To Be Successful on Instagram, You Need Two Things

Instagram is one of the largest and fastest-growing social media platforms on the planet, with endless opportunity to build your brand, develop relationships with consumers, gain exposure and make sales. As communications professionals, it is so important that we understand the platform and know how to navigate it to make the most out of this social media powerhouse.

We’ll cover three main sections:

  1. The algorithm: What’s happening with Instagram’s organic reach and why you may have noticed this decreasing recently.
  2. Followers: The question on everyone’s mind is always, “How do I get more followers?” We’ll cover ways to get that follower count up.
  3. Engagement: How to increase engagement on your posts and stories and more importantly, how you can translate this engagement into sales for your business.

The Algorithm

  • With 500 million daily active users (from 200 million just a few months ago), Instagram is one of the largest and fastest growing social media platforms in the world, second only to Facebook.
  • It’s also a very engaged platform, with a third of those users checking it multiple times a day, and spending 20 – 60 minutes on it at a time.
  • Stories have been a game-changer. In addition to the 250 million Stories users, more than 50% of brands were using Stories within a month – it’s safe to say everyone is on it.
  • 80% of users are following businesses on Instagram – this is great news for brands.
  • It’s growing fast globally, but specifically in South Africa with 8,5% growth rate from 2017.

“So, then, why am I seeing declining organic reach on my profile?” you might be asking.

Organic reach (the number of people you can reach for free – without boosting or sponsoring your content) on Facebook has declined too. You can now expect only 2 – 10% of your audience to see your organic posts on both Instagram and Facebook. This has resulted in countless brands scratching their heads wondering where they went wrong. There are a few reasons for this:

  • More content: As we all know, Instagram is growing quickly, so there’s more pictures, videos, Stories and gifs for audiences to scroll through than ever before. Competition is heating up, both from a personal and business perspective.
  • Not chronological: Feeds are not chronological anymore and instead, users are shown what they’re most likely to engage with first. This means brands can’t rely on posting at the right time of day anymore – they have to create compelling, engaging and quality content.
  • 10% Rule: As soon as you publish a new post, Instagram will only show this to 10% of your followers first. It does this to gauge the quality of your post – the more interactions it gets within the first hour, the more likely it is to then be shown to the other 90%.
  • Instagram has adopted Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm.

Under The Hood of the Instagram Algorithm

There are hundreds of different factors impacting your position on the Instagram feed. But there are seven that are widely recognised as what impacts it the most:

  • Engagement: The algorithm favours likes, comments, shares, views of videos, live videos and stories, and saved posts as engagement and ranks your content accordingly. Not all engagement is created equal though: the more words in a comment thee better, and obviously, a comment trumps a like and a like trumps a view.
  • Direct shares: Users can now share directly from Instagram, which Instagram counts as high-quality engagement.
  • Relationships: Instagram calls this the “best friends feature” – it wants to show you your “best friend’s” content first; so users that you are most likely to know in real life, engage with each other’s content and direct message on the platform.
  • Relevance: How relevant a post is to a user can be determined by content type that they usually engage with, hashtags they use and follow or location.
  • Time: The time of day you post isn’t as important as the feed isn’t chronological anymore, but recency is still important. You need to be posting consistently throughout the week.
  • Searches: The algorithm recognises people who are regularly searching for your business page or branded hashtag.
  • Time spent on post: In addition to engagement, Instagram is also measuring how long a user is spending absorbing the content of your post. Achieve this by using the multiple posts feature (more than one photo or video per post), long and engaging captions (that also get users to share engaging comments).

To be Successful on Instagram, You Need Two Things:

1. The First is Followers.

Of course, you can’t have engagement if you don’t already have a following. So for increasing engagement, have a substantial number of followers is crucial. But with Instagram’s shift to placing importance on high-quality engagement rather than profile-growth, you will need the second thing too:

2. The Second is Engagement.

Once you have the followers, you need to put them to work. Building relationships and engagement should be your top priority.

How Do I Get More Followers?

One of the most commonly asked questions about social media is about growing one’s follower count. You can have the most incredibly engaging content, but if no one is seeing it, there is just no point. The tactics you use will depend on the number of followers you’re aiming to gain. Getting your first thousand followers requires a completely different strategy to growing from 50 000 – 10 000. As a middle-ground, here are some tips for getting to your first 5k or 10k mark:

Tactic #1: Offer REAL value for your audience.

Like any other social media platform, Instagram requires a content strategy. Putting out content daily with no idea what your audience wants or needs is a futile attempt at social media marketing. Once you can understand this about the people that will be seeing your content, you can craft your posts to offer what they need, fix their problem and, most importantly, offer them REAL value. There are two opportunities to do this – in the post which can be a picture, video, GIF or Boomerang but should always be aesthetically pleasing – and in the caption which should be interesting and informative. For example, a company that creates spices could post delicious-looking dish with the recipe in the caption. Audiences will find real value in both looking at the post and reading the caption. It’s simple: the most value you provide, the more followers and engagement you’ll gain.

Tactic #2: Partner with influencers, micro-influencers or other strategic partners.

Another tactic to rapidly increase your followers is to partner with someone who has the same audience as you and a lot more influence. Gone are the days where celebrity endorsements would put you back thousands – today, micro-influencers can be as or more impactful. Approach someone who is operating in the same space as you and decide on how a partnership can be mutually beneficial to both parties. Often offering micro-influencers products, discounts or coupon codes for a feature is well-appreciated and can save you money. The key here is value – both brand and influencer have to be providing value to each others’ audiences for a successful influencer strategy to work.

Tactic #3: Promote outside of Instagram.

Promoting your Instagram handle and page on other platforms is one of the most effective but under-utilised tactics. You might already have an email marketing system and you almost certainly have a website and business Facebook page. Use these platforms and more to tell your audiences about your Instagram page. On your website, your header and footer should have your social buttons, your handle should be in your email signature and Twitter bio, and even offline, you could put a “follow us” sign with your handle up in a window that people will pass by and see.

This is one of the most successful methods of gaining followers.

How Do I Get More Engagement?

Engagement is the critical part of your social media marketing success. A big following is meaningless if it is low-quality followers who would never convert. Conversely, engagement is nothing without a substantial follower base. Here are some of our top tips for driving engagement:

Tactic #1: Post content that sparks conversation.

  • Authenticity: As a business profile on Instagram, you can easily see your engagement rates in the Analytics tab. What more and more businesses are discovering is that the posts that do best in terms of engagement are the pictures and videos of people – audiences love the authenticity of behind-the-scenes and candid shots. It might be tempting to post a picture of your product every day but that’s not what consumers are going to enjoy, share and comment on.
  • Not all engagement is created equal: You need to be alert; you or your team should be on Instagram as consistently as possible. Instagram is more likely to rank your profile as highly engaged (which will result in your profile being shown on the Explore feed and increasing your reach) if you are liking and replying to comments within 30 minutes, having conversations in DM constantly (reach out to potential partners and micro-influencers here) and increasing “time on post.” To do this, think about telling a story in your caption, be authentic, and ask questions that can spark conversation and long, engaging comments.

Tactic #2: Hashtags are back.

Although hotly contested in the social media marketing world, hashtags are, in fact, incredibly effective. Use them in your post captions, Stories and comments for maximum exposure, as long as they fit authenticly. Instagram users can now also follow hashtags, so choose yours wisely, and post consistently so that followers of your hashtags are seeing a constant flow of content on their feeds and associate this topic with you.

Top tip: To avoid looking spammy with hashtags in your Stories, you can make the text colour the same colour as your background, minimize them and put them on top of each other in a corner of your Story – they’ll be invisible and your Story will still show up when someone searches for one of those hashtags.

Be cautious of Instagram’s shadow-banning rule, though. In an attempt to minimize the number of spammy hashtags, Instagram is blocking users that use the same 30 hashtags for every post – so no more copy-and-pasting into every one of your post’s first comments, they have to be relevant. In order to build consistency, we’d recommend choosing 5 – 10 branded hashtags that you want to be associated with and 10 – 15 that will change to be relevant to each post.

Tactic #3: Engage with others (you, not your bot).

A successful Instagram page would be a high number of followers, high engagement and high conversion. To build this takes time and effort and as with anything in life, there’s no shortcut to success. Bots are great for a specific reason: if you’re on 9 500 followers and can’t wait to get to 10k to have access to the swipe-up feature, then a bot could help you get there quicker. But you shouldn’t solely rely on your bot for gaining all of your followers and engagement. To be successful on Instagram involves time spent DMing relevant people, crafting posts and captions, commenting on industry-related posts, replying to all of your comments, creating a posting schedule, and using Instagram Stories effectively. In addition, Instagram is clamping down on accounts that post the same comments on multiple posts and that follow and unfollow many accounts in a short space of time – so in all likelihood using a bot could be detrimental to your account or even get you banned from the platform.

Tactic #4: Use Instagram Stories.

One of the most-loved features of the platform, Instagram Stories can help you drastically improve your engagement. First off, they are engaging in nature – pictures and videos taken and shared in the moment portrays authenticity and the fact that the ephemeral content disappears after 24 hours creates a sense of urgency. With Stories, you can show your audience behind-the-scenes footage from the office to a product-launch event,  you can get feedback and build relationships, and you can treat it as another sales funnel, leading your customers to your page, website or checkout.

Top Tip: Videos beat photos, the inclusion of GIFs, mentions and hashtags is better than without, adding your geolocation is a bonus, and using the polls feature in your Stories is incredible for boosting engagement too. 

Most importantly, the success of Instagram for business needs to be monitored. Meltwater’s online media intelligence software monitors over 350 million social sources, including Instagram. Harnessing media intelligence can help determine which posts or Stories generated the most active audience engagement and whether it was positive or negative feedback – giving marketers the insights necessary to inform and refine their social media strategy. Get in touch to learn more.

Tips From the Top: India’s Best Marketing Campaigns

The tell-tale sign of an effective campaign is one that still resonates with us no matter how many years ago they ran. Not only will their catchy slogans or iconic logos be preserved for years to come, but their impact on our collective identity as a nation continues to be profound.

Great marketing campaigns make customers feel like they’re part of a family, not just another sale. Although big budget campaigns stemming from the USA and Britain have traditionally been more popular worldwide (think Nike’s Just Do It and Coca-Cola’s Open Happiness), social media has evened the playing field and there are now a growing number of Indian campaigns reaching international audiences.

Here – in no particular order – are some of the country’s best marketing campaigns (and what you can learn from them).

CEAT Tyres

The “best car and bike tyres manufacturer in India” can also produce some of the best marketing campaigns.

In their marketing campaign, #ItHelps, CEAT illustrates that their tyres are the best to have in case of an unexpected occurrence, while raising awareness about road safety in India. In the TVC, a jaywalker spontaneously runs across the street, causing a motorcyclist to screech to a halt, resulting in a series of ripple effects that essentially put everyone out.

What made their #ItHelps campaign so effective is that they tapped into a common issue that Indians throughout the country are affected by; that of the daily traffic struggle. Not only can the traffic situation in Indian cities be a nightmare, but the constant thread of cheeky and oblivious jaywalkers affects everyone too. The campaign captures the minute nuances of the daily traffic struggles of an average commuter and refers to the CEAT user as the good Samaritan.

Top Tip: Explore messages that are common to your country or city, that then can be related to your product (i.e. tyres to road safety in India). The #ItHelps campaign is shot on high-definition with high-quality equipment and uses freeze-frame features – this was no cheap project. If you have the budget, look into getting a talented agency on board and creating a high quality and high-value campaign. If you’re anything like CEAT, it’ll be worth it.


Brooke Bond Red Label

No list of the top marketing campaigns in India without a mention of Brooke Bond Red Label, the tea manufacturing giant that focuses on social issues, including transgender rights and religious conflict.

Their latest campaign, under the Swaad Apnepan Ka and T for Togetherness campaign, “Forgotten,” is about a woman who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. The TVC, by Ogilvy and Mather Mumbai captures the loneliness that a number of elderly members of society are forced to live with, and touches all the right notes.



The video Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg called one of the most powerful she’d ever seen, BBDO’s #ShareTheLoad campaign for Ariel Matic encourages men to do their fair share of housework.

The video story is told from the perspective of a father who watches his career-minded daughter come home from work and clean up for her husband. He then composes a letter to his daughter, in which he laments the fact that his own behaviour has contributed to her situation and vows to change it by helping out at home.

Top Tip: Ariel asked a simple question – “Why can’t the man do the washing?” This drew attention to the powerful global truth that there should be no difference between what is considered “men’s work” and “women’s work” and that it certainly isn’t the defining feature of what makes a good husband or wife. The objective was to launch Ariel Matic, a new premium detergent in the Indian Subcontinent, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but the message went much further – going viral in 22 countries in 16 languages. Ariel used the content as far afield as Germany, Portugal and Spain. From this, we can take the lesson that sometimes simply questioning the status quo can go a long way to changing it.

Bajaj Avenger

Bajaj Avengers, producers of the nation’s trendiest and most beautifully-designed motorcycles, created an advertisement for India’s Independence Day that went down as one of the greatest marketing campaigns in the country: #RideYourIndependance.

The commercial depicts a young woman, riding her Bajaj Avenger through the city; doing, listening to, wearing and going where she wants. Travelling alone with the wind in her hair, the air of freedom in the ad is almost tangible. Ending with Mahatma Gandhi’s quote rounds it all off, “The day women can walk freely on the roads at night, is the day we can say that India has achieved independence.”

Top Tip: There are so many different ways to portray and to celebrate the independence anniversary of a country. Bajaj Avenger decides to focus on the importance of empowering women in society and communicates their belief that only once women in India (or any country) are free, equal and independent, the country is. This is how to tell a story and connect with an audience. As a by-product, more Avengers are sold.

If you’re looking to make changes to your marketing strategy, then ensure you’re equipped with the social media monitoring tools necessary to measure whether you’ve hit the mark, or need to go back to the drawing board. For more information on how to better measure your return on marketing investment, get in touch with the Meltwater India team.

How to Spot Fake Influencers on Social Media

With an estimated worth of 1, 5 billion USD, the Influencer Marketing industry is not going anywhere anytime soon. However, as with any big trend, there are people who will want to exploit it. ‘Fake influencers,’ where so-called influencers artificially increase their followers and engagement to seem more influential, has recently become a popular phenomenon.

Can We Differentiate Between True and False Influencers?

By fake influencers, we mean the accounts that use bots or money to artificially boost their followings and engagement on their social media accounts: this can refer to bots that interact with other bots or real people that buy followers, likes, comments, views and saves.

These accounts look attractive and appealing to brands and other users but, in fact, do not end up genuinely influencing many people.

Influencer marketing agency, Mediakix, decided to test the system by creating two fake profiles themselves. The goal of the experiment was to show how easy it is to create a fake influencer account, and to prove that it’s possible for fake accounts to secure paid brand deals through influencer marketing platforms. They paid $300 and $800 on engagement and followers (30k and 50k respectively) and populated both accounts with free stock imagery. Within a few weeks, brands had offered the bogus Instagram influencers a combination of free products and money that totalled more than $500.

The main social media platforms have been putting in big efforts to stop the use of bots and the recent surge of false influencers; particularly Instagram’s new algorithm updates. But according to a recent North Group Points study, big brands like Ritz-Carlton, Pampers and Magnum have been fooled – they’ve all invested heavily in campaigns involving artificial influencers.

Fortunately, it is possible to differentiate between true and false accounts.

Here are our 6 steps to spot fake influencers on social media:

1. A Verified Profile

The verified tick on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is the first and probably best sign that you’re not dealing with a fake influencer. Its advantage is that you know for certain you aren’t going to be fooled – this person really does have great influence; social media channels wouldn’t have issued it otherwise.

The downside is that they’re only issued to celebrities, big brands and major influencers. So if you’re working with ordinary or micro-influecners, which is more common, you’ll need more criteria to assess the authenticity of their influence.

Note: Verified ticks are always the same size, same colour and in the same place, regardless of the theme or layout of an account.

emma watson - verified tick - meltwater blogActress and activist Emma Watson’s verified Instagram profile

2. Community Growth Tracking

The quickest way to make it look like you have efficient engagement is to have a substantial following. A following is what brands look at when choosing who to work with, and it can often mean decent engagement.

But a following can be bought – quickly, easily and inexpensively.

And, more worryingly, since social media platforms cracked down on bots, it’s now actual people doing the fraudulent following.

Click farms, or “the social media sweat shop,” pay thousands of people to generate clicks, likes and views, engagement pods enable groups of people to like and comment on a photo as it’s posted to mimic real engagement and plenty more, are all ways to generate fake engagement and fake followers.

The good news is there’s a solution. By tracking the growth of an account, you can get a better idea on the authenticity of it. It’s likely that accounts with a spike in their following overnight have purchased their followers, and the same goes for whether post likes or comments double in quantity. Another way is to examine the followers of the account – if there’s a lot of dormant accounts with no profile pictures, followers or posts, they’re likely fake profiles.

3. The Engagement Rate

Another way to identify fake influencers is to examine their engagement rate. This is the proportion of their likes, comments and shares with their following.

An influencer with thousands of followers but only a few likes on each post is likely to have inflated their following artificially.

Similarly, accounts with an unusually high number of likes compared to their following could be a sign of an influencer having bought their likes.

According to the Instagram Marketing Hub, the average Instagram engagement rate is between 1 and 5%. So, if an account has 1 000 followers, you can expect around 10 – 50 likes.

4. Check the Comments

Another tell-tale sign of a fake following is the quality of the comments. Simply scroll through your influencer’s comments section – if it’s littered with the generic comments such as “Love it,” “Awesome” or thumbs-up emojis, bots have been commenting. This is nowhere close to genuine engagement.

Alternatively, if an influencer’s comments include friends tagging each other, conversations, or notes on the content of the actual post, it’s a sign that this influencer has an authentic and engaged community of followers.

5. Real Reach

If an influencer is purchasing followers or using bots, their content is never going to reach a substantial audience, or a real one. Using an influencer marketing platform can help to detect how many people are likely to see each post by calculating the actual reach of an influencer.

Santoshi Shetty - India Influencer

An example of local influencer Santoshi Shetty’s engagement rates on the Meltwater Social Influencer platform

6. Networks and Interactions

If an account interacts with other influential social media accounts or is mentioned in pictures of other influencers, then they are a real person, with real influence.

The world of true influence is niche, especially in a specific location or industry. True influencers are part of common networks – they interact with each other, go to the same events, comment on each other’s posts and are tagged in posts together.

For a successful influencer marketing strategy, influencer targeting is key.

It is better to contact a few qualified influencers than to target several hundred seemingly influential accounts. This will save you from working with fake influencers, your time, effort and money. In addition, your relationships with the real influencers will be enhanced and maximised.