There are tactics, hacks, tools, last trends etc. to hack your way to an Instagram account of 1000+ followers. That's not what I'll share with you here, the web is already full enough of this.
I believe in something more meaningful. As I mentioned in my newsletter On Track, if you're aiming to have a big or small positive impact somewhere, you shouldn't communicate dumbly and focus on hacks.
Today, I would like to share with you the story of how I brought Warner Music's Topsify brand to the next level on Instagram. Basically from about nothing to 1000+ followers, 80 likes and 25 comments average per post in one month. Not only the tricks, but most importantly the mindset, the strategy. Hopefully you'll be able to apply this to spread the word on the net positive project you're working on!
First, the background
Topsify is a playlist brand of Warner Music Group, one of the three music majors of this world (the other two being Universal and Sony). As every project, Topsify should do 2 things well to exist: (1) do what it is that they do and do it very well (create great playlists people love) and (2) make sure that people interested know about what it is that they do.
Instagram was one of the ways to do this second part, the communication part. But the account was pretty outdated. My manager thus proposed me to take the lead on it and bring it to the next level. This is how I did it, and how you can too:
Fix your basis
Always keep your real objective in mind. Usually you either want the create awareness around your project, or you'd like to get people to visit your project website or landing page.
This means that at some point, you expect people to visit your Instagram profile. It should thus reflect the image you want it to reflect. In the case of Topsify, it should be seen as a "real brand", like professional, with light a fun content, music-related obviously.
Concretely, I changed the profile picture for the real, non-pixelised logo and removed the hashtags in the bio and made it short and clear. I created templates for posts (whatever visual tool is good: Canva, Figma, Photoshop...), that is I chose a font, created Spotify-like gradients and put the logo in small in the bottom right corner.
Basically, you want to make your profile clean and coherent before starting anything.
The strategy: "social" and "media"
There are two things that you should be doing in order to grow an Instagram account. Those two things are (1) social and (2) media.
Media, the obvisous one
It helps to publish content on Instagram in order to grow. What a punchline Captain Obvious.
In the case of Topsify, and in the case of starting up the engine of a social media account, if publishing interactive content is possible, it's of course best. That is either educational content bringing a lot of value everytime, or entertaining content driving reactions.
In my opinion, taking human psychology into account is always a good thing. For example, people love to give their opinion, to answer test-like questions, to show that they know. This is why posts like "how many squares do you see" drive so many comments.
What I did concretely was to list content ideas based both on the things I just mentioned and on the top artists promoted by Topsify. Some ideas on the list would be: recognize this artist based on baby picture, fill in the missing lyrics, what's the best track of this artist etc.
Social, the real game
Instagram is a social media. This seems obvious to many people. But the connection between knowledge and action is not as easy as it seems, and many act as it was just another traditional channel. Posting content and waiting for the magic to happen by itself. This is not the way to go on social media.
What makes the difference is the social part, the interaction, the votes for the best content that users do by liking, sharing, commenting. The real game doesn't happen on your profile. It happens in the comments of other accounts' content.
And before telling you what I did, let me share the real game changer.
Finding your key advantage
At the beginning of this article, I told you that the most important is not the tactic, the tricks, but rather the mindset. Here it is: you need to find and leverage your key differenciator. The thing that you can do communicating on your project that you won't be able able to do with another.
In the case of Topsify for example: many people are already fans of the artists that Topsify is promoting. Dozens of people would interact with the profile of artists seconds after something new is published. Even so on fan accounts.
This is a key advantage. There is no formula to find yours. You need to use what's between your two ears to find it. Many will think there isn't one. That's a good sign, it means that if you find it (there's always one) you'll be the only one in your field leveraging it.
But how do you leverage such an advantage? Again, you need to be both creative and strategic.
There is a feature on Instagram that allows you to get a notification everytime the account you choose publishes a new post. Top fans use this feature on their favorite artists' accounts cause they want to be first, first to see the post, first to comment it, first.
After publishing a new post on Topsify's account about e.g. Ed Sheeran, I would turn on notifications on Ed Sheeran's profile. Everytime I got a notification mentioning that e.g. Ed Sheeran published a new post, I headed into the comment section of the post where at least a dozen of top fans had commented.
I then spent a few minutes replying to all of these top fans, starting a conversation with each. When some checked my profile (i.e. Topsify's profile) they would see the last post exactly on Ed Sheeran. Many would comment it and follow the account. The day after, I would publish on Bruno Mars and do the same with Bruno Mars.
Instagram 0 to 1000 in a month
That's it. That's the "social" strategy in action and the main tactics I followed. Building a routine out of it, doing my other work and reacting to one or two notifications a day lead the account to grow from 0 to 1000 followers in a month.
I used other tactics that I can share with you if you like, but as said above, the real game is not in the tactics. It's in understanding the game, your key advantage, and leveraging it. If you can do that, you'll always strive whatever the platform.
Hope this help!
PS: After my internship in 2018 and apparently some follow/unfollow experiments, the account was left behind by Warner and is now inactive. Still available at @topsifybe though.
PPS: If I can brag for a second, Warner Music actually contacted me to know if I would want to intern in their marketing team. I wrote an article here to explain why this happened and how you can get this for the company you'd like to work at.
PPPS: This article was first shared in my newsletter On Track where I share my communication and marketing knowledge to change makers who want to make their net positive projects spread.
PPPPS: Okay, just kidding 😅