How To Grow Your Following On Instagram
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of those links I may receive a small commission at not additional cost to you.
When I first started my Instagram account for my business, back in 2015, I had no clue what I was doing. I posted randomly, used way too many filters and never used hashtags. I had a small following, maybe 100, but that was mostly friends and family and I didn’t quite see the point in using it.
Fast forward to September 2017 when I was playing around with the idea of starting a blog and really trying to give this side hustle the time it deserved I came across a blog post about how to get nice crisp white pictures for Instagram and kinda fell down a rabbit hole of information about all the ways that Instagram could help my business. It opened up my eyes a bit and the one thing I knew I needed to do was GROW! The tricky thing was, I didn’t really know how to do that.
I started to do a bit of research and got to know other makers in my field which helped a ton. Over the past year and a half I have been able to grow my Instagram following from 142 to 13.6K. It’s taken a lot of time and energy to get this far and I still have a long way to go, but I wanted to share with you the things I’ve learned along the way. My hope is that I can help you figure out how to grow your following too so you don’t feel so lost in this Instaworld.
How To Grow Your Following On Instagram
1. Be Consistent
This is hands down the easiest way to grow your following and also maybe the most overwhelming at first. In order to see continuous growth you need to be regularly posting on Instagram. That usually means at least once a day. I know that can seem like a lot, especially if you are anything like I was and currently only post randomly when inspiration strikes. The truth is that you need to be posting 5-7 times per week so that your followers are consistently seeing your content in their feeds. You have to be using the app in order to reap the benefits (aka followers).
For me, posting everyday was the best option until I started seeing my daily follower count exceed my daily unfollower count. That didn’t really happen until I hit 10K. Now, even though I do have people unfollow everyday, the number of followers I gain is much higher so my total follower count doesn’t go down. I typically post 5 times a week now, sometimes more and am continuing to see steady growth.
Consistency also means you can’t disappear from Instagram for days or weeks at a time. A day or two off now and then won’t hurt you, but when you go away for more than a few days it will be a lot harder to get your engagement and growth back up. People want to see that you are active and sharing your content consistently. Once you have their attention, you don’t want to loose it so you need to be consistent.
2. Practice Your Photography
Now that you know you will need to be posting every day, you’re gonna need some pictures right? Having good quality photos is so important on Instagram. So the best way to be consistent is to practice your photography. You don’t need to go out and buy a fancy new camera, just start with what you have. Get some cute props, try styling some unique flat lays, and always use natural light. It takes time and practice to figure out your photography style.
Make sure to switch up the types of photos you are taking and sharing too. It’s good to have a mix of flat lays, portraits, product shots and even videos. It will get easier as you go because you’ll find out what works for you.
I know for me there are specific times of day that I get the best light in my house so I’ll use that time to take a bunch of photos all at once. Batching your photos like that will also take some of the stress out of having to post everyday too. You can also use photo editing apps like Snapseed too, which can take your photos from good to great!
3. Capture People With Your Captions
Much like taking photos, writing captions takes practice too. Even though Instagram is very photo oriented, you captions provide a new opportunity to draw people in. Share the things that make you, you. Find your voice and use it in your writing. Don’t be afraid to get raw and honest sometimes. People want to get to know the maker behind the brand and if they can relate to you they will stick around.
Make sure you aren’t constantly just trying to sell them something. Sure there are posts that are meant for that, but if that’s all you ever share it’s gonna get old. Instagram is where people go to get to know you and build a relationship with you. It’s all about those connections and you can connect with people through what you share in your captions.
4. Use Hashtags
I can’t believe there was a time that I didn’t use hashtags. They are so important! The hashtags you use on your posts help you to get seen by new people. When someone searches a hashtag on Instagram, any post with that hashtag will pop up in their search. That means your post could pop up and be seen by someone new! So always remember to use your hashtags. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags. That’s 30 opportunities each post to reach a new audience.
When picking hashtags make sure that you are mixing them up between large, medium and small. Large hashtags will have millions of posts, medium will have tens of thousands and small will have hundreds to a few thousand. If you use only large hashtags then you are less likely to be seen because there are so many other posts using the same hashtag. Same as if you only use small ones there won’t be as many eyes on your post because not many people know about that hashtag.
It also helps to switch up your hashtags too. Don’t get stuck using the same ones over and over. Look at other people’s posts to find new ones or search online for a hashtag generator. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your hashtags are relevant to your post. For example, if I post something about sewing I’m not going to use crochet hashtags.
5. Tag Other Accounts
Tagging other accounts in your photos is another great way to help grow your account. When you are using a product from a company or making something by another designer, tag them in your photo! For example, every time I share a photo that has Lion Brand yarn in it, I tag them. This notifies them that I tagged them and they will often re-share photos that they have been tagged in on their feed or on their website. That in turn means my photos are being shown to a much larger audience and I have a better chance of gaining new followers.
One thing to keep in mind when tagging other accounts in your posts is to make sure that they post actually is relevant to that account. Don’t tag a bunch of larger accounts on your post just in hopes that they will see it and notice you, that’s a bit spammy and no one likes spam.
6. Use Stories!
Instagram Stories are a great way to give people an inside look at your brand/business. People are more likely to watch stories than to scroll through their feeds, so sharing things in your stories is a great way to make sure you are being seen on a regular basis by your followers. Stories are also a great thing to use everyday, especially those days when you don’t have anything to post to your feed.
The best part about stories it that they don’t need to be curated. It’s a way to show the not so pretty and staged side of your business and show people that you are a real person. It’s also a great way to get more comfortable in front of the camera. Don’t be afraid to show your face and talk in your stories too.
There are a ton of different features you can use in your stories too, which help you connect with your followers and keep them engaged. I created a separate post that explains exactly How To Use Instagram Stories.
Social media is meant to be social. Don’t just be a content creator, be a participant too. Like and comment on other peoples photos, watch other’s stories, share other people’s content and get to know those with similar interests as you. Finding other makers has been so important in my growth and I met those makers by being an active participant on Instagram. It’s also a good idea to respond to people’s comments on your posts and interact with those who reach out to you.
8. Create An Encouragement Group (aka POD)
This one may be a bit controversial as some people view pods as a bit of a cheat. I prefer to think of them as Encouragement Groups because the people I’ve met in pods have become real life friends. If you aren’t familiar with pods, they are a group of people coming together and agreeing to all like and comment on each others posts. It’s like giving each other a little boost on Instagram so your posts get seen by more people.
In my experience, the groups I’m in are more like friends coming together to share tips and get to know each other. We don’t just like and comment on each others’ posts, we also chat about everyday life and share advice.
Something to keep in mind when using groups is to make sure that you aren’t just interacting with those in your group and no one else. It’s also good to keep on eye on who is liking and commenting on your posts. If only group members are commenting then that’s not great. You want to have as many interactions as possible to gain, you need to participate and branch out to as many people as possible.
If you are looking for a quick boost to your followers, giveaways can help you out with that. They work best when a few accounts are involved and the rules include having to follow each account. Make sure you keep it to a small amount of accounts because people are less likely to participate if they have to follow 10+ accounts. Expect your follower count to increase the first few days a giveaway starts and then drop a bit a few days after the giveaway ends. You usually loose about 10% of the followers you gain from a giveaway so it’s totally normal.
10. Show Your Face
People want to be able to associate a face with a name, including your business name! Be the face of your brand by having your head shot as your profile picture and sharing photos of yourself on your feed. Remember you are using Instagram to connect to people and build a relationship and it’s a lot easier to do that if people can see who you are. They want to know the maker behind the brand and seeing you in action is a great way to show them. I find that posts with my face in them tend to do better than those that don’t. So show up for your business by showing your face!
11. Be Real
Figure out who you are, what your brand is all about, find your voice and stick to it. Don’t try to be like everyone else, just be you! Do what you love to do and share it with people. The more real you are the more connections you make. People can tell when you aren’t being authentic and genuine even through the computer. Building a brand and running a small business requires a bit of vulnerability. You have to put yourself out there a bit and that’s okay. Share your struggles as well as your triumphs. Make sure you’re staying true to who you are and not just doing things to gain a few followers or make a few sales. Being real with your audience will go so much farther than you think.
Phew, that was a lot! I hope you found some helpful information and maybe even a bit of inspiration here. Instagram is a great tool to use for your business and real organic growth is possible. Remember that it’s about building relationships and good relationships take time. Everyone grows at different rates, but if you keep at it and keep learning you’ll see those numbers rise.
Stay tuned for the next post in this Instagram series all about Instagram Stories. And in case you missed it, go back and check out the 7 Things I Wish I Would Have Known About Instagram.