With more than 700 million active monthly users, Instagram offers plenty of potential followers for businesses of all sizes. And those followers are worth pursuing, since Instagrammers have shown they’re ready to engage with businesses both within and outside of the app.
More than 80 percent of Instagram users follow at least one business, and every month over 120 million Instagrammers engage with brands in meaningful ways—like visiting their website, getting directions to a business location, or getting in touch directly by phone, email, or direct message.
If you’re not actively working to get more Instagram followers, you’re missing out on a passionate fanbase that wants to connect and learn more.
There’s no magic formula for how to get Instagram followers. Sure, there are services out there that will artificially boost your follower numbers through dodgy shortcuts like buying followers or using bots—but what’s the point? Your goal is to connect with real people who are passionate about your niche, so they will engage with your content and develop an ongoing connection and loyalty to your brand. No bot can deliver that.
You need to know how to connect with the real people who make up your ideal audience and create powerful content so you can increase your Instagram followers in a meaningful way, with real business results. In this guide, we’ll go into specific detail about how to do just that—but all of these strategies essentially boil down to a few important truths:
To get more followers on Instagram, you need to be consistent, authentic, and goal-oriented. That means finding potential followers in their existing communities, sharing engaging content that motivates them to follow your account, and telling a reliable, relatable story that delights existing followers and compels new fans to join the fold.
11 ways to get more Instagram followers
Want to jump ahead? Click the section you want to focus on below.
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 marketing platform without a plan leads to wasted resources and a low return on investment—and Instagram is no exception. Whether you’re starting from scratch or adjusting your current Instagram efforts, a clear strategy will define what you want to achieve so you can target and attract the right followers to align with your business goals.
Research your competitors
Analyzing what your competitors are doing on Instagram will show you:
- What a realistic following looks like for businesses in your niche, industry, or city.
- The type of content other businesses in your niche or industry post—and whether or not it’s working.
- The frequency with which your audience will expect you to post content.
- How other businesses are engaging with your ideal audience.
- Key industry hashtags—including branded hashtags you could learn from and model.
You can monitor your competitors (along with customers, industry terms, locations, hashtags, and any other Instagram content you’d like to keep tabs on) using Instagram streams in the Hootsuite dashboard.
Decide what story you’re going to tell—and tell it consistently
No matter what industry you’re in, you can develop and tell a story perfectly suited to a highly visual channel like Instagram. A compelling, consistent narrative gives your content purpose and inspires engagement with your current community, including shares of your posts that will expand your audience to new potential followers.
What does your brand story look like? Maybe you want to satisfy curiosity by showing followers how your product is made, share the perspective of an employee to humanize your brand, or position your brand in an aspirational way by showcasing the lifestyle or achievements of your customers, as Square does when highlighting entrepreneurs who use their tools.
Founded by two eagle scout brothers on a mission to help people reclaim their moments of rejuvenation, @kujucoffee sells in stores and online with @weebly. "In a world that says busy is always better, we believe taking the time to rest and reflect on what matters is now more important than ever. Quality is never instant." #KujuMoment
You don’t have to limit your Instagram strategy to only one perspective, but you do need to maintain a consistent brand personality, visual look, and story. Your posts should be easily recognizable and relatable at a glance. If you can’t align all of your content elements into one cohesive narrative, you may want to consider splitting them across social networks so that you can maintain a clear story on each.
Since your Instagram strategy will only be as effective as the goals it was designed to achieve, you need to know what you’re aiming for. We suggest setting goals for Instagram that align with your overall marketing and business strategy—whether that’s brand awareness, driving traffic to your website, or supporting the goals of a larger marketing campaign.
This will help ensure that you not only work to get more Instagram followers, but also target your efforts to find the right followers to support your business goals.
Keep in mind that no matter what your business goals are, a key Instagram goal is to create great, visually-compelling content. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can’t be stressed enough: the better your Instagram content is, the more likely you are to get more Instagram followers. Photos that are dark, low-quality, branded inconsistently, or simply not interesting provide no incentive for people to follow you.
2. Make your Instagram account more discoverable
If you want to get more Instagram followers, you need to make it easy for people to find you.
Cross-promote your Instagram account and content on other social channels
If you’ve already built a following on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other social network, you should make sure those fans know about your Instagram account, too. Mention your Instagram account and provide an incentive to check it out, or just highlight some of your best Instagram posts on your other channels. You may want to consider boosting these posts with paid advertising to ensure that more of your followers make it to your Instagram account.
For example, Destination Canada directed their Facebook audience to their Instagram account with four teaser photos from an Instagram influencer. The great photos and potential influencer name recognition gave their existing Facebook audience a clear reason to check out their Instagram account. They also used a custom URL, allowing them to track success by comparing the number of clicks on the link with the number of new followers they gained on Instagram.
Link to your Instagram account or branded hashtag in other communications
All of your communications tools—both online and offline—provide an opportunity to direct people to your Instagram account or branded hashtag.
Make sure you have links to your Instagram account on your website, in your email signature, and in online newsletters so that more people who are already in contact with your brand can find you on social media.
You could also embed some of your best Instagram content in your blog posts to make sure people who first find your blog through Google or another search engine have an opportunity to connect with you on Instagram.
And don’t rule out offline communications tools like your product packaging, business cards, or signage at your bricks and mortar location or an event. Bridesmaid dress company Weddington Way made sure attendees at their launch party in New York could easily find and tag them on social media, increasing their exposure to both attendees and attendees’ followers.
Use relevant hashtags
Using hashtags relevant to your business or niche will help your posts appear to people who may not already be following you, but are searching for photos related to your brand or industry.
Before using hashtags to get more Instagram followers, make sure you know the DOs and DON’Ts of using hashtags on Instagram.
DO: Find and use what’s popular.
Use the search function within Instagram or the Trendspottr app in Hootsuite to search for 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? Consider that the feminine hygiene brand Always created a hugely effective branded hashtag campaign with #LikeAGirl—which encourages 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 just two months.
DON’T: Go overboard.
Although using hashtags is an effective way to get Instagram followers, using too many of them can be distracting for your audience and dilute your message.
DON’T: Use hashtag gimmicks.
Using hashtags such as #likeforlike, #tagsforlikes, or #followme may help you see a temporary increase in new followers, but they may be spammers or people only interested in being followed back—neither of which will help you build a meaningful, engaged community on Instagram. Instead, as Instagram recommends, focus on using hashtags specific to your photo, product, or business.
For more on mastering the hashtag, check out The Complete Instagram Hashtag Guide for Business.
Aim for the Instagram Explore Tab
The Instagram Explore tab, formerly known as the “Popular” page, is what you see when you click on the little 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 we think the Instagram community will enjoy.” As of October, the Explore tab also features Instagram Stories, right across the top of the screen.
Content featured on the Explore tab can be exposed to a huge audience: more than 100 million people visit the Explore tab every day.
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.
3. Post consistently—and at the right time
There’s no magic number for how often you should be posting to Instagram, but an analysis by Tailwind noted that “by posting to Instagram daily, you’ll grow followers four times faster than posting less than once a week.”
Your existing followers want to see content from you—after all, that’s why they followed you in the first place. And when they interact with your posts, that activity becomes visible to their followers, exposing you to a wider audience. They may also be inclined to share great content with friends by tagging them in the comments.
In Hootsuite’s analysis of more than 400 million social media posts, we found that companies tend to post on Instagram predominantly during working hours. Of course if you drill down by organization size and industry (which our research hub allows you to do), the data changes.
Use that customer knowledge to help determine the best time to post on Instagram (you can learn about how to gain key intelligence in this area in section 11 below). For example, if your customers are typically people who work full-time jobs, chances are they won’t be checking Instagram between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. as often as they would be first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, or after work. However, if the new followers you hope to gain are stay-at-home parents, that morning stretch may be their peak Instagram use time. Of course, geography is hugely important, too.
For Hootsuite, one key Instagram posting sweet spot is from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday, while our B2B audience is scrolling through their feeds during lunch.
Since Instagram has moved to an algorithm-based feed, rather than a strictly chronological feed, you may wonder if timing remains as important. The answer is yes, since the algorithm boosts posts partially based on engagement. If no one is online to engage with your posts, you won’t get the comments and likes you need.
To determine the best time to post on Instagram for your specific business, test posting content at different times of day. If you notice that morning posts consistently earn more likes, comments, or followers than those posted in the afternoon or evening, adjust your content schedule accordingly.
Scheduling your content for optimal engagement
With a social media management platform like Hootsuite you can easily schedule your Instagram posts to be published at the times your audience is most likely to see them.
4. Use compelling captions
Although Instagram is a highly visual platform, your captions play a big role in increasing engagement, thereby helping you get more Instagram 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 encourages your audience to leave a comment with their answer, and this engagement will help make your account visible to more people. In this example, Mountain Equipment Co-op showcases their products while engaging their community, encouraging them to leave a comment on the photo.
- Try emoji: Emoji can help draw the reader’s eye and are appropriate for most types of accounts on this highly 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 really 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.
5. Craft a great bio and profile
Your profile is the backbone of your presence on Instagram, and a well-crafted one is key to increasing your followers. After all, who will click the follow button a profile that’s unclear, incomplete, or unappealing?
Your Instagram profile is made up of 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 consistent with your username on other social channels to make it easy for 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 our post Instagram Bio Ideas for Business.
6. Tag appropriately
You can increase the potential audience of a post by tagging other users and locations in your posts—but only when it’s relevant to do so.
You can tag other Instagram users featured in your photos either with an @-mention in your caption or by using Instagram’s tagging functionality—either way, they’ll be alerted through their activity notifications. Tagging someone encourages them to engage with the post and share it with their own following.
You can also encourage your followers to tag their friends in the comments if applicable. For example: “Tag someone you know who needs a vacation!” This can help expose your Instagram account to a larger network of people.
Tag your location
If your business has a physical location, make sure to tag your photos with that location and encourage your customers to do the same. Users can then click on that location and see all the photos posted from your store, restaurant, or office, which 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 if, for example, you’re posting from a conference.
7. 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 either 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, recently used an Instagram contest to simultaneously highlight some appropriate outfit choices for a major event coming up in the city (encouraging shoppers to head to their stores), cross-promote their Facebook Page, and get more Instagram followers by asking entrants to tag a friend.
Get ready for the style event of the Summer 🐎We’ve got everything you need for this years @deightoncup ! Win two $100 Gift Cards for you AND a friend to shop a new outfit for the event (or just because!): 1. Follow @turnaboutluxuryresale! 2. Like our Facebook Page and check out our Deighton Cup styled outfits (link in bio)! 3. Comment below tagging your friend! . . . . . . . #luxuryresale #consignment #designerresale #fashion #fashionwatch #instalike #instagood #instastyle #styleinspiration #lookbook #deightoncup #deightoncup2017 #yvr #yvrevents #vancouverevents #giveaway #contest #instagramcontest #turnaboutluxuryresale
Encouraging user-generated content as part of your contest can also help you reach more people. Those who don’t follow you already will be exposed to your Instagram account through posts created by their friends, which is an effective way of building trust with new followers.
Rocky Mountaineer often runs contests that bring in user-generated content of the landscapes travellers see on Rocky Mountaineer train journeys. They then use this content in their Instagram feed over the following weeks to inspire engagement.
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
8. Move beyond the feed with Instagram Stories and live video
One key way to grab attention and encourage engagement—thereby expanding your reach—is to share live content.
Instagram Stories appear at the top of the Instagram app. Stories were launched less than a year ago, and already more than 200 million people view them daily—and those viewers are highly engaged. Nearly one in five stories results in a direct message, and a third of the most-viewed stories are from businesses.
Instagram is the perfect place to take advantage of live video, a trend that is continuing to grow on social media. It’s the perfect format to provide coverage of live events including conferences, community gatherings, or in-store promotions.
Live videos appear within your brand’s story. When the live video ends, you can allow it to 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 can really grab attention.
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!
9. 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 uncover opportunities to join relevant conversations and identify successful Instagrammers who have already built a community in your industry (aka influencers).
Once you identify some relevant accounts, get involved by liking, commenting on, and sharing their content. Many people will return the favor, or will head over to your profile to learn more about you—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 5 above.)
In addition to key accounts, you should also monitor relevant keywords, locations, and hashtags. Instagram search streams in Hootsuite can help you watch for these important opportunities to engage and connect.
10. Consider Instagram advertising
Instagram ads offer a powerful way to reach new potential Instagram followers, fast, by getting your content directly in front of potential new followers who would otherwise not see it. You can share your ad with a highly targeted audience based on location, demographics like age and gender, existing connections, 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.
In addition to the Instagram feed, you can advertise in Instagram Stories. For all the details of how to create and post an Instagram ad campaign, check out our post Instagram Ads: The Complete Guide for Business.
11. Learn from Instagram insights
Instagram insights provide information about impressions for each post, along with reach, engagement, and top posts. You can also get key demographic information about followers, including gender, age, and location.
Reviewing Instagram insights on a regular basis can help you identify areas where you can adjust your strategy to help you get more Instagram followers.
For example, Matchaeologist learned from insights that their followers did not live where they expected. While they thought their following was primarily in the UK, many followers were actually based in Hong Kong and Taiwan. That knowledge allowed them to change the timing of their posts to reach more followers and increase their chances of attracting more new Instagram followers from those regions.
🍵 Whisk yourself away with this magical #MatchaRitual experience 🍃 beautifully documented by our amazingly talented Kathrin Klara @klaraslife 🙏, featuring our Matsu™ Ceremonial Matcha — Intense with a Mellow Roasted Aroma. . Nothing is more perfect than a refreshing cup of nice #MatchaLatte in this summer weather! 🌞 . Follow the link in our recipe to stock up on your favourite #Matcha blends 👍 — and share with us your picture-perfect #MatchaRitual moments by tagging @Matchaeologist #MatchaRitual. . Indulge in the chlorophyll elixir of health — discover the highest-quality artisanal matcha with Matchæologist 🍵. . 👉Click the link in our bio @Matchaeologist . Matchæologist® #Matchaeologist #MatchaRitual Matchaeologist.com
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!
Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish photos directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.