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This article was published on January 13, 2014

How to turn your Instagram fans into brand advocates

How to turn your Instagram fans into brand advocates

Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant, a freelance writer and a social media enthusiast. This post originally appeared on the SumAll blog.

According to Instagram, its growth is continuing to skyrocket with 50 million sign ups in the last six months leading them to 150 million users total. The app’s growth presents an ongoing opportunity for both B2B and B2C businesses looking to increase visibility among existing and potential customers.

However, with the popularity of Instagram rising every month, it is becoming more difficult to get your voice heard amongst the chatter of other users and businesses on the mobile app.

Therefore, it’s important to not only increase the quantity of the quality content your official business account is publishing and further empower existing Instagram followers to continue to post about your company, but also to engage your organization with advocates on Instagram.

Advocates are some of your most passionate fans on a channel that are excited about your brand and have already shared content and praise about your business. Building a relationship with these advocates that have an influence on a channel like Instagram will help naturally increase your visibility on the network because they genuinely love what you do.

Don’t confuse influencers with advocates, since influencers are often relationships where a well followed user is paid to share content about business, but it doesn’t often come across as organic since there wasn’t necessarily and existing interest in the business from the start.

Here’s how to find and leverage your advocates on Instagram:

1. Search hashtags and brand mentions

Visit the explore tab on Instagram and search hashtags related to your brand name and service offerings for the users posting the best quality photos and videos about your company.

For instance, Coca-Cola would search for brand mentions like coke or coca cola and hashtags like #cocacola, #coke etc. By searching these mentions of their brand on Instagram, they’ll be able to find all the tagged photos and videos of Coca-Cola on the social network.

Look for the users that shared content about your business the most, have the best quality content and a loyal following on the network. The amount of followers is important, look for accounts with 2,000 followers and above. This isn’t the only factor of importance, but a crucial part of the equation.

The most important thing to look for is users that genuinely care about the business and its offerings that seem to have a passion for what you do.

2. Reach out to existing advocates, build a relationship

Look through existing photos of your brand on Instagram to search through the users posting about your company. Find the users that are most passionate about your business and analyze if they’ve posted about your businesses consistently or if this was just a one off photo or video.

Once you’ve identified a user that posts about your brand more than once, check to see if they’ve got a following of 2,000 followers and above. If so, it’s time to reach out to them to start build a rapport off of their existing interest in your business.

Leave a comment on one of the advocate’s photos from the business account and ask them to use INSTADM or DM.STAGRAM in order for you to message the individual privately.

You can also tell them to email you by leaving an email address in the comments or tell them to send you a DM on Twitter by leaving your handle in the comment. Both InstaDM and DM.stagram require that the user authorize the apps to access their Instagram account.

When you send a message to an advocate for the first time say hello and introduce your team, as well as why you decided to reach out to them on behalf of the business in the first place. Be sure to quickly thank them for their continued interest in the brand and that you’d love nothing more than to continue this relationship for the future.

Offer to send them some of your products or a promotional code for your services as additional act of good faith and to truly excite them about your initial correspondence with one another.

3. Construct an organic campaign with advocates

Pictures appear on the smartphone photo

Build a rapport with the advocates you’ve reached out to and begin to construct a campaign with them that involves them and their use of Instagram with your business. These campaigns can be created for the purposes of working with the advocate or could possibly tie into another larger initiative at the company.

Every campaign should look to achieve three goals:

  • Share photos that give unique insights into your brand, more firmly positioning your business with your values, interests and the advocate
  • Engagement on the shared photos in the form of likes and comments from the advocates following, your following on the app and the greater Instagram community as a whole
  • Increased visibility of your brand on the network through more followers, more hashtagged photos of your business and a stronger perception of the company with its relationship with the advocate or advocates on Instagram

Give them the ability to add their own input on how they could contribute to best to make the campaign as effective as possible.

Some Instagram advocate campaigns that have been successful in the past to model your strategy around are the Mercedes-Benz’s Take The Wheel promotion,’s use of Prominent Instagram Photographers or General Electric’s Instagrapher crowd sourced campaign.

4. Measure results and pivot future efforts

After the completion of each campaign with an advocate, it’s important to measure the success of your work together to see if it impacted your presence on Instagram.

Yes, an increase in followers is important but not the golden metric of success. The amount of likes and comments on the individual photos shared throughout the initiative are certainly a telling sign, but deeper and more important than those indicators of success are an increase in overall visibility and an increase in hastagged content related to the business.

User generated content is the best result of an advocate campaign because your efforts helped spur other Instagram users to share content about your business with their followers, furthering the reach of your content across the app. Monitor the rise and fall of user generated content to better understand what type of activities influence more content creation overtime.

Let these metrics inform your work with a particular advocate or with other advocates in the future to ensure each campaign helps your business reach its goals and doesn’t repeat past mistakes.

What do you think? How is your business going to build long-term relationships with Instagram advocates? Share your thoughts in the comments below!