We’ve been asking our users about their social media goals and we’ve heard one goal over and over:
“I really want to grow my Instagram followers this year!”
Whether it was 200 followers, 2,000 followers or 200,000, it’s very clear that many of you want to grow your instagram following.
And we don’t blame you! Follower growth is one of our goals too!
Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms on the Internet and it’s a platform that has been proven to contribute to business goals.
Consider these two stats:
These tell you two very important things: people are engaging on Instagram and they want to connect with brands on the platform.
Now, we all know that Instagram is a great tool and it can be extremely beneficial to your business.
But here comes the tricky part.
Instagram is really, really crowded and it’s not as easy as most people think it is to grow a large, engaged following. But it’s not impossible. There are a few really smart and effective ways to grow your Instagram following this year but we want to point out a few important things first.
Buying followers and investing in bots is a bad way to try to grow your Instagram following. The people who run Instagram are smart and they catch onto these things.
In late 2018, many people saw a decline in their followers when Instagram cracked down on fake accounts and bots.
Bots also give an extremely negative impression because most people can spot a bot from a mile away. Instagram has been around for over a decade and at this point, we all know that if you post “Cool post, great content!” on every photo, that it’s not authentic.
There is no longer a way to “hack” Instagram growth. You’ve got to put in the work. But, come on, scrolling through images and meeting cool people through their feeds is not too bad of a job, is it?
So what are the right ways to grow your Instagram following? We’re so glad you asked! Get ready to take some notes because these tips could be just the thing you need to see massive Instagram success.
1. Create a hashtag strategy
Hashtags are a major part of Instagram and you should use them. Hashtags are one of the easiest ways to reach new followers. You can include a maximum of 30 hashtags per post but the quantity is less important than the quality of your hashtag.
The Instagram search function is the easiest way to find the right hashtags for your brand. Start by typing in a hashtag that meets your niche. We work with solopreneurs so we used that as our base hashtag and then scrolled through related hashtags to find others that might work with our audience.
After you search the hashtag, Instagram will give you related hashtags so you can scroll through these as well to find hashtags that could fit your brand. You can use these to build hashtags you use in your posts so that more accounts can find you.
You can measure if you are using the right hashtags by checking the insights on your posts. The insights can tell you if your hashtags are helping you reach new people. You can see how many people found your posts through hashtags. You can use this as a way to test out groups of hashtags or specific hashtags to see which ones perform the best.
Of course, it’s not enough to just add a bunch of hashtags to every post. You want to create a hashtag strategy for engagement too.
First, start following hashtags in your niche. Last year, Instagram introduced the ability to follow hashtags. So now you can see posts from new people in your feed when you follow a hashtag. You will know the photo is from a hashtag because the username will be the hashtag name and there will be a # sign next to the photo.
We recommend following a mix of smaller hashtags with a few thousand posts, as well as, bigger hashtags with hundreds of thousands of posts to give you a good mix of accounts. Once you’ve found your hashtags, you want to go to work engaging with them. These three steps are the perfect way to get started.
Once you’re following some hashtags, go through them on a daily basis, and engage with the posts on them! But don’t just like the post. Instead, comment on a few a day with a thoughtful response. The heart hashtag probably won’t cut it.
We also recommend looking at a few accounts that you find through this hashtag and engaging with more than one post. Leave a comment or two on some of their other posts, as well.
Lastly, while you’re liking and commenting on these images, look at who else is commenting and check out their accounts. Comment, like and take a look at what they share. There’s a great chance if they are interested in an account close to your niche, then they’ll be interested in yours as well!
Even if you only follow five hashtags and you do each of the three steps above for each on a daily basis, you could see exponential growth on your page!
2. Use Instagram stories
Instagram stories are already a major trend and we don’t think they’re slowing down anytime soon. But can you actually see new followers from stories? Absolutely! Since Instagram stories aren’t subjected to the feed algorithm and are instead time-based, you run a lower risk of not being seen by your audience by posting a story.
One way to attract new followers through stories is to use hashtags or location stickers in your stories. That way your story will show up in the story for that specific hashtag or location. Check out a few stories of your favorite hashtags to determine which ones are the most popular that you can use in your stories.
You can also use stories to attract new followers by using the “Story Highlights” option. Instagram story highlights give you the opportunity to highlight your best stories so your audience can watch them whenever they want.
You don’t have to add every story to a highlight but find the ones that best express who you are as a brand. You may want to highlight some of your best product photos or share some of your best tips or how-to’s.
Story highlights have prime location at the very top of your profile so when a new user checks out your profile for the first time, they might start scrolling through your stories to get a good idea of what types of content you share.
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3. Post consistent, high-quality posts
This should be a no-brainer but we have to put it on the list!
Here’s the thing: the above two steps will bring people to your profile page. Engaging, using hashtags and stories shows people that your page exists. But the thing that gets them to click that “Follow” button is your feed itself.
No matter how much you engage, you can’t grow your Instagram following if you only have a handful of sporadic posts.
Take time to find and curate the best photos for your feed. Remember, this can be a mix of photos you take, photos you find on stock photo websites like Unsplash (just remember to credit the creator if they’re free!) or graphics you design. If you’re not sure how to create a cohesive feed, try using the same filter on every post. This is a trick that more than half of the top brands on Instagram use and it’s a very easy way to make your feed look perfectly curated.
Now we know this may sound like a lot of work but it’s work that pays off and with a little bit of planning, it can be extremely easy to manage your Instagram account without spending all of your time on it.
We recommend planning and batching your content in advance then using a scheduling tool like MeetEdgar to schedule your posts. (You can also do this with your stories too so you can keep everything consistent!)
Then with the extra time you’ve saved from not having to manually add in posts every day, you can engage with hashtags, your followers and new accounts. You can break this up into a few 10-minute sessions throughout the day so you don’t feel like you’re falling down an Instagram hole! Use a timer to keep track of your time so you know when to call it quits!
4. Engage with other accounts
Can you imagine someone showing up to a party AND ONLY TALKING ABOUT THEMSELVES? Come on, we all have met someone like that.
Getting onto Instagram and only being concerned with what your feed looks like, how many likes you have, and how entertaining your stories are is the exact same thing as showing up at a party and only talking about yourself.
Social media isn’t just the place to promote your stuff. It’s where you find, build, and connect with your community. Engagement is a necessary part of that.
Before we dive into engagement, let’s run through how Instagram’s algorithm works. There are 3 signals Instagram uses to rank your content in the algorithm:
Let’s break down what those mean (and then we’ll go into why engagement is important).
- Relationship: Instagram will show content to a user if the user has interacted with in the past. You’ve probably noticed this, when you like someone’s post suddenly you see ALL OF THEIR posts on your feed. It’s because Instagram says “Oh, you like this person’s content and you’re connected to this person so we’re going to show you more of their content.”
- Interest: This one is a bit murkier to understand but the idea is if you interact with a type of content more frequently than others, then Instagram will take note of that and show more of that type of content. If you’re someone who likes and comments on a lot of memes, Instagram is going to show the meme accounts you follow more frequently than the other accounts.
- Timeliness: Like many social media platforms, Instagram will show newer content first. So it’s important you know when your audience is active.
Alright, now back to engagement.
If you can’t tell from the ranking signals, Instagram doesn’t want to withhold everyone’s posts. They want is show users content they’ll enjoy. Engagement comes into this because by engaging you can increase your relationship ranking, understand what interests your community likes and get a feel for when they are active on the platform. So how should you be engaging without wasting your time? Let’s get into it.
Lots of experts will give you an exact number of people you should follow/unfollow (which is a bad strategy, to begin with) or how many comments you should leave a day but we don’t buy into that. It’s about quality over quantity. That’s why we highly recommend the 10-minute engagement strategy. If you spend 10-minutes engaging 3x a day, that’s 30 minutes of engagement every day and that adds up fast! (And it’s really not that much given, that the average amount of users spend on Instagram is in fact, 27 minutes).
And it’s not just 30 minutes spent stuck in an Instagram black hole of endless scrolling. It’s 30 minutes of strategic community building.
For example, here’s what this looks like when we do this for MeetEdgar:
- we’ll spend 10 minutes engaging and commenting on users we already follow. We do this at different times every day and in addition to building stronger connections with the people we follow, it helps us understand when our community is active on Instagram.
- A few hours later, we’ll spend another 10 minutes engaging and commenting on a specific hashtag feed, which usually includes new accounts. This is helpful to see what types of content is trending or ranking on the explore page. Are people liking videos, image quotes or multi-image posts? We can improve our Interest ranking signal by studying this.
- A few hours later, we’ll spend another 10 minutes looking at users who recently interacted with us. We’ll make sure we’ve responded to any comments and questions and we’ll go to their profiles and like, comment and follow. Remember that relationship ranking signal? This 10 minute strengthens that relationship signal with people already engaged with you.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to get more followers on Instagram is to stop thinking of them as followers and start thinking of them as your community. That might sound corny but it’s also true. Social media becomes easier to manage and much more fun when you realize it’s a community, not a competition.
You tell us, how many followers do you want this year? What are your favorite ways of attracting new followers?
And in case you missed the news, Instagram scheduling on Edgar is here! Learn more and give us a try.