Reach a Larger Instagram Following

Even if you’re posting awesome images, you need a strategy to get people to even see them and start following you. Here are some techniques to grow your followers list and show off your brand to more potential fans:

Include Hashtags to Widen Your Discoverability

Instagram feeds change fast, and your content can get buried quickly. Hashtags are the only way to increase the shelf-life of your Instagram posts. They lump your posts together into communities linked by a keyword, remaining discoverable forever.

Most posts include at least one hashtag (88%), but don’t go overboard on a single post. Engagement has been shown to go down on posts with more than 5 hashtags. Plus, it’s a cluttered look and risks coming off salesy.

So How Do you Hashtag?

(1) Brainstorm keywords and phrases relevant to your brand.

(2) Research popular and trending hashtags.

Use data analysis apps like Iconosquare to research popular, trending hashtags. For example, you can look up whether #womensfashion or #womensstyle has more searches. Then scan through people who use those tags to see if your image fits that community.

iconosquare hashtags

(3) Collect a mix of big-hit tags and more specific tags.

High popularity numbers aren’t necessarily the best. Tagging something generic like #fashion (which has been used 146 million times) means your image is still going to be lost in a sea of content. Getting more specific with something like #bohostyle or #vintagedresses will narrow down your community and keep you on top longer.

(4) Create your own hashtag.

Creating a unique hashtag lumps all your content into an easily searchable collection. Plus, users can then place your unique tag on their own photos.

KitKat uses the tag #haveabreak to incorporate their fan’s photos under a tag that praises their catch phrase. The nearly 12,000 posts are right on target!

(5) Select around five hashtags to complement your post.

A really clever way to include tags without the clutter is to post the tags in a comment after you’ve published the photo. This way the tags don’t overpower the message of your caption. (We’ll get to the perfect Insta-caption soon!)

hashtags in comments

IterateSocial includes the #hashtags further down in the comments, so they’re less distracting.

Here are two innovative case studies where brands created their own hashtags to spread their reach:

Case Study: MadeWell’s #flashtagram

Madewell coordinated a “flash mob” across fashion-forward Instagrammers’ feeds to get users thinking about denim in their everyday lives.

The company teamed with their 500 employees, notable fashion bloggers, and influencers like the editors of Marie Claire and Elle to launch the campaign.


The campaign invited everyone to post their favorite Madewell denim photos with the tags #denimmadewell and #flashtagram.

The results?

Lasting the course of only one day, Madewell’s campaign created 1,600 posts, earned 160,000 likes, and made 8.5 million total impressions. Madewell has an Instagram following of 151,000.

Case Study: Clif Bar’s #MeettheMoment

Clif Bar marketers wanted to establish themselves as a recognized outdoor enthusiast brand, so they used their Instagram to launch a campaign based on the visual appeal of the great outdoors.

In June 2014, Clif Bar launched the Meet the Moment campaign, inviting followers to tag their outdoor adventure photos with #meetthemoment. The company pledged to make a monthly donation of $1 for every tag they received to a pre-determined charity dedicated to conservation and the environment.

Bonus points: Clif Bar’s campaign connected with the heartstrings of their passionate followers by appealing to their interest in responsibility toward nature.

In June alone, the company raised $4,000 for the International Mountain Biking Association, all based on hashtags received from their followers.

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Invite Instagram Ambassadors to Share Your Brand

Create a team of ambassadors who spread the benefits of your brand to all their followers. Encourage your Instagram followers to post photos and reviews, and you’ll reach many more users.

78% of consumers make purchases influenced by a brand’s social media, so the more people sharing and praising your brand, the more opportunities you have to convince customers to buy.

social influence

Here’s how you can create ambassadors and spread your reach:

  • Come up with a hashtag
  • Encourage customers to share their photos and reviews
  • Reward those ambassadors by re-sharing their pics and giving them a shout-out
  • Case Study: Birchbox

    Birchbox delivers curated packages of beauty and health products right to customers’ doors. How have they created a team of Instagram ambassadors?

    They include a reminder to hashtag in their deliveries. As a result, Birchbox sees a spike in shared content and posts each month around their delivery date!

    birchbox instagram photos cyclic1 copy

    A search for the Birchbox hashtag brings up 288,893 posts on Instagram, while Birchbox has posted only 4,231 images to their own Instagram. That’s a lot of reach they get from ambassadors!

    Share Your Followers’ Tagged Photos on Your Own Profile

    Including your users’ content on your own feed promotes good feelings, which are then associated with your brand (65% of Instagrammers say they feel honored when a brand mentions them).

    Plus, followers will keep checking your feed to see themselves or their friends.

    Try apps like Regram for a speedy way to re-share a post and credit the creator. (Always credit the creator and even give a shout-out to their @IGname in the caption.)


    As a marketing bonus for you, this tagged content saves you tons of time, since it’s basically handing over awesome lifestyle photos with the tap of a screen!


    Urban Outfitters shared @chelseaclaire’s lifestyle picture (and tagged her in the caption, too).

    free people

    Free People includes Instagrammers’ tags to show off their voile and lace trapeze slip dresses in use by actual customers.

    These user-generated photos provide real-life lifestyle photos that will influence your customers’ buying decisions. So consider enhancing your site’s online shopping experience by incorporating these Instagram photos on your website