Let’s start with some clarification. While researching tools and examples for this article, I have noticed that most Instagram followers related case studies are about getting 5-figure number of followers or becoming some sort of influencer on this visual social network.
So, why would anyone be interested in reading this, from us, with 1.2k followers?
Because we did it without using any promotions, without buying followers, without spamming others or asking for follow-backs. Instagram isn’t even our focus, just a little side project we have here at Point Visible. Just another place to share our ideas and get inspired for new marketing campaigns.
The humble beginnings
We started our Instagram in March 2017. At first, we posted content every few days or when we had time and inspiration or snapped a particularly great photo. The images we were posting were branded, contained some marketing and SEO tips, infographics we created, and snaps from our office life.
It was all casual, without any particular plan or strategy. Some days we’d publish several posts in a single day, and sometimes we’d go without posting anything for a whole week. As mentioned earlier, Instagram is not our focus so this neglection from our side was not really a problem back then.
We were posting all the content using the Instagram app on Android and taking photos with either our phones or a camera. The graphics were created and resized using Adobe tools. The custom-made graphics were mostly stock images with inspirational and marketing-related quotes and stats – something we kept for almost a year.
Back then, we didn’t use any additional tools to handle Instagram. The scheduling and automatic publishing of Instagram posts (it sounds like it was 10 years ago, not a year, but things change fast!) was still not possible. Tools like HootSuite and Buffer offered planning and scheduling, but you still had to log in to your Instagram account and publish the post manually.
Our captions were short, but we used emojis and relevant hashtags. As time went by and we got the hang of Instagram algorithm and hashtags, we started to use them strategically. This brought more engagement and our follower count started to grow.
The teenage years
As Point Visible grew, we spread our services and interests further and started to be more “serious” about Instagram. The social network has been growing and developing as well, with some good and some bad changes. We switched to a business account (something any business-related Instagram account should do) and started planning our content.
The posts have been more regular and we switched our focus to creating custom-made graphics rather than the photos we took with our phones. There were still a few snaps here and there, but we mostly posted stats, tips, and inspirational quotes for our fellow marketers.
In the autumn of 2017 is when we started using a few tools to help us improve our Instagram presence and automate scheduling and posting. We discovered a tool called Onlypult which allowed us to schedule and publish Instagram posts automatically. This was a revelation and brought so much change in the way we handle Instagram for both us and our clients.
I’ve talked about this tool before and have written a short review so I won’t be covering its options and benefits here. Onlypult allowed us to create and plan a strategy for our Instagram profile and bring some more life and meaning to it.
Over the past 8 months, we have been experimenting with different “themes” for our Instagram page. We started simple, continuing our ideas and themes from earlier days. We created custom-made graphics using stock images and recognizable elements (like the logo and the footer bar). These posts always had a bunch of related hashtags and quote written in the caption as well.
In December, we started playing a bit more with other Instagram options, like creating layouts and short videos. We created our first “campaign”, to put it that way, where we shared daily marketing tips in form of a short video as a part of Content Marketing Advent Calendar. We’ve also posted tips for the new year, which helped us create a nice layout and make our Instagram page look good, while also being useful to our followers.
Somewhere around the same time, we started using Onlypult, we also started using a tool called Combin as well. It’s designed to find and track relevant hashtags. The tool finds posts under the hashtags you specified and allows you to leave comments, follow the accounts or like posts. It can be automated or manual.
We have been using it daily for a few months and it helped with increasing our follower count as well. Since we are determined to make all our social media profiles look natural and like a real person is handling it all (which is true!), we didn’t use the automation part. All the commenting and liking was done manually which, in the end, proved to be too time-consuming for us to continue doing on a daily basis.
The New Year
As the new year started, we kept working on our Instagram profile with a focus on making our page look fantastic, while also being a great source of information. We have started focusing on creating posts according to pre-planned layout, which we changed over time.
The layout was always a combination of colors on images, one image with a quote or stat, and then another image with a stock photo, all done in our brand colors – grey, blue, yellow, and the always present white.
The captions used were always filled with related hashtags which we changed every few weeks as well, to see what works better. The text in posts was different and related to the image – an inspiring quote when there’s a stock graphic or an explanation for a stat. Some posts contained emojis as well. We were trying different things all the time and mixing it up.
We have been using Instagram Stories as well but not on a regular basis. Our office snaps moved to Stories from the profile page, but we also created a few short stories with marketing tips – using Adobe Spark tool. In 2018 we attended a few conferences and workshops which was perfect for the Stories feature and for creating a Highlights reel on our page.
One thing we noticed over this testing period is – hashtags matter, A LOT. For example, these 2 posts below were published 2 days apart:
PointVisible Marketing Agency (@pointvisible) on Mar 27, 2018 at 1:00am PDT
Worrying is like walking around with an #umbrella waiting for it to rain. #ContentMarketing #bloggeroutreach #linkbuilding #SEO #agencylife #oneteam #marketingagency #businessgrowth #scalability #creativity #digitaladvertising #smartmarketing #success #growthplan #contentmarketing #marketingstrategy #marketing #marketingtips #marketingstrategy #marketingsocial #business #businessowner #smallbusiness #entrepreneur #onlinemarketing #entrepreneurlifestyle #smallbiz #startupsA post shared by PointVisible Marketing Agency (@pointvisible) on Mar 25, 2018 at 4:00am PDT
Results? The one with more hashtags had much, much better engagement.
No matter how good looking is your layout and your color scheme – with posting 2 times per day, it’s easy to get fed up and lose creativity. After doing this for 4 months, we have decided to change it up completely and try something new – still with the same two things in mind – our Instagram page has to look great, and our content has to be useful.
That’s when the idea of Buzzwords happened. We combined the powers of Onlypult, Photoshop, and stock graphics to create simple custom made graphics with whimsical patterns and one word on each photo – a buzzword or important marketing term – which was then explained in the caption.
We researched the marketing articles and made a constantly growing list of important terms and buzzwords which we turn into these cool graphics. You might think this sounds vain, but we are basing this on comments from our followers and friends.
Almost every day we hear something like “Great stuff yesterday, I learned something new”- which honestly means more to us than 100 “great content,visit my profile” comments.
This is how we, a small digital marketing agency whose Instagram profile was just a fun side project, got to over 1,200 followers without using any promotions or buying likes and followers. Just plain and simple strategy – make it look nice (because it is Instagram after all!) and useful for marketers everywhere.
This is something we will continue doing in the future as well. For now, we are still creating new buzzwords and finding new cool patterns to use. We are working on some new ideas as well – primarily including videos in posts and getting more engaged on Instagram stories, showing off our cool office and our awesome team.
There will probably be new “themed” months and weeks (like Advent month we had) where we will focus on certain aspects of our work and help other marketers and anyone interested in marketing. Maybe in a few months, I’ll be writing an update on how we got 10.000 followers – who knows! One thing is clear, we enjoy using Instagram and will continue to do so.
Do you have any tips on how to get more followers without spending too much time or using paid promotion? Let us know – on Instagram 😉