo sharing but also as a communicative and PR tool. (To find out how to get started on InstaGram, click here)

Like most other social media platforms for businesses - the numbers of followers/fans and engagement that your content gets is very beneficial for generating brand awareness.

Here are some tips on how to get more followers on Instagram for your business irrespective of what size or type of business you have.

1. Great Content

Like any other social media platform - if you want followers or people to engage with you, you are best to start off by sharing great content. In the Instagram world, great content means great pictures that resonate with your audience on such a level that they feel compelled to "like" your photo, repost your photo or tag a friend in your photo. Don't just post a picture of your cat or dog and mention how cute they are. Try and put the subject of the picture into context. GoPro is a great example of an Instagram profile using great content. The images they use are generally action based photos that contain a short blurb about the context of the photo. Make your photos come to life and have it accompanied with a short story or comment on what makes it special.


2. Hashtags

The top 10 used hashtags according to Webstagram include #love, #instagood, #me, #follow, #cute, #tbt, #like, #photooftheday, #followme and #tagsforlikes. When posting content on Instagram, try being as specific and relevant as possible with regards to your photo. This can be done by observing trends when you're choosing hashtags. Webstagram is a great tool for letting users know what hashtags to use. Hashtags are also tags that users are searching for on Instagram - so if you're looking to gain a larger fan base who align with your brand or gain visibility with your target market - then use hashtags that you think your target market would be searching for. For example, @travelcostarica routinely posts images with hashtags such as #travel #costarica #puravida #worldtravel #instatravel so that their photos get in front of people who are more likely to be involved in Costa Rica tourism.


3. Following Users With Similar Interests

Once you start sharing great content on Instagram using relevant hashtags - you're going to start seeing users liking your photos and perhaps even following you. A great way to keep your fans engaged is to follow them back if they start following you. That way you can even tag them in the photos you share in hopes that you put them in the spotlight and compel them to repost/share your photo. Additionally, you can research hashtags that pertain to your brand and follower users who are posting to those same hashtags as well considering they're already interested in something to do with your brand. For example, @travelcostarica will routinely see what kind of photos are posted on #costarica and then follow users who have posted to that specific hashtag as they are most likely interested in the subject of "Costa Rica".

4. Geotagging

Another way to gain followers on Instagram is to use the geotagging feature when posting photos. For example, @tom__t is a well-known Toronto based Instagram photographer who captures snapshots all over Toronto. He routinely posts images using the geotagging feature. One of the benefits of doing this is that other users who have used the geotagging feature for that same location may very well look at other photos that used the same geo-tag and like photos.


5. User-generated Content

If you want to get users excited about your Instagram profile - then it's time to give them to showcase them on your profile! People love to be recognized and featured in brand streams and when you do that, they're more likely to share this content with their friends and followers as well! @Audi does a great job of this on their Instagram account and this profile contains a lot of user generated content - allowing Audi followers and owners a chance to get featured in the spotlight. It's a great way to get people excited about your brand and also gain more followers.


6. Combine Your Social Channels

Finally, another great way to gain more followers on Instagram is to combine your social media channels so anything you post on Instagram also gets posted simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter, etc. This allows you to expand your reach! This can be done relatively easily using tools like HootSuite or by connecting your Instagram account with your Facebook Page, Twitter Page, etc. This can be done under your share settings on Instagram.


Whatever you do though, the best way to ensure consistent follower growth on Instagram is to post great content! Don't focus on follower growth as the ultimate objective of your content strategy - instead, follower growth should be the last focus of your content strategy while you focus more on producing great content that people just want to share.

Essential Instagram Resources: