6 helpful tips for increasing followers and sales on Instagram

You want to find and reach more customers via Instagram. You have created a profile and posted several messages, but you do not get many replies or new followers. Are you interested in how other entrepreneur get thousands of followers and interactions or sell their products via Instagram? Find inspiration in their stories. Or get started yourself with six tips by Instagram expert Kirsten Jassies.

Before you start using Instagram, you should find out if it is the right social media channel for your business goals. You can do that by thinking of where your potential customers are most active. Instagram has more than 8.5 million users (in Dutch) in the Netherlands. Most of them are 15-to-40 year-olds who love beautiful photos, interactive stories, and reels. According to social media expert Kirsten Jassies, the app is so popular because of its personal nature. “With stories, selfies and videos, you can show yourself and the employees behind your product or service.” With Jassies’ tips, you can start using Instagram creatively and effectively. 

1. Choose Instagram for businesses 

On Instagram, you can choose between a normal account or a business account. A business account is better for everyone with business goals. That is because it offers more possibilities. A business account shows a contact button on your profile page, for example. That makes it easier for customers to contact you when they need to. You also get access to statistics to see how often your content is viewed. Or what the best time is to post something to your Instagram account. Finally, it is easier to advertise on Instagram with a professional account. If you already have a normal account, you can switch to a professional account for free. 

2. Set a goal 

According to Jassies, beginners should start by focusing on two goals: 

  • Tie new followers to your business, or ‘increase your brand awareness’.
  •  Strengthen the relationship with your current followers.

Make your goals concrete and measurable: ‘My goal is to get X new followers per month, and X likes or replies per post.’ Use statistics to see which messages, stories, reels or other content help you reach your goals. You can then use those insights to create new content. 

You will also get to know your target audience better, which makes it easier and more fun to fine-tune your content to their interests. 

You get to know your target audience better and better, so it is more fun and easier each time to tailor your content accordingly.

3. Create unique content 

Jassies explains that there are three types of content that are ideal for sharing on Instagram: knowledge, inspiration and your personal story. “Entrepreneurs often do not know what they should tell or share. But everyone has their own story or specific knowledge. There are more organisations that sell your product or service, but the people and the story behind your business are unique. So show them to your followers.” 

Knowledge and tips 

Share the knowledge you have about your field of expertise. For example, help your followers with a specific problem, or offer tips. Groene Vingers Delft regularly posts how-to videos where a shop employee explains and shows how you can do things yourself. From a reel – a brief, edited video - with seven tips for potting plants, to two fun ways to style terracotta pots for outdoors. 

Videos and selfies 

Would you like to bring your products to the attention of as many people as possible? Then take a photo of it at your office or at home, suggests Jassies. “Or show different ways you can use the product. Experiment, try different things and see what works. Familiarity also works well. If you have an attractive stairway, for example, then use it as a backdrop in your photos or videos.” 

The story behind your business 

Jassies says that explaining which choices you make as an entrepreneur works well. “Share the higher goal for your product or services, and tap into your emotion or passion. If you have a new collection, then say something about how it contributes to sustainability. For example, explain that your products are made of organic cotton. Also tell why you think that is important, and how it can benefit your followers. Say something about how healthy and nutritious your recipes are. Or maybe your products just make customers happy, so share their enjoyment.” 

We are happy to invest time and energy in Instagram, because it pays back a lot. 

We are happy to put time and energy into Instagram, because it pays back a lot

4. Plan your content 

Think about your Instagram posts and create them in advance, suggests Jassies. “A lot of entrepreneurs are busy, and do not have time to post something every day. I come from the magazine branch, and we always did the work ahead of time. So think in terms of permanent columns, like a magazine editor. That saves you a lot of stress, and your followers know what kind of content and subjects they can expect from you.” 

You can come up with the columns yourself, or you can use other popular column ideas. Jassies mentions the example #meatlessmonday, for if you work with nutrition. Or #feelgoodfriday if you want to inspire followers with a positive emotion tied to your product or service every Friday. You can also tie in to holidays or special days like  National Compliments Day. There are several online tools you can use to schedule an Instagram post, including Hootsuite, Planoly or Coosto. 

5. Be social 

Actively follow and reply to other accounts. “Find hashtags with like-minded people from your field”, suggests Jassies. “If you have a plant store, for example, try #urbanjungle or #plantslover. More than 8 million messages have been posted using these hashtags. As a female entrepreneur, I follow #girlboss and #womenentrepreneur. See who is talking about the topics. Then you can follow them yourself, or reply to their messages. Sometimes they will follow you back. That is how you can gradually build your network.” 

Ask questions 

According to Jassies, it is more fun to use Instagram when you inspire people and they reply to your message. “But interaction takes time. One fun way to get a conversation going with your followers is to ask them a question. Only ask questions that you actually want an answer to. It should not be a standard polite question, like ‘What are you doing this weekend?’ if you are not actually interested. Ask a meaningful question that is appropriate to your field of expertise and the message you are posting.” 

We actively looked for interaction with others, in the hope that they would be interested in following our platform.

We very actively sought interaction with others, hoping that they also found our platform interesting to follow.

6. Grow with advertisements or Instagram shopping 

Would you like to reach a new target audience, or to promote a product or service among people who do not follow you yet? Then try advertising on Instagram. Because you will not reach everyone with a normal, unpaid post. 

Do you have an online shop? Then you can also add Instagram Shopping to your account. That way, customers can navigate to your online shop from Instagram with the press of a button. Read how WiezeWasjes owner Wieske Volker sells her products via Instagram advertisements (in Dutch). 

How other entrepreneurs use Instagram 

Entrepreneurs Amber Geurts, Marlies van der Kolk and Barbara van Rest tell how they got new customers and more income via Instagram. 

New customers from far away 

Groene Vingers Delft is a plant and home furnishings shop. Owner Amber Geurts tells how she inspires followers via Instagram with a wide selection of plants, interior accessories and gift ideas. 

“Instagram was just something we did on the side at first, but now it has become a serious day job”, says Geurts. “We are happy to invest time and energy in it, because it pays back a lot. We post a photo or a fun video every day. Around five employees take turns posting to Instagram. And of course, one employee is responsible for keeping an eye on the house style.” 

Groene Vingers Delft grew quickly, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. “A lot of people were sitting at home, and saw our tips and inspiration for fun home decorating with plants and accessories. Our content makes our followers happy, and they are inspired by our products and tips.” Geurts and her colleagues feel it is important to show emotion and positivity. “The main thing is to be yourself. How you come across to people in the shop should be the same as the way you seem on Instagram.” 

Geurts got a lot of new customers and sales via Instagram. “Now we also have a lot of customers from far away. Places like Groningen, Limburg, Belgium and Germany. We eventually started an online shop, to make it easier for these customers to buy our products. Then they do not have to come all the way to our shop in Delft.” 

More followers and income 

Marlies van der Kolk and Barbara van Rest from Haagse Schatten promote local entrepreneurs from The Hague via their website and social media channels. “Thanks to our tips on Instagram, a lot of followers visit the local entrepreneurs who are part of our platform.” 

“We grew very gradually”, explain Van Rest and Van der Kolk. “In the beginning, we followed relevant channels ourselves. We actively looked for interaction with others, in the hope that they would be interested in following our platform. That earned us more and more followers. Now, the new followers join us on their own, and we mainly look for interaction with our followers.” 

Van Rest and Van der Kolk have noticed that when they share a photo or story of themselves, there is an immediate increase in interaction. Video content also does very well. “You will get to know your target audience better, which makes it easier and more fun to fine-tune your content to their interests. The ‘French treasures’ are especially popular. There is a big increase in likes and replies when we post something about a French restaurant or the French market Le Marie Marché.” The two entrepreneurs are still learning new things about the platform. They have started using Instagram Reels more, where they highlight the treasures in short videos. 

The activities on Instagram result in fun replies and more income. “It is great to hear from the entrepreneurs that customers found them via our Instagram channel. Or that they had more people sign up for their event because of our messages. And when we post something about our Haagse Schatten gift voucher, they always get more orders.”