So you wanna grow your Instagram? There are lots of things we can do to increase our following and engagement organically and without using dubious growth-hacking strategies, like playing the follow, unfollow game; you know when someone follows you, you like the look of their account and follow them back, only to find them unfollow you shortly after? Ugh 🙁 that’s so not how to grow your Instagram and rock your community. I prefer to do things differently and I hope you do too.
22 tips to grow your Instagram
The following tips on growing your Instagram are based upon my experiences with my travel-inspired Instagram account, @iamKirstenT and approaches I’ve observed from others who are rockin’ their gram!
1. Start with your “why”
Like use of any social media platform, you should start by getting clear on why you want to grow your Instagram following. Why are you on that platform in the first place? What do you hope to achieve? Figure that out and then you can align your use of Instagram (and content) with your objectives.
2. Set your profile to public
If you seriously want to grow your Instagram following, you need to allow people to see your profile and your gallery before they decide to tap that follow button. There are many valid reasons why someone might want to have a private Instagram account and I totally support that e.g. for sharing family photos. But if you’re hoping to connect with a stranger, they should be able to see what type of content you post before they follow you, otherwise many savvy users will assume, you’ve got something to hide or you keep your account for sharing with friends and family only.
3. Make full use of your profile
There is only one place where we can add a clickable external link on Instagram and that’s in our profile. Use it and don’t forget you can change that URL to send traffic to whatever you want to promote each time you post to Instagram. When you upload your post and write your caption, remember to mention that the link is in your profile.
4. Post some content before engaging with others
If you have a brand new account, you need to let people know you exist e.g. by interacting with their content, but if people decide to look at your account after you commented on their post and they see nothing in your gallery, where’s the motivation to follow you? Serve up a sample of what’s to come; I don’t care how few followers an account has, if I like the look of a gallery, I’ll tap that follow button.
great content your best content
There’s no denying that great photos (and videos) will receive positive engagement, providing they get seen in the first place. Great visuals do not need to be captured with the most expensive equipment though (I know some will disagree…); I love photography and have a range of camera equipment but most of my photos that end up on Instagram are taken with my iPhone.
What is more important than the equipment you use, is how you capture your content. Think about what is included within the frame of the shot, as well as thinking about the angle used and lighting.
Editing your photos before publishing is usually a must. There are lots of third-party apps available and I’ve experimented with a few, but if you are posting “live” then Instagram’s built-in image editor is fab. Filters are not always your friend (not unless you adjust the settings first), so sometimes it can be better to stick with editing brightness, contrast, colour etc. I’ve definitely seen a difference in engagement since I started editing my photos.
7. Get your emoji on!
Seriously, if you’re not using emojis with your Instagram posts, you need to start right now. 🙂 Emojis rock, they are fun, universal (so language isn’t a barrier) and they add another visual element to your post. You can even use them in hashtags! Don’t forget to use them appropriately in your profile too because they are also a great shorthand when characters are limited.
8. Share Stories
Storytelling can be a very effective tool to engage and grow your community on Instagram. We can do that directly with the visuals we share and we can provide more context by continuing the story within the post’s caption. When I travel and explore, I love to share stories about places I’ve visited.
9. Include a call to action
Encourage engagement by including a call to action. Whether you ask people for their opinion, tips or to tag a friend who will relate to the post, experiment and see what resonates.
10. Theme your gallery
Individual photos can do really well, but if someone clicks through to view your gallery and they are greeted with chaos, you might quickly lose their interest. Having a theme for your Instagram account makes a huge difference. When I first started using Instagram in 2013 (with my account, iamKirstenT), as a new user I didn’t pay much attention to the visual appearance of my gallery as a whole; I was playing, sharing my everyday adventures and travels. If I attended an event and there was a competition which involved participating via Instagram, I would join in. Once I changed my approach and started to think of my Instagram as a carefully curated public photo album, I started to see a much better return on investment.
There are different ways you can theme your gallery and you need to explore what works best for you, your personality, style, brand and reason for being on the platform in the first place. Here’s some ideas:
- Choose a palette of colours and make use of them consistently through your gallery. Those colours could be your branding colours, for example.
- Pick a topic and theme your photos around that. For my travel Instagram account, I now stayed focused upon adventure travel in the outdoors.
- Style your gallery by using a filter consistently e.g. to create a mood (happiness) or a look (vintage).
- Alternate two types of posts, to create a checkerboard effect e.g. inspirational quote on a block of colour that relates to your branding, and then a photo, or alternate photos with one of two primary colours etc.
11. Community first
If you only ever post on Instagram and rarely interact with other people’s content, you’re doing it wrong. Show love to others by liking and commenting on their content too. So engage with the people you follow, people who follow you, and those who have not yet discovered you. I’m not suggesting a quid pro quo like for like (or follow for follow); keep it natural, genuine and authentic. Don’t forget to reply to people who take the time to comment on your posts too. If you have a huge following, it’s not always practical to respond to every single one, but schedule time to do this where you can.
12. Use relevant hashtags
If you want other people to find you, you need to identify hashtags that are relevant to your account, purpose and the content you post. Instagram allows us to add a maximum of 30 hashtags to each post; never, ever add all those hashtags to the post’s caption, it just doesn’t look good. One or two primary hashtags in the caption is ok, but stick the rest of those hashtags in the comments. Some will argue you should only ever use a few hashtags, others will tell a different story. You need to experiment and context can play a role. If you want to get your posts re-grammed by another account, you need to use their hashtag with a relevant photo. This also helps other people in that community, find you.
13. Create your own hashtag
Having your own hashtag and publicising it in your profile, can encourage your community to share their content with you. To provide some incentive, offer to re-gram content from your community. When you do this, you absolutely always must mention the member by username in the caption of the photo. You might also consider tagging them in their own photo because that helps increase the visibility of your account too, if they decide to include that tagged photo in their own gallery of tagged photos, for others to view.
14. Run competitions
Instagram competitions can be a lot of fun and again are an alternative way for your community to interact with you and will grow your Instagram. Prizes do not necessarily need to be high value because if people love your brand, they will be happy to receive even the smallest item from you. If you have got a huge following, then a re-gram from your account would be very well received from community members who have much smaller followings as it exposes their work to a new audience and usually results in some new followers.
Remember there are laws and regulations that govern competitions, so make sure you check the rules that apply to you, and include terms and conditions and eligibility to enter. The best way to do this is to include the full details on your own website and point people to view the information there.
15. Give shoutouts
Mentioning some of your most valued community members in posts, whether that’s once a week or once a month, is also a great way to show some love to your community.
16. Use locations appropriately
Adding locations to your photos and videos provides another way for people to discover your content and profile. Take care when creating custom locations though e.g. I’ve seen a lot of people do this to cross-promote another channel (their Snapchat accounts) by creating a custom location called Snapchat (+ username). When we create a custom location, the physical location we are in at the time of posting, will appear on a map. So, if you are at home and you add a custom location, you are making your home address public to the world. There’s a lot of reasons why you might not want to do that.
17. Be consistent
I’ll admit, I do take breaks from Instagram once in a while and I’m cool with that, because I don’t allow any social media to dominate my life and when I do post to Instagram, it’s always live and never with a third party app. However I do appreciate that when I stick to a consistent posting strategy, my following grows at a much quicker rate. Most Instagram strategists will tell you, you have to be consistent but you know what? Even some of the bigger accounts take breaks sometimes and nothing bad happens. So if you miss a slot, a few days, or whatever it is, it will be ok. Those who genuinely want to connect with you, won’t disappear just because you’re on a break. Sure, you’ll lose some followers but perhaps they weren’t the followers you were looking for anyway.
Where possible, stick to posting at set times, at least once a day; this helps your biggest fans know when you are going to be online.
18. Get following
If you want to ramp up your following in a short space of time, invest time in finding new and relevant accounts to follow on a daily basis; those accounts should belong to the people you have identified as your ideal client/avatar or those you want to network with and their content should genuinely be of interest to you. As I mentioned at the start of this post, please do not unfollow someone who followed you back; if you want to build a relationship with them, it’s just not going to happen.
Follow accounts that inspire you and follow accounts you can learn from. Those accounts do not have to be in the same niche as you of course (we can all learn more, by getting out of our own context).
19. Monitor your account
It’s crucial to monitor your account, in terms of;
- Engagement: so you can learn what type of content worked well, what didn’t, and who your most engaged followers are.
- Your following: ditch time-wasters who are playing the follow, unfollow game.
I use an app on my iPhone called InsTrack.
20. Promote your Instagram
Don’t forget to tell people about your Instagram. If you have a related website, include a link from there; tell your email list and cross-promote your Instagram on your other social media channels.
21. Review your gallery
As you improve your use of Instagram it can be useful to review your gallery and delete content that did not perform well or content that is no longer aligned with the purpose of your account. I rarely delete content from my travel account, because it also acts as a reminder of the adventures I’ve been on and I like to have content to demonstrate what didn’t work well.
22. Collaborate with influencers
If your Instagram account supports your business, you might want to consider working with an online influencer; they can really help you grow your Instagram! This can be done in different ways for example;
- Have an influencer give you a shout out on their own Instagram account.
- Arrange a takeover, so the influencer manages your account for a day, a week, or whatever it might be.
Working with an influencer does not have to cost the earth; you do however need to be realistic about paying someone for their time, content (photography) and influence. There are influencers available at every price point though e.g. if you have a a few hundred followers, arranging a takeover with an influencer who has double your following, is going to be cheaper than someone with a following around 100k, but will still add some value for you. I’ve previously worked with a brand in this way in exchange for services (a sponsored tour); this worked for me because being an online influencer is not how I currently make a living. If you want to work with a professional online influencer, they may need access to your products and services AND require payment because they need to pay their bills too.