How To Get More Followers On Instagram (The Real Way)

As a brand, it can be difficult to start over on Instagram. The first thing you have to do? Get more Instagram followers quickly.

But how?

Gone are the days of shortcuts like buying followers or using bots. These tricks can increase your number of followers for a short time, but they won't do you any favors in the long run.

That's because the only really valuable Instagram followers are real people who care about and engage with your brand. The wrong number of followers can boost your ego, but it won't help your Instagram strategy.

Click on any of the tips below to learn more, or keep scrolling for a full list of ways you can get more followers on Instagram for free.

Bonus: Download a free checklist This shows the exact steps a lifestyle photographer took on Instagram to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers, without a budget and without expensive equipment.

How to get more Instagram followers for free

1. Have a thoughtful Instagram marketing strategy

To use a social network effectively, you need a clear plan.

Getting more Instagram followers is a great goal. However, followers alone will not give you a successful Instagram account. Getting followers needs to be part of a larger plan that ties in with your business strategy and social marketing goals.

Think about the reasons why you want more Instagram followers. What do you really hope to achieve? You might want to:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Increase Product Sales
  • Increase the traffic to your website.

Focusing on these business-oriented goals will keep your Instagram account consistent. It will help you tell a compelling brand story that engages new profile visitors and helps build (and retain) a loyal following.

2. Define your target audience

Ask yourself a few questions about who you want to reach:

  • How old are you?
  • Where do you live?
  • What are they doing for work?
  • When and how do you use Instagram?
  • What are your weak points and challenges?

Answering these questions will help you create the right type of Instagram content to reach the people on Instagram who are most likely to follow you. Plus, you can focus on the needs of your target audience so you can always deliver the kind of content that will get them to follow you over the long term.

3. Create a consistent brand story and aesthetic

You might want to satisfy curiosity by showing how your product is made. Or share an employee's perspective to humanize your brand. If you want to purposefully position your brand, you can try to showcase the lifestyle or the achievements of your customers.

Regardless of what you're trying to achieve, it's important to maintain a consistent brand personality and appearance.

Your contributions should be easy to see at a glance. Think of your Instagram grid as one cohesive unit. You can always use Instagram Stories to share content that doesn't quite match the look and feel of your main feed.

Even if your products don't all look the same, you can use a unified design to give your grid a unified look, like @themillerswifecustomcookies:

Source: @themillerswifecustomcookies on Instagram

4. Use keywords to appear in search queries

Before people can follow you on Instagram, they need to find you. Not much text on Instagram is searchable. In fact, only two fields on Instagram contribute to search results: name and username.

Your username is your Instagram handle. It is a good idea to align it with the handle on other social networks as it will also make it easier to find you. Use your brand name or a variation of your name that will likely be used when searching for your brand.

Your name can be anything up to 30 characters. Keyword padding is never a good idea, but it can be useful to include your most relevant keyword in the name field to improve recognizability based on search.

For example, travel writer Claudia Laroye (@thetravellingmom) includes the key phrase "travel writer" in her Instagram name, which increases the chances of being discovered by those searching for travel content in general, and travel writers in particular.

The keyword for Traveling Mom's Instagram name

Source: @thetravellingmom on Instagram

5. Use relevant hashtags to reach new users

We just said that the text of your Instagram posts is not searchable. However, hashtags will show up in Instagram searches. That means that the thoughtful use of hashtags can be a great way to get followers on Instagram for free.

Including relevant hashtags can help people find your content after doing a search or after clicking a hashtag from another relevant post. Instagram users can also follow hashtags so your hashtagged content may appear in feeds from people who are not already following your account.

You can include up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram post. However, hashtags are often more effective when they are based on quality rather than quantity. Experiment to find out how many hashtags are best for your particular account.

Avoid hashtag gimmicks like #likeforlike, #tagsforlikes or #followme. This can lead to a temporary increase in followers. But it will likely be bots or people just interested in being tracked. And that doesn't help you build a meaningful, engaged audience on Instagram.

Instead, focus on using targeted hashtags that are specific to your photo, product, or business like stylist Dee Campling does in this #wfh shot.

6. Optimize your Instagram bio and profile

Two thirds of visits to Instagram company profiles come from non-followers. These new visitors are all potential new free Instagram followers – but only if your bio and profile convince them to hit the "Follow" button. You don't do this if your profile is unclear, incomplete, or unattractive.

In addition to the Name and Username fields above, your profile includes your website (a clickable link) and bio.

Make the most of the 150 characters on your bio to convey your brand identity and show new visitors why they should follow you. What kind of content can you expect?

This bio by @abstractaerialart sums up the purpose and promise of the account in a quick and easy-to-digest way:

Abstract Air Art Instagram Bio

Source: @abstractaerialart on Instagram

If you have a Professional (Company or Creator) account, you can also add additional details to your profile, such as: B. Your contact information, type of company and location. Use all the fields relevant to your business to give new visitors all the information they need to follow.

7. Design a beautiful Instagram grid

This may seem too obvious to mention, but it's actually a critical point when thinking about how to get followers on Instagram. Every post on your Instagram grid needs to be high quality and visually appealing.

When a new user visits your profile, the content should make them see more. The desire for more inspires a new visitor to click "Follow".

Give the commercial photographer @nelsonmouellic a round of applause for this visual feat.

How to Get More Instagram Followers: Design a beautiful Instagram grid like @nelsonmouellic

8. Write compelling, long captions

While Instagram is a visual platform, writing great Instagram subtitles goes a long way in helping you get more reach and engagement. And as you've seen before, reach and engagement are key factors in attracting free Instagram followers.

Here are some key strategies to consider:

  • Introduce the most important words. If the caption is longer than 125 characters, users will need to tap More to see the whole thing. Make the most of those first few words to inspire this additional tip.
  • Ask a question. This makes it easy for your audience to leave a comment. This commitment will help make your account more visible to more people.
  • Try emoji. Emoji can catch the reader's eye and is suitable for most types of accounts on this visual social network.
  • Try out different lettering lengths. Instagram allows long-form captions of up to 2,200 characters, so you can try in-depth storytelling if your post warrants it. Ultra short lettering can also be very effective when the graphics speak for themselves. However, our data shows that long captions are more likely to improve engagement.

Will Tang of Going Awesome Places posts great photos with detailed captions that tell the story behind the shot. Since his Insta biography describes him as the "creator of ridiculously detailed itineraries and travel guides," this subtitle approach is very brand-specific.

One of the little-known features of Instagram is the ability to pin up to three comments for each post.

Today we're posting pinned comments everywhere. 📌

That means you can pin a few comments to the top of your feed post and better manage the conversation.

– Instagram (@instagram) July 7, 2020

There are several ways that you can use this new feature as part of your plan to get more followers on Instagram.

One way is to use pinned comments to expand your caption beyond the 2,200 characters maximum by continuing the story in the comments. This allows you to tell more detailed and in-depth stories, which may be appropriate for some accounts.

Another option is to pin your favorite comments from other users, especially if they generate a lot of engagement.

Regardless of how you use this new feature, you can manage the conversation in your posts, creating more opportunities for engagement and connection.

10. Promote your Instagram account on other networks

The main way to get followers on Instagram for free is to make it easy for people to find you.

Your Instagram profile should be easily recognizable. If you've already built a following on another social network, share your Instagram account with those fans.

Share a link on your Instagram profile and give your existing social followers a reason to check it out. (Like an Instagram exclusive coupon code, event, or competition.)

When BlogHer Jameela Jamil hosted an Instagram Live, they made sure it was advertised on their Facebook page too.

If you are about to open your Instagram account, be sure to post some content before promoting the account elsewhere. Aim for at least 12 contributions.

You can also highlight some of your best Instagram posts on your other social channels. Consider enhancing these posts with paid advertising to ensure that more of your Facebook, Twitter, and other social followers find you and follow you on Instagram.

11. Embed Instagram posts on your blog

You have already seen some embedded Instagram posts on this blog. Each embedded post is clickable and enables users to go directly to the corresponding post or Instagram profile.

This makes embedding your own Instagram posts on your blog an easy way to showcase your Instagram content and drive traffic to your Instagram profile. And as mentioned before, every new visitor to your Instagram profile is a potential new Instagram follower.

For example, suppose this blog post was about LinkedIn demographics. (It's not, but of course we have a blog post on LinkedIn demographics.) We could add an infographic to share some of the key demographic details.

Or we'd instead embed an Instagram post like this:

Anytime you share visual content like photos, charts, or infographics on your blog, there is an option to embed an Instagram post with that content instead.

12. Post content to be re-shared

As you think about content that might help illustrate your own blog posts, think about content that other people might also want to share.

People love to share a good infographic so this could be a great option. When someone embeds your Instagram posts on their blog, you are exposed to a whole new audience of potential followers.

Also, remember to create content that users will want to re-share on their Instagram Stories. Anyone can re-share your main feed posts in a story. This is also clickable so anyone who wants to know more can click through to your original post. This is another easy way to expand your reach to new audiences and potential new followers.

For example, this is what the same Hootsuite LinkedIn demographics post would look like when shared with my Instagram story.

Share the Hootsuite LinkedIn demographic story again

Source: Instagram

13. Share your Instagram account in other messages

Think beyond your social channels when sharing your Instagram account.

Make sure to link to your Instagram account on your website, in your email signature, and in your online newsletters. The link doesn't have to be large: you can use a small Instagram icon.

How to Get More Followers on Instagram: Add a Small Instagram Icon to an Email Signature (Example)

Whenever you're promoting a new Instagram account, a quick email notification that highlights some great posts is a great way to get free Instagram followers quickly.

And don't forget your offline materials. Coasters, posters, packing slips, business cards, and packaging are potential places to share your Instagram handle. This is an easy way to get more free Instagram followers to your account.

14. Use the Instagram name tag

Your Instagram name tag is a scannable code that Instagram users can use to follow you instantly. We have already said that offline communication materials also provide an opportunity to promote your Instagram account. The Instagram Name Tag is an easy and effective way to promote your account for offline materials like packing slips, signage, and product packaging.

Example of an Instagram name tag to get more Instagram followers

Source: Instagram

Your name badge is also a great way to get new followers in real time at networking events and conferences. People you are in personal contact with can scan your code to follow you without entering your handle. Print it out and slip it into your name badge holder for easy access.

Find your Instagram name tag by tapping the three line icon in the top right of your Instagram profile and selecting the name tag.

15. The aim is to be introduced

Feature accounts are simply Instagram accounts that curate and re-share content from other users based on a hashtag or tagging. Some of these accounts have a huge following, and if they share any of your posts (along with your handle), you can send a new stream of Instagram followers your way.

There's a feature account for just about every niche and interest on Instagram. You will start uncovering them as you do your hashtag research as recommended in Tip 5. Some of them can get pretty specific.

For example, @damngoodstitch contains embroidery posts. The account has more than 145,000 followers.

16. Aim at the Explore page

The Explore page is displayed when you click the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the Instagram app. According to Instagram itself, this is where you can find "photos and videos you might like from accounts you don't already follow".

The Explore tab is where you can find Instagram Posts, Stories, and IGTV. Users first see a content grid chosen by the Instagram algorithm. You will then have the option to delve deeper into specific content topics using the topic channels at the top of the screen.

Half of the Instagram accounts visit Explore every month. This is a great opportunity for brands looking to grow their audience.

So how can you get your content to show up in the Explore tab? It is not easy. Fortunately, we have a whole article to help you figure it out.

You can also pay to get into the Explore feed by selecting Explore as your ad placement.

Various examples of the Instagram Explore page and ads in the Explore feed

Source: Instagram

17. Mark your location

Anytime your post or story contains a unique location element, it's worth adding a location tag. This is another easy way for users to find your content on Instagram.

If your business has a physical location, mark it and encourage customers to do the same. Users can then click that location and view all of the photos and stories posted in your store, restaurant, or office. This can help make your brand (and Instagram account) more accessible.

For example, this is what you get if you search for the location of Van Wonderen Stroopwafels in Amsterdam:

Amsterdam location tag page on Instagram with top posts

Source: Instagram

When posting from a conference or event, adding your location will allow you to connect with other attendees and expose your account to a very targeted group of new potential Instagram followers.

18. Flag relevant users

You can tag Instagram users included in your photos with an @ sign in your caption or use Instagram's tagging feature in the publication. Either way, they'll get a notification when you do.

Hootsuite Instagram post tagging a partner in the caption (as an example of how to get more Instagram followers)

Tagging people encourages them to engage with the post and share it with their own followers. Your contribution will also be shown on the Marked in Tab of your Instagram profile.

You can also tag relevant users on your Instagram stories. Then they can share the content again for their own story with just a few taps. In this case, anyone viewing their story will see your username and click through to your account.

Hootsuite Instagram Story tagging a user (as an example of how to get more Instagram followers)

You'll find that we said you should only tag relevant users. Tagging someone just to get their attention is not a good idea. Tag only those that are included in your photo or that are relevant to the content of your post.

Some potentially relevant users to flag are:

  • Customers
  • Delivery
  • Other relevant companies
  • Colleagues or employees
  • Someone who taught you a skill or told you about something you share in the post
  • Anyone who appears in the photo

19. Encourage others to tag you

Another way to introduce your Instagram account to a new audience is to ask other Instagram users to tag you. When they tag you in a post, their audience will see your handle and click on it if they want to learn more.

Your bio is a great place to ask people to tag you on Instagram.

For example, Visit the USA asks Instagrammer to tag them so they can be listed on their account.

Instagram Followers Visit USA Feature Day

Source: @visittheusa on Instagram

20. Follow the appropriate accounts

You should only tag people in an Instagram post if the content is directly relevant to them. But you can follow anyone you like. If you follow someone on Instagram, there's a good chance they'll be reviewing your feed.

If your Instagram feed is full of compelling content relevant to their interests, they'll likely return the favor.

Social listening is a great way to find conversations that are relevant to your brand. And from there, you can easily identify influential users (a.k.a. influencers) that you can follow. Following these top users as well is a great idea.

The Suggested For You section of Instagram is also a great resource for finding relevant accounts to follow. This will show up in your feed between posts or on the right side of the screen on a computer.

You can also access Instagram's suggestions by going to your profile, then clicking the three bars in the top right corner and clicking Discover People. Here is also a list of the most popular Instagram accounts chosen for you based on the algorithm.

However, be aware that you shouldn't be following other accounts too quickly. Your follower ratio is important for credibility. Your Follower Ratio is the number of people who follow you compared to the number of people you follow.

And don't play the game where you follow people just to get their attention and then stop following after they follow you back. This isn't good for your Instagram reputation as they really are a sucker.

21. Engage with existing communities

As with all social networks, Instagram is about the communities built within. You want to engage with these communities.

Get involved by liking, commenting on, and sharing content from other credible users in your community. Avoid generic comments (like "Awesome post!") That look like they came from bots.

This helps attract attention (and potential new followers) in two ways:

  1. People will get notifications when you like and comment on their posts and can check your profile to return the favor.
  2. Other people will see your comments and will be able to check your profile if they find them thoughtful or intriguing.

22. Work with influencers in your niche

Here's an important statistic for anyone thinking about how to get more followers on Instagram: 60% of consumers say they would follow a brand on Instagram after being promoted by an influencer they trust.

We have a complete guide to influencer marketing to help you with this.

23. Work with other brands

Don't be afraid to reach out to other brands to see if there is a way to collaborate on Instagram. The right way of working together could help everyone involved gain more Instagram followers.

Think of brands or other companies that you already work with in other ways, such as: B. in a local business improvement association or in a shopping district. How can you collaborate on Instagram?

A common option is to host a multi-company product contest, as the Rocky Mountain Soap Company did with @borntobeadventurous' Annika Mang.

24. Embrace Instagram stories

We've already mentioned stories in a few tips, but it's worth highlighting this feature in particular. Simply put, if you want more Instagram followers, you have to use Instagram Stories. Half a billion Instagram accounts use stories every day, and 45% of the most viewed stories are from businesses

People who use stories are very engaged. According to Instagram, every third story leads to a direct message.

Use the hashtag and location features on your stories to make them accessible to people who are not already following you. This is still a little-used way to get followers on Instagram for free.

For more information, check out our complete guide on how to use Instagram Stories.

25. Use interactivity features

Instagram Stories offer a variety of interactive features to keep users motivated, such as: B. Polls, Questions, and Chat Stickers.

Getting stickers increased video views by three seconds in 90% of Instagram's beta campaigns for this feature.

Get more Instagram followers by using interactive features like surveys

Source: Instagram

When users come across your story from a hashtag or location page, this instant engagement opportunity is a great way to get them to learn more about your brand by following them.

26. Make the most of the highlights of stories

Stories Highlights give you the opportunity to introduce your brand to people who visit your profile. Wrap up these highlights with lots of great information and content to show new visitors exactly why they should click Follow.

You can also use the cover photos for your highlights. Porter Airlines does a great job with custom icons that show off their cute mascot.

Porter Airlines' Instagram story highlights show how a nice, clean profile can help you get more followers on Instagram

Source: @porterairlines on Instagram

27. Try Instagram Live Collaboration

Instagram is the perfect place to enjoy live video, a trend that continues to grow on social media. Interactive features like questions and comments allow you to get in touch with viewers in real time and create more of this valuable engagement that can help increase your reach.

Live video will appear in your brand's story. When the live video ends, you can make it disappear, make it available for your story to play for 24 hours, or add it to IGTV. Users will be notified when an account they are following is broadcast live so a live video will really get attention.

To introduce your live video to a whole new audience, use the Go Live With A Friend option to co-host live video with someone else in your industry. Ask the other person to host a live video, then invite you as a guest. You both will be shown in a split screen introducing you to all of their followers.

In the era of COVID-19, Instagrammers used this feature creatively to host mini talk shows. For example, Design Emergency is running a weekly Instagram Live where they use Go live with a friend to interview key figures in the design world, and Wine Spectator is running a series with winemakers.

28. Try an IGTV series

While both of the series mentioned in the previous tip are presented on Instagram Live, they will also be published on IGTV after the live conversation ends.

IGTV videos can be up to an hour long, so you can dig into topics in depth. You can also create an IGTV series that encourages viewers to follow your account instead of just watching a video and moving on.

IGTV posts appear four times larger than photos on the browse tab, so new potential followers are more likely to click on your content.

Hootsuite created an IGTV series called Fridge-Worthy: A very reputable and prestigious social media awards show that recognizes brands for their unique social media activities.

29. Create an AR filter

AR filters for Instagram Stories are photo effects. Instagrammers can modify photos taken with the front and rear cameras of their cell phones. Those posts with puppy ears? These are carried out with an AR (Augmented Reality) filter. This "which one (vegetables / pizza / emoji / etc.) are you?" Contributions? These also use AR filters.

Any Instagram user can now create an AR filter. The filters you have created are located in a section of your Instagram profile indicated by a face icon. If your filter isn't promotional or branded, it will also appear in the Instagram Stories Effects Gallery, where any Instagrammer can find it.

How does creating an AR filter help you get more Instagram followers? When someone is using your AR filter, they'll see your account name in the top left corner. It's clickable and can bring more new visitors to your profile.

Instagram Stories AR Filters (Example of How to Get More Followers on Instagram)

Source: @gucci on Instagram

30. Post consistently

Your existing followers want to see content from you. That's why they followed you in the first place.

As mentioned earlier, the increased involvement in how users interact with your posts gives you a good love of the algorithm. Providing a great way for your existing followers to interact is a great way to get new Instagram followers too.

How often should you post? Analysis by Tailwind found that the daily release "grows four times faster than the release less than once a week".

31. Post at the right time

Yes, Instagram uses an algorithm instead of a chronological feed. However, timing is still important as it is one of the signals that the algorithm takes into account.

The Hootsuite social team found that the best time to post on Instagram is between 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. PST or 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. PST on weekdays. But your audience may have different habits than we do. It's best to use a tool like Hootsuite Analytics that can help you see the best time to post for your audience based on past engagement, impressions or traffic.

The Hootsuite Analytics dashboard shows Instagram followers online by the hourSource: Hootsuite Analytics

Test different times and measure the results. For example, if you're a retail brand, you might want to test the release during your lunch break.

32. Schedule your posts and stories

Is the best time to post not a good time to be on Instagram? Use a social media management tool like Hootsuite to schedule and post straight to Instagram.

By planning your posts in advance, you can plan a cohesive Instagram grid that tells an overarching story. Plus, you can spend time creating great captions instead of trying to come up with something fun in the blink of an eye.

You can now also use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram stories.

Hootsuite planner with scheduled Instagram stories

33. Run competitions

Contests on Instagram can help you get more followers if during your sign up process they ask you to follow them and comment on one of your photos by tagging a friend.

The tagged friends will also see your post and can also choose to follow your account.

Encouraging user generated content as part of your competition can also help you reach more people. People learn more about your contest from posts their friends make. This is an effective way to build trust with new followers and draw more attention to your page.

34. Consider advertising on Instagram

Okay, this isn't exactly a way to get free Instagram followers. But Instagram ads can be a powerful way to get new followers quickly by getting your content in front of people who would otherwise not see it.

And unlike buying followers, using Instagram ads is a perfectly legitimate and effective way to get more Instagram followers quickly with a small investment.

Target your audience based on location, demographics, and even key behaviors and interests. You can also create a similar audience based on the people who are already interacting with your company.

In addition to the feed, you can advertise in Instagram Stories and the Explore feed. For more information on creating and posting an Instagram ad campaign, check out our in-depth guide to Instagram ads.

35. Learn from Instagram Insights

Instagram analytics tools give you data on impressions for each post, as well as reach, engagement, top posts, and more. You can also find demographic information about your followers, including gender, age, and location.

Instagram Insights Dashboard

By regularly reviewing this data, you can identify areas where you can tweak your strategy to get more followers on Instagram.

One of the most important things that you should keep in mind is What time of the day do your followers use Instagram?This allows you to post when people are most likely to see and engage with your content. Data nerds who want to go deeper should consider a social media management tool like Hootsuite that can help you see the best times to post based on impressions, engagement, and traffic Follower growth and a number of other useful performance metrics.

Hootsuite Dashboard Instagram overview

Get more Instagram followers with Hootsuite. Schedule content for the optimal times, optimize engagement, track your performance, and more – all from a single, easy-to-use dashboard. Try it for free.

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