By now, we all know why Instagram is important for your business. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be looking into growing your following! The platform is perfect for getting your name out there and giving your potential and existing customers alike the opportunity to get to know your brand on a more relational and personal level. This type of relationship is crucial in developing trust, and the more trust users have with brands, the more likely this is to inspire some purchase behavior. So how do you do it? Well, step 1 in building this relationship with users, is of course, to inspire them to connect with you and follow your account.

There are shady ways to do this that will artificially shoot your number of followers through the roof like using bots or buying followers. But, not only are you then violating Instagram’s Terms of Use and putting your account in danger of being suspended, but these are also simply not the people you want following you (if they are people at all). Instead, you want people who operate in your niche who will actually engage with your content.

Being authentic, interesting and having a regularly active account plays a big part in helping you to reach your ideal audience, but there are a few other strategies that you can use to grow your Instagram following as well. There is, unfortunately, no instruction manual for generating that Instagram following, but these 6 steps will definitely help you out.


1. Hashtags: Make ‘em,  Use ‘em, Research ‘em

We can’t talk about Instagram and not talk about hashtags. Using the correct hashtags is a must since it’s so useful in aiding you in getting your content exposed to the right people. When choosing what hashtags you should use in your post, it’s a good idea to do some research first. Too often, the hashtags will be too broad for you to really be able to target the people you want, or it may be a hashtag so popular that your post will be lost among the competition.

To avoid this, you need to start off with researching a bit, and luckily, you don’t even need a fancy tool to do that. Google, Wikipedia and even Instagram itself are good options to begin with. Once you google your main keyword, take note of what Google suggests in the related searches. This is what people searching for the exact same thing tend to use, so chances are, they would word it the same way on Instagram. You can also use Wikipedia’s “See also” section to see related searches as well. And of course, you can’t go wrong with using the source itself. Search your specific hashtag on Instagram and take note of the top related hashtags that show up. Keep in mind that these hashtags may not be as focused as your keyword since Instagram sometimes may show you hashtags with similar letters or words. Nonetheless, it is a very good place to start. Next, open up some posts that have that hashtag as well and see what related ones they are using and if these can also be useful for your account.

You can use up to 30 hashtags per Instagram post, so once you know what hashtags to use in them, you’re already well on your way to set yourself up to be discovered by people who are actually into what you are offering. Besides the usual hashtags within your niche, you can also opt to participate in the more popular daily or seasonal hashtags, like #MotivationMonday or #TravelTuesday. These might be broader, but if you tailor your content to still match your theme, the only ones who open your post will be part of your ideal audience. Take this great example from Starbuck’s (@starbucks) with this post on National Pink Day this year. Still on brand, while capitalizing on a trending hashtag that day!


Like hashtagging, another way to get your posts found is to use the geo-tagging feature. The benefit of this one is that users who were at the same place or at least are interested in it are likely to be searching for photos that used the same geo-tag. The principle works the same way as hashtagging does, allowing your account to present itself to interested users ready to engage.


2. Host Contests for your Followers

Running a contest on Instagram is another quick strategy you can use to grow your amount of Instagram followers. Whether you’re offering the winner a free e-book, photoshoot or a product, a contest is a surefire option to get users involved with you. You set the rules for your contest. One way to run a campaign like this is to ask the users to follow your account and tag their friends in the photo as well. This way, you’re also going to encourage more engagement below your post resulting in it showing up to even more people.

Another option is getting user-generated content involved in the mix. You can ask users to post their best pictures for a chance to win a prize. The only thing to keep in mind when setting up a competition this way is that the prize needs to be something worthwhile for your audience. If your incentive isn’t appealing enough, you won’t get as much participation from them as you would like. Also if you go this route, ensure to also ask them to use your brand’s hashtag for easy searchability on your part. The benefit of this tactic is that more and more people will be exposed to your brand, and it acts as an incentive for their friends and followers to also check you out and give you a follow if they like what they see!


3. Interact With The Users

Social media isn’t like traditional media; you’re doing more than just sending out messages towards a large, unknown audience. This is a platform where two-way communication is encouraged, and in this case, it’s one of the best ways to grow your Instagram following as well. When you make a new post, add a question at the end to get your followers to talk to you. Out of ideas for questions? No worries. Go for any other call to action you can think of. Tell your followers to tag their friends below or share their plans for the week with you.

Every comment you get under your post gets rewarded by Instagram. The more engaging your posts, the more times your post will win out to be shown to more users. On top of that, when your followers are engaging strongly to your posts, Instagram also assumes that their followers would like it too. And that, my friends, is how your account can end up appearing on that oh so lovely ‘Explore’ page.

Interactions don’t just stop here. Once you’ve gotten users to respond to you, it’s your turn to respond right back to them. Make it a habit to respond to all the comments you get on your posts. Lululemon (@lululemon) is one brand that does a great job at this. Not only does this leave a positive impression on the brand, but it can extend the conversation under the post.

Take it one step further and like or comment on posts from accounts that are similar to you. Do this as well for people who are posting about your products/services. There’s even a handy hack to this: try to be the last one to leave a comment, especially on more popular accounts. This way, when people see those posts, it’s your name that pops up and stands out. If these users are looking for some new inspiration, this could be the thing that gets your foot in the door. So make sure you think of an interesting comment ;).

Now, think about this, how many times do you get a few likes from an account, and then find yourself going to their profile to check them out? All the time, right? That’s why you need to do the same thing if you want to grow your Instagram following. Go on profiles of users from your ideal audience and like a few of their pictures or even leave a comment. Users will be curious to see who you are, and are likely to follow you if your feed appeals to them!


4. Collaborate with Other Accounts

Next, there’s no need to be afraid of collaborating with other accounts, like businesses or influencers. Do some research on what kind of businesses or influencers are out there that share your target audience and reach out to them to see if you can work together. One great strategy is to work on a contest together with them. Both of you would benefit from growing your followers together and maximizing your reach beyond what you would usually be able to alone. Take the watch brand Daniel Wellington, for example. This brand regularly works together with larger accounts, making it possible for them to reach new audiences. They also don’t limit themselves to any particular niche, collaborating with fashion bloggers, fitness fanatics and even architecture and design accounts.



Contests aren’t your only option for collaborations, you can also simply connect with an influencer and get them to feature your product or service on their account. This way, you can generate some brand awareness among their followers, resulting in highly engaged and interested new followers. The only thing is that you need to make sure that you’re working together with the right kinds of influencers who create quality content and engage with their followers. While many influencers are on the expensive side, there are also micro-influencers you can also reach out to who are more budget-friendly (or even free)! In many cases, micro-influencers are even a better option than larger accounts with hundreds of thousands of followers; being more cost-effective, driving higher engagement and getting people talking.


5. Don’t Forget Your Other Channels

While your focus is on Instagram, you shouldn’t shun your other marketing channels. If you have an Instagram account, chances are that you also have a Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn. You should use all the other social channels you have to promote your Instagram. Share your account regularly on each of these to benefit from that cross promotion. Place your Instagram account in your email footer, even. If someone is already on your site or another one of your accounts, you can bet that they are interested in what you’re offering and want to connect on Instagram too.

Does your site have a blog? This is another channel you can’t afford to miss if you want to grow your Instagram following. There are a few ways you can do this. One, make sure that you place a social follow button on your site, make it a default in your theme so it appears on every page. Second, you can embed an Instagram plugin like Snapwidget on the site itself that will immediately show website visitors what your feed looks like, displaying your most recent photos. Next, you should embed relevant Instagram posts into your blogs when you can, instead of using another type of visual. This immediately signals to people that you have an account, and makes it easy for them to follow you.


6. Take a Try at Instagram Advertising

Lastly, we suggest you consider looking into Instagram Advertising, it is seriously powerful. All the other strategies we’ve elaborated on earlier will lead to you getting discovered. The thing that sets apart advertising is that it’s a more aggressive strategy that will drive you to the right people, only this time, you’re popping up directly on their feed. It all begins with targeting the advertisement towards the right audience. You’ve got plenty of options. You can go for people already connected to you some other way, like newsletter subscribers or website visitors. Alternatively, you can go for completely new people based on user demographics, interests or location, among others. We encourage you to spend a good bit of time on determining the audience to keep your costs as low as possible. On Instagram, you pay based on CPM (cost per impressions), so don’t waste any budget on an audience that is ill-defined. Target your advertisement to the right people who are most likely to perform the desired action!

Once your audience is defined, you need to decide on your ad placement and what you want to say in your ad. Whether you place your advertisement in the main feed or Instagram Stories, you are going to get name in front of the people you actually want to reach who will follow you after being exposed to your account.  Pick a post type that you’ve noticed does well for you organically and spend time crafting your caption to really put your best foot forward as you approach these new people.

There you have it, 6 surefire ways both short term and long term on how to grow your Instagram followers. What strategies do you use to grow your user base?  

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Header photo by Alessio Lin on Unsplash


Product dev | @itspreppr| @ink361 | growth | monetization | Africa | Wildlife

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