9 Ways to Get More Likes and Grow Your Brand on Instagram

Win on Instagram and your sales could soar. Use these tips to stand out from the crowd.
Posting high-quality photos, like this snow cone from Pittsburgh’s annual regatta, can boost your number of Instagram likes. (Photo: EatPGH)

In June 2016, 500 million people used Instagram. If you’re hoping for brand recognition, that’s a lot of competition. What can you do to stand out?

People who have done it successfully shared their advice with NCR Silver.

Court influencers

“Find influencers that have a similar audience to yours and pay them to repost a screenshot of your Instagram profile to their audience,” advised Alex Cleanthous, co-founder and chief innovation officer at digital marketing agency Web Profits. “It’s how we were able to grow from 500 to 15K followers in one month.”


The founders of EatPGH from left to right: Laura Zorch McDermit, Sarah Sudar, Julia Gongaware, and Mandy McFadden. (Photo: EatPGH)

Respond right away

Seven years ago four Pennsylvania women created a food blog called EatPGH. It’s now a travel and tourism website that organizes food events for all things Pittsburgh. Whenever social media users asked questions or wanted recommendations for good food, “we got back to them as quickly as we could,” said co-founder Julia Gongaware. “We treated it like pizza delivery — 30 minutes or free.

They found a quick turnaround time resulted in more likes on Instagram and Twitter. “Once we hit 10,000 (followers), it exploded and within a couple of months we hit 20,000,” Gongaware said.

Use hashtags

People sort by hashtags, and using relevant trending tags can help you get new followers.

Use your brand’s hashtag, too. Gongaware believes consistent, repeated use of theirs, #EatPGH, was key to supporting and growing their presence on Instagram.

“We started to tag every single post that we shared with #EatPGH and other people caught on to that.” They now have 10,000 photos with the hashtag. “People are engaging with us that way but they’re also sharing our brand name,” said Gongaware.

Here’s how to add hashtags to Instagram images.

Post consistently and frequently


“Build your following on Instagram and then share three to five posts each day to engage with that audience.” – Alex Cleanthous (Photo: Alex Cleanthous)

To increase interest in your brand, Web Profits’ Cleanthous recommended posting at least three times a day.

“Build your following on Instagram and then share three to five posts each day to engage with that audience,” he said. “The key here is to develop a content engagement strategy that covers all the different types of content you can share, and then schedule out that content throughout the month.”

While Web Profits schedules some posts in advance, Cleanthous said they leave room for spontaneous posts, too.

Avoid Instagram vacations, Gongaware advised. “You really can’t take a day off from this because you’re engagement ratings are going to fall and … people just aren’t going to see your stuff anymore.”

Post high-quality photos

“The only way people are going to engage with you is if [you post] a really great photo,” Gongaware said. Gone are the days when you could post “random stuff with bad lighting and no composition. Instagram has stepped up the game and made it much harder for brands to get their content seen.”

Emily Hilliard, founder of Nothing in the House: A Pie Blog, also emphasized quality. “Because Instagram is a visual platform, the focus should be on the quality and expression of the photos rather than the text,” she said. “It’s better to not post than to post a bad photo. Bad photos — low resolution, not well composed, too dark, grainy — lose you followers and compromise your credibility.”

A good camera helps, noted Gongaware. “Most people no longer take Instagram photos on an iPhone. They’re carrying around a DSLR or a better camera because the quality needs to be there.”

Run a promotion using Instagram ads

“We find that free giveaways, email capture campaigns, content amplification and competitions work really well with Instagram Ads,” Cleanthous said.

One of the best giveaways Web Profits ran was free tickets to the World Business Forum in Sydney where Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was speaking. “We built 3000 emails from Instagram at less than $1 per email,” Cleanthous said.

Instagram offers several ad targeting options. “Your success is nearly always dependent on your targeting,” said Cleanthous.

First he and his business partner target Custom Audiences using their own database (created from email addresses, phone numbers or Instagram user IDs). Next they target Remarketing Audiences (such as Instagram users who have visited their website), followed by Lookalike Audiences — audiences that “look like” the first two audiences, created from fans and visitors to their website and social media pages who are similar to their current customers.

Note that to run ads on Instagram you’ll need a Facebook page. (Facebook owns Instagram.)

Steal great ideas

Spend time on Instagram for inspiration. Look not just at brands in your industry but other brands as well to see what’s succeeding.

“We learned from other Instagrammers that pictures from overhead work really well so we started to include those and guess what? We noticed that more people were liking our photos,” Gongaware said.

But be yourself, too

“Instagram users love authenticity. It is key to be yourself or have strong brand messaging,” said cookbook author Jerry James Stone. “That is what they pay attention to.”

Offer a peek behind the scenes

Whether you own a bakery, boutique, café or restaurant, Instagrammers who follow you want insider access. Think of all those pictures of Jennifer Hudson — waiting to go on set, eating an ice cream sandwich, walking on the beach in dress shoes. Every megastar knows this. Your business can take the cue.

“When creating content, think about how you can extend your brand, pull back the curtain a bit,” Stone said. “I show my followers everything from grocery shopping at the farmers market to taking the train.”

Is it time to make the donuts? Show how it’s done — and you just may sell more of them.

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