“The Secret To Building A Loyal Instagram Following”

By Eric Ridenour

Instagram marketing can be a source of frustration for many people. After a week of working full time on Instagram, what do we have? 8 followers. And 3 of them are not even in the same country as you. Great. You have the passion, you have the brand, you have the desire, but you can’t get anywhere if you do not know how. Instagram works, you just gotta know how to use it.

Copy other brands
Taking things that inspire you from other peoples accounts you admire makes sense. What does not make sense is copying people, reusing the same jokes, repurposing a meme and photoshopping your logo over someone else’s, those do not work. When people see it, they know it is not yours. Be original.

Hashtag abuse
Random hashtags get you shadowbanned and frustrate users. If you just keep using random top hashtags that are not relevant to your post, then people will report the photo, and that can drop your views to absolute zero. You do not want that. Using a couple of top hashtags is fine when relevant, but you want your hashtags to clearly compliment the image. Tagging other large business names can also get you in trouble. Kim Kardashian is suing a company for tagging her too often and she may win,

Quality Above Quantity
Stop Instagramming everything. Too many brands think the more you post the more you are seen. While this is true, if you are not posting content people want to see, they will unfollow you so you end up doing more harm than good.

Being Negative
No negativity. People do not wish to be frustrated or annoyed. You can get away with negative emotions when played right, people do not want to be sad. Sad posts perform worse than happy posts. Positive posts get shared more often than negative posts.

Use Stories
Stories are the future. After a bit of a slow start, Instagram stories are now wildly popular with users, businesses and influencers alike. What started as a little known Snapchat feature has now become one of the most popular features of Facebook and Instagram alike.


One of the overall easiest and best things you can do is simply comment on other posts and respond to those who comment on yours. Even a couple of fire emojis is better than nothing. Engaging with others will get people to look at your page and follow you if they like what they see. Engaging with your fans gets them excited to converse with you and gets people talking about you and sharing.

Optimize Everything
Make sure your profile is completely filled out. Use a professional profile photo and caption, a link in the bio and keep pushing to get that blue verified badge. Everything about your page needs to be professional, don’t save anything for later.

Remember your goal, your goal is to get your fans interested. They do not owe you a following, you owe them entertainment. What you need most is to have your Instagram fans become your biggest cheerleaders off of Instagram. If people tell their friends, you are the ultimate prize of engagement, people promoting you off of social media.

Using VALS To Find Your Audience

VALS is a marketing tool used to predict consumer behavior based on their philosophical beliefs, mechanical and intellectual curiosity, among other things. VALS stands for ‘Values and Lifestyles and is a series of questions to help define target audiences. The audiences are divided into nine lifestyle types: innovators, thinkers, achievers, emulators, achievers, strivers, experiencers, makers, and survivors. Each type is thought to behave and consume differently.

To any business who is seeking to find more details about their audience, there are several ways you can apply the VALS methodology of which we will explain here.

Using VALS methods in customer surveys

One method of using the VALS methodology to determine the direction a business should take is to survey your market and customers. If you can convince enough of your target market to complete a VALS survey, you can then use the data to determine how strong your customers lean toward their wants and spending behaviors. If your customers are primarily innovators or thinkers, they will consume quite differently than someone who is maker or survivor. With this data, you can then determine if your brand should take a new direction. A brand like Nike likely applied a similar strategy when determining their buying audience was more in line with a younger, more socially conscious customer base than the survivor, for example.

Using VALS to create a product


Another method of applying VALS methodology to a marketing strategy is in product creation. If you seek to attract a certain audience, you can use VALS as the basis for brand and product creation. You then can reverse engineer the results. If you want to attract an innovator or thinker and are in the tech industry, you would want to create products and market them like how Apple runs its company. However, if you are wanting to attract a maker or survivor, you would want to go more along the lines of practicality and functionality rather than design and high-end features.

Personally, I find VALS to be fairly limiting, as most people do not fit into clearly defined categories and are more likely complex beings that make a variety of statistically irrational decisions. So, while VALS may be an excellent tool for a broad market, people should be careful to not assume these results fully define the consumer audience, again, as the Nike Kaepernick ad also did.

I took the test and it said I am primarily a maker and second an experiencer. While this is true, the results seem to be almost like a sort of astrology for marketers. Just vague enough to apply no matter what. Because while these apply to me, I can also say pretty much all the types apply to me to some extent and generalizing a mass market in this way can be misleading. In conclusion, I would say that while VALS is a good source for brand identity and for targeting audiences, it is far from a universal perfect targeting system that you can blanketly expect any audience to believe in.

How To Get Your Emails Opened

How often has this happened to you? You send out email after email, waiting to see the requests coming in. You send out a sale. Nothing. You send out a coupon. Nothing. You start to try tricks to get them to open the email with a catchy subject. Nothing.

Your emails are going straight to junk mail. Do you know why? If this is your problem, it is because you are pitching to people you don’t even know. People don’t waste time reading pitches. If they need your service, they will look for your service. You are offering them nothing of value.
Promotional sales emails rarely get read or even opened. In fact, most go straight to the junk mail filter.

Do you want to get your emails read?

The first thing to remember is it is not all about you. You are asking people to read your email, you have to give them a reason. You can’t expect people to want to spend their limited time every day reading your sales pitch along with the other 180 per day they get. I checked my email inbox, it is 5:21 pm, and I have received 177 emails since I went to bed last night, no doubt at least 150 of them are sales pitches. You have to give them a reason to open your email. Of my 177 emails(plus about 10 I did not delete or read from yesterday) I will read about ¼ of them. I will read my actual real email, and I will open about 10-20 sales pitches knowing they are sales pitches.

Which sales pitches, you ask?

The ones who offer me something of value bundled in with the pitch. Give me a tip on how to boost my engagement, and I will read your sales pitch along with your advice.

Now your customer may not care about engagement. Say you are a car dealer. You would then show me ways to save money on fuel efficiency, then pitch a better MPG car. I will read that. You may make me realize it is time for a new vehicle while trying to get better mileage. Or a doctors office. Will your child not eat veggies? Wow, here is an email about how to get kids to eat vegetables! And now that you mention it, it may be time to schedule a checkup.

Next, get rid of the flashy space wasters. You do not need all that high graphics eye-catching attraction inside an email. It is annoying and bulky. You are not trying to attract attention, the email is already open. But, you may get flagged as being potentially unsafe if there is too much code in the email.

Go easy on the pitch, Soft sell here. Offer some value, throw in a special offer of the month. But, in general, you want your effective email copy to let the reader decide they may want to contact you without you asking for it. Go easy on the links. One per page is fine unless you are linking some helpful news articles or something similar.


Test test test. Take these tips, try them out, mix and match and look for what works best. There is no one size fits all, you want to continually try out new ideas and see what works and what doesn’t. The goal is to keep what works, discard what doesn’t. In a few months, you will have a lean, mean, email marketing machine.