Don't sleep on Instagram.
That's what I did for the first two years while working on Board Game Atlas. Since then, I realized that its focus on compelling visuals, easy methods of engagement, and almost limitless promotional opportunities make it an ideal platform for board games.
By following my step-by-step guide below, you'll learn how I grew our Instagram account to 4k followers in 2 months, how you can do this even faster, and how you can continue to maintain a healthy, authentic community.
First impressions are important, and you don't want the majority of your new followers walking away thinking "I'll unfollow later."
I'll share tips on retention toward the end of the article, but for now, here's a checklist of items to look over before the big promotion:
- No awkward crops around your logo - Do you have a logo? If you do, update your profile image. Make it memorable, make it readable. Avoid having your most recognizable image getting an awkward crop around the circle
- Set-up expectations - What sets you apart from others out there? There's a 150 character limit on your bio so make it count! (Also, don't make it long.) Include keywords that highlight your specialties and feel free to use emojis to liven up the mood. Keep it simple and remember that you also have Story Highlights section to show off what you're all about
- Have a call to action - What's your main goal? Whether it's clicks to your website, highlighting a special promotion, or signups for your newsletter, leave a link in your bio. You can also link to a landing page that shows off your most important links by using Linktree or other equivalents, but that's for a whole another discussion
- I hear echoes... - Are there signs of life in your community? You should have at least a brief history of sharing pictures that are relevant to your new followers' interests
Here are some examples:
This is a common way of listing your key features alongside emojis. Great for those wanting to go with a more clean, straightforward approach.
Brands trying to be more approachable to their audience will typically have a less "dry" bio description. They'll stick to one-liner description of their vision, a more quotable description, or sometimes humor. And the more widely known brands can also afford to do less "telling" about their offers, and focus on the overall aesthetic and experience of being on their page.
Similar to Whole Foods, Lush is maintaining control of the overall aesthetic by having custom Story Highlights cover images. By spotlighting the key benefits of your brand using visual language, you can afford to do less telling through text description.
And then there's Wendy's.
This type of approach only works for well known brands.
2. Find "influencers" to partner up for giveaways
Instagram gives off a party vibe. At least, way more than Facebook and Twitter does.
This makes giveaways an ideal method for growing your account. In general, users on Instagram are more generous about giving Likes, shares, and other forms of quick engagement that will make your promotion go viral.
Before I get into the details about the giveaway, here's a list of influencers you should consider working with:
In general, you should consider:
- High follower count - Above 10k followers is ideal
- Authentic community - If you see an account with 10k+ followers with less than 10 comments consistently in every post, there's something wrong there. On the flipside, if you see an account with less than 10k followers but see there's a genuine community with engagement rate that's on par with accounts double their size, that's a clear winner
- Potential overlap in audience - If you get 600 followers from partnering up with a 10k follower account, don't expect the same results from a different account with the same size and engagement rate. If their content targets a similar audience, then you'll start to see diminishing returns. So the key is to:
- Find niche communities - Mix things up by partnering up with reviewers, miniature painters, photographers, board game cafes, international communities, and more. Engagement rate also tends to be higher than average among international communities due to the lack of board game presence
- Don't partner with the same influencer again and again. I once tried doing weekly giveaways with an influencer for an entire month. Each successive giveaway resulted in about half the number of new followers
Here are other great board game Instagram communities I found while working on this article. I'll come back and update this article if I get to work with anyone on there.
Lastly, focus on building a relationship. It won't be a one-time encounter and you'll be interacting with many of these influencers again and again.
3. Message influencers and define expectations
Contact the influencer by direct message (DM) on Instagram and ask if they'd be up for a partnered giveaway.
Here are my general recommendations:
- Worldwide or not? - This is obvious, but if budget permits, make it worldwide. This always leaves chance for a drastic increase in cost if the winner is from a faraway country (shipping and sometimes customs), but the potential to draw in a much larger audience is often worth it. In general, winners are typically from the US, but Canadian and UK winners are quite common as well
- How expensive of a prize? Which game should I offer? How many winners? - I quickly learned from running dozens of giveaways that the best performing ones are all about catching trends and giving a sense of choice to the audience. Rather than an older $60 game, a trending $40 game will draw more eyes. And rather than having a giveaway for Lost Ruins of Arnak, you can make it a giveaway where the winner can choose between Lost Ruins of Arnak, The Search for Planet X, and Dune: Imperium. The actual prize value hasn't changed, but the apparent value to users drastically increases because it caters to different gaming preferences and catches those who might already own the game. Lastly, unless the prize is very cheap, go for 1 winner
- What's the fulfillment process going to be like? - Many instagrammers already have experience running giveaways. They can manage the process of selecting the winner, while you can take care of fulfillment
More tips on selecting games for the prize:
- Refer to our Trending Games page for games that are getting the most traction. Similarly, this page keeps track of top game pages that are getting the most clicks on the store links.
- The best candidates for giveaways are the ones that go out of stock. For example, my giveaway for a choice between Lost Ruins of Arnak, Dune: Imperium, and Beyond the Sun did well because they were all going in and out of stock and fresh in the minds of gamers due to all of the positive reviews that were coming out. And if you see a game like Stardew Valley: The Board Game, immediately reserve a copy for a giveaway because it'll help you reach beyond the typical board game hobbyist audience
This is a template I use for sharing my thoughts on the general structure of the giveaway requirements:
To enter, follow steps 1-2-3-4:
- Follow @influencer_account (if you aren't already)
- Follow @boardgameatlas
- Like this post
- Tag two friends you'd love to play with
- Comment which game you would choose if you won
- Share this post in your Story and tag @influencer_account and @boardgameatlas
- Repost this post and tag @influencer_account and @boardgameatlas
- Tag two additional friends in a separate comment
Depending on the prize value and the influencer's feedback, this format could slightly change but the main idea is to offer 3-5 games as a choice for the winner to choose from, and to encourage bonus entries that will make the giveaway go viral.
You can expect each giveaway to result in about 200-1000 new followers. I got to around 4500 followers after 8-10 giveaways, and the cost was well worth it.
4. Engage with giveaway entrants/your new followers
This one's easy. As soon as the giveaway launches, you'll see a flood of Likes, Comments, and Stories tagging your account. You won't be able to keep up with the pace but at least try to Like as many of them and comment to some of the entrants thanking you and the influencer for the giveaway.
5. Grow an authentic community and deliver on value
Every time you launch a new giveaway with an influencer, this is your perfect chance to make a post and share a Story. Hundreds of new users will be flocking to your page to follow your account, and this will directly result in more Likes on your latest posts. This is also where all of your efforts in Step #1 will pay off.
From here on out, the #1 challenge is to retain your new followers. Instead of pushing them away by constantly promoting every single product you have, focus on delivering on some of these aspects:
- Visual - Your new followers are here for board games. Luckily, board games are highly visual driven. Take cues from all of the Instagrammers you'll be working with and learn to take pictures with an interesting composition. All you need is a decent phone and a quick shot after a game night
- Discovery - Are you running a board game store? Are you stocking up on new games that are bound to get people's interest? Take a picture of that moment and share it as a post and a Story. This is where you as an "insider" can generate anticipation
- Deals - People love bargains, especially if you make it easy to find (I love it when I get an email for a free coupon at Habit). That's what gives Board Game Atlas a competitive edge, and is also why you should share your best deals through a post or a Story. If it's a special deal that you don't run often, you should also change the description in your bio to reflect it. When you have hundreds of people visiting your profile every week, you'd want them to see it right in your bio without having to dig for it
- Education - If you have a unique perspective that not many board gamers have, then share it. People love learning when it's easily digestible, even when it's the most random fact ever. So if you're a YouTuber, share interesting tidbits about that process in the post description. If you're a store or a cafe, give us a peek on what it's like to run one
- Relationship - @jameystegmaier is a great example for this. Depending on your comfort level, allow your followers to see a glimpse of your every day life. It could be sharing about your cat, gaming with your significant other, your food adventure, or your other hobbies. Sprinkling in these moments once a week or two will help you connect with your followers on a deeper level
I hope you find this helpful. Writing this article reminded me of things I need to act on to improve our account, and I'll be trying to grow it to 10k followers by the end of April. I'll share more on that process and the important benefits of hitting that milestone in the next article.