10 Ways to Gain Instagram Followers (And How I Got To 48k+ Followers!)

If, like I was back in 2016, you’re an active user of Instagram but just don’t know how to start growing your followers, I’m with you! For years, Instagram was a platform I loved from a distance. Cute photos of my family’s pets and questionable looking meals featured, but there was zero strategy in place. So how did I finally manage to grow a following of more than 35k? And how can you do the same? Today, I will share 10 actionable tips to gain more followers, grow your Instagram presence, and drive more traffic to your blog.

How to gain Instagram followers

So first, a mini case study. My Instagram account before and after I implemented the following tips…

How to grow Instagram followers
How to gain Instagram followers

From a steady 180~ followers to more than 35k in two years. While my current Instagram account (@thedoorsofldn) isn’t directly tied to a business – it was more of a challenge I set myself that went better than I could have ever expected (!) – the principles below are applicable to any business looking to gain traction on the platform.

  1. Find your niche

This is the #1 reason I was able to increase my Instagram followers around a full-time, unrelated day job. I picked a subject and stuck with it. Front doors. It might sound strange, but you’ll be surprised how many weird and wonderful niches are out there! You don’t have to be as narrow as that, but creating a theme for your photos will not only make your life 100x simpler, but it will give people a reason to follow you.

You can see this in practice from some of the biggest Instagram accounts, including Anthropologie, Jenna Kutcher and Swallows and Damsons.You can get very specific and plan your feed around a structure e.g. 1x candid image, 1x food image, 1x motivational quote. Alternatively, approach it more broadly with a focus on the overall aesthetic e.g. minimal and inspiring.

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2.      Use hashtags

Another one of the best tips for building your Instagram followers is hashtags. Did you know you can include up to 30? Rewind the clock a couple of years ago, and people were wary of using hashtags for fear it looked spammy. However, times have changed. Now, if you’re not using hashtags, you’re missing out on a huge growth opportunity.

To find out what hashtags you should be using, begin by searching for relevant words within Instagram e.g. #floristry, if you’re running a floristry business. From there, browse through the images to see what other hashtags people are using. You can also build your hashtags by copying some of the tags your ‘grammer peers are using. Once you start looking, you won’t be able to stop! And don’t be afraid to include some niche hashtags in there. By using less popular hashtags (i.e. not ‘fromwhereistand’) you’re more likely to rank as a “featured post” (*cue all the eyeballs*!).

And, why not create your own hashtag?! That way, as your community grows, you can start reposting images from your followers (with credit) to show appreciation and add content to your own account. 

*Instagram posting tip*: Save down the hashtags you find on your phone’s Notes app. Then, when you’re ready to share your next post, you can paste the whole lot as the first comment beneath your image.  

3.      Stay authentic

In 2018, Instagram was rocked by fake follower scandals and allegations of influencers pretending to have deals (posting #ad beneath images) in an effort to build their Instagram following and attract real sponsors. This is probably why, in 2019, authenticity is more important than ever.

This is great news for you 😊. People are tired of seeing filtered photographs of spotless beaches and glittering cocktails. They want to follow people they can relate to. So don’t be afraid to show your true, ‘unfiltered’ side on Instagram. Particularly on Instagram Stories, which is the perfect medium for more behind-the-scenes, unguarded content.

4.      Be a part of the community

Now, while you don’t have to spend hours of your life on Instagram (which, if you’re anything like me, is easily done!) you do have to dedicate *some* time to engaging with the Instagram community. That means not only liking other people’s images, but also commenting beneath them with the aim of building genuine connections. So don’t just write ‘lovely dress!’, but ask questions. Be interested, and this interest will be returned.

5.      Ask questions

When posting on your account, simulate engagement by asking questions. It can be as simple as asking people to ‘like’ your inspirational quote if they agree with it, or getting them to tag a friend. Even better, ask an open-ended question and make sure to jump back inside the comments and answer as many as you can to show you care about what your audience has to say.

6.      Geotag your images

This simply means adding a location to your images. This works best if you’ve travelled abroad recently, or even gone for breakfast at a unique spot in your hometown. Your image will show up to others who’ve shared your experience, and increases the chance of them finding you!

7.      Update your bio              

According to Instagram analytics platform Iconosquare, 2019 is the year to perfect your bio. Instagram has already started playing around with how it displays profiles in a bid to encourage that all-important click on the ‘Contact’ button. So focus on telling your brand story as succinctly as possible, ensure your website’s URL is included and include a clear CTA to motivate people to act.

[Gaz Oakley aka @avantgardevegan is an example of a detailed bio. Anna Potter aka @swallowsanddamsons is a great example of choosing a theme (dark and still life)]

How to grow Instagram followers
Swallows and Damsons Instagram

8.      Run a contest

Giving something away on Instagram is a great way of boosting engagement and increasing your followers. Ask people to share an image with your hashtag, or have them follow you and tag a friend to spread your reach even further.

9.      Don’t forget Instagram Stories

Last May, it was reported that Instagram Stories are growing 15x faster than feeds. New features were added, including fonts and stickers. This year, Instagram Stories are expected to get even more interactive.

Countdown stickers have just been launched, which enable you to share upcoming moments as significant as a birthday or as every day (but still triumphant!) as the end of a working week. If you’re new to Stories, have a play around. Use Boomerang, add GIFs. Go behind-the-scenes of your latest project and see how the intimacy of video begins to build closer ties with your audience.

*Top Instagram tip* Enhance your newly-edited bio by sharing your brand’s story in the Stories Highlights, which live permanently on your profile until you delete them.

10. Keep an eye on analytics

As you start to grow, keep an eye on your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not. Then, tweak your strategy accordingly. Remember: Don’t get too caught up in the follower numbers, but instead focus on the engagement rate. If your comments and likes per image are increasing, it means your strategy is paying off!

It’s important to note that one of the biggest trends of 2019 is the continuing rise of micro-influencers. Those are Instagrammers with between 1,000 and 100,000 followers, who have a tight-knit, extremely engaged community. That means so much more to brands and potential collaborators than an Instagrammer with 200k followers and (relatively) minimal likes/comments.

Have you just started using Instagram more strategically? How are you finding it?

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