Instagram can be a highly targetable, visual marketing channel for your brand and an opportunity to build a loyal audience that grows with your business.
In fact, over 500 million Instagram users browse the app every day, making it home to some of the most engaged audiences around.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to grow your Instagram follower profile and increase engagement, while growing a massive following over time—one that’s full of real fans, not bots or fake followers.
How to get more Instagram followers
- Incorporate Reels into your content mix
- Cross promote content
- Curate your profile grid
- Work with brand ambassadors
- Get follows from your loyalty program
- Market through your personal Instagram account
- Get on feature accounts
- Use the right hashtags
- Post at the right times
- Steal your competitors' followers
- Pay for sponsored posts and product reviews
- Use geotags to boost local discovery
- Organize your Stories in highlights
- Ask for more followers
- Run a giveaway
- Share user-generated content
- Use Instagram live
Let’s dive deeper into how to implement each tactic to get more Instagram followers.
1. Incorporate Reels into your content mix
Reels are fun videos you can share with followers on your Instagram account. They have audio, effects, and creative tools. You can share them on your feed and publicly in Explore to reach new audiences.
Reels are new territory for brands. Instagram’s beauty partnerships manager, Kristie Dash, stated in a Glossy forum that Reels are still a relatively new way to publish content, and there isn’t one formula for success. But, she does suggest the following tips to gain traction:
- Keep content unique and trend drive. Identify trends on Instagram and TikTok and put your own spin on it. This increases the chance your Reels will go viral and get in front of new people.
- Make content relatable and simple. Not every Reel needs to be a production. Lower quality videos can perform the same, if not better, than highly produced Reels.
- Educate your audience. Find the balance between education and entertainment in your Reels.
Reels should be a huge priority for you right now. It’s prime real estate for your brand to be discovered by new followers.
Social media marketing agency owner Trilce Jirón Garro, of TBS Marketing, agrees. “Don’t sell your products through Reels content. Share facts. Provide tips about the industry you’re in. Entertain viewers,” she says.
Trilce suggests that both new and existing brands incorporate entertaining Reels into their Instagram strategy. “Reels give anyone the opportunity to reach new target audiences. There’s no learning curve because Reels content is lo-fi. And creators can produce community-driven content that builds trust, gains followers, and makes sales over time.”
Trilce also loves the Instagram Insights Tool introduced for Reels. “Reels have become an integrated part of any Instagram marketing strategy. Analytics tools for Reels has made it easy to track metrics and analyze data to see if your Reels are working. Now, you can understand exactly what your audience likes and dislikes, when to post Reels, and what calls to action resonate with viewers.”
Using Reels Insights, you can see patterns and understand different spikes in engagement that affect your visibility on the platform. That way, you can create higher-quality content that gets even more engagement and followers.
Need help creating a Reels strategy? Read Why and How to Use Instagram Reels to Market Your Shopify Store to learn more.
2. Cross promote content
Cross-promoting involves posting similar content across various social media channels. It’s a tactic used to save time and resources. It’s also effective at increasing brand awareness and growing an audience on Instagram.
Mobile users are spending an increasing amount of time with video and entertainment apps, with video content on social media platforms accounting for the biggest increase. Whether it’s a short-form video or lengthy tutorial, you want to improve the reach of your Instagram content.
Justin Bieber’s holiday dance challenge is a great example of successful cross-posting. During the 2020 holiday season, the Canadian singer posted the same dance challenge on both TikTok and Instagram. On TikTok, his video short received 9.8 million likes. The same content on Instagram received 4.8 million likes. He was able to get in front of more people just by posting the same video on two different platforms.
Nadya Okamoto, founder of lifestyle period brand August, has found that TikTok naturally cross-pollinates to Instagram and YouTube. She says in an interview with Modern Retail, “As we’ve grown on TikTok from August, we’ve also grown to 175,000 followers on Instagram.” Actively posting on multiple platforms has “affected our overall cost of acquisitions to be super effective,” allowing the brand to steer away from paid media as a main acquisition channel.
TikTok isn’t the only channel you can cross-post on. The Instagram Reels format translates well to YouTube Shorts and Pinterest Stories. It’s important to note that Instagram’s algorithm won’t promote Reels that have a TikTok watermark. So if you’re going to cross-post content from Instagram to other channels, ensure the content is high quality and doesn’t promote a competing platform through watermarks.
3. Curate your profile grid
Most of your followers won’t follow you for what you posted in the past but for the promise of what you’ll post in the future. Your audience wants to know what they’re going to get if they hit that Follow button.
Having a feed with a consistent theme and a consistent posting schedule can have just as much of an impact in growing a following as many of the other growth strategies we’ve covered above. Even a simple pattern can entice new followers, as long as it’s communicated at first glance to anyone who lands on your profile.
Consider your Instagram bio and your last nine posts as your first impression on Instagram. Do they effectively communicate some degree of consistency through personality, filters, colors, or layout? Does the clickable link send people to the same homepage every week? Or are you linking out to fun and exciting content too?
The layout of your grid is an often underestimated way to get creative with the aesthetic of your feed while adding a rhythm to your publishing strategy and consistency that’s worth following.
In fact, many accounts that adopt this approach are often able to spend less effort on creating content by focusing on converting visitors into followers, producing text graphics or other content with a faster turnaround, and streamlining the overall production of their Instagram content.
Your feed serves as the billboard for your brand. It’s a customer’s first touchpoint with you and captures the essence of your brand.
4. Work with brand ambassadors
Don’t want to pay the celebrity influencer big bucks to market your brand? Works with brand ambassadors who have anywhere from a couple hundred to a few thousand followers. Ambassadors are people who genuinely support and believe in your brand and will tell their friends about it.
Luxury shoe retailer Sarah Flint reports seeing success with its brand ambassador program, which has over 500 women. Each ambassador has their own unique discount code, which gives them a free pair of Sarah Flint shoes after five new customers use it.
Ambassadors like Holly Hollon attest to the quality and comfort of the brand’s shoes. Her posts are authentic and relatable to regular Sarah Flint shoppers. This helps the brand grow its Instagram following and earn sales.
5. Get follows from your loyalty program
Retailers are increasingly launching loyalty programs, repeatedly encouraging consumers to shop with their brand over another. It’s worked for brands like Sephora and Blume. One way brands are capitalizing on loyalty programs is by rewarding those who follow them on Instagram.
When luxury retailer Rebecca Minkoff launched its rewards program, RM Rewards, it gave shoppers the option to earn points by following the brand’s Instagram account. Brands like Blume are also finding the value in rewarding Instagram followers. Program members can earn Blume Bucks for becoming a friend on Instagram versus Facebook or Twitter.
6. Market through your personal Instagram account
Another popular way to increase your Instagram following is growing your personal account—basically, make yourself the influencer. Harnessing both the company account and your personal account can increase brand recognition, follower counts, and sales. Pro tip: You can also run this playbook on TikTok to improve your numbers.
It’s a tactic that works well for fashion label ANINE BING. In addition to the brand’s Instagram profile, the company’s founder also drives engagement and awareness through her personal Instagram page, which has over one million followers.
Anine invites followers into her design studio, takes them through the design process, and even gets feedback from followers throughout the creative process. Anine also shares a bit about her personal life and milestones, giving followers a peak behind the curtains of their favorite designer’s life.
7. Get on feature accounts
Instagram feature accounts are pages that curate the best content in a specific niche. They are like the “best of” photo journals for an industry. Some feature accounts have a massive following. If you get placement on the account, it can send new Instagram followers to your profile.
There are feature accounts for every niche: travel, fashion, photography, and more. For example, @discoverearth curates adventurous travel content from around the world for over 6.1 million followers.
8. Use the right hashtags
Your goal on Instagram is to engage your current audience on a regular basis while also growing your number of real followers. Posting new, interesting, and engaging photos will satisfy the first requirement, but to begin growing you’ll find hashtagging your photos extremely important. Hashtagging makes it easy for people searching for specific terms to find your photos.
So which hashtags should you use? Just like with Twitter and other social sites, users on Instagram choose certain hashtags over others. If you use popular Instagram hashtags within your photos, you’re much more likely to reach new users and be discovered.
At the time of this writing, these were the top 20 hashtags on Instagram:
If you looked at this list and said, “But none of those apply to my products or brand,” you’re likely correct.
Using hashtags is one thing; using the right tags is completely different.
Popular tags like the ones listed above will likely net you additional engagement and likes. However, they won’t lead to increased long-term engagement, new interested followers, or, most importantly, sales.
If you want to tag your photos properly, you’ll need to find and use the most relevant hashtags. This means doing the appropriate research to make sure you’re using hashtags that not only describe your brand but that are also being searched for on Instagram.
To find relevant hashtags, you’ll want to use a free online tool like IconoSquare or Webstagram to start.
Below, I used Webstagram to find relevant, related, and popular hashtags for my men’s accessory business by searching for key hashtags closely related to my brand.
As an example, searching the hashtag #MensFashion, I was able to pull the following list of additional keyword hashtags along with the number of times they have been used (i.e., their popularity).
You can also find more related hashtags and their popularity if you search for any of your target keywords directly in the Instagram app.
You’ll want to go through this exercise trying different keywords that describe your brand and products, building out your hashtag keyword list as you go.
Keep in mind that Instagram allows for a maximum of 30 hashtags per post. Additionally, the popular words will change over time, so make sure you revisit your hashtag keywords every few months so you're using the best possible terms.
You can also steal hashtag ideas from competitors or similar accounts that have the kind of following you aspire to, but ultimately, you want to create your own groups of hashtags that relate to your specific account.
Pro tip #1: Here’s a trick I use for my ecommerce businesses. For every product and product category in my stores, I’ve researched the most popular related Instagram hashtags. I came up with 15 to 20 popular hashtags for each category of products I sell, as well as a base of five to 10 popular tags that describe my brand and product offering. Finally, I also created a list of popular local specific hashtags that relate to my brand.
Brand keyword hashtags
#mybrandname #mensfashion #mensaccessories #mensgoods #fashion #mensstyle #instafashion #menswear
Product category keyword hashtags
#bugatchisocks #happysocks #corgisocks #socks #sockswag #socksoftheday #sockgame #sockswagg #socksofinstagram #happysockday #sockwars #funsocks #happysockday
Location-specific keyword hashtags
#Toronto #TorontoFashion #TorontoFashionBloggers
All of these groups of keyword hashtags are stored in a page on Evernote. This makes it easy and efficient when I’m on the go to post a new Instagram image optimized for the most relevant keywords.
You can easily open my Evernote and copy my standard brand-, product-, and location-specific hashtags to post with each photo. Some Instagram scheduling tools also let you save caption templates for storing your hashtag groups.
Doing the work of researching, organizing, and saving the most applicable and popular hashtags upfront will save you a ton of time down the road, increase your engagement, and help garner new followers.
Pro tip #2: If you’ve been posting to Instagram for a while and feel you’ve missed out on all these opportunities to build your audience using keyword hashtags, fret not. You can still go back and post a comment with your new hashtag keyword lists and watch the likes and followers roll in.
Using hashtags in Instagram stories
Hashtagging on Instagram posts is a given, but you should also be using hashtags in your Stories for the chance to be seen by users who follow that specific hashtag.
You can use hashtag stickers (which can be found in the Instagram Stickers menu when creating a Story) or just hashtag directly in your captions for a chance to be featured in a hashtag story.
Now that users can follow hashtags, your Stories on Instagram have a chance to be seen by both people who are following that hashtag and anyone who’s just checking it out.
9. Post at the right times
Beyond adding the appropriate hashtags and using the best filters to get more Instagram followers, you should also consider the timing of your posts.
A targeted approach involves analyzing what has and has not worked for you in the past. By visiting IconoSquare’s optimization section, you can get a detailed analysis of your posting history versus engagement. This report will also highlight the best times of the day and days of the week to post.
The dark circles indicate when you usually post media. The light gray circles show when your community has been interacting. The biggest light gray circles represent the best times for you to post.
You can also get a lot of great insight for free from Instagram analytics for business accounts, found under the Followers section.
You may want to consider using a social media scheduling tool to automatically publish your posts when your audience is the most engaged.
10. Steal your competitors’ followers
One of the best ways to find and attract a new following is by seeking out your closest competitors’ Instagram accounts and engaging with their audiences. These people have already shown some level of interest in the products you carry simply by following your competitors.
So how do you effectively steal your competitors’ followers? By engaging with them. There are several ways to engage with Instagram users, and the more work you put in, the more followers and repeat engagement you’ll get out of it.
The three types of engagement on Instagram are:
- Follow a user
- Like a photo
- Comment on a photo
Don’t be afraid to use an emoji or two to add some personality to your text.
11. Pay for sponsored posts and product reviews
All this optimized posting to your account is great, but if you really want to increase Instagram followers, you need to take advantage of influencer marketing and expose your brand to a wider audience.
So, how do you do that? First, unlike the tactics to grow Instagram followers mentioned above, this one usually isn’t free. However, if done correctly, it’s of good value.
To get started, you’ll need to make a list of large accounts in your niche. For example, if you sell beauty products, you’ll want to find large accounts from beauty bloggers.
You may already be following these accounts, but if not, you’ll need to find them. One of the best ways is to use Webstagram (mentioned earlier) and search for some of the closest hashtag keywords you uncovered in the beginning of this post. When you do a search for your keywords, not only will it show you the related keywords, it will also show you the top Instagram accounts that feature those keywords.
There are a couple of things to look for in the profiles results:
- A large following—usually 20,000 to 200,000
- An email address in the profile
If there is an email address in the profile, it usually means the account is open to sponsored posts or a shoutout in a sponsored Story.
You’ll want to email and ask their sponsored post pricing. In general, I have found the average rate to be around $20 to $50 per post, depending on the size of the following.
However, if you’re selling a unique and original product, you may also want to consider sending your product for the influencer to review and post. Usually, the more natural and less advertisement-like the image, the greater the engagement and response.
You don’t necessarily need influencers with a massive following to get more followers on Instagram, but rather ones with a high engagement rate (likes and comments relative to follower count), which many influencer marketplaces can provide.
12. Use geotags to boost local discovery
Besides hashtags, you can also make your Instagram posts and Stories discoverable by tagging your location—either the city you’re in or the venue where the photo or video was taken.
Locations not only have their own Instagram feed but also their own Story, and hashtags that you can contribute to when you use the location sticker in your own Stories.
Local businesses can get the most value out of location tags by posting regularly to these feeds and also engaging with posts from prospective customers who are physically in the vicinity.
13. Organize your Stories into Highlights
Whenever a potential follower lands on your business profile, you have a short span of time to convince them to follow you.
One way to do this is by using the Highlights feature on your profile to organize your Instagram Stories in a way that communicates what your account is about.
Since Stories have a 24-hour lifespan, Highlights can be used to give them a second life and entice others to follow you so they don’t miss out on more Stories in the future.
Use Story Highlights to grow Instagram followers by:
- Creating trailers that tease what your account is about
- Organizing your Stories into themes (like countries you’ve visited, for travel accounts)
- Explaining your products through pictures and videos
14. Ask for more followers
It sounds obvious, but it deserves to be said: Don’t be afraid to occasionally ask your audience to follow you.
The same way YouTubers ask their viewers to follow them at the end of their videos, you can also ask viewers to follow you for more content.
Sometimes people might really enjoy what you put out on Instagram but need a nudge before they actually follow you.
You can also do this in your Instagram captions, work it into your content by pitching what your audience will get if they follow you or by hinting at content that’s coming up that they won’t want to miss.
15. Run a giveaway
One of the best kinds of comments you can get on any social media post, not just Instagram, is when one user tags a friend. Not only do these comments contribute to your post’s engagement, which in turn makes it favorable to the Instagram algorithm, but each tag brings you a new audience member who arrived through a recommendation and who you could potentially win over as a follower.
One way to encourage this behavior is by posting relatable content that begs for 1:1 sharing (e.g., a gym meme that asks you to tag a friend who skips leg day). But a more reliable way is by running a giveaway that encourages your audience to tag a friend and follow your account.
Follow Instagram’s promotion guidelines and any legal requirements for running an Instagram contest that applies in your country of operation.
For inspiration, here’s an example of a successful product giveaway from Philip Kingsley that incentivizes people to follow its account and tag a friend for the chance to win a collection.
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16. Share user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content—such as videos, photos, reviews, audio, and more—that you curate from fans or followers. It’s an essential tool in your marketing arsenal for gaining followers on Instagram. UGC helps humanize your brand by featuring real people, with real stories, that show your product in real life and builds a more trusting relationship with potential customers.
Not only does your audience love their 15 minutes of fame on your Instagram feed, featuring them also helps drive more sales in your online store. According to research from Olapic, consumers today are 56% more likely to buy something after seeing a photo of the product shared by customers.
Take Fashion Nova, for example. The online retailer’s Instagram account relies heavily on user-generated content.
Fashion Nova’s user-generated content gives it access to thousands of pictures from people all over the world to share with its audience—pictures that both showcase the brand’s values and inspire followers to engage with its posts and buy the clothes real people are wearing.
When it comes to creating user-generated content for your online store, start by asking customers to share their favorite experiences and images with your products by:
- Creating a branded hashtag feed where customers can post images
- Adding a call to action in your Instagram bio
- Running a contest
- Reaching out to influencers
- Adding an “ask” for user-generated content in your packaging
Remember, the goal of UGC is to show an authentic view of your products. If some customers send you lower-quality photos that still highlight your products’ best features, don’t be afraid to use them.
17. Use Instagram Live
Live video is the key to running a successful marketing strategy on any social media platform. With Instagram, you can use Instagram Live to stream videos to your followers and engage with them in real-time.
When your brand starts a live video stream, a ring encases your profile picture in Instagram Stories to tell followers they can check it out. Followers also receive a notification when you start a live video. Once you finish your livestream, you can upload it to your Story for 24 hours.
Remember that Instagram Live is interactive. Your followers will probably comment while you’re live, so try to acknowledge their comments and find ways to get them to participate.
Some ways to gain more followers when using Instagram Live include:
- Influencer takeovers
- Hosting an AMA (ask me anything) or Q&A
- Teasing a product launch or update
- Hosting a talk show
- Going behind the scenes on your operations
- Sharing a current event
- Running product tutorials
Building an Instagram growth strategy to drive your business
In this post we talked about the most effective ways to use Instagram to build a targeted following, but it's not always a numbers game. As with any social network, the most successful content strategy is to be authentic and social.
If you focus on engagement, not just number of followers, Instagram can be a great home for your products and brand and can lead to a healthy stream of revenue for your ecommerce business. For more tips on turning this social media platform into a profitable channel, check out our post on how to make money on Instagram.
Illustration by Eugenia Mello
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How to get more followers on Instagram FAQ
How do you get more followers on Instagram for free?
- Find and post in popular hashtags related to your photo, product, or brand.
- Create your own branded hashtag.
- Use hashtags in Stories.
- Create Instagram Reels.
How can I increase my followers on Instagram?
- Use the right Instagram hashtags.
- Steal your competitors' followers.
- Use geotags on Instagram posts.
- Organize Stories into Highlights.
- Post user-generated content.
- Collaborate with other brands.
- Post at the best times.
- Use Instagram analytics tools.
- Publish Instagram Reels.
- Livestream on Instagram Stories.