Ah, the age old question. How the heck do I grow my Instagram following? It can feel hopeless at times and it takes a lot of patience. But with the right techniques and mindset, you’ll grow your following ORGANICALLY without any cheats or shortcuts.
For starters, I’ve had my Butternut Bakery Instagram account since July of 2017. I remember it took me an entire year to get 1,000 followers, a month to get another 1,000, then 6 months to get to 10,000, and now I’m at almost 45,000 followers and gaining 100 more each day!
You can see I got better at it over time, but it definitely takes TIME and PATIENCE. It’s not a rat race, just follow these steps and your Instagram account will start to snowball followers.
the dreaded Instagram algorithm
We hear it all the time: What can I do to beat the Instagram algorithm? Quite frankly, I hate that question. It means your efforts are focused elsewhere rather than trying to CONNECT on Instagram.
That’s not to say we ignore the algorithm, after all it’s what places your content in front of others. But when you focus on that TOO much, you lose sight of what Instagram really is…a SOCIAL platform.
So, to start this off, let’s push that notion aside for a minute because when you take that away, Instagram is actually very simple to understand.
Engagement is key
Another buzz word that we hear at least once a day…engagement. Whether it’s on your own posts or others, it’s all very important. Why? Because without it, you remain pretty much stagnant.
But let’s dig into these two types of engagement. One is on your own which measures the amount of likes and comments on your account.
I’ve found the best way to increase your engagement is to do just that, engage on Instagram! A great starting place is to comment back on the comments you receive.
Because think about how you feel when you leave a comment and never hear back…you’re less likely to comment again on that account, right? We want to keep those loyal followers around, and genuinely connecting with them is one of the best ways to do so.
The next one is engaging on other accounts. This is something I like to set aside time for so you can get the most out of this strategy.
I dislike the word strategy here, though, because it should feel more like catching up with friends or giving compliments to brighten someone’s day. What I mean is, I set aside time to comment and like images that I really enjoy. It should never feel forced.
I’m not just spouting out comments like “yum” and “love!” and emojis. That’s too passive and disconnected. You want to leave comments that someone would want to comment back on. That way, they’re likely to see your comment, respond, and check out your account.
Leave comments on accounts you’re following, posts that are within a relevant hashtag to your niche, and followers to larger accounts that are similar to yours. These people are very likely to enjoy the type of content you put out and will want to check out your feed.
But content is king
So yes, we can comment and like and connect with others on the platform all we want but we still have to get them to CONVERT, aka follow.
This is where content comes in. Really, this is the main key player here. Take all other strategies away and when you’re left with good solid content, you’ll likely gain followers naturally.
Really focus on your niche and listen to your audience. For example, I’ve noticed that chocolate recipes get way better engagement than say a lemon recipe. It makes sense, chocolate really stands out when you’re swiping through your feed.
I’m not saying go out there and post just chocolate because that’s what MY audience likes. Yours could be very different. It’s really comes down to the quality if the posts and photos you’re putting out and what rings true to you.
Finding a schedule that works for you
The general rule of thumb is to post once a day. You may be thinking you don’t have enough content or time to do so, which is OK. This is something you can build up to.
For me, I only post 5 days a week that being Monday through Friday. When I did post on the weekends, I just could never gain the same type of traction I would during the week. I’ve still seen tons of growth in my account so it’s not absolutely detrimental to post every single day. But if you can, go for it.
What you really need to focus on is staying CONSISTENT. When someone follows you, there’s an expectation to deliver. Dropping off the face of the earth for a week without saying anything can break that trust.
Use hashtags and tags to your advantage
I use hashtags in every post. When looking at my analytics, almost HALF of my impressions come from hashtags alone. The key is to finding the ones that work for you.
First, scout out the hashtags others are using within your niche. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post, and make sure to add them into your caption and not the comments.
Also look for larger (and reputable) accounts that are built on sharing other people’s content. Read their bios – that’s where they share which hashtags to use for your chance to be featured.
Getting featured on big accounts is something that’s played a huge role in growing my following. I remember when my chocolate chip banana bread pretty much went viral which gave me a huge boost! It’s helped me gain thousands of followers BUT it also comes back to content. They’re looking for eye catching photos that are relevant to their feed.
Besides hashtags, you also want to tag those large accounts on your actual photo. Try to tag around 10 accounts per photo to up your chances of getting your content seen.
And please DO NOT do this to try and grow your Instagram account
First and foremost, do NOT use the old follow, unfollow trick. That’s where you follow a bunch of accounts in hopes of them following you back. Once they do, you immediately unfollow.
It might help you in the short term but A, your engagement will be terrible and B, it totally defeats the purpose of Instagram. Like I said before, it’s a social platform meant to CONNECT people. Cheating the system isn’t going to do you any good.
This next one REALLY grinds my gears and that’s commenting spam. I mentioned before to engage with the followers on larger accounts. That does not mean to comment and say “Hey please check out my account” because what’s in it for them?
It’s one sided, passive, and a simple copy and paste. People are much more likely to visit your feed if you leave a genuine comment because they want to know the person behind it. I mean, you wouldn’t make friends by saying “Hey please check out my personality”, would you?
Phew, OK that was a lot
There’s honestly tons more I could talk about but I added a couple extra tidbits in my FREE Instagram worksheet. The opt-in is just after the Engagement section so make sure you grab that before you go!
And lastly, please remember that it takes time to grow your account, especially a healthy one. Don’t look at it as a chore or something that needs to be conquered. Just be yourself, connect with others, and the rest will fall into place.