Instagram has quickly gone from a trendy photo-sharing app to one of the best marketing channels for eCommerce businesses. At the end of 2014, Instagram announced that it reached 300 million active monthly users and you can bet that number has only grown as we come closer to 2015.

Instagram’s focus is on the sharing of photo and video content which makes it the perfect place for your online business to showcase its products and services.

Additionally, Instagram boasts higher engagement rates as compared to other social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

Instagram versus Facebook and Twitter

Why Instagram Boasts High Engagement Rates

Visuals, in general, lead to higher engagement rates. Twitter users who add a photo to a tweet received an increase of 35% in bump in retweets; adding a video increased retweets by 28%. Facebook photo posts gather 53% more likes than the average post.

Chart showing Twitter engagement rates by Tweet type

However, there are other reasons why Instagram specifically has better engagement rates as compared to other social networks which are as follows:

  • Instagram has no sharing algorithm, (unlike parent company Facebook), which means a brand’s Instagram followers potentially will see every post from the any accounts they follow.
  • The number of posts that are made per day is lower on Instagram as compared to Twitter which makes it easier for your photos to be seen. With less competition for screen time, the opportunity to be seen increases.

If you’ve made it this far, it should be pretty clear that Instagram should be a social network that you seriously consider investing in for your eCommerce business (assuming it’s demographics align with your target market).

How to Get Followers on Instagram

Before you start building a following on Instagram, it’s important to take some time to understand your target market. What’s the point of getting followers if they have no interest in what you’re offering?

The type of people that use Instagram

Instagram demographics: As you can see, Instagram is fairly gender balanced as the percentage of men on Instagram is nearly the same as the percentage of women using the social network. Instagram is also popular among people from wealthy households with over a quarter of people on Instagram coming from households that make over $75,000 making Instagram a particularly attractive marketing platform for premium brands.

Customer data: Go through all your purchase data. At a bare minimum, you should be able to get an idea of your male/female percentages. If you can connect this data to other important data such as age, income, etc., then that’s even better.

Ask: Run a contest or giveaway offering something of value for a survey completion. This works best if you have an email list that you can tap that you can direct to a landing page for the giveaway.

Now that you have an idea of your target market, it’s time to start building a following by finding the right people and connecting with them.

See Who’s Following the Competition

Your competition has done the hard word for you which you can use to your advantage. There’s a high likelihood that your target audience is already engaging with and following your competitors.

These followers have shown some type of interest in what you have to offer by following your competition. All you need to do is figure out a way to get these people to follow you. With them all in one place and by knowing your target market, this is easy work.

Just head over to Gramfeed and do a username search, inputting the Instagram name of your competition.

gramfeed search Instagram find competitor followers

You’ll be shown the the number of photos the account has posted as well as who they’re follow and who their followers are. Click on the “Followers” button to get a list of people following your competition and find people that are your ideal clients.

Gramfeed Instagram followers


You should narrow the list to people who are active, engaging, and match your ideal customer profile. Once you’ve compiled a list of users who match the criteria, it’s time to interact with them.

After you follow each user, go through their posts and join in the conversation by liking and making relevant comments on their posts. While this method may be time consuming, you’ll find that the more work you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.


Hashtags can help you build a following on Instagram in the following ways:

  • Find and and interact with people using hashtags that are relevant to your business. For example, if you sell cat toys, you’ll find to find people using hashtags like #caturday, #catsofinstagram, #petfashion, etc. As mentioned above, you’ll then want to follow and then like or comment on several posts to get these people to follow you.
  •  The other way hashtags help you with increasing your following is they help with getting your content discovered by people who are searching for keywords and phrases associated with your business. Making use of hashtags that are relevant to your brand helps increase your reach by putting your Instagram posts in front of your target market. searching for keywords and phrases associated with your business.

A few things to take into account when using hashtags on Instagram to get your account noticed.

Make sure your content and the hashtags you use are related. You can certainly use the most popular hashtags with your posts, but if you want to see success it’s important that the hashtags you use are relevant to what you’re posting.

Don’t spam hashtags. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags and while it appears that there isn’t a saturation point, you should consider limiting the number of hashtags you use. Using too many hashtags means you’re casting your net too wide and even worse, it might make your brand look spammy.

Don’t make the caption too short. It doesn’t appear that caption length itself impacts engagement rates as seen in the chart below, however a short caption followed by the use of multiple hashtags can again make your brand look spammy.

Instagram Caption Length Engagement

As an example of how to properly use hashtags, let’s take a look at GNC’s Instagram account.

Go through any of their photos and you’ll notice that when they make use of hashtags that they are aimed at making GNC appear as a lifestyle brand. For example, on National Running Day, it shared a follower’s photo, tagging it with #NationalRunningDay, #running, and #fitfam.

GNC Instagram National Running Day

By sharing a follower’s photo, GNC was able to personally connect with the user; making use of relevant hashtags allowed GNC to get additional exposure for the brand.

Taking the time to build relationships with your ideal target customer will allow you to see real results in terms of increased brand awareness, traffic and sales. With Instagram proving itself as a terrific marketing channel for eCommerce due to its visual nature and ability to generate high engagement, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take the time to build up your following.