Yes, it's possible
As a digital marketing agency in Tokyo generating tangible ROI, we rarely suggest that brands solely seek out follower growth on Instagram. Mentioned in Japan Social Media Best Practices, there are far more efficient ways for companies to generate results than amassing an audience. Whether it's a B2C ecommerce brand or a B2B firm looking to generate leads, it's rarely the case that more followers alone will lead to an increase in profits.
Though more followers is rarely the answer, there are one-off occasions in social media management scenarios where it makes sense in the short term. Whether you're gunning for that coveted 10,000 follower cut off for story swipe ups or otherwise just need a bit more social proof, this guide will show you how to grow on the Gram. Just be sure to remember that unless your business model depends on having bigger numbers (e.g. media company, influencer, etc.), there's likely more cost effective ways to turn a profit on Instagram.
Let's start with How I Used Instagram Ads to Acquire 100,000 Followers something that many people who have run ads before on the Facebook advertising network fail to realize - there's actually no objective in the Ad Manager platform for "more followers". In fact, none of the campaign objectives align directly with growing an Instagram account.
While you potentially could do something like adding the URL for your profile to a traffic campaign, this just isn't ideal. The reason why is simple; when someone clicks on the link in Instagram, your profile gets opened up in the in-app browser and often-times people need to log in again.
Start with Instagram's Promote Button
Luckily, there is actually a way to send people directly to your Instagram account. Enter the in-app Promote button. This feature is basically a dumbed-down version of running an ad and can be compared to Facebook's Boost Post function. In both cases, these advertising options just end up creating an ad in Ads Manager, and are designed to help not-so-savvy marketers make their first forays into placing ads.
Normally, we'd never suggest that someone looking to make a sale use the Promote button but it's the only way to get the "Vast Instagram Profile" call to action.
One thing about the Promote button is that you actually have to use it on something that is either a normal post or a story. Unlike with so-called "dark post" ads in Ad Manager, the creative for the Promote button ad must first be publicly posted on your profile somewhere.
This is something to keep in mind as the way that you'd write a copy for an existing follower base and those who do not yet know of your brand are likely quite different. Since your existing audience will see the content, it's best to try to strike a happy medium to not sound off brand.
Give Budget vs Campaign Objective a Try
Alas, growing on Instagram is not easy as just hitting the Promote button on every single piece of content that you post. You see, as we've alluded into the subtitle above, the Promote button works a little bit like a black box. Depending on how much you invest in a single post, Ad Manager will make an ad on the back end with a specific campaign objective. From iterative testing with his own content, our resident growth hacker Donny Kimball came up with the following breakpoints. Note that these are not the actual "official numbers" as none of that is public.
Below 1,500 Yen
This creates an engagement objective campaign only. While it gets plenty of likes on the post used, the ad rarely generates any followers.
1,500 - 3,000 Yen
Oddly, this price range creates two ad sets that are optimized for both link clicks and engagement. Very weird...
Over 3,000 Yen
This is what we want. Around this breakpoint, we finally get the traffic campaign objective that we want.
Why Ad Manager behaves like this is anyone's guess. Our digital agency in Tokyo thinks it might be because the algorithm can't optimize that well on a lower budget and therefore instead defaults to engagement. Since none of us can consult Zuckerberg on why this is the case, the important thing to remember is that you never want to use the Promote button without investing enough overall budget to get the correct objective. Otherwise, you're just paying for engagement and we all know that likes don't pay the bills.
Set Your Starting Budget and "Go"
One thing we can learn from the above price points is that we need to invest heavily in any post to get the right objective. At the same time, we also need to be wary of the fact that not all creatives perform the best.
In light of this, the best strategy for quickly growing a following on Instagram becomes apparent. With each and every organic post, you're going to want to throw a fair bit of budget behind it to get the traffic objective from the Promote button. Then, you'll want to monitor and see how it's doing. If you're not happy with the price per follower, simply turn the ad off and repeat on the next post.
For clients which we deem could use a few more followers, what we'll often do is look too throw as much as 10,000 yen behind every one of their organic posts. Then, if the price per follower isn't up to snuff by the time we reach 1,000 yen spent, we'll cut the campaign as to not waste any more ad budget on underperforming creative. Though a bit of a pain in the posterior, this approach allows for quick but efficient account growth. When done right, you can easily see as many as 100 new followers per day.
To recap, it's almost never a good idea to invest money into directly acquiring more followers on Instagram. Instead, by running campaigns for conversions, you can more efficiently get sales without needing to amass a large audience. You can read more about this and other Facebook strategies at our Top Digital Marketing Agency Blog. Nevertheless, there are a few corner cases where it makes sense to go after more followers. In these instances, you want to leverage the "Visit Instagram Profile" CTA that is only available via the Promote button. Just be sure to set a big budget at first. While you can drip the spend later inn Ad Manager, doing so is the only way to get the proper campaign objective.