16 Easy & Proven Strategies To Grow Instagram Followers Organically
You should actively focus on how to grow Instagram followers organically. Why? Simple. By growing your followers organically (i.e., not paying for them), you’ll build an audience that has a higher likelihood of converting or making a purchase from you.
“Why don’t I just run ads or a giveaway and build my following faster?”
I won’t knock these two strategies. I’ve used them. However, I will point out the flaws.
Running ads will cost you (duh) per follow or desired action. Using ads to get followers has its place, I love running social media campaigns, but it has to be set up very strategically. You have to know what you’re doing and what the Lifetime Value (LTV) of your customer is for this strategy to be worth it. If you’re running a business and trying to do your social media on your own, it’s fair to say you’re no expert here (that’s cool – running a business is a full-time job, who wants another?). It’s very easy to spend money advertising and not receive any revenue from it.
Doing a giveaway can help get followers, especially if you use following as a way to enter the contest or giveaway. The big downfall with this method (for growing a following) is that everyone likes free stuff. It should only take a few clicks to enter, so.. why not. I see this method, yes, grow followers, but most of the time, the followers aren’t interested in the product, the business, and don’t have a high conversion rate later on.
I’ve worked with several brands, and every time they implemented paid ads or giveaways as a method of growing their following, it surprised them to see a drop in engagement (because they don’t honestly care about what you’re offering).
So, I’m here to help you save time and money by giving you tried and true strategies to grow Instagram followers organically.
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What Is Instagram?
First things first, if you don’t know what Instagram is, then take a moment to read this section. If you already know, skip down to the demographics section; it never hurts to make sure your audience is hanging out on Instagram.
Instagram is a free application where users share photos and videos with friends and followers. Users can share, comment, like, and save images and videos they like. It has one of the highest engagement rates out of the social media platforms used today.
If your target audience or ideal buyer is anywhere between 18-34, then you need to be using Instagram in your social media marketing.
As of October 2020, 13.9% of global users are between 18 and 24 years of age, and 16.5% of users are between 25 and 34. These numbers may sound small, but it’s a bright red flag in the marketing world saying, “use Instagram!”
How Does Instagram Work For Business?
Instagram can increase your brand awareness, build engagement, and increase your sales.
The more people that see your brand, product, or know of your services, the more they get comfortable with you. Today, users don’t trust easily. That’s where social media comes in! You can show them how you feel, why you do what you do, and sell.
Engagement is vital for Instagram. Your primary goal or key performance indicator (KPI) should be engagement. Think of it this way, the more engaged users, the higher the chance of conversions.
You can have 10,000 followers, but if you try to sell them a product and they don’t buy it, that means they’re not a qualified audience. We don’t want that.
We want an audience that truly loves your product or service, and to get that, we grow our audience and fill it full of people interested in what you’re selling. I’d rather have an Instagram follower count of 1,000 users who would all buy my product than a follower count of 10,000 and make no sales.
The goal is two-fold, to grow your Instagram followers and increase engagement. This is done by getting followers who want what you’re selling, whether that’s a lifestyle, a product, or a service; an engaged audience is critical.
Let’s dive into how we get there!
How To Grow Instagram Followers Organically
1. Interact With Other Users
This is, by far, the easiest way to grow your Instagram following and increase your engagement. Here’s my method (steps 1-3 take less than 10 mins):
- Search for a relevant industry hashtag that has a high volume of posts. For example, if I’m in the food industry, I’ll search #foodstagram, which at the time of writing, has 80.3 million posts.
- Now, you will see “top posts” and “recent posts” on the top menu. Go to “recent posts.”
- Scroll through and interact with a minimum of 50 posts. This could either be a like, a comment, or both if you have time. If you comment, be sure it adds substance. Don’t comment with something generic like “great job,” “looks great,” or “wow.” Users won’t engage back with you.
- Do this at least 3 times a day!!! If you have more time, then do more!
2. Keep Your Following vs. Follower Ratio Appropriate
Your followers vs. following ratio is really a vanity metric, but it does make the first impression on visitors. Ideally, you want to have more people following your page than you’re following.
I see a lot of brands start a page and immediately start following a bunch of accounts. That’s fine. Keep in mind, the more significant the difference between the number of people following you and the number of people you’re following, the better.
When you have a higher number of Instagram followers than people you’re following, this shows people that your content is valuable, and they like what you’re posting.
This doesn’t mean DON’T follow people, keep it in mind.
3. Post Consistently
Posting consistently doesn’t mean posting at the same time every day or even every day for that matter. But you do want to keep a schedule.
How often you can post depends on the number of assets you currently have. If you don’t have any quality images, then I recommend taking some time to gather some.
If you have enough content, a good starting schedule is a minimum of 3-4 posts a week on Instagram. The more often you post, the faster you will build your audience.
Pro Tip: After you post, do steps 1-3 in Tip 1, you’ll receive more engagement on your recent post.
4. Optimize Your Bio
Your Instagram bio shows people who you are and what you do. It’s a brief of the brand. It’s your first impression, so it needs to be done right.
If you’re using your logo for your profile image, make sure it fits within the space so that your audience can easily identify you. Use keywords and emojis in your bio, add a CTA, and link to you’re most desired page!
Check out Sprout Social for an in-depth guide for optimizing your Instagram bio.
5. Post At The Right Times
Posting consistently is important, but you want to make sure that you’re also posting at the right times to get the most out of your efforts.
To do this, go to your Instagram account and click on “insights.” From there, click on “audience.” Scroll to the bottom, and you will see “Most Active Times.” It will only show one day at a time, so you will have to tap through the days of the week to find the best times to post.
What I do is open the notes app on my phone and record which times of each day that most of my followers are active. This makes it quick and easy for me while I’m scheduling to glance at it to make sure I’m scheduling the best time possible.
6. Tag People & Products
If you can, tag people and products in your images when posting. I recommend tagging the picture because your content will be in that user’s tagged feed for others to see. It gives you extra reach. Their audience can become yours!
Best advice, tag people or brands that are related to your industry but aren’t your competitors.
7. Use Hashtags
If you’re not familiar with hashtags, think of them as a word or phrase you can use to find content related to it quickly, like a tiny Google. If you search for the hashtag “healthy,” you see posts that have used that tag and are related to that specific hashtag.
Using hashtags can help your posts have a higher reach and higher engagement. You can add the hashtags to your post (like I do), or you can add them in the comment section.
There is some dispute among social media marketers on the best way to use hashtags. Some say it’s best to use them in your caption, while others say the first comment works the same. I’ve tested out both methods extensively and find that I get higher engagement on posts when I use them in the caption.
You can use up to 30 hashtags in a caption or comment. So do it!
What I do is “bury” mine. I’ll create a nice engaging caption then I’ll add a series of periods before my hashtags.
This keeps them out of view but still gives my post the initial reach boost.
To make it easy, I make a note on my phone and make 3-5 “hashtag clouds” that include brand-specific hashtags and other relevant hashtags. Each cloud will have roughly 20 hashtags. That way, when I’m posting, I can quickly open the note up, copy it, then paste it into my caption. Saves time!
For example, each hashtag cloud will contain 2-3 branded hashtags (that go on every post) plus 5-7 broad hashtags, 5-7 medium hashtags, and 5-7 niche hashtags.
Broad? Medium? Niche? What does this mean? When using hashtags, you want to have a handful of small, medium, and large hashtags in your industry. You can find these by conducting a hashtag search. Below the hashtag, you will see the number of posts attributed to it.
Here’s a general size breakdown:
Small or Niche Hashtags: 100k – 1m
Medium Hashtags: 1m – 5m
Large Hashtags: 5m+
8. Post Videos & Stories
Videos have a higher engagement rate and reach on Instagram than images. Instagram’s algorithm favors videos, along with a bunch of other factors. However, video posts get an average of 150 comments vs. an image post that averages 65 comments (yes, these are average numbers, so don’t take them to heart if you’re not there yet!).
9. Share UGC
Authenticity and social proof are HUGE. So how do you show you’re authentic? Share posts others have made concerning your product or service! You can use an Instagram repost app or ask the user for the image and permission to use it. Or you can do a post asking for pictures of them using your product or service, ask how it’s impacted their life, etc.
This will not only give you more content to post; you’ll also gain valuable insight into your audience’s wants and needs.
10. Use Your Competitors
There is a high chance that your competitors already have a following on their Instagram. So why not use that to your advantage?
Here’s how you can leverage their hard work for your gain:
- Go to a competitor’s page.
- Look at who is following them and see who’s following them. Look for a high amount of followers that have profile photos. If there is an increased number of accounts with no profile images, they’re likely spam.
- Spend time clicking on each user. Check out their profile if it’s not set to private. If they have photos relating to your industry, then go through their profile and like a few. Leave a comment if you can.
- Repeat step 3 as many times as you can.
What’s the point of this? Well, let’s break it down. If they’re your competitor, they’re in your niche, right? In other words, they do what you do. If their followers are interested in what they do, they should be interested in what you do, right?
So this strategy will save you time and help build your Instagram followers with people interested in your product or service.
11. Batch Schedule Your Posts
I personally love Agorapulse for easy visual scheduling and outstanding reporting features. However, if you’re starting, you can use Facebook’s Creator Studio to schedule Instagram posts and stories.
This will help you to post at the right time and consistently. It requires planning out your strategy, but you’ll spend less time posting in the long run. I like to do a month at a time.
Other services for scheduling Instagram posts:
12. Longer Captions
Caption length matters! Keep in mind there’s a time and place for short and simple captions. However, having a longer caption is shown to have a higher engagement rate.
Try telling a story. What was going on in the photo? What did it take to capture the shot? If it’s a product image, try writing about a review you received and what it meant to you. Captions containing 1,000 characters consistently have a higher engagement score.
This doesn’t mean every post should be a short novel; however, keep it in mind to throw in a detailed caption as often as you can.
13. Use CTA’s
I see many brands fail to use their call to action (CTA) on their Instagram posts.
Think of it this way. You spent your time (or even money if you have a marketing team) to create an image and write a caption to go with it with a goal in mind. How will you achieve that goal if you don’t tell people to do something?
Do you want them to sign up for your email list? Then tell them! How will they know that’s the purpose unless they know? Simple, they won’t.
Use CTAs everywhere! Put them on your images (don’t overdo it) or in captions. Give the users something to do and tell them what it is.
14. Try Carousel Posts
A carousel post is a post that consists of multiple images that users swipe through. They require engagement to view the next post.
They’re a fun way to break up your feed and can provide value to your audience. Not sure where to start? Try one of these creative ways to use Instagram carousel posts for your business.
15. Track Your Posts
Tracking your post-performance is essential in general, but in increasing your Instagram followers and engagement, there are a few KPIs (key performance indicators) to look at.
Here is what you want to make a note of:
- Post type (image, video, carousel)
- Caption Length
- Hashtags Used
Do this for the month (if you use Agorapulse, this process takes less than 5 minutes!). Then look at the trends. Did the posts with longer captions perform better? If so, then continually use longer captions for your posts.
Tracking your posts will give you a clearer idea of your audience’s likes and what they don’t like. In the long run, the time spent analyzing your posts will pay off. You’ll know what posts your audience will enjoy most so you can serve up quality more often.
16. Go Behind The Scenes
People love authenticity. They want to connect with a brand they feel is genuine. So show them you’re real! Your brand has feelings and opinions. Show users the company culture.
Show your audience behind the scenes. This is where story posts are great! They disappear from user view after 24 hours, but they can show a lot of personalities.
If you’re hosting a big event, do a quick video of the setup. Talk about the excitement or nervousness. Was there a big turnout? Share your excitement and appreciation!
Posts that have authenticity and evoke emotion will have more engagement. Plus, it’ll help to grow Instagram followers organically.
Gaining followers on Instagram can feel like an uphill battle. But, the way you engage with people, the way you connect with them, how you answer their questions, and how you motivate them will help your Instagram account grow.
To grow Instagram followers organically, you must be patient, create a meaningful engagement, and that will turn your passive users into loyal followers.
And remember, these strategies take time to implement and do correctly. Success doesn’t happen overnight. If anyone promises you overnight success, RUN AWAY and run fast! There’s just no replacement for spending quality time on Instagram.
Determine your goals, follow the above tips, and you will see continual growth week after week.