This is the first in a monthly series of analytical pieces on current social media topics, written in cooperation with our friends from quintly. Our first post takes a look at how brands can build their Instagram followings and dives into the posting strategies of two well-known German companies: DM and Rossmann. 

Competition for customer attention increases daily. Gathering eyeballs via marketing is a zero-sum game – either the customer spends time on your brand, or they spend time elsewhere. Attention is an increasingly scarce resource that requires careful curation.

But if gaining attention is difficult, keeping it is even more so.

One way to maintain interest in your brand is to build a strong, interactive relationship with your customer, based on recognition and adaption to consumer needs. Which means getting in touch with them. This is where social media enters the scene. Amidst the array of different channels competing for the attention, and therefore time, of millions of users, one is particularly on the rise – Instagram.

With approximately 300 million users per month, 70 million photos posted per day, and each user spending an average of 21 minutes on the app, Instagram is slowly becoming one of the most important social media networks. In recognition of this, more and more brands are shifting their activities from already-established networks (such as Facebook) to Instagram.

That’s why every brand should make building up their Instagram follower base a priority. This blog post will shed light on how to go about increasing a brand’s Instagram follower count, and highlight some key factors to keep in mind.

Our approach

By comparing the approaches of two German drugstores, DM and Rossman, we will explain the key factors in improving Instagram appeal. Data derived from the social media analysis app quintly will be used to support our argument. DM in particular has seen a recent sharp spike in their Instagram following. But why? Below are the top five factors we found to be key to increasing a brand’s chances of Instagram success.

1. Content

Good selection of content to publish is absolutely critical. The customer must have an emotional response to posts, and engage with what you the brand are highlighting as worthy of their time. Do use quotes, cat content, seasonal posts, product posts; do experiment and analyse the outcome to better understand where community interest lies; do play with establishing something that goes beyond simply selling, such as a daily sunset photo; do engage with follower posts. Don’t simply repeat Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest content.

DM and Rossmann, for example, post well-prepared, seasonally-appropriate pictures of their products.

Photos are not everything, however; try to further enrich your feed with good videos. Many cases have shown that adding videos to your account can have a huge impact on your follower count and interaction. While currently only 8.23 percent of Instagram posts are videos, this tiny proportion receives 11.60 percent of all comments on the channel.

Hashtag use can also be make or break for gaining new followers’ attention. Including commonly searched or trending hashtags can hugely increase your Instagram visibility, while implementing your own corporate hashtags can increase brand awareness. Is your post part of a campaign? Use a campaign hashtag. Is a hashtag used by other organizations? Maybe steer clear. The right hashtag will fit the product, describe it properly, and be easy to understand. DM for instance is using #neuimdm or #dmbio. For further inspiration, check out this list.

2. Timing

insta_smaller Another key to Instagram success is timing. Though 49 percent of Instagram users check their account at least once a day, 51 percent do not. Your aim is to reach as many people as possible. Therefore, you should post regular content, both so that your customers can look forward to updates from your channel and to increase the number of people that you reach.


As you can see, neither company posts between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. As the first people start their working day, DM and Rossmann both start posting. You can see a preliminary peak at around 10 a.m. After 10 the two companies have different strategies; while DM’s activity peaks at 11am and decreases afterwards, Rossmann continues to publish content throughout the whole work day until 6pm. Both, DM’s and Rossmann’s most frequented posting-time is 3pm. Unlike Rossmann, who stop at 6pm, DM posts at around 9pm.

The two approaches to timing have several aspects in common. First, DM and Rossmann both seek to reach their customers early in their working day or on their way to work. Second, posting peaks when most people are finishing their workday or having a coffee break in the afternoon. Research suggests that the optimum time to post is at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Wednesdays; DM as well as Rossmann are both hitting these times.

What both strategies fundamentally aim to do is to benefit from daily routines and habits in order to reach the maximum number of people. Knowledge of the routines and habits of your Instagram community is therefore crucial. Try posting at different times and assess the impact. Compare the reception of posts on work days and at the weekend. Find the right daily post rate. After collecting and analysing your data you should be able to set up the right timing strategy for your Instagram feed.

3. Customer interaction

Your communication style is important for a good customer relationship.  Do you use social media as a one way distribution channel? Or do you seek out opportunities to get in touch with your followers? In the following analysis, we understand “interactions” as the sum of likes and comments from your followers.

While Rossmann focusses more on the quantity of their posts and has limited customer interaction, DM posts less but interacts more. This pattern can also be found when examining the performance of company-specific hashtags. #rossmann has a total of 197,402 interactions, whereas the interactions for #neuimdm total 345,570. The same is true of hashtags for company own-brand hashtags: while #balea (DM) has 206,217 interactions, #isana (Rossmann) only has 12,695.

If comments alone, as a stronger indicator of interaction than likes, are considered, DM again far outstrips Rossmann. DM’s hashtags #neuimdm (7,965 comments) and #Balea (4,825 comments) are the first- and third-best performing hashtags respectively, separated only by #Maybelline. #Rossmann reaches only 8th place, with 3,873 comments.

To run a successful campaign, popular hashtags such as  #summerfeeling, #whatasummer or #love should always be combined with brand-specific hashtags.


4. Network

While strategy is significant, so too is the presence of good network with which to cooperate. Through regular blogger events and close contact with their followers, DM has build a strong community that not only promotes their products, but also establishes them as a well known and popular brand. A close relation to bloggers and other key influencers supports DM’s sophisticated strategy; and a well-performing strategy combined with the right network is key to success on social media such as Instagram.

5. Integration

Your communications approach will probably encompass more than just Instagram. For broader markets aim to integrate all social media networks into your strategy – this will allow you to run multi-channel, multi-media campaigns with a wider reach and greater local-market adaptability. While Instagram-only campaigns are a start, think holistically. This will help not only to shape your brand, but also to boost your Instagram following and even presence on other channels.


That social media is a very effective way to reach customers is corroborated by data, as is the importance of interaction with customers: the more customer-corporation interaction on social media, the greater the increase in a company’s follower base.

To summarize the information gained from the data, these are the most effective ways to proceed:

  1. Choose proper, visually-catchy content fitting to current events, the season etc. And of course to the interests of your followers.
  2. Study your community and plan your Instagram activities. Make use of people’s habits and try to hit social media “rush hours” such as work breaks, lunch time, commuting times or even the last few hours of the day before people go to sleep.
  3. Interact with your followers. Use popular hashtags and combine them with your own corporate specific, creative hashtags.  
  4. Connect with bloggers and key influencers.
  5. Integrate your Instagram strategy into your global communications approach.