Want to learn how to get more Instagram followers the right way in 2018? You’ve come to the right place.
Sure, there are dodgy shortcuts you could take like buying followers or using bots—but what’s the point? Your goal is to grow a following of people that will actually care about and engage with your brand. That’s the only way your Instagram strategy will deliver real business results.
Click on any tip below to learn more, or keep scrolling for the complete list of tactics.
How to get more Instagram followers
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
1. Create a clear Instagram strategy
Using any social network without a plan leads to wasted resources and a low return on investment.
Your Instagram marketing plan must clearly define:
- Your goals on the network. This might be to increase brand awareness, boost product sales, drive traffic to your website, etc. Make sure your goals on Instagram align with your broader marketing objectives.
- Who your target audience is. How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work? When and how do they use Instagram? What are their pain points and challenges?
- What story you want to tell. Maybe you want to satisfy curiosity by showing followers how your product is made. Or you could use Instagram to share the perspective of an employee to humanize your brand. Another effective tactic is to position your brand in an aspirational way, showcasing the lifestyle or achievements of your customers. Square does this really well.
- Your brand aesthetic. Maintain a consistent brand personality, visual look, and story. Your posts should be easily recognizable and relatable at a glance.
Read our guide to using Instagram for business and we’ll walk you through each step of this important process.
2. Share compelling content
Great content is what gets people to talk like, comment on, and share your posts. And that’s how you get more reach and new followers.
The key to great content is knowing your target audience and what they want to see on Instagram. Everything you post must be interesting to these people. Your goal is to inform, engage, and/or entertain them with content. Your visuals must be compelling and your captions engaging.
3. Promote your Instagram presence on other social networks
If you want to get more Instagram followers, you need to make it easy for people to find you.
This tip—and many others—speak to the importance of making your Instagram profile 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 incentivize your existing social followers to check it out. You could also highlight some of your best Instagram posts on your other channels. Consider boosting these posts with paid advertising to ensure that more of your followers follow you on Instagram.
Destination Canada directed their Facebook audience to their Instagram account with four teaser photos from an Instagram influencer. Great content and potential name recognition can go along way.
Austin MacKay Photography took over our Instagram account as our latest Canadagrammer and shared his favourite spots in…
4. Share your Instagram account in other communications
All communication tools—both online and offline—are an opportunity to direct people to your Instagram account.
Make sure you have links to your Instagram account on your website, in your email signature, and online newsletters. This will ensure that people who are already in contact with your brand online can find you on social media.
You should also embed your Instagram content in blog posts. That way people that discover your blog via a search engine will also find out about your Instagram account.
And don’t rule out offline communications tools like product packaging, business cards, or signage at an event or store. Dress company Weddington Way made sure attendees at their launch party in New York could find and tag them on social media. This increased their exposure to both attendees and attendees’ followers.
5. Use relevant hashtags
This will make your posts discoverable to people who are searching for content related to your brand or industry.
Before using hashtags to get more followers, make sure you know the DOs & DON’Ts of using hashtags on Instagram.
DO: Find and use what’s popular.
Use the search function within Instagram to find popular hashtags related to your product, service, or industry. Then, set up a stream in Hootsuite to monitor content posted with that hashtag on Instagram.
DO: Create your own hashtag.
Come up with your own hashtag that will motivate your audience to share photos related to your brand. Don’t think this applies to your market niche? Feminine hygiene brand Always created an effective campaign with #LikeAGirl. The branded hashtag encouraged young women to use this usually derogatory expression to showcase the best of what they can do. The result was more than four billion impressions across all networks in only two months.
DON’T: Go overboard.
Using too many hashtags can be distracting for your audience and dilute your message. It can also come off as desperate, or worse, spammy.
DON’T: Use hashtag gimmicks.
Using hashtags such as #likeforlike, #tagsforlikes, or #followme may give you a temporary boost in followers. But they will likely be spammers or people only interested in being followed back. And that won’t will help you build a meaningful, engaged community on Instagram. Instead, focus on using hashtags specific to your photo, product, or business.
For more on mastering the hashtag, here’s everything you need to know about using Instagram hashtags.
6. Aim for the Instagram Explore tab
The Instagram Explore tab is what you see when you click on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the Instagram app. According to Instagram itself, the Explore tab is where “you can find photos and videos that you might like from accounts you don’t yet follow.” You may also see curated topics the algorithm thinks the community will enjoy. The Explore tab also features Instagram Stories, right across the top of the screen.
More than 100 million people visit the Explore tab every day. That’s a huge opportunity for brands looking to grow their audience.
So, how can you get your content to appear on the Explore tab? It’s not easy. Luckily, we’ve got a whole blog post dedicated to helping you figure it out.
7. Follow other relevant users
When you follow a user on Instagram there’s a good chance they will check out your feed. If it’s full of compelling content that’s relevant to their interests, they’re likely to return the favor.
8. Post consistently
Your existing followers want to see content from you. That’s why they followed you in the first place. And when they interact with your posts, that activity is visible to their followers, which exposes you to a wider audience. Your existing followers may also be inclined to share great content with friends by tagging them in comments.
So, how often should you post? An analysis by Tailwind found that daily posting will “grow followers four times faster than posting less than once a week.”
9. Post at the right time
And what about optimal posting scheduling? Hootsuite conducted a series of tests to determine the best time to post on Instagram. We found that 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday gave us the best results.
Keep in mind though that the best time for your brand will likely be different. To figure out when that is, consider your audience. What does their typical day look like? When are they most active on Instagram?
Use those insights and then start testing various times and measuring results. If you’re a retail brand, for example, you might want to test posting during commute times and on the weekends when people aren’t at work.
For more on this, check out our guide to finding the best time to post on Instagram.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps an adventure photographer used to grow from 0 to 110,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.Get the free checklist right now!
10. Schedule your posts
Is the best time to post not at a convenient time to be on Instagram? No problem.
You can use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule and publish your photos directly to Instagram. It just takes a couple of clicks.
11. Write compelling captions
Although Instagram is a visual platform, your captions play a big role in increasing engagement, thereby helping you get more followers. Here are some key strategies to keep in mind:
- Put the most important words up front. Captions in users’ feeds cut off after a few lines of text, so convey the most and compelling information right off the top.
- Ask a question. This makes it easy for your audience to leave a comment. And that engagement will help make your account visible to more people.
- Try emoji. Emoji can help draw the reader’s eye and are appropriate for most types of accounts on this visual social network.
- Try different caption lengths. Instagram allows long-form captions, so you can test out some in-depth storytelling if your post warrants it. Ultra-short captions can also be very effective when the visuals speak for themselves.
You can find more tips, along with plenty of great brand examples, in our guide to writing great captions that drive engagement.
12. Craft a great bio and profile
Your profile is the backbone of your presence on Instagram, and a well-crafted one is key to growing your audience. After all, who will click the follow button on a profile that’s unclear, incomplete, or unappealing?
Your Instagram profile includes your name, username, website, and bio.
- Name: Up to 30 characters, and included in Instagram search, so you may wish to include a keyword.
- Username: Make it the same as your other social channels. This will make it easy for your followers on other platforms to find you on Instagram.
- Website: The only place on Instagram where you can include a clickable link (aside from calls to action in ads).
- Bio: 150 characters to convey your brand identity and show new visitors why they should follow you.
For tips on how to create a compelling Instagram bio, check out these Instagram bio ideas and tips.
13. Tag relevant users
You can tag other Instagram users featured in your photos with an @-mention in your caption or by using Instagram’s tagging functionality. Either way, they’ll receive a notification when you do so. Tagging someone encourages them to engage with the post and share it with their own following.
14. Ask your followers to tag their friends
You can also encourage your followers to tag their friends in the comments. For example: “Tag someone you know who needs a vacation!” This can help expose your Instagram account to a larger network of people.
15. Tag your location
If your business has a physical location, make sure to tag your photos with that location and encourage customers to do the same. Users can then click on that location and see all photos posted from your store, restaurant, or office. This can help expose your brand (and Instagram account) to more people.
For example, here’s what you get when you search for the location of Cartems Donuterie, a fave spot for treats near the Hootsuite office in Vancouver:
Looks pretty tasty, no?
Even if your business is not location-specific, you may want to tag your location. For example, you may want to tag your location if you’re posting from a conference.
16. Run contests
Running contests on Instagram can help grow your audience, drive traffic to your website, and even sell product. To enter the contest, ask people to follow you, like or comment on one of your photos, use a specific hashtag, or repost one of your photos.
This a great strategy for companies of all sizes—not just the big guys. Turnabout Luxury Resale, a consignment store in Vancouver, used an Instagram contest to encourage shoppers to head to their stores, cross-promote their Facebook Page, and get more followers by asking entrants to tag a friend. All in one shot.
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Encouraging user-generated content as part of your contest can also help you reach more people. People will see your Instagram account via posts created by their friends. This is an effective way of to build trust with new followers.
Use #rockymountaineer to enter photos from your 2017 Rocky Mountaineer journey in our Share Your Moments Photo Contest. You could win one of our monthly prizes of Rocky Mountaineer merchandise or our grand prize of an Apple iPad with a custom photo cover. All photos will be published to our guest gallery at bit.ly/SYM2017. Good Luck!⠀ ???? April contest winner: Sarah Swartz
17. Move beyond the feed with Instagram Stories
People who use this popular feature are highly engaged. According to Instagram, nearly one in five stories results in a direct message, and a third of the most-viewed stories are from businesses. Learn more about using Instagram Stories in our complete guide.
18. Try live video
Instagram is the perfect place to take advantage of live video, a trend that is continuing to grow on social media. It’s great for covering live events like conferences, community gatherings, or in-store promotions.
Live videos appear within your brand’s story. When the live video ends, you can let it disappear or choose to make it available for replay on your story for 24 hours. Users are notified when an account they follow starts broadcasting live, so a live video really grabs attention.
19. Engage with existing communities
Like all social media networks, Instagram is about the communities built within it. You want to engage with those communities—but first you have to find them. 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) to engage with.
Once you discover these users, get involved by liking, commenting on, and sharing their content. Many people will return the favor and potentially follow you if they like what they see. (All the more reason to spend some time improving your profile, as outlined in step number 5 above.)
Besides influencers, you should also keep an eye on relevant keywords, locations, and hashtags. Instagram search streams in Hootsuite make it easy to discover these engagement opportunities.
20. Consider Instagram advertising
Instagram ads are a powerful way to reach new followers, fast, by getting your content in front of people who would otherwise not see it. Target your audience by location, demographics, other users, and even key behaviors and interests.
For example, when cookware brand Le Creuset launched in Israel, it used Instagram ads to reach 70 percent of its targeted Instagram audience within two months.
Besides the feed, you can advertise in Instagram Stories. For all the details of how to create and post an Instagram ad campaign, check out our detailed Instagram ads guide.
21. Learn from Instagram analytics
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.
Reviewing this data on a regular basis can help you identify areas where you can adjust your strategy to help you get more followers.
Matchaeologist, for example, found out from insights that their followers did not live where they expected. While they thought their following was in the U.K,. many followers were actually based in Hong Kong and Taiwan. That knowledge allowed them to change the timing of their posts to reach (and gain) more followers in those regions.
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