Growing your Instagram following might be one of the most frustrating things on social media. You spend a bunch of time taking the right picture, editing, writing a caption, and brainstorming the perfect hashtags, but it gets an underwhelming number of likes and comments. Then, it fades into your timeline’s abyss. You’re fighting an uphill battle against Instagram’s changing algorithms. It sucks. However, with a little work, there is an upside.
Here are 16 tips for growing your Instagram following in 2019:
TLDR (too long, don’t read):
Be human and authentic
Quality over quantity
Engage your audience
Don’t buy followers
Like photos and leave thoughtful comments
Be more helpful and less salesy
Use social media listening tools
Tag other people and brands
Create a branded hashtag
Run a contest
Use a combination of trending and relevant hashtags
Embed your IG link on your website, other social media accounts, and email
Partner with another Instagram user or influencer
Post more video content
Boost your posts with Instagram ads
Tip #1: Be human and authentic
First things first - be you. Chances are people follow you because they want to learn more about you and the value you can provide. With growing usage of automation on social media, it’s important to stay authentic, relatable, and helpful.
Tip #2: Quality over quantity
Would you rather have 100k unengaged or 10k engaged followers? I’ll answer it for you… 10k engaged followers! Although a much smaller following, having engaged advocates is worth much more to your brand. Your audience will naturally grow if you consistently share stories and provide value. Consider this: if you buy friends, they’ll leave when you run out of money. If you build and nurture trusting relationships with friends, they’ll have your back when you have nothing in your name.
Tip #3: Engage your audience
In other words, don’t auto-like, -comment, and -follow. Ever get a comment that doesn’t quite reflect your post? It can be awkward and disingenuous when generic comments are left by a bot. Try to focus on leaving real messages versus automated general comments. Nurturing human interaction by responding to comments and messages is important when growing your brand, relaying authenticity, and building credibility.
Tip #4: Don’t buy followers
A large following can give you clout but it can also have the reverse effect if they’re fake. The average engagement rate is 1-3% (engagement rate = total number of likes and comments / number of posts). The higher the better. Accounts with a large following but very low engagement could be a result of fake followers. In a time where authenticity prevails, focus on growing your audience organically with a strategy that promotes great content.
Tip #5: Like photos and leave thoughtful comments
Seriously. It’s not enough to just post. You’ve got to get social by liking and commenting on others’ posts. To make the most of your time, identity 10-20 accounts that have a similar audience to yours and engage them. Like their photos and leave thoughtful messages. When their audiences see that you’re adding value, they may want to follow you as well.
Tip #6: Be more helpful and less salesy
People know when they’re being sold, and they generally don’t like it. Having a helpful and authentic approach builds trust and nurture relationships. The 80/20 rule is a solid place to begin -- 80% helpful, 20% sales. Sharing tips, stories, and motivation are great ways to capture a reader’s attention.
Tip #7 Use social media listening tools
Knowing who, what, and where people are having conversations about your brand is essential. Beyond the simple search function, there are several social media listening and automation tools such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, and Buffer that enable you to monitor online conversations via custom hashtags, keywords, and more. Additionally, you can target specific areas, demographics, and times. Using such tools keep you in updated and enables you to respond in a timely manner.
Tip #8: Use geotagging
Tagging the location of your photos is an excellent way to join Instagram’s world of photos. It’s common for people to view geotagged photos for ideas and inspiration. Plus, it makes you looked like you’ve charted the world!
Tip #9: Tag other people and brands
You create shareable opportunities when you tag others in your posts. For instance, as a travel blogger you might tag the brands of your travel gear, hotels you stay in, and restaurants you dine at. If the content is worthwhile, the brands may share/repost it ands tag you. Thus, increasing exposure to your account and prospective followers.
Tip #10: Create a branded hashtag
Make it easy for people to find you through branded hashtags for your account and campaigns. Not only can people can discover who’s participating in the conversation but you can use it as a metric to track the success of your page and engage with people.
Tip #11: Run a contest
Incentivizing your target audience to engage may help you increase your reach and followers. Share a post and ask your audience to tag a friend or two. You can also make it a contest requirement to follow you. If the incentive is worthwhile, you’ll surely increase your followers. But, be sure to have a post-contest strategy that engages and converts your new followers.
Tip #12: Embed your IG link on your website, other social media accounts, and email
Placing a link to your IG account across web increases your chances of being discovered and followed. Sending a friendly email to your subscribers is also a great way to gain followers. Here are some places to add your IG link include:
Website: header, footer, and contact page
Facebook: About and story page, custom tab, cover photo, CTA (under cover photo) and pinned post
Twitter: bio, bio link, and pinned tweet
YouTube: cards, annotations, cover photo, bio, and in-video animation/overlay
Tip #13 Use a combination of trending and relevant hashtags
Joining the conversation by using trending hashtags could get you on Instagram’s Discover tab, which as it’s named can help you get discovered. Moreover, pairing your posts with relevant hashtags will generate exposure in your category. Do keep in mind, however, that using too many irrelevant hashtags could get flagged as spam and get you shadowbanned. Thus, resulting in your posts not appearing at all.
Tip #14: Partner with another Instagram user or influencer
Collaborating with another IG user or influence can introduce your account to a new audience. You can do this by hosting an IG Takeover, co-hosted livestream, or a repost. If you’ve got the budget for it, consider partnering with an influencer to share a post about your brand.
Tip #15: Post more video content
Videos receive a lot of engagement, and Instagram gives you multiple options to share them. IG Story is a goldmine for engagement. From asking questions to polls to like meters, sharing content on the platform’s ephemeral video feature is a must for your strategy. Other places to add video content include your timeline, highlights reel, and IG TV. Instagram’s algorithm favors accounts that receive lots of engagement. So if video isn’t already part of your strategy, jump on it!
Tip #16: Boost your posts with Instagram ads
If you have a high performing post, consider amplifying your reach with paid advertising. You can create ads directly in Instagram or through Facebook with a budget of as little as $1 per day.
If you aren’t getting the results you want, take a step back and reevaluate your approach. Try all or a combination of the above tips. Keep in mind that every account is unique, so it’s important to test what works well and what doesn’t. If we left any tips out, feel free to let us know in the comments below.