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38 Ways To Get More Followers on Instagram (Without Buying Them)

Want to know how to get more Instagram followers? You don’t need to pay for fake followers or use bots — just follow our guide.

Colleen Christison June 19, 2024
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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.

You know how they say the best things in life are free? Well, it’s true. At least when it comes to how to get followers on Instagram.

You don’t need to use black hat techniques or join an Instagram engagement pod. And you definitely don’t need deep pockets to know how to get followers on Instagram.

You just need this big, huge, monster list of tips on amassing free Instagram followers.

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How to get followers on Instagram

1. Develop a thoughtful Instagram marketing strategy

Our number one piece of advice on how to gain followers on the Instagram app is to start with 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.

2. Define your target audience

You can’t know what kind of content you should be making if you don’t know who you’re making it for.

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.

3. Create a consistent brand story and aesthetic

Can you succinctly tweet who your brand is? We’re pretty sure a tweet’s the modern-day equivalent of an elevator pitch.

Once you know who your brand is, you can decide on how it’ll show up in the world. Your brand identity should have a consistent brand voice, personality, and look.

Your brand identity will help your posts be recognizable at a glance. And it’ll make your grid look like one cohesive unit.

Don’t worry; if you have content that doesn’t quite fit with your feed, you can always share it on your Instagram Stories.

Mailchimp's Instagram grid

Source: Mailchimp

You might have multiple topics you’d like to post on. You can use brand assets to give your grid a consistent look and feel like Mailchimp does.

4. Design a visually appealing Instagram grid

Giving your content a consistent look and feel is the first step in designing an aesthetic Instagram grid. Then, you need to make sure your content is high-quality and visually engaging. And that it works together when laid out.

Monostravel's instagram grid

Source: Monostravel

When new users visit your profile, the content should make them want to see more (and click Follow). Take Monos, for example. The luggage company’s main feed has a beautiful, minimalist aesthetic.

5. Master Instagram SEO

If people can’t see your brilliant content, how will they know they must follow you?

You need to play the Instagram algorithm’s game and do a little strategizing to get seen. Part of this is doing your keyword research and optimizing your Instagram bio and content to reflect those keywords.

We go over all the hot Instagram SEO techniques here to help you get to the top of the search engine.

6. Write compelling 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. This includes your keywords!
  • Include a CTA or ask a question.
  • Write like a human (edit your AI outputs, people!).
  • Add value or intrigue.

The Chic City Girl on Instagram uses her caption to give a fashion how-to:

7. Create shareable infographics and memes

Visually appealing infographics or relatable memes are likely to be shared by others, increasing your reach.

If you want to have more followers on Instagram, getting your existing followers to share your content is a good way to find new people.

Consider watermarking your content or adding a subtle logo in the corner so if it does get repurposed, people know it’s yours. Or take a simpler approach like Wearhuaha below, which uses a backdrop with its branding subtly included.

8. Conduct Q&A Sessions

Giving your audience value is a great way to increase your loyal viewership. If you’re in a niche industry or are an expert in your field, you should host a Q&A session.

You can model this like Reddit’s Ask Me Anything on a Live feed, and answer the questions your audience throws at you live.

In a Live feed you can also poll your audience, and ask them how to get more Instagram followers and likes. Instead of outright asking about engagement tactics, you might want to ask a question like, “What would you like to see more of from me?”

Or you can use Ask Me a Question Sticker in your Stories and repost the answers.

9. Share behind-the-scenes content

Giving your audience a look behind the curtain can humanize your brand and build a strong connection with your followers. Being open and honest is a master lesson in how to gain real Instagram followers who genuinely support your brand.

Pro tip: Don’t try to fake this content. Your followers will see right through it, and it’ll do more harm than good in the end.

10. Engage with trending topics

Some great advice on how to increase your IG followers? Use trends to launch you into virality. Participating in relevant, trending conversations shows your followers you’re paying attention and engaged.

Pro tip: Use Hootsuite Streams to pull trending topics from the ether of the internet.

11. Know what’s trending on social media and use it to your advantage

Besides engaging with trending topics, you’re also going to want to know what the general trends are across the social media landscape.

What do your followers want these days? How are trust and loyalty developed online? What does your audience want to see more of?

When you know the answer to these questions, you’ll be able to shape your social media strategy to give the people what they want.

Check out the Hootsuite 2024 social media trend report to give yourself a competitive edge.

Hootsuite’s own Paige Schmidt is constantly on the lookout for memes and trends.

“Whenever I see a funny image, I save it and add it to a ‘mood pics’ folder. Then, whenever I have a funny linkless post, I check to see if I can pair it with a meme to increase engagement.

“Sometimes, I’ll go on Pinterest and type in ‘mood pics – sad’ or ‘mood pics – angry’ and save a bunch that I think would do well. I find Sponge Bob memes or Simpson memes do very well, so if I see a funny mood pic I save it immediately.”

12. Embrace Instagram Stories and highlights

If you want to have more followers on Instagram, you should use Instagram Stories. There are roughly 500 million daily active Instagram Story users. That’s about 1/3 of Instagram’s total audience just waiting to see what you post!

Instagram Stories have tons of fun built-in features, like Polls and Questions you can use to get your followers to engage. Plus, you can use the hashtag and location features in your Stories to expose them to new followers.

Don’t worry; even though your Story expires after 24 hours, your efforts don’t have to go to waste. Pin your best Stories to your highlights. And pack those highlights with great info and content to show new visitors when they land on your profile.

Don’t forget to customize the cover photos on your highlights, too.

Hootsuite's Instagram profile

Source: Hootsuite

13. Post consistently and at the right time

When users interact with your posts, those engagements tell Instagram’s algorithm that your content is valuable. Those interactions will then boost your reach. Giving your existing followers something great to interact with can help bring in new Instagram followers.

How often to post on Instagram to grow? According to our analysis, between 3-5 times/week.

While Instagram uses an algorithm, not a chronological feed, timing is still important.

Hootsuite’s social team found that universally, the best time to post on Instagram is 11 AM on Wednesdays.

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.

Hootsuite Best Time to Post

14. Schedule your posts and Stories

No one wants to be chained to their phone to publish content. You can (and should) 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.

Hootsuite Planner view

An app like, and we’re just spitballing here, Hootsuite can help you plan and publish your feed content. You can also use Hootsuite to schedule Instagram Stories and Reels.

15. Review your content calendar once you’ve scheduled

Scheduling your content and setting everything in motion is great and all, but you will want to take a bird’s-eye view of your content calendar to make sure that it’s telling the story you want it to be. And that there are no pesky holes or missed holidays.

Once everything’s scheduled, take a look at the bigger picture.

Ask yourself if your content:

  • Communicates who your brand is
  • Gives the audience value
  • Looks aesthetically cohesive

16. Use relevant hashtags

Hashtags are one of the first ways social content was organized (shout out to Twitter!) and they’re still in use today.

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.

17. 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.

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.

18. Tag relevant users

Tagging users exposes you to their followers. And, when they’re in it, creators are more likely to re-share your content. This is also a good rule for user-generated content: Always tag the creator.

19. 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. This is especially helpful if you have an Instagram-worthy backdrop in your physical location.

20. Cross-promote your Instagram account on other networks

The more eyes on your Insta, the better. Be sure that your website has a linked Instagram account and if you do any sort of live videos or Instagram promotions, promote it on your other socials.

21. 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.

22. Use Instagram QR codes

Your QR code can help you 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.

Find your Instagram QR code by tapping on the three lines icon at the top right of your Instagram profile and selecting QR Code.

23. Get featured on feature accounts

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.

24. Aim for the Explore page

According to Instagram, the Explore page is where “you can find photos and videos that you might like from accounts you don’t yet follow.”

Ending up on the Explore tab isn’t easy — but it’s a great way to grow your Instagram account. 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.

25. Follow relevant accounts

When you follow a user on Instagram and engage with their content in a meaningful way, there’s a good chance they will check out your feed and consider following you back.

Social listening is great for finding conversations and influential users (a.k.a. influencers) to follow.

26. Leverage user-generated content

If someone takes a photo with your product, in your establishment, or using one of your services, repost it! This is called user-generated content, and it’s a gold mine.

Be sure to tag the content creator and thank them for featuring your stuff.

27. 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. Just avoid generic comments (like “Awesome post!”) that look like they come from bots.

28. Work with influencers in your niche

People trust other people — it’s just a fact. Leverage that trust by getting buy-in from an influencer within your niche, and you’ve found a great way to get new followers.

If you’re not working with influencers now, then you should definitely consider it. We’ve got a whole guide on Influencer marketing to help you get started.

29. Host Instagram takeovers

Invite influencers or brand advocates to take over your account for a day and do with it what they will. You might entice them with products to try or services or good old hard cash. As a publicity stunt, this can help attract their followers to your account.

30. 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.

One common option is to host a contest featuring products from multiple companies or to team up in a charity fundraiser.

31. Try Instagram Live collaborations

Over half of global social media users are interested in branded Live content. And you’re only increasing your chances of new followers ifyou collaborate with another brand or creator.

32. Use Instagram Reels

People love short-form video content. You just have to look at content creators on TikTok to see that. You can take a page out of their book by producing engaging or entertaining Instagram Reels.

33. Pin your best comments

One of Instagram’s little-known features is the ability to pin up comments on posts.

There are a couple of ways you can use this feature as part of your plan to get more followers on Instagram.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Check out more Instagram hacks here.

34. Run contests

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.

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 on your page.

And yes, once your contest is over you will have some people unfollow you. But since you’re making killer content, some people will likely stick around.

35. Offer exclusive content or discounts

People love being part of an exclusive club — almost as much as they love getting a deal. You can use your Instagram as the portal to exclusive content and discounts, with special codes and links in your bio.

36. Highlight user reviews and testimonials

Are people saying great stuff about your brand? Tell the world!

Highlight positive user reviews (or, if you’re brave, negative reviews alongside a plan to do better) and testimonials on your page. This can help build credibility and trust in your brand, leading to more loyal followers.

37. Consider advertising on Instagram

Okay, yes, this isn’t a free strategy. 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. Advertising should be a part of your overall Instagram marketing strategy.

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.

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38. Learn from your 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.

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. Pay attention to which posts get the most reach, and try to duplicate the strategy you used to find more followers.

Regularly reviewing data can help you identify areas where you can adjust your strategy to help you get more followers on Instagram. Sure, but analytics can help you use Instagram to better your business goals in tons of other ways, too.

Data aficionados who want to go deeper should 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 community management, track your performance, and more — all from one easy-to-use dashboard. Try it for free.

With files from Christina Newberry.

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By Colleen Christison

Colleen Christison is a freelance copywriter, copy editor, and brand communications specialist. She spent the first six years of her career in award-winning agencies like Major Tom, writing for social media and websites and developing branding campaigns. Following her agency career, Colleen built her own writing practice, working with brands like Mission Hill Winery, The Prevail Project, and AntiSocial Media.

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