I’m not an Instagram expert – you know this… Although I have spent some time investigating the most successful strategies to use to engage with your audience and to build a core following of active and invested followers. I will be experimenting over the coming year to see which of these suggestions nets me the most followers. It may simply be a cumulative effect and following all in turn will have a positive impact on your feed and follower count.
If you want to make money from your Instagram account, be it through sponsored posts or by selling items directly or using affiliate links, one thing is clear: You need to have a decent number of followers on the platform.
“Decent” varies, but usually the point when bloggers begin getting tapped for sponsored posts is around 5,000 followers but the real sweet spot is 10,000 followers and up.
So lets get started, I’ve included some of the real basics as I know not everyone already has an account so this blog will hopefully cover newbies and those with a larger portfolio, if not follower count. The examples I’m using are real folk, not superstars, with awesome content which deserve a larger audience, so please check them out and give them a heart or two, meaningful comments or indeed follow along 😉
How to Get More Instagram Followers
1. Use Quality Images
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you might be surprised at how many people don’t understand why no one is following their Instagram profile, yet their Instagram feed is filled with poor-quality images.
When I first started my photo quality was shocking!
When taking pictures, make sure you take lighting, angles, and the actual subject into account. People love to see well-lit snapshots of interesting subjects from angles that make you pay attention. Instagram is a VISUAL space, so if your visuals suck, you won’t get the engagement you are looking for. If your photo skills are not up to par, you have several options: you can use quality stock photos, hire a professional photographer, or take some courses so that you can improve your skills.
Let me know if a photography mini course would be of interest and I’ll get one arranged with a qualified photographer 😉
Examples of Instagram accounts using quality images that really pop:
2. Have a Branded Image
Think about your favorite brand or Instagrammer. More than likely, you can tell their products just by seeing them, right? That is because they have a branded image. They have conditioned you to be able to recognize them in the middle of a crowd. That is what you want your followers to be able to do when they are scrolling and see a photo from your account. You want to stand out. You can do that by creating a brand image that is instantly recognizable. Think about your overall feed before posting pictures and then try to create a cohesive flow through things like using a certain color scheme (or filters), using certain design elements, or even using a template.
Examples of Instagram accounts with a strong sense of brand:
3. Mix it Up!
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that having a brand image is the same as only putting out one type of content. Mix it up! Share your blog posts. Share funny stories. Post motivational quotes. Let people know what you are up to. Make your profile one that people want to browse for a bit.
These bloggers do a great job of mixing up their feeds:
4. Tell Stories
Again, you should be telling stories with your pictures. As much as Instagram is a visual place, it is also a place where people can tell stories and get to know one another.
The captions might be the best part of these Instagram accounts:
5. Ask Questions
One way to get your audience engaged (and, thus, get more people to want to follow you) is by getting them to stop and think about something. When you ask the right questions of people in your target audience, you are sure to get some responses. This opens up the opportunity for you to have a genuine dialogue with people, which is one of the first steps toward building a relationship with them.
6. Give Value
Another thing that you want to do to engage people and make them want to come back for more is to provide them with value. Don’t just use Instagram as a platform to promote your blog. Use it to truly serve your audience. Let them see that you have things to offer to them that they could benefit from.
Both of these accounts do a great job of providing helpful information to their followers:
7. Connect to Other Social Media Accounts
If you haven’t connected your Instagram to your other accounts or set up your blog so that people where to find you on Instagram, you are doing yourself a disservice. As a general rule, you should always let people on your social media accounts know all of the ways that they can connect with you. Further, when you connect your accounts, you can often set it up so that content that you share on one is shared on the others. This helps to bring more visibility to your content.
8. Use Relevant and Popular Hashtags
Everyone who uses Instagram is familiar with hashtags. However, there is a formula to using them properly. With a bit of research, you can discover the hashtags that you can use to gain more visibility and more followers. What I would do is come up with a list of keywords that deal with your brand and then search for each one in Instagram’s search bar. Focus on those tags that yield fewer than 400,000 posts. Using hashtags with too many posts will mean that you have way too much competition to be seen. Focusing on tags with too few posts means that it is likely not a tag that is very poplar, so it won’t really be something people are looking at. For each of these tags, click on them to see what the content includes, how people are engaging with it (are they commenting, liking, sharing, etc), and if it is something that your audience might find interesting. If you think it would engage your audience in a positive way, make a note to create similar content.
9. Follow People
If you want people to follow you, you should follow them. This goes for following people in your target audience, brands that you are interested in, and following people who have followed you.
The follow / unfollow method is a popular way to get more followers on Instagram, though it is not without controversy. You can read my thoughts on this method ( spoilers icky!!!!) here.
10. Like People’s Photos
Don’t be the type of follower that likes people’s profiles but never engages with them. Be the type of follower that you want! This means that you should take the time to actually check out people’s content and engage with them. The more you engage with others, the more they will engage with you.
11. Use Videos
I’ve mentioned that Instagram is a very visual platform. People tend to focus on pictures when they think of visuals, however videos are a part of that as well. In fact, Instagram’s videos are giving Vine a run for their money, especially since Instagram just increased the video length from 15 seconds to 60 seconds. Don’t write them off!
They are simple to make and the interaction they received is massive compared to a standard image and Instagram is currently really pushing the video content.
12. Post Consistently
You don’t have to be on Instagram 24/7, but you should definitely take the time to figure out when your audience is online and how often they like to see posts from you. It will take some playing around to figure it out, but it is worth it. (There are a load of apps to give you this information, check out my suggestions here.) Once you have figured out a good posting schedule, you can use a variety of social media management tools to schedule content.
Personally I’m posting twice a day, not randomly in an all or nothing format, as previously. This meth0d does seem to gain a lot more traction for my posts.
13. Host Contests, Challenges and Giveaways
People enjoy contests, challenges and giveaways. Think of some ways that you can get your audience engaged in these that would align with your brand.
Loop giveaways, where a group of people get together to give away an item and promote it to all of their followers, are particularly popular.
I will be hosting a loop giveaway in February, please get in touch if you want to be featured.
The way to enter these giveaways is to usually stipulate that you must follow everyone hosting the giveaway, which means you could gain a bunch of new followers! (However, it is worth noting that that these may not be quality followers as they could just be following you for a chance to win the prize and then may unfollow as soon as the giveaway is over.)
14. Use Trends to Your Advantage
I am sure you can think of some hashtag trends that are part of Instagram culture. Some examples could be #ManCrushMonday #WomanCrushWednesday, #SelfieSunday, #MotivationMonday, #ThrowbackThursday, etc. Take advantage of these trends.
15. Share Sneak Peeks and Special Content
Everyone likes to feel like they are getting something that not everyone has access to. Whenever possible, treat your Instagram followers to something that is just for them. Perhaps pictures that give them an inside look at your day. Or a sneak peek at something you are working on.
16. Show Your Personality
Don’t confuse branding with boring. You can be professional without dimming your personality. In fact, your personality is something you should bank on in social media because it is unique to you. Let your personality show through in your posts.
17. Use the Right Filters
There are a lot of different filters that you can use to make your images great. Play around with them until you find the one(s) that get the most engagement from your ideal audience and that suit your vibe the best. If you don’t like the filters on Instagram (and I don’t blame you), check out apps like VSCO, Afterlight and Color Story.
18. Check Out Your Competition
There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of espionage, as long as you are ethical about it. Check out your competitors to see what they are doing that gets a positive response from your ideal audience. If it works for them, it very well may work for you. Just put your own spin on it. Remember, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but you still want to be true to you.
19. Be Intentional
Don’t do anything without a purpose. Before you post anything, ask yourself why you are sharing it, what you want your audience to get from it, and how you want them to respond to it.
20. Create a Call to Action
If you know what you want your audience to do – ask them to do it. This could be an invitation to follow your profile, comment, share, etc.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.
21. Become an Instagram Suggested User
Now this may seem an impossible goal….OK, we’re half-kidding with this one but the quickest way to get more Instagram followers is to become an Instagram Suggested User. The accounts that Instagram features usually grow their accounts by 100,000 or MORE during the time that they are a suggested user. Of course, the big question with this is… how do you become an Instagram suggested user?! Instagram says they have the following requirements to be an Instagram Suggested User:
- Bring a unique perspective to Instagram by sharing inspiring, original photos and videos
- Are actively engaged in and help cultivate the larger Instagram community
- Inspire creativity in fellow Instagrammers by doing things like participating in @instagram’s Weekend Hashtag Project or bringing people together in the real world through an InstaMeet
Previous Instagram Suggested Users have their own theories about how they made the list, although keep in mind that nobody except Instagram really has the answer.
Do Tell: Do you have any more tips for how to get more Instagram followers? We’d love to hear them!