Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Part 3: Gaining Followers and Improving Your Engagement Rate

Instagram Tutorial For BusinessThis is the last of our 3-part Instagram tutorial. If you missed parts 1 and 2, here’s a quick recap:

Part 1: Instagram Lingo, Profile Creation and Optimization

Part 2: Basic Photography, Editing, and Sharing Tips for Beginners

Instagram is a great platform for visual marketing, and a good source of a highly-targeted leads. But that’s only if you use it correctly.

Since we already covered the basics of how to use Instagram for business, including profile creation and photo editing, this week is all about promoting what you post.

I’ll show you how to get more likes and followers, so you can build your authority and an engaged audience in the process.

Are You Posting at the Right Time?

The Golden Hour

In general, Hubspot’s data suggest posting anytime on Mondays and Thursdays, except 3 PM to 4PM. That applies to whatever time zone you’re in.

Not targeting a specific state? About 80% of the U.S. population are in Eastern and Central time, so you can reach both audiences by finding the middle ground of both time zones.

Unfortunately, there’s no perfect time to post on Instagram because it varies per business, location, and target audience. Take this advice with a grain of salt.

The only way to find the best schedule is to experiment posting on different days and times. Then review your engagement statistics to check which days, or times, get you the most likes and comments.

Post at Least Once a Day

After analyzing 5000 Instagram accounts, Quintly, a social analytics tool, revealed that the average user posts at least once a day. Accounts with more followers post an average of two to three pictures a day.

What does this tell you? Post consistently and post often, two to three times a day, if you can. That’s probably one of the easiest Instagram tips for beginners.

Short Instagram Tutorial for Getting More Followers

Well-known brands average 37 comments or likes for every one thousand followers they have, according to a report from Track Maven. In other words, smaller brands can expect 3.7 likes or comments for every 100 followers they have.

How do you get so many likes and comments?

Get more followers.

  1. Use Hashtags to Connect with Other ‘Grammers

Hashtags aren’t just used to amp your photo’s number of views. You can also use them to find your industry’s influencers and customers.

VSCO cam is a popular photo editing app, that’s why many photographers and enthusiasts use the hashtag #vsco.


If you’re in the business of photography, whether that’s selling cameras, accessories, or photography classes, you can get more followers by searching Instagram for this hashtag. Then like and leave insightful comments on photos that include it.

Other users will see your comments, and some of them might check your feed and follow you, especially if your comment got them curious or interested.

Use these tools to find popular hashtags:

  1. Try Shout-outs for Shout-outs

You might’ve seen ‘S4S’ on some Instagram comments. It means shout-out for shout-out, a give and take strategy where two users promote each other’s account to their own followers.

In the example below, @thedannorris gave a shout-out to @richbenny to promote him to his followers.


A proper shout-out isn’t just tagging the user’s handle, it should also include a screenshot of one of their Instagram uploads or comments.

S4S Instagram Tutorial:

To get started, look for Instagram accounts targeting the same audience you do. Type your target keywords or hashtags into Instagram’s search box, or search the web for related accounts. Put them on your ‘target list’ if a review of their feed reveals a previous S4S.

Make sure an s4s is mutually beneficial for both parties before commenting on a photo, or sending a private message.

  1. Take Advantage of User Generated Content (UGC) 

Using the hashtags #BufferCommunity and #BufferStories, Buffer gave their customers a way to show the world how they use the social media scheduling service.

How does this relate to getting more followers?

Buffer got a ton of posts, from digital nomads sharing travel pictures, to marketing tips from other social media experts. Of course, their users loved getting featured on the brand’s page. They get bragging rights and exposure so it works both ways.

Ikea Norway did this, too when they asked followers to share favorite products they found on Ikea’s catalog.

But this list of Instagram tips for business won’t be useful if it’s exclusive to big brands. So the question now is how can small businesses and relatively unknown brands leverage UGC?

Use a combination of contests and clear call to actions.

Ikea gave participants a chance to win free items in exchange for posting a photo and tagging them. Buffer encouraged users by including a call to action after each post saying, “Share your story using #BufferStories.”

Hold a contest for free items or discounts. Encourage users to tag you with pictures of how they used your products and services with a specific, branded hashtag. Your hashtag can be something as simple as #BrandNameStories, or #ILoveBrandname.

5 Step Instagram Tutorial for Getting More Likes

  1. Pick a Theme and Stick to it

Successful Instagram accounts have a theme, one that’s consistent through the pictures, videos, and captions they post. For example, there are accounts filled with artfully crafted lunch boxes, and accounts filled with dogs and cats.

Theme Lunchbox

Mind you, a little variety keeps your audience from getting bored, such as in the example above from @lunchboxdad. But consistency establishes your authority in a given subject, and lets other followers know what they can expect—and WHY they should follow you.

  1. Edit Your Images

Use a photo-editing app, besides the one on Instagram. VSCO cam and Snapseed are good options. Photoshop and other professional editing software work, too.

  1. Stay on Trend

Reactive storytelling is the strategy of jumping on trending hashtags and events to connect with your followers.

#Oreo is a master of this strategy, as proven by their #Halloween recipe posts with 13,400 likes.

Oreo Trends

Small businesses can capitalize on events and trending hashtags, too. Take for example @justjennrecipes who used #StarWarsDay to showcase some of her recipes.

Trending Hashtag

  1. Write Share-Worthy Captions

Yes, Instagram is a picture and video dominated platform. But captions shouldn’t be an afterthought. Writing informative and witty captions makes your brand memorable. It’s the fastest way to stand out from a sea of uploads, especially if you’re in a competitive market.

Tell a story, but leave a little to the imagination. Don’t state the obvious. If an image is easy enough to understand, don’t waste the caption by explaining it further. Use it to say something that let’s your audience see things from your point of view.

@Solarcity’s post is a good example of this.

Good Caption

  1. Ask Followers to Tag their Friends

Simply Measured’s report says posts that tag other users have a 37% higher engagement rate. If you post a picture of your product, you can also encourage followers to tag friends who might be in need of it.

Designer @jacvanek, maker of customized clothes, mugs, and accessories, uses this strategy to promote her products on Instagram.

Tag A Friend

 Basic Cross-Network Promotion

Tell your friends and followers on other networks that you’re also on Instagram. Share your username and profile link in your Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If your account is new, you can post a tweet or status update to announce it. Email your list and post it on your website, too. Better yet, put it in your email signature and include a logo linking to your profile at the bottom of your website.

Of course, your posts won’t be seen by everyone. So you should promote your Instagram using other networks and your blog from time to time. You can do this by using Instagram to post on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.

Sharing On Other Networks

Another way is to embed your own Instagram photos into related blog posts.

That’s it for our 3-part Instagram tutorial. I hope you learned how to use Instagram for business, so you can get leads and build your authority in this photo-sharing platform.

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