The million dollar question: how to grow a genuine Instagram following. There are thousands of articles online, all promising to offer the best tips and tricks in the business. It’s important to start by saying that there is no hidden secret that only a select few are privy to. There’s no guaranteed way of getting more real followers.
But there are some tactics and strategies to adopt which will help you grow. It’s not rocket science but it does take time, hard work, and commitment. For this reason, it’s important that you are building a following for the right reasons. You should have clear business goals behind your pursuit of more followers to justify your time and input, as well as to keep you on track.
This post is an honest, to-the-point, no-bullshit guide to getting more followers on Instagram. You won’t find shady tactics or useless information. These are all tried and tested techniques that will help elevate your business or personal brand on one of the most popular social media platforms.
A note on the importance of real followers
This shouldn’t really need mentioning nowadays – but it goes without saying that there is no point paying for fake followers. It is blindingly obvious when someone has done this, for many reasons:
- Quick growth for no obvious reason
- Very low engagement (e.g. 20k followers but only 50 likes per post)
- A glance at the follower list will show fake followers (they aren’t hard to spot)
If you’re only interested in having a lot of followers for vanity reasons then go ahead. Although I really can’t get behind this motivation. If you’re trying to grow your following so you can build or promote your business, then good engagement is essential. This is particularly important if you are a content creator looking to work with brands. Trust me, brands will check your engagement rate and whether you have fake followers.
In the last couple of years, Instagram has been putting serious effort into clamping down on fake followers and dodgy tactics to build followings. It’s even got to the point where Instagram is dishing out penalties for people who actually don’t deserve them! I’ve seen a lot of fellow content creators and friends get penalised unnecessarily. So the point here is that you need to be really careful, especially when engaging with others (more on this in a bit).
What exactly are Instagram penalties? The most common type of penalty is when Instagram disallows you from engaging with anyone. This means you can’t like, comment, follow or unfollow. Sometimes it’s a temporary ban for a few hours. Sometimes it can last for a couple of weeks. Worst case scenario, Instagram can deactivate your account.
This is just another reason not to use bots to build a following. You’ll only end up getting yourself banned from Instagram. And don’t think you can just call up a friendly Instagram customer service rep to request an appeal. Getting hold of anyone at Instagram is virtually impossible. You’re entirely on your own, so don’t upset the Instagram bots.
Building a relevant audience
You may have ten thousand real followers – but if the majority aren’t your target audience then your follower number once again becomes a vanity metric. Before putting work into building your Instagram followers, spend a bit of time profiling your ideal audience. Refer back to your business goals and create some clear buyer personas. This will help you identify the most valuable type of follower.
For example, my ideal follower is someone in their twenties or thirties interested in travel. Even more specifically, it would be aspiring solo female travellers. Although there is a heavy lifestyle element to my blog, my main focus is travel. So that’s where I need to focus my attention when it comes to building my audience.
How to get more followers on Instagram
1. Create high quality, beautiful content
Starting with the most important point. The rest of the tips in this guide are somewhat pointless if you don’t nail this first one. Producing high quality content is essential to building engaged followers on Instagram. ‘High quality’ will look different to different people. But primarily it means:
- Well composed images
- High quality photography
- A consistent editing style
- Images that make people pause
- A feed with a clear overall theme or style
When someone lands on your profile, they will be making a very quick judgement on whether to follow you or not. That’s why it’s important to create a beautiful theme or style for your Instagram. This is a lot easier said than done and it will take some time to develop your own personal style.
One method of achieving this more quickly is to invest in some high quality presets. This will speed up the editing process and produce a consistent feed. Just make sure you choose presets that fit with the type of photos you produce. For example, don’t buy presets from a beauty influencer if you have a travel blog.
Even if you use presets, it’s still important to create a style that is unique to you. It will come with time but it should be an enjoyable process. Developing your own photography and editing style is part of the fun of content creating!
2. Offer genuine value in captions
Captions can be a bit of a divisive topic. Some people love long, detailed captions. Others can’t be bothered and prefer short, snappy captions. It will depend on your business or blog, but you should always aim to offer some kind of value in your captions. The more value you provide, the more shareable your content becomes, and the more followers you’re likely to get.
Try including some genuinely useful tips or insights in your caption. You could try sharing a personal story to evoke a more emotional reaction. Or you could use humour in a short, snappy caption. Whatever works for you and your brand.
It’s also worth experimenting with caption lengths to see what your audience prefer. Personally for me, I use both short and long captions in my feed. If I haven’t got anything interesting to say then I don’t force it. You could also run a poll on your Stories, asking your followers what length of captions they prefer.
3. Encourage comments & saves
Include a call-to-action in your captions to encourage comments and saves. A high number of comments or saves are a signal to Instagram that your content is providing value to users. This will in turn mean it’s shown to more people. As mentioned above, more shares and more visibility equals more potential followers.
Ask a question in your caption to encourage comments. Or if you’re providing handy advice, tell people to save the post for later. It sounds simple, but quite literally asking people to take an action is more likely to result in more engagement.
4. Clear, professional bio
As well as your feed, one of the first things people will see when visiting your profile is your bio. It therefore follows that it should be thoughtfully composed and professionally presented to encourage followers.
First up, make sure you have a business account. It should be clear what you do and include any other information that you feel is important. In my bio, I include the topics I cover, my location, my full-time job, and my email. Ensure that you include a link to your website if applicable.
It can also be worthwhile adding your profession or business type into your name. For example, my Instagram name is ‘Jessie Moore | Travel Blogger’. Or, if you are a business, include your business name followed by the type of business. For example, ‘Secret Spa | At-Home Beauty’. This can help your visibility in search results on Instagram.
5. Utilise all types of content
Instagram has put a real focus on diversifying content types on its platform in recent years. There is now a huge variety of content types to utilise: images, videos, stories, reels, IGTV, and guides. The more of these you use, the more visibility you are likely to generate for your profile.
Keep feed content professional and carefully curated. While stories allow you to show more ‘behind the scenes’ style content. They give you the chance to show your personality and connect with your followers on a more personal level.
Reels hold some fantastic potential for reaching a new audience and getting followers. This is because reels can go viral, reaching thousands of people. You’ve got nothing to lose and they are good fun to create. They don’t tend to perform as well in terms of likes and comments, but don’t let that put you off.
6. Target feature accounts with relevant hashtags
A great way of increasing the visibility of your account and therefore getting more followers on Instagram is by getting re-posted on feature accounts. There are thousands of these feature accounts, many of which have seriously impressive follower counts. Getting a feature on one of these accounts gets your profile in front of a huge new audience. As long as you have amazing content and a beautiful feed, you are likely to convert these impressions into new followers.
To get featured on these accounts, first do some research around the best feature accounts in your niche. Make a note of their hashtags and include them in each post you share. You can also tag the relevant accounts too. Just make sure you are producing content that fits with their feed. Look at the style of photo they usually repost and check whether your content fits that style before including their hashtag.
Features accounts aside, many brands repost user-generated content. So if you are featuring a product in your picture, be sure to tag the brand and use their hashtag. They could repost your photo on their page, again putting your account in front of lots of potential new followers.
7. Engage with potential followers
This one is absolutely key in ensuring a steady growth of your Instagram followers over time. An easy way of getting your profile seen by more people is to engage with them. The first step is to find potential new followers who fit your audience profile. You can do this in two ways:
- Browse accounts using hashtags from your niche
- Find Instagram accounts with similar content / audience to you and go through their follower list
Simply like a few pictures or leave a thoughtful comment (don’t just copy and paste a generic comment). The chances are that the account owner will see your interactions on their account and check out your profile. If they like what they see then they’ll follow!
A word of warning here: Instagram limits the number of engagements you can do each day. There is no exact number, just don’t get carried away. Especially if you are a new account or you haven’t really done much engaging before, build it up slowly over time. If you go in all guns blazing and dish out thousands of likes or comments within a short period of time, Instagram will think it’s suspicious and could temporarily ban all actions.
8. Create viral content
I already briefly mentioned viral content earlier with reels. The only way of dramatically increasing your Instagram followers in a very short period of time is with viral content. Again, much easier said than done, and it does require a fair bit of luck. Personally, I’ve never had a piece of content go viral on Instagram (still trying!) but I know people who have seen great success from it.
It doesn’t have to be entirely down to luck. Go on your Explore page and find content that has generated tonnes of views and engagement. See if you can replicate certain elements or ideas (but never copy directly!). The one caveat here is that it does seem to help if you already have a good number of followers. The more followers you have, the more likely it is that your content will go viral. It seems unfair, but that’s just the way it is.
So there you have it, my top tips for how to get more followers on Instagram. It’s not easy and it’s far harder than it used to be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. It just takes hard work and dedication.
I’d love to know if you have any tips, tricks, or questions. Leave a comment below or get in touch on social media!