How to Grow Your Instagram Following

A lone silhouetted person stands against a sunset.

By Stephanie Leishman

Are you looking to grow your Instagram following? When I searched online to see what others were saying, I found that the answers fell on a spectrum of unethical and ineffective to helpful and successful. In this post, I share with you some of my thoughts as well as thoughts from some smart bloggers.

Write Authentic Comments

I regularly get comments that were clearly written by a bot or by someone in a hurry, who just wanted to write as many comments as possible. Usually it’s an emoji that isn’t relevant to the post (like a crying-laughing emoji under a serious post) or it’s something like “Your photo is beautiful” under a text-based image that is not a photo. Leave garbage comments on someone’s posts and your comments will be deleted or ignored. Leave authentic comments, however, and the owner of the Instagram account or their followers may click through to your profile to see who you are. 

Green Smoothie Gourmet: “The number one tip I can give you today is…drumroll…comment on others’ posts daily…”

Mason Woodruff: “I’m convinced the people leaving random emoji comments and clearly following to unfollow are going to lose in the game of life.” 

Optimize the Caption and Build Connections

When you are talking about people and brands, do not forget to include their Instagram handles. If they have a location (like a brick and mortar store), geotag your post to that location, or to the city. Use their community’s hashtags. There are many ways to build connections through your captions. 

The Business of Adventure: “Anytime you post an image with another person featuring the equipment of a brand, tag them in the photo and add their handle into the caption […] If a large Instagram account […] likes or comments on your post, then it can show up on the Explore page…” 

Post Appropriate and Unique Content

The functionality exists in the Instagram app to send your post to other social media platforms when you publish. This is called “cross-posting.” However, this isn’t always the best choice. It seems quick, like a shortcut to save you time, but it can also be a waste. For example, the functionality of cross-posting from Instagram to Twitter results in a tweet with a truncated caption and only a link to your image. The resulting tweets I have seen by people who do this often don’t make any sense. It’s a wasted tweet, and worse, it makes your account look like it’s run by a bot. 

If you’re blasting content in the same format everywhere you can, it also alienates users who appreciate someone who understands the norms and culture of that platform and/or the communities on that platform. Treat your Instagram followers like a community and more will follow. 

Oh, She Blogs!: “Whenever possible, treat your Instagram followers to something that is just for them.”

Publish Regularly and Optimize Your Timing

Timing on any social media platform is usually an important area to focus because initial engagement can help a post whether or not there is an algorithm in effect on the platform. If most of your following is in a different time zone than you are, or if they stay up later than you do, you will want to optimize your publishing schedule based on that so more people see your posts. This means you have to pay attention to your Insights (to see your insights, switch to an Instagram business profile if you haven’t already). It also means you might have to publish at a time that’s inconvenient for you personally (e.g., in the middle of the night). Instagram just opened its API, and I’ve noticed that Agorapulse and Planoly are some of the first tools that are offering the functionality to publish to Instagram for you. 

Helene in Between: “If you leave long gaps of not posting, people will see your posts less. There’s of course more to it than that, but the bottom line is to post regularly to really get more engagement.” 

Jan Orsula: “Obviously, you want to publish at the time when most of your followers are online and ready to engage with your content.”

Use the Instagram Stories Feature

Instagram Stories are not used as much by brands on Instagram as the news feed. This means you can gain more visibility if you post an Instagram Story. 

Jeremy Jauncey: “It’s a great idea to utilise Instagram Live and Instagram Stories wherever possible as this instantly engages your followers, offering them a snapshot of what is going on in that moment. On Instagram, creating this type of content will help your chances of being featured in Instagram’s Explore section, exposing you to people who might not already follow you and encourage additional followers.”

Clare Brown: “Instagram stories is a great way to get people to engage with your account. The more engagement you get, the higher your images appear in the timeline! […] Also, be sure to tag your location in your story so you appear on the local stories features on the discover page!” 

Growing a High-Quality Following

These are a few ways to improve your Instagram management so that you can gain more followers organically. Through these methods, your new followers will also be higher quality. I’ve tried other methods that work too, but that bring a worse-quality following that usually unfollows after a short time. Methods that are more authentic tend to go a long way. 

Do you have other tips that work for growing a following? Please share in the comments!