From Instagram to income: tips on building a winning Instagram following

While it’s no longer the social media new kid in town, Instagram has spent its adolescence graduating from niche iOS-only app to a giant image-sharing social network.

For small business owners, it’s an easy decision to get on board: with 75 million users uploading 70 million pictures and clicking the ‘like’ button 2.5 billion times every day, Instagram is a never-ending flood of user activity.

If you’re one of the few internet users not on Instagram, it’s time to give it a go.

Businesses with photogenic products are particularly well suited for the platform.

Cafes, restaurants, travel operators, florists and other retailers thrive on Instagram.

Nathan Chan, editor of digital magazine, Foundr, started on Instagram with a simple social media strategy.

“We were looking for a new channel that we could use to build our customer base for the magazine. We tested Instagram and we saw a massive spike in sales on the first day,” he says.

“That took us down the path of wanting to master the platform because we were effectively getting customers for free.”

Just to show that he can walk the talk, over the course of seventeen months his Instagram account went from zero to 770,000 followers.

The account’s popularity skyrocketed to the point where Chan authored a much-shared blog post on how to grow Instagram profiles.

He then released an online course, which became a primary income stream for his business.

Ultimately, Chan urges the most important thing you can do to boost your profile is post high-quality content that your users love.

These are his five tips to Instagram domination.


1. Post quality content that your users want to see

According to Chan, this is easily the most important step.

“It has to really resonate with your audience – they have to love it. It has to trigger some sort of emotion and has to be valuable to your target market.”

Chan reminds users that Instagram is a visual medium, so all content has to be aesthetically pleasing.


2. Post consistently

Writer and statesman Benjamin Disraeli once said the secret of success was constancy of purpose.

And in the Instagram game, constancy is everything.

So the question remains, how many times should you post?

“At least twice a day,” Chan says. “It’s all about building momentum. We post six to eight times a day.”

Set a rhythm and stick to it.


3. Use hashtags

Hashtags have taken off as a way to search real-time conversations around a single topic or keyword.

Let’s say you run an outdoor clothing store. You post images of outdoor activities, scenery, and your products being worn in picturesque places.

Accompany these images with popular hashtags like #sunset and #sea.

To avoid ‘spamming’ your company name, consider coining a brand awareness hashtag yourself: #campfirememories.

Why are hashtags so useful? Simple: they help Instagram users find your content.

They’re a great way to connect with people in your target audience and find a relevant audience, Chan says.

“They reference your images, making them searchable.”

If you’re unsure, find a list of the most popular Instagram hashtags on sites such as

Make them specific and targeted to your industry, and all of a sudden your picture is not just an isolated post, but part of a much larger movement.

For a super advanced Insta-hack, write hashtags in the comments section rather than using them in the post caption.


Post quality content to build your instagram following


4. Get other users to share your content

Having other people share your posts on Instagram is a common way to share followers.

“Network and look for a mutually beneficial exchange in value amongst other users,” Chan says.

Amongst veteran Instagrammers it’s called S4S or share for share.

If this sounds like a lot of work, you can also buy shout-outs – paying influencers to share your content – which Chan did himself in his account’s early days.

Chan recommends taking this step only once you’ve built some momentum and are already seeing some ROI from your Instagram activity.


Set a daily posting rhythm for instagram and stick to it


5. Test and measure

One key difference between social and traditional media is the ability to measure what works.

It’s easy to track your Instagram output and see which posts do well – and which sink without a trace.

“Marketing is all about testing, throwing things against the wall and seeing what sticks,” Chan says.

Track with analytics, and monitor everything.

Try using an analytics platform like SimplyMeasured, which offers free reports for users with up to 25,000 followers.

You can see how your posts are tracking over time and learn what time of day gets the best response.

On your Instagram bio, provide a link to something free and downloadable on your website that you can use to build your email list.

“You only have one clickable link in your bio, so track the sales that you are sending from that link,” Chan says.

Ultimately, to master anything requires experimentation.

Chan advises business owners try posting different types of images, captions and hashtags, to reach and appeal to potential customers.

To help you identify potentially great content, look at what Instagram accounts with large fan bases – in the ten-of-thousands – are doing, he adds.

You’ll then be on the path to Instagram domination.