Starting fresh on social or just trying to build your online brand? You’re probably wondering how to get more followers on Instagram.
That’s because the only truly valuable Instagram followers are real people who care about and engage with your brand.
Check out our in-depth guide to learn how to grow Instagram followers organically.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a fitness influencer used to grow from 0 to 600,000+ followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
How to get more Instagram followers for free
No time to read the whole guide? Check out the video below for what you need to grow on Instagram this year:
Otherwise, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Step 1. Lay the groundwork
Have a thoughtful Instagram marketing strategy
If you want to be effective on social, you need a clear plan.
Getting more Instagram followers is a great starter goal. But followers alone won’t create a successful Instagram account. Your goal needs to be part of a larger plan that connects to your business strategy and social marketing objectives.
Think about the reasons why you want more Instagram followers. What do you really hope to accomplish? Maybe you want to:
- increase brand awareness
- boost product sales
- drive traffic to your website.
Staying focused on these business-oriented goals will help keep your Instagram account consistent. It will help you tell a compelling brand story that appeals to new profile visitors and helps build (and keep) a loyal following.
Define your target audience
Ask yourself some questions about who you’re trying to reach:
- Where do they live?
- What do they do for work?
- When and how do they use Instagram?
- What are their pain points and challenges?
The answers to these questions will help you craft content to connect with the people on Instagram who are most likely to give you a follow.
They will also help you consistently deliver content that will keep your audience engaged for the long run.
Create a consistent brand story and aesthetic
Maybe you want to show off how your product is made. Or humanize your brand by sharing an employee’s perspective. An aspirational brand might showcase the lifestyle or achievements of your customers.
No matter what you’re going for, it’s important to maintain a consistent brand voice, personality and look.
Your posts should be easily recognizable 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 fit with the look and feel of your main feed.
Your products don’t have to look the same, either. You can use styling to give your grid a consistent look and feel, like @themillerswifecustomcookies does:
Source: @themillerswifecustomcookies on Instagram
Use keywords to appear in searches
Before people can follow you on Instagram, they have to find you. But not all text on Instagram is searchable. Only two fields on Instagram contribute to search results: name and username.
Your username is your Instagram handle. It should be consistent with the handle you use on other social networks since this also makes it easier for people to find you. Use your brand name or a variation of your name that people are likely to use when searching for your brand.
Your name can be anything you like, up to 30 characters. You don’t want to keyword-stuff, but including your most relevant keyword in the name field can make you easier to find.
For example, travel writer Claudia Laroye (@itsclaudiatravels) includes the keyphrase “travel writer” in her Instagram name. Now, she’s more likely to be found by people looking for travel content or writers.
Source: @itsclaudiatravels on Instagram
Need ideas for your own username? Try our free Instagram name generator.
Optimize your Instagram bio and profile
Two-thirds of Instagram business profile visits are from non-followers. If your bio and profile convince them to click the follow button, those visitors may become followers.
Your profile includes your name and username fields (mentioned above), your website and your bio.
Your bio can be up to 150 characters, so make the most of it. Convey your brand identity and show new visitors why they should follow you. What kind of content can they expect?
This bio from @abstractaerialart sums up the account’s purpose and promise in a quick, easy-to-digest way:
Source: @abstractaerialart on Instagram
If you have a professional account (business or Creator), you can include extra info in your profile, like your contact information, type of business, and location.
Step 2. Create great content
Design a gorgeous Instagram grid
Sure, this might seem obvious, but it’s critical when thinking about getting followers on Instagram. Every post on your Instagram grid must be high-quality and visually engaging.
When new users visit your profile, the content should make them want to see more (and click Follow).
Give commercial photographer @nelsonmouellic a round of applause for this visual feat.
Write compelling, long captions
Instagram is a visual social media platform, but great Instagram captions help you get more reach and engagement.
Here are some key strategies to keep in mind:
- Put the most important words up front. If the caption is more than 125 characters long, users must tap “more” to see the whole thing. Make the most of those first words to inspire that extra tap.
- Ask a question. This makes it easy for your audience to leave a comment. That increased engagement will help make your account visible to more people.
- Use emoji. Emoji add a bit of variety and can make your caption more enticing. Just make sure you use those emoji correctly!
- Try different caption lengths. Our data shows that long captions are more likely to improve engagement, but ultra-short captions can also be very effective when the visuals speak for themselves.
Will Tang of Going Awesome Places posts great photos with detailed captions that tell the story behind the shot. His Insta bio calls him a “creator of ridiculously detailed itineraries and guides.” That means this caption approach is very on-brand.
Post content that’s meant to be re-shared
Your audience wants to engage with content that’s useful and inspiring. So when planning your posts, think about types of content that other people might like to share.
People love sharing infographics. Feed that desire by supplying your followers with your expert insights. If someone embeds your Instagram posts in their blog, you’re exposed to a whole new audience of potential followers.
People can also re-share your posts in their Instagram Stories. These posts are clickable, so anyone who wants to know more can click through to your original post. It’s another easy way to expand your reach to new audiences and potential new followers.
For example, here’s how a Hootsuite post about LinkedIn demographics looks when shared to my Instagram Story.
Embrace Instagram Stories
If you want more Instagram followers, you need 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 highly engaged. Plus, you can use the hashtag and location features in your stories to expose them to people who do not already follow you.
Make the most of Stories highlights
Put a lot of effort into an Instagram Story and not quite ready to say goodbye after 24 hours? Pinned Stories highlights are a great way to introduce your brand to people who visit your profile. So pack those highlights with great info and content to show new visitors why they should follow you.
Don’t forget to customize the cover photos on your highlights, too. Supplement company Vega keeps things on-brand and plant-friendly with their custom green highlights.
Source: Vega on Instagram
Your existing followers want to see content from you. That’s why they followed you in the first place. So give them what they want!
When users interact with your posts, those engagements tell Instagram’s algorithm that your content is valuable. Those interactions will then boost your reach. So giving your existing followers something great to interact with can help bring in new Instagram followers.
How often should you post? According to our analysis, between 3-7 times per week.
Post at the right time
Instagram uses an algorithm, not a chronological feed. But timing is still important to the algorithm.
Hootsuite’s social team found that the best time to post on Instagram is between 8 AM -12 PM PST or 4-5 PM PST on weekdays.
But your audience might have different habits than ours. A tool like Hootsuite Analytics can show you the best time to post for your audience based on past engagement, impressions or traffic.
Source: Hootsuite Analytics
Start testing various times and measuring results. For example, if you’re a retail brand, you might want to test posting during lunch
Schedule your posts and stories
What if the best time to post to your account is 3 AM? (Hey, it happens.) Use a desktop-based Instagram tool like Hootsuite to schedule and publish directly to Instagram.
Scheduling your Instagram posts in advance allows you to plan a cohesive grid that tells an overarching story. It also allows you to dedicate time to creating excellent captions rather than trying to come up with something witty on the fly.
Step 3. Make yourself findable
Use relevant hashtags to reach new users
Sadly, the text of your Instagram posts isn’t searchable. But your hashtags are. Using hashtags thoughtfully can be a good way to get followers on Instagram for free. You can even create your own branded hashtags.
Relevant hashtags can help people find your content. Instagram users can even follow hashtags. That means your hashtagged content may appear in the feeds of people who do not yet follow your account.
You can include up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram post, but don’t go overboard. Instead, do some experimenting to learn how many hashtags work best for your particular account.
Avoid hashtag gimmicks such as #likeforlike, #tagsforlikes, or #followme. These may give you a temporary boost in followers. But those people aren’t interested in what makes you and your content special. They’re not going to help you build a meaningful, engaged audience on Instagram.
Instead, focus on using highly targeted hashtags specific to your photo, product, or business, like stylist Dee Campling does in this #wfh shot.
Tag your location
If the location of your post or Story is clear, it’s worth adding a location tag. It’s another easy way for people to find your content on Instagram.
If your business has a physical location, tag it and encourage customers to do the same. Users can then click on that location and see all photos and Stories posted from your store, restaurant, or office.
For example, here’s what you get when you search for the location of Van Wonderen Stroopwafels in Amsterdam:
If you’re posting from a conference or event, adding your location can help you connect with other attendees. This will expose your account to a highly relevant group of new potential Instagram followers.
Tag relevant users
It’s easy to tag Instagram users featured in your photos. Just use an @-mention in your caption or Instagram’s tagging functionality within the post.
Users are notified when they’re tagged, so tags encourage them to engage with and share the post. Your post will also appear on the Tagged tab of their Instagram profile.
You can also tag users in your Instagram Stories. Then, they can post shared content to their own Story with just a couple of taps. If they do so, their viewers can click through to your account.
Be careful, though. Tagging someone just to get their attention isn’t a great idea. Instead, only tag users featured in your photo or relevant to your post’s content.
Some potentially relevant users to tag might include:
- Other relevant businesses
- 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
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 sees your handle and can 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 Instagrammers to tag them for a chance to be featured on their account.
Source: @visittheusa on Instagram
Cross-promote your Instagram account on other networks
If you want to get followers on Instagram for free, you need to make it easy for people to find you.
Your Instagram profile should be easily discoverable. If you’ve already built a following on another social network, let those fans know about your Instagram account.
Share a link to your Instagram profile and give your existing social followers a reason to check it out. (Like an Instagram-exclusive coupon code, event, or contest.)
If you’re just starting your Instagram account, make sure to post some content before you promote the account elsewhere. Aim for a minimum of 12 posts.
You could also highlight some of your best Instagram posts on your other social channels. Consider boosting these posts with paid advertising so your other social followers can find and follow you on Instagram.
Embed Instagram posts in your blog
You’ve already seen some embedded Instagram posts in this blog. These clickable posts allow users to head directly to the relevant post or Instagram profile.
Embedding your own Instagram posts in your blog is an easy way to share your content and drive traffic to your profile. Every new visitor to your Instagram profile is a potential new follower.
For example, say Hootsuite wanted to announce our mascot’s makeover. Sure, we could share a few pictures of Owly’s new look.
But we could also embed an Instagram post, like this:
Any time you’re sharing visual content like photos, charts, or infographics in your blog, there’s an opportunity to embed an Instagram post with that content instead.
Share your Instagram account in other communications
Think beyond your social channels when sharing your Instagram account.
You can link to your Instagram account on your website, in your email signature, and in your online newsletters. The link doesn’t have to be big, either. You can use a small Instagram icon.
If you’re promoting a new Instagram account, a quick email blast is a great way to get free Instagram followers fast.
And don’t forget about your offline materials. You can include your Instagram handle on coasters, posters, packing slips, business cards, or packaging. It’s a simple way to drive more free Instagram followers to your account.
Use Instagram QR codes
Your Instagram QR code is a scannable code that allows other Instagram users to follow you instantly. It’s another easy way to promote your account on physical materials like packing slips, signage, and product packaging.
Your QR code is also a great way to get new followers in real time at networking events and conferences. People you connect with in person can scan your code to follow you without having to type out your handle. Try printing it out and tucking it into your namebadge holder for easy access.
Find your Instagram QR code by tapping on the three lines icon at the top right of your Instagram profile and selecting QR Code .
Try to get featured
Feature accounts are Instagram accounts that curate and re-share content based on a hashtag or tagging. Some of these accounts have a huge following. If they share one of your posts (along with your handle), they can send a new stream of Instagram followers your way.
There’s a feature account for just about every niche and interest on Instagram, so start exploring.
For example, @damngoodstitch features embroidery posts. The account has more than 180,000 followers.
Aim for the Explore page
The Explore page is what you see when you click on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the Instagram app. According to Instagram itself, this is where “you can find photos and videos that you might like from accounts you don’t yet follow.”
Half of Instagram accounts visit Explore every month. That’s a huge opportunity for brands looking to grow their audience.
Ending up on the Explore tab isn’t easy. Luckily, we’ve got an entire article dedicated to helping you get there.
You can also pay to get into the Explore feed by selecting Explore as an ad placement.
Step 4. Engage with your community
Follow relevant accounts
You should only tag people in an Instagram post when the content is directly relevant to them. But you can follow anyone you like. And when you follow a user on Instagram, there’s a good chance they will check out your feed and consider following you back.
Instagram’s “Suggestions For You” section is also a handy resource for finding relevant accounts to follow. These suggestions show up in your Instagram feed between posts, in between Stories, or on the right side of the screen on a computer.
Just remember not to follow too many other accounts too fast. Your follower ratio, or the number of people who follow you compared to how many you follow, is important for credibility.
And don’t follow people just to get their attention, only to unfollow after they follow you back. This is kind of a jerk move and will hurt your Instagram reputation.
Engage with existing communities
Like all social media networks, Instagram is about the communities built within it. So make sure you’re participating in those spaces.
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 come from bots.
Engaging with other posts helps draw attention (and potential new followers) in two ways:
- People get notifications when you like and comment on their posts. They may check out your profile to return the favor.
- If others find your comments thoughtful or intriguing, they may check out your profile.
Work with influencers in your niche
Here’s an important stat for anyone thinking about how to get more followers on Instagram: 60% of consumers say they’d follow a brand on Instagram after seeing it promoted by an influencer they trust.
If you’re not working with influencers now, then you should definitely consider it. Luckily, we’ve got a whole guide on Influencer marketing to help you out.
Collaborate with other brands
Don’t be afraid to reach out to other brands to see if there’s a way that you can work together on Instagram. The right kind of collaboration could help everyone involved get more Instagram followers.
Think about businesses you already collaborate with in other ways. Maybe you’re connected in a local business improvement association or shopping area. How could you work together on Instagram?
One common option is to host a contest featuring products from multiple companies, like Rocky Mountain Soap Company did with Annika Mang of @borntobeadventurous.
Try an Instagram Live collaboration
Live video keeps getting more popular, and Instagram is a great place to take advantage of the trend. Users are notified when an account they follow starts broadcasting live, so a live video really grabs attention.
To get your Live video in front of a new audience, use the “Go live with a friend” option to co-host a live video with someone else in your industry. Ask the other person to host a Live video, then invite you as a guest. The two of you will appear in a split screen, introducing you to all of their followers.
For example, Design Emergency hosts a weekly Instagram Live to interview key figures in the design world.
Likewise, Wine Spectator‘s Straight Talk series features interviews with industry insiders.
Use interactivity features in Stories
Instagram Stories offer plenty of interactive features to engage users, like poll, question, and chat stickers. These stickers are a simple, low-stakes way for your audience to engage with your content.
Polling stickers increased three-second video views in 90% of Instagram’s beta campaigns for this feature.
If users come across your Story from a hashtag or location page, they can engage right away. It’s a great way to make them want to learn more about your brand by giving you a follow.
Pin your best comments
One of Instagram’s little-known features is the ability to pin up to three comments for each post.
Today we’re rolling out pinned comments everywhere. 📌
That means you can a pin a few comments to the top of your feed post and better manage the conversation. pic.twitter.com/iPCMJVLxMh
— Instagram (@instagram) July 7, 2020
There are a couple of ways you can use this feature as part of your plan to get more followers on Instagram.
- Use pinned comments to extend your caption beyond 2,200 characters by continuing the story in the comments. This lets you take on more detailed and in-depth storytelling, which may be a fit for some accounts.
- Pin your favorite comments from other users, especially if they are creating a lot of engagement.
This feature can help you manage the conversation on your posts and create more opportunities for engagement.
Step 5. Keep learning
Create an AR filter
AR filters for Instagram Stories are photo effects Instagrammers can use to modify photos taken through their mobile phone’s front and back cameras.
Those posts with puppy ears? Those are done with an AR (Augmented Reality) filter. Those “which [vegetable/pizza/emoji/etc.] are you?” posts? Yup, those use AR filters too.
Any Instagram user can now create an AR filter. The filters you create live in their own section of your Instagram profile.
Source: @paigepiskin on Instagram
If your filter is not 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? Your account name appears in the top left corner whenever anyone uses your AR filter. It’s clickable and can drive more new visitors to your profile.
Source: @gucci on Instagram
Contests on Instagram are a great way to help you get more followers. Just make sure your entry process involves asking people to follow you and comment on one of your photos by tagging a friend.
Tagged friends will also see your post and may choose to follow your account as well.
Encouraging user-generated content as part of your contest can also help you reach more people. People will learn about your profile from posts their friends create. This is an effective way to build trust with new followers and get more eyeballs to your page.
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 reach new followers fast by getting your content in front of people who would otherwise not see it.
And unlike buying followers, using Instagram ads is a totally legitimate and effective way to get more Instagram followers quickly with a small investment.
Target your audience by location, demographics, and even key behaviors and interests. You can also create a lookalike audience based on the people who already interact with your business.
Besides the feed, you can advertise in Instagram Stories and the Explore feed. For all the details on creating and posting an Instagram ad campaign, check out our detailed Instagram ads guide.
Learn from Instagram Insights
Instagram analytics tools will give you data on impressions for each post, along with reach, engagement, top posts, and more. You can also find demographic information about your followers, including gender, age, and location.
Regularly reviewing this data can help you identify areas where you can adjust your strategy to hel p you get more followers on Instagram.< >
Keep an eye on what time of day your followers use Instagram, so you can post when people are most likely to see and engage with your content. Data nerds who want to go deeper may want to consider a social media management tool like Hootsuite. These tools can show you the best times to post based on impressions, engagement, and traffic. They’ll also give you a bunch of other helpful performance metrics, like your follower growth rate.
Get more Instagram followers using Hootsuite. Schedule content for the most optimal times, streamline engagement, track your performance, and more—all from a single, easy-to-use dashboard. Try it for free.