Everyone has big dreams when they start an Instagram account for their business.
But getting more Instagram followers—especially at the beginning—isn’t as easy at it seems. How do you get more Instagram followers?
Paying for Instagram followers doesn’t work. You end up with inflated follower counts that actually don’t provide any results to your business.
So how do you build an authentic Instagram following that’s relevant to your business?
Here are 30 ways to get more followers on Instagram.
Table of Contents
- 1. Start By Strategizing
- 2. Research Your Competitors
- 3. Define Your Audience
- 4. Consistent Branding & Aesthetic
- 5. Optimize Your Instagram Bio
- 6. Use Relevant Hashtags
- 7. Create a Branded Hashtag
- 8. Post Great Captions
- 9. Post Consistently
- 10. Post at the Right Time
- 11. Post Beautiful, Professional Photos
- 12. Post Real People (and Selfies)
- 13. Ask People to Tag Their Friends
- 14. Tag Your Location
- 15. Engage, Engage, Engage
- 16. Share User Generated Content
- 17. Follow Relevant Accounts
- 18. Steal Your Competitors’ Followers
- 19. Work with Influencers
- 20. Collaborate With Other Brands & Accounts
- 21. Contests & Giveaways
- 22. Post Videos
- 23. Post Stories
- 24. Use Story Highlights
- 25. Use Instagram Live
- 26. Start an IGTV Series
- 27. Promote Your Instagram Content on Other Channels
- 28. Create Custom Camera Filters
- 29. Instagram Ads
- 30. Use an Instagram Analytics Tool
1. Start By Strategizing
Social media can be a huge time-waster if you don’t have an action plan. Far too many businesses go straight to posting on Instagram without any idea of why.
The harsh truth is:
Growing your Instagram follower count will require thoughtful, strategic action. Making it up as you go along won’t cut it.
Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goals that relate back to your business plan.
Your goals may be related to:
- Growing brand awareness
- Increasing online sales
- Boosting website visitors
Try to set a specific, realistic goal with a deadline. For example, increasing online sales by 10% within 12 months.
By establishing your goals up front, you give a purpose behind each post.
If your goal is to grow brand awareness, you may steer more towards lifestyle content.
Want to increase sales? You may post more product shots.
If you want to boost your website visitors, you may post contests or promotional offers.
As a bonus, if you have a team of multiple people managing your account, clearly defined goals means you’ll all be on the same page.
2. Research Your Competitors
There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You just have to make yours shinier and faster.
Start by making a list of your top competitors and then checking out each of their Instagram profiles.
Ask yourself questions like:
- What type of content are they posting?
- What type of content are they not posting?
- Which posts are getting the most engagement?
- Who are their followers?
- What influencers are they working with?
- How are they making use of video?
Take detailed notes as you go through this process for each of your competitors. By the end of it, you’ll have a great starting point from which to build off of.
For example, you may find none of your competitors are working with influencers, exposing an opportunity in the market.
But don’t stop there.
By using a social media analytics tool like Keyhole, you can look at the hard data to easily compare the successes and failures of your competitors.
You can unlock insights like which types of posts get the engagement, who has more share of voice, and which accounts have the most positive user sentiment.
3. Define Your Audience
It’s much easier to get more Instagram followers if you tailor your content to a specific audience.
Establish exactly who you’re trying to reach with your posts:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What is their job?
- What are their hobbies?
- What other brands do they like?
- What do they like on Instagram?
The more specific the better. Come up with 2 or 3 ideal customer profiles (fictional or based off of real followers) and post everything with that user in mind.
For example, if you were Nike, you could target a fictional persona “Can’t-Stop Corey”, a hard-working finance expert who goes to the gym every morning, eats healthy, and watches sports every night.
Corey may be interested in health tips, inspirational quotes, and would likely be persuaded by famous athletes.
4. Consistent Branding & Aesthetic
Surely you’ve heard the cooking expression, “You eat with your eyes first.”
Well the same goes for Instagram. People like pretty content.
Establish a consistent design aesthetic that reflects your brand and appeals to your target audience. Use consistent brand colors, photo filters, iconography, and photo styles.
Take Pantone, for example. They post several videos and images using the same color scheme to create appealing visual consistency.
Check out Pantone’s color consistency!
Pro Tip: There are many Instagram template tools out there to help you make beautiful posts every single time.
5. Optimize Your Instagram Bio
Your Instagram bio has to be your strongest sales pitch.
When someone sees one of your posts and clicks through to your profile, now’s the time to impress.
The perfect Instagram bio is made up of several key elements:
Keyword Optimized Name:
Your profile name is searchable, so target it to the most relevant keywords to your brand. That might be your brand name, but it may also be keywords that help people find you.
For example, if you were a nail salon called Chic Nails in New York, you could make your name “Chic Nails | NY Nail Salon”.
Tell your potential followers exactly who you are and exactly what they will get out of following you.
Give people a link to click and a reason to click it. If you’re a SAAS company, that may be a free trial. If you’re an eCommerce business, that may be a link to a sale. Try to get more creative than just linking your website.
Using hashtags is all about gaining visibility.
You can post on general trends like #MondayMotivation, but you’ll gain more traction if you post with hashtags that are relevant to your product or audience.
Using a hashtag analytics tool like Keyhole, you can research hashtags that are used most often by your audience or are most relevant to your brand.
You can then build a list of hashtags and use them in each and every post.
Pro Tip: Posting on social media “holiday” hashtags will also put your content in front of more people. Here’s a great list of social media holidays from HubSpot.
7. Create a Branded Hashtag
Creating your own branded hashtag is even better than using someone else’s.
If your hashtag catches on, people will be creating content for you.
And anyone who clicks through to the hashtag on someone else’s post will be more likely to see your content in the search results or their feed.
Not only does that help with your brand awareness, it also makes them more likely to follow you, because you’re the source of the content they loved.
Reebok used #ClubC to celebrate their 35th anniversary by encouraging people to post their Reebok-inspired style.
Now, their fans and influencers are sharing their own Reebok shoe photos, which dramatically increases Reebok’s brand visibility.
Pro tip: Keep your branded hashtag short and easy to remember.
8. Post Great Captions
Instagram isn’t just about great visuals. Your captions matter too.
In a world where authenticity is key, long-form captions will help your audience learn more about you and your unique message.
Plus, there’s evidence that longer captions result in more engagement.
Here are some great ways to keep your captions captivating:
- Front load your content – Captions will cut off after a couple lines of text, so make sure you start with a powerful message.
- Ask questions – You’re more likely to get lots of replies if you engage your audience.
- Format with emojis – Emojis are a great way to break up long text
- Leave your hashtags until the end – Hashtags increase visibility but clutter your posts. Put your hashtags at the bottom of your posts.
Experiment with caption length to see what gets the best results for your brand.
Pro Tip: Keyhole has an “Optimal Post Length” feature that will tell you the post lengths with the best engagement.
9. Post Consistently
It doesn’t matter how great your content is if your posts are few and far between.
Posting regularly will not only give you more opportunities to get your content in front of people, it also shows potential followers that you’re a great source for regular content.
Pro Tip: Aim to post at least once per day.
10. Post at the Right Time
Depending on your industry, when you post might be just as important as how often you post.
Keyhole’s social analytics tool will tell you the best time of the day to post for each day of the week based on typical post engagement.
11. Post Beautiful, Professional Photos
Instagram is first and foremost a photo and video platform.
That means you’ll gain followers much quicker if you have beautiful, professional photos and videos.
If you have the budget, consider hiring a professional photographer.
If you’re taking the photos yourself:
- Use a professional-grade camera or a newer phone model.
- Don’t take photos on the Instagram app. Use your phone’s native camera app.
- Make sure the camera is focused on the photo subject
- Take photos that would work as a square.
- Learn how to take photos with great lighting.
- Edit your photos or use appealing filters.
Even if your brand is focused more on day-to-day authenticity rather than super polished shots, you’ll still receive more engagement on nicer-looking photos rather than drab, out-of-focus photos.
Pro Tip: Check out this list of 29 Instagram photo hacks from the Huffington Post.
12. Post Real People (and Selfies)
As it turns out, people really like faces! And people love authenticity.
A study from Georgia Tech found that Instagram photos that feature faces are 38% more likely to get a like and 32% more likely to receive comments.
And not only that, photos and videos of real people make your brand more relatable and personable.
Think about it: would you rather have a photo of a product or a video of someone showing you how great that product is?
Authentic photos of your team, or selfies from your influencers are a great way to get free Instagram followers fast.
13. Ask People to Tag Their Friends
People love tagging their friends in content that helps them connect.
If you post something inspirational, funny, or relatable, ask your followers to tag their friends directly from the content.
BossBabe often posts inspirational quotes about women empowerment, asking their followers to tag friends that are also a #BOSSBABE.
Pro Tip: Use this technique sparingly, as using it too often can come off as spammy.
14. Tag Your Location
Tagging your location is another tool in your toolbox for making your posts more discoverable.
You can tag your posts or stories with your location—either with your city or the event venue where you took the photo or video.
Just like hashtags have their own feed, so do locations and events. You can tap a location or event name to see all photos and videos that were tagged with that event.
By tagging yourself at a location, you’re opening the door to new local followers.
Pro tip: To tag your Stories with a location, use the location sticker. Add a location tag in your post too!
15. Engage, Engage, Engage
People use social networks to be social.
So when in Rome…
Find an Instagram community that’s relevant to your brand, and then start liking, commenting on, and sharing content from members in that community.
There are three main reasons why you should be proactive with engagement:
- People like it!
By liking and commenting on people’s posts, they will be more likely to notice you and follow you back.
- The Activity tab likes it!
When someone responds to your comment, it will appear on their followers’ Activity tab. That can increase your potential reach.
- The Instagram algorithm likes it!
Engagement is one of the main signals to the Instagram algorithm. The more you engage back and forth with people, the better.
This is really important:
Keep your posts authentic.
If you’re engaging with a community, talk like that community—as long as it’s consistent with your brand.
People are pretty quick to sniff out a brand that’s engaging in self-promotion, so make sure you’re actually contributing to the conversation.
If you’re a smaller brand, you may want to target users with fewer followers, and then work your way up to bigger accounts.
If you’re a larger brand, you may be able to target higher followed accounts right out of the gate.
Pro Tip: Don’t limit engagement to your marketing team. Your Customer Service / Success team can also interact with people directly on Instagram.
Sharing user generated content has so many benefits.
First of all, it’s free content. Your users create it for you.
Secondly, it encourages people to engage with your brand, because they know there’s something in it for them (more exposure). This means more exposure for your account or branded hashtag.
It’s a win win.
The wide majority of AirBnB’s Instagram photos are credited to their users or hosts. They’re using their existing network as an extremely effective way to scale up their Instagram content and grow their follower base.
On top of that, every time you’re sharing someone’s content, you’ve earned a fan of your brand for live.
17. Follow Relevant Accounts
By following accounts that are similar to yours, it makes the Instagram algorithm more likely to recommend your account as a similar follow.
Or, you can follow key influencers, or accounts that are aligned with your target audience. Ideally, they’ll check out your feed to decide if they want to follow you back.
If you’ve followed our other tips above, it’ll be a sure thing!
Pro Tip: Don’t follow too many accounts at once. A strong follower ratio makes your brand more credible.
18. Steal Your Competitors’ Followers
This tip takes a bit of tact.
Your direct competitors are the most likely accounts to have the followers you want.
So, follow tip #15 and start liking and commenting on the photos and videos of your competitors’ key followers.
Or follow tip #17 and actually start following your competitors’ followers. You’re bound to get a few free Instagram followers out of it.
There’s a chance you can win over their brand loyalty if you come off as authentic and relevant to their interests.
That said, you have to be subtle as to not ruffle any feathers. Don’t engage with any of their content directly relating to your competitors.
19. Work with Influencers
Instagram influencer marketing is popular for a reason: it works.
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, $5.20 is earned in media value per $1.00 spent on influencer marketing.
Working with influencers is the fastest way to create a positive association with your brand.
For example, Walmart works with fashion influencers to give a more stylish feel to their clothing lines.
If you’re new to influencer marketing, micro influencers are a great place to start. They’re more affordable, more amenable to partnerships, and most likely to be able to sway their close network.
20. Collaborate With Other Brands & Accounts
Keep in mind:
Every other brand is trying to grow their following too.
So look for opportunities to partner with non-competing brands that are a natural fit.
One of the most impactful collaborations was Barbie and AirBnb. They collaborated to create an actual Barbie Malibu Dreamhouse, which served as cross-promotion for both brands.
If you’re looking for collaboration ideas, you can participate in Instagram Stories takeovers, tag each other in content, co-host Instagram Live videos, or execute full marketing campaigns together.
For example, if you’re a local business, you could collaborate with a travel account who’s going to be in your area. From your account, you can share pictures and stories from their visit, and from their account, they can promote your business.
Both sides win.
21. Contests & Giveaways
Contests and giveaways are a surefire way to boost engagement quickly.
Instagram contests are easy:
Ask people to follow you, comment on your photo, and tag a friend for a chance to win free products or services.
The cost of the giveaway is often far, far less than the cost it would have taken to grow your follower account through organic marketing.
You need to keep your target audience in mind. Winning empty followers that only follow you for giveaways won’t boost your business long term. Keep the giveaways relevant.
Keep running contests on a regular basis so that users don’t feel compelled to unfollow you.
Pro Tip: Collaborate with influencers or partner brands to extend the reach of your contest.
22. Post Videos
After launching in June 2013, video content has found its place on Instagram.
While videos receive fewer likes on average, videos receive more comments than images.
Another consideration: many businesses simply don’t want to go to the effort of posting videos, so it’s a chance to stand out from the crowd.
Here’s an example from Jamie Oliver, who turns a simple book launch into a nice-looking promotional video:
Need a few video ideas? We’ve got you covered:
- How-to videos
- Product demos or explainers
- Teaser videos
- Time lapse or behind-the-scenes videos
- Influencer or user-generated videos
- People talking!
Pro Tip: Start small. Even simple videos can help you stand out.
23. Post Stories
After their success on Snapchat, Stories launched on Instagram in 2016, and now, 500 million Instagram users post at least one Instagram story every day.
The most successful influencers typically post 6-7 stories per day.
So while stories can feel temporary and fleeting to businesses, users love them. There’s also evidence they produce results. According to Instagram, 1 in 5 stories results in a direct message.
For tons of Instagram Stories tips, check out this blog post.
Pro Tip: Turn your longer pre-produced video content into multiple stories to increase engagement.
24. Use Story Highlights
You can pin your top Instagram Stories to your profile.
Some accounts take the route of using their Story Highlights like a website navigation: to highlight their key products, services, or content categories.
Take Huda Kattan for example, founder of Huda Beauty, who uses her Story Highlights to showcase what type of content she puts out.
Others use their Story Highlights screen space to highlight their most recent campaign.
Nike, for example, uses their Highlights to showcase their most recent influencers.
Pro Tip: You can set covers for your Instagram Story Highlights to create a consistent aesthetic. Prada does a great job:
25. Use Instagram Live
Here’s a great tip for any social media platform:
When a platform adds a new feature, they really want you to use it. Because of that, they’re likely to reward your use of their new features in the form of increased algorithmic visibility.
Instagram is making a huge push for video, so use video!
Yes, Instagram Live was launched in 2016, but their push towards video isn’t slowing down.
Instagram Live is a feature of Instagram Stories that lets you stream live to your followers. A ring will show up around your profile picture to let your followers know you’re live.
Instagram Live is great because there’s a sense of closeness with your followers. They can ask you questions while you’re live and you can answer them in real time.
Need some Instagram Live video ideas to get you started?:
- Behind-the-scenes look at your company
- Product demos
- Influencer takeovers
- Answering questions about products or sales
26. Start an IGTV Series
IGTV is basically Instagram’s answer to YouTube. It’s available within Instagram or as a standalone app.
Whereas Stories are for short-form content, IGTV is long-form videos from a few minutes up to an hour in length. It’s designed to be a modern take on the traditional TV experience.
You can post vertical and horizontal videos, so you get more of the traditional YouTube feel.
It’s still early days for brands on IGTV, so it’s a great chance to stand out early on.
IGTV, like Instagram, is primarily an entertainment platform, so you’ll have to create content that is funny, educational, or downright addicting.
So Yummy has a great IGTV channel where they post 1-4 minute food recipes with stunning visuals.
27. Promote Your Instagram Content on Other Channels
It’s crazy how many brands skip this step.
If you’re making great content on Instagram, promote it on your other channels!
Don’t just add a tiny Instagram icon link in your email newsletters, actually showcase your Instagram content like you would promote a blog post or a landing page.
Don’t just include a link to your Instagram in your blog, embed your Instagram content in your blog posts.
Sending your customers from other marketing channels to Instagram is perhaps the most underutilized follower growth hack.
28. Create Custom Camera Filters
We’re getting into high-effort territory, but creating a custom camera filter is a fast way to get tons of engagement and promotion for your brand.
Using Spark AR by Facebook, you can create your own AR (augmented reality) filters that are directly tied to your brand.
Then, users will use your filter, along with your branded hashtag, and you can re-post their user-generated content as your own. It’s like a self-sustaining content engine!
Gucci creates filters and asks users to share with the hashtag #GucciFilters, which they share back on their profile.
29. Instagram Ads
While everyone’s looking for free Instagram followers, the paid route isn’t always a bad option.
But don’t buy followers. Pay to promote your content instead.
If you’re looking for fast, efficient exposure, Instagram ads may just do the trick.
30. Use an Instagram Analytics Tool
Today’s marketer has to be data-obsessed.
No matter which of the above tips you decide to follow, it’s smart to always be evaluating whether or not your strategy is working by using data.
Using Keyhole, you can create:
- Hashtag reports
- Social campaign reports
- Influencer reports
- Brand monitoring reports
It’s fast, accurate, and easily shearable.
To get the data you need to grow your Instagram following, start your free Keyhole trial today.