How to Grow Your Business on Instagram Organically

Instagram can be a great marketing tool for your business, but how do you turn your Instagram followers into customers? meowbox is a cat-related startup with over 500,00 Instagram followers, and they’ve help build their business through Instagram (and cute cat photos). They increased their Instagram followers 10x in a single year, with zero ad budget. Read on to learn about how you too can get more followers on Instagram and grow your business organically, without a budget!


meowbox is a monthly subscription box dedicated to cats, and every month you get 5-7 unique goodies, so your cat never gets the same treat or toys twice. Each box is hand personalized with your cat’s name(s), and there’s also an emphasis on hand-made items you can’t find anywhere else. We caught up with meowbox co-founder Olivia Canlas to chat about their Instagram strategy and what goes on behind-the-scenes of their popular Instagram account.  Here are 6 tips to help you get more followers on Instagram and grow your business:

You keep me warm at night 😽 {Courtesy of @master.morrison} #meowbox

A photo posted by meowbox (@meowbox) on

Build Genuine Relationships with Instagram Influencers

An effective way of growing your Instagram account (and your business) is to align yourself with influencers in your industry. “Relationship building was a really big part of us growing our Instagram, and being shared a lot can really build an account and help get more followers,” says meowbox founder Olivia Canlas. But, it’s important to invest in these relationships and make them personal, she says. “When we first started our account, we kept those kind of interactions really genuine, there’s no kind of robot formula you can follow.”

People with large accounts know that when a business contacts them, it’s because they want them to talk about their product. But just because that may be the end result, it doesn’t mean that your influencer marketing strategy should be cold.

“I never approached anyone saying ‘Oh, we can send you a meowbox, if you promise that you will post about it. I just introduced myself, told them that I loved cats and was starting a new business and didn’t have much to offer, but that I could send them a free box if they were interested. There were no contracts, it was very person to person, and if they loved it, then we shared each other’s content.

No one will want to willingly post for you if you just approach them and say “I have this budget, when can you post for me?” We have a shoe string budget, and we didn’t want to spend any money, so we tried to do everything else we could that wouldn’t cost us anything.”

Creating real friendships and building real relationships was their strategy. These days, influencers are the ones reaching out to meowbox asking for boxes.

Track Your Traffic from Instagram

Adding a trackable link like to your Instagram bio is a great way to not only track sales, but to understand where your customers are coming from. Once you know what channel is driving your sales, you know where to invest your time and resources.

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“Previously, we were able to see from Google Analytics that we had a lot of direct traffic, and we just assumed that it was from Instagram. When we asked people to click the link in our bio, traffic would spike. Now, we’ve created trackable short links and placed them in our Instagram bio so that we really know where our traffic is coming from, and it’s Instagram.”

Once you have a trackable link, you’ll also be able to analyze the success of your Instagram marketing by tracking how much your traffic and sales is increasing because of Instagram!

Share Your Community’s Content

Cats may lend themselves well to Instagram, but an important lesson from meowbox is that there really is a community for everything. Investing in each of your community members, regardless of the size of their Instagram account, is a surefire way to get more Instagram followers and turn them into your loyal customers.

What’s the weather like where you are? 🌦 {Courtesy of @xo.osx} #meowbox

A photo posted by meowbox (@meowbox) on

Olivia attributes a big part of meowbox’s growth to their “share for share” strategy, in which meowbox would share someone’s cat, and the cat’s Instagram would then share the meowbox account. Meowbox posts about three times per day (or more) to Instagram, so they have a lot of content to find!

“99% of our photos are by other Instagram users,” Olivia says. “We might have started with a dozen photos, but once we started the #meowbox hashtag, we started sharing and reposting other people’s content.” When sharing other people’s content, it’s important to ask for permission and give proper photo credit. meowbox only posts photos that were tagged with the #meowbox hashtag, and they give credit to the user by both including their Instagram handle in the caption and by tagging them in the photo.

Learn more: The Best Way for Businesses to Repost on Instagram

Get Creative with Instagram Hashtags

Besides hashtagging your photos with the obvious tags for your industry (in this case, #catsofinstagram and other cat-related tags), you can reach a whole new audience by thinking outside the Instagram box! Use hashtags that are outside of your industry vertical to attract new customers that would be still be interested in your content. When meowbox posted a photo related to Taylor Swift and her cats, they also used a bunch of Taylor Swift related hashtags. It brought a different audience to their Instagram, and a whole bunch of new followers who were both Taylor Swift fans and cat fans.

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“We choose hashtags based on the photo, to ensure they are related,” Olivia says. “We’re trying to not just use cat related hashtags, but new, unrelated hashtags to bring a new audience to our account. For example, in a flat lay photo of cat toys, we also use hashtags like #flatlay and #thingsorganizedneatly.” People who are interested in both flat lays and cats then follow their account.

“Our audience is so big, and every kind of person has a cat,” she says. Whether your topic is niche or wide, getting a bit creative with hashtags can  help you get more followers on Instagram.

Learn more: The Ultimate Guide to Using Instagram Hashtags

Stick With a Theme

When it comes to gaining more followers on Instagram organically, sticking to one theme or niche is an important strategy. “We keep a theme, and the theme is cats. It’s kind of simple, but I’ve seen lots of people’s accounts that say they’re a cat account, but then they post a photo of what they had for dinner. We like to give people what they came to see, which is cat photos,” commented Olivia.

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“Anytime we post anything that strays from an actual cat photo, it’s treated a lot differently by our audience, so we try to keep it as “cat photo” as possible. Some people don’t realize that their Instagram account is a business, and you have to treat it like a physical store. If you have a candy store, you aren’t going to sell couches.”

Partner with Other Businesses for Instagram Contests

meowbox has figured out the key components for a contest on Instagram, and partnering with other Instagram accounts to share each other’s followings is an easy way to quickly gain exposure and get more followers on Instagram.

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“I don’t like to partner up with more than one other account for a contest, but it’s good to partner with another account and do a reciprocal contest because you share each other’s followings. For example, we could do a contest with a cat t-shirt account, and we would both post it on our channels, and in order to enter the contest, you would have to follow both of our accounts,” explains Olivia.

Running an Instagram contest once a month is a great way to find more customers through Instagram and increase your brand awareness. Ultimately, the best way to grow your business with Instagram is to start managing it like any other part of your business. Latergramme makes it easy to schedule Instagram posts, search for and repost community content, and manage your content calendar!

Schedule your first post now!

Want more cats in your life? Follow @meowbox on Instagram here

  • Texan

    Good tips, Taylor! Thanks for the post.

  • LexMod Furniture

    Helpful advice once again. Thank you!

  • Inspiré et Créé

    Thanks a lot for all these useful tips, i will follow them but it is “hard” for me to always follow the photo theme because i would like to add some personnal pictures so people can discover who is behind the brand and make this brand more “humaun”. 😉

  • Gigi Rodgers

    I really like the “vertical hashtag” idea. Thanks for that!