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Note: many of the methods described below can be performed by our growth tool AiGrow. That includes targeted Liking, following, commenting, and DMing, scheduling and posting content for days, weeks and months ahead from your desktop, managing your DM inbox from your desktop, and joining or creating engagement groups to get more real comments and Likes on your posts.
The landscape of Instagram is constantly changing. With updates rolling out on a near monthly basis, the best ways to use the platform and gain Instagram followers are changing with it.
Fortunately for you, it’s our business to stay up-to-date and know the exact best practices to navigate your way through the evolving world of Instagram. Below are 67 proven and research-backed ways to skyrocket your Instagram followers going into the new year.
Use at least 11 and at most 30 hashtags: research shows that engagement goes up after the use of 11 hashtags.
Include hashtags that are relevant to your channel and content: attract your target audience.
Put hashtags in your comments: packing your caption full of hashtags just doesn’t look good. Place them as a comment instead. Plus, although it won’t carry as much weight as a comment from another Instagram user, placing your hashtags as a comment is an easy way to increase the number of comments on your post. The more comments you get on your posts, the higher your post engagement rate will be. The higher your post engagement rate gets, the more likely you’ll rank as a Top Post for your hashtags, and so on.
Include as many popular hashtags (greater than 100,000 posts) as possible: hashtags are your main form of distribution to potential new Instagram followers – the larger and more populated the hashtag, the more people can theoretically see your content. You can use tools like AiGrow to find popular hashtags in your niche.
Include smaller, more specialized hashtags: smaller, more niche hashtags contain less competition, which makes it easier for your own content to rank higher in the search results. This increases your chances of appearing in the “Top 9” grid results of a particular hashtag.
(Use with caution) Use hashtags known to help increase followers: it may not produce the most engaged following, but using hashtags like #L4L and #instafollow may prove a short-term solution to increasing Instagram followers.
Geotag your posts: when you geotag your posts, other people who post photos in your region will see your posts on the location’s page which increases content visibility.
Create a branded hashtag: branded hashtags are an easy way for other people to share your brand, build brand recognition, and get your name on as many different feeds as possible.
Write smart captions: paint a picture of what it was like to personally experience the content of your post. If it’s a vintage piece of clothing, what was the feeling you had when you found it? If it’s a location, what did it smell like? If you’re a photography page, what camera did you use to capture the post? What were the settings on your camera? The more detail you can give, the better.
Ask engaging questions in your captions: questions are an easy way to increase audience interaction. For a vacation post, for example, you could ask something as simple as “have a friend who needs a vacation? Tag them in the comments!”
Include a clear CTA: research has shown that including the words “Like” or “Comment” somewhere in your caption results in more likes (89% more) and comments. With more likes and comments comes a higher place in the hashtag search results. This means more visibility for your content, which means more potential Instagram followers. Aside from Likes and comments, you can also use the captions of your posts to direct attention to places like your bio. Whether you’ve linked to your website, your store, or another Instagram account, a simple “Check out the link in my bio!” is an easy way to drive more visitors to the link.
Place important words/information at the beginning of your captions: when people scroll through their feeds, post captions get cut off after a few lines. You want to make sure that the critical information is seen no matter how your posts are seen.
Include emojis in your captions: emojis make your captions stand out or emphasize particular parts of your caption. They have also been proven to lead to higher post engagement.
Take time out of every day to interact with random people’s accounts within your channel’s niche: make yourself known and familiar throughout your community. Neil Patel found that for every 100 likes, he received roughly 6 followers. If you’re strapped for time, you can use tools like AiGrow to organically automate the process.
Interact with existing followers: there’s no point in gaining followers if you lose them within a week. Keep your followers around by building relationships with them. As explained more in-depth below, keeping your followers around can begin with something as simple as a welcoming DM after they’ve just started following you. You can send these DMs manually, or use a tool like AiGrow to automatically send customized DMs to every new person who starts following you.
Avoid drama: it’s very easy for your content to be taken out of context on Instagram. Smart, thoughtful responses to drama or controversy limit the potential for people to use your words or content in damaging ways in the future.
Or… Get involved with drama: if the Floyd Mayweathears or Connor McGregors of the world are any indication, there are few better ways to garner attention and potential Instagram followers than through drama and controversy. Though be warned – the kind of attention you get may not always be positive.
Develop a foundation of content (5-10 posts) before you begin seriously engaging with the community: you don’t want to convince someone to make the effort to check out your channel only to find out you don’t have any content to show. An empty profile isn’t attracting to a potential new follower.
Comment, Like, and follow people who are engaging with your competitor’s channels and posts: it makes sense that if people are already interested in a niche, as indicated by their interaction with a competitor, and your channel provides similar content, these people are likely to also be interested in what you do. If you can get these people’s attention, these people are much more likely to follow you than someone not already affiliated with your competitors.
Respond to all comments left on your posts: as explained in this article, responding to every comment is an easy way to double the amount of engagement you get on every post. While your responses won’t carry as much influence as the original comments, responding to every comment can turn 100 comments into 200 comments, which can signficantly contribute to your social proof and make your page look more trustworthy. While it’s easy to respond to all comments when you’re smaller, as you get bigger, responding to all comments can become a hassle, especially if the majority of them warrant the same kind of response. This is where using an auto response tool like AiGrow can come in handy.
Leave smart comments: writing something more than a spammy “Nice pic!” that conveys genuine interest in somebody’s post is more likely to make the owner of that post check out your channel. People in the community may also see this genuine comment and explore your channel, as well.
Hold contests where people have to like, follow, comment or tag someone to enter: if you are a company or any sort of brand, holding contests are a very effective way to quickly gain engaged followers. A simple contest may be to offer a giveaway (free product, shoutout, etc.) to a random new follower gained in the last month.
Promote your Instagram on other platforms: if you have established audiences on other platforms (email lists, other social media platforms, website forums, etc.), these people are essentially already following you. Alert them to the presence of your Instagram and bring them over.
Use influencers to mention or tag your product/channel: if you can afford it, offer product discounts, free samples, and/or paid contracts to larger channels in exchange for tags and mentions. In some cases, similarly-sized Instagram pages will shout you out to their audience in exchange for you shouting them out to your audience.
Tag people when relevant: tagging people in your posts increases the brand visibility by making your content show up in the feeds of the people you tag.
Tag accounts you want to get the attention of: if overdone, this tactic can come off spammy. But when in moderation, you can get the attention of larger Instagram brands who might not have otherwise known you exist. For example, if you are a photographer and you know that your camera brand posts photos taken by its customers on Instagram, in addition to just tagging your posts with your camera brand’s branded hashtags, it would make sense to also tag that camera brand in photos that you take with their cameras.
Reshare your followers’ images, particularly ones where they’ve mentioned your channel/your product: sharing user-generated content encourages people to share photos of your content in hopes of you exposing their own channel to your audience, especially if their channel is smaller. It also conveys to visitors to your channel that you are established within your community, which makes it easier for them to trust that your channel is worth following.
Follow all of your friends on Instagram: it might seem a little hacky, but those who know you personally are more likely to be supportive and at least give you a follow.
Use paid Instagram/Facebook advertising: it costs you, but you are much more likely to draw the exact type of followers you want to your channel. Target by key demographic information: gender, age, and location. As people begin to roll in, you can understand who your audience really is, where they’re coming from, and what they like content-wise. You can then adjust accordingly.
Make your profile public (at least at the beginning): if you’re a smaller channel, potential new Instagram followers are less likely to make the effort to follow you just to see your content. At least wait until you have established yourself as an influential figure in the community before making your channel private.
Use Instagram engagement pods: Instagram engagement pods (or Instagram engagement groups) are groups of people on Instagram, typically with similarly-sized pages and followings, who help each out by commenting, Liking, and generally engaging with each other’s content. These pods are also a great way to connect with experienced members of your community and find useful advice. They are especially popular among smaller artists and businesses. Sign up for over 200 active Instagram engagement pods by clicking here.
Be active: post 1-2 times a day. Posting daily grows followers four times faster than posting less than once a week according to Tailwind.
Space out posts if you post more than once a day: too many posts uploaded close to one another can appear spammy on other people’s feeds. Posting too often also doesn’t give your content enough time to be seen and engaged by your followers
Post portrait over landscape: posts that are within 1080 px wide and 1350 px high will appear on people’s feeds without any borders or cropping. Posts within these dimensions appear bigger in feeds, drawing more attention and potentially leading to more engagement.
Don’t post low-resolution photos: there are way too many incredible photos on Instagram for you to be posting grainy, low-resolution photos. Even if your photo does show up on someone’s feed, if it’s surrounded by higher quality content, then your content is simply going to be ignored.
Create an editorial calendar: know what and how often you’re going to be posting before you begin posting. To get started, look at the top 10 profiles in your niche and do some competitive analysis. Pull the main themes and consistent qualities from their content (What are they posting? How often? Are there any consistent patterns having to do with color or shape?) and apply them into the creation of your own content. AiGrow’s free Instagram scheduler can help with this process.
Advertise your top posts: the more likes, comments and general engagement a post gets, and the quicker you get that engagement, the higher up that post will appear when people search for related hashtags. Ideally, you want to reach the trending Top 9 grid.
Take note of what does well and create similar content: look at general engagement – likes, comments, reshares, etc. and more in-depth Instagram analytics (tools like Ink 361 and Iconosquare can help with this) to see which of your content is performing the best and incorporate this data into the creation of future content.
Look at things differently: take pictures and videos of common pictures (landmarks, tourist attractions, etc.) from a different perspective than has already been seen a million times before. One way to make this process easier is by using only one fixed camera lens. The restriction of not being able to zoom and/or switch out to another lens encourages you to be more creative in the way you frame your content.
Use partnerships and/or collaborations: creating content with another person/channel not only forces you to go outside of your own creative perspective, but partnerships also provide the opportunity to introduce your channel to another channel’s audience. When people see that a channel they are already following collaborated with someone else (you), these people can trust that this other channel must also be worth following.
Use Instagram Analytics: Instagram’s native analytics tool can provide you with such key information as the days on which your posts perform best, the time your posts perform best, and where in the world your audience is most concentrated. Depending on where your audience is, you might even have to take into consideration different time zones when posting.
Use 3rd party tools when necessary: you can take the bulk of grunt work out of growing your Instagram followers (scheduling, engagement, DMs, etc.) by using 3rd party tools like Buffer or AiGrow. The less you have to focus on the work supporting your content and channel, the more you can focus on creating the very best content possible.
Ditch the phone: make your content stand out by not limiting yourself to your camera phone. If possible, use a DSLR to take photos/videos, edit them on your computer if need be, send the files to your phone (or schedule them on your computer with tools like AiGrow), and then upload to IG.
Use videos: even if they’re just GIFs, 52% of marketing professionals rank video as the type of content with the best ROI. To you, that means more Instagram followers.
Post at 2 AM or 5 PM: if you have not yet uncovered the best times to post according to your specific audience, posting at 2 AM or 5 PM is a safe bet. Research shows that these times result in higher engagement.
Use the Mayfair filter: if you’re going to use filters (some research shows that pictures with no filters perform better), and you don’t want to put in the work to manually color correct your content, research shows that the Mayfair filter is the most effective filter for marketers.
Post on Sundays: similar to the time suggestion above, if you have not yet uncovered the best day to post according to your specific audience, posting on Sundays is a safe bet. The least amount of content is posted on Sundays, which provides more visibility for your own posts.
Combine multiple images into a collage: instead of uploading multiple photos into a single post, requiring the viewer to open up the post and scroll through them all individually, when possible combine all your images into one using tools like Photoshop or Canva. This way, potential followers can view all images with ease while scrolling your feed.
Consider the color of your content: research shows that posts with lighter colors, particularly blue, receive more likes than darker colors by a factor of 24%.
Include faces in your photos: Dan Zoella found images with faces in them received 35% more likes than those without faces.
Post behind-the-scenes photos: particularly for businesses, behind-the-scenes content conveys the human quality behind your brand and shows that you’re not just a robotic business.
Incorporate edges and structures into your photos: research shows that photos with clearly defined edges and structures receive 125% more likes than those without.
Make sure your images have a minimum dimension of 1080×1080: a minimum dimension of 1080×1080 helps to avoid pixelation and unwanted cropping/scaling.
Use “social listening”: use tools like Hootsuite to monitor not only where you’re being mentioned, but what is being said about your channel within your community. Use what people are saying as feedback to create better content.
Post according to when your target audience is online: if you’re targeting people with full-time jobs, post in the early morning, at lunch-time, or after 5 PM. If you’re targeting night workers, post later in the night and/or in the very early AMs. Understand who you are trying to attract to your channel and post according to when you think they would be online. Instagram Analytics can help you find this information.
Use Instagram Stories: nearly one in five stories results in a direct message. If you are a business, you should really be using Instagram stories, as a third of the most viewed stories are from businesses.
Adapt or die: Instagram is constantly rolling out updates affecting everything from content relevancy, to feed visibility to post editing features. Stay up-to-date on the Instagram landscape to ensure that your content is the best possible content it can be that it is being seen by as many people as possible. Adspresso has a great blog explaining new Instagram updates on a rolling basis.
Start with a goal or theme: if you are serious about growing your Instagram followers, you need to understand what your goal is and what kind of audience you want to attract. What is the purpose of your channel? Do you want to attract b2b or b2c clients? Attract branding deals? Simply get your name and/or work known? Having a goal and knowing your desired audience will help maintain consistency when posting content to your channel and attracting engaged followers. On the same note, understand that the more specific your channel theme, the fewer types of photos will flow with your channel, restricting the amount of content you can post.
Choose an appropriate profile picture: if you are a channel that specializes in selling vintage sneakers, a profile picture of your dog doesn’t convey that to potential Instagram followers. Craft a profile picture that speaks to your channel’s goal or theme.
Include any necessary information in your bio: include what your channel is, your credentials and a strong CTA.
Ensure there is a “flow” to your channel: some people follow you on an individual post basis, but some people follow your channel based on how your profile looks as a whole (the”grid” of your profile). When you look at the grid of your profile, how do your photos look together as a collected work – both aesthetically and content-wise? If someone new to your channel was to look at your channel, would they understand what you’re trying to convey?
Use split images: you may have noticed recently that some channels, particularly businesses and artists, use “split” images to create a unified picture on their grid. This is especially useful if you want to direct the attention of potential followers to one piece of content in particular, such as a new album, product line, or piece of art. Use tools like Planoly to make a split image of your own.
Use preset color palettes: an easy way to ensure a consistent color palette across all of your content and contribute to the “flow” of your channel mentioned above is to use preset color palettes from either Instagram or other tools like Photoshop or Lightroom. If you don’t want to make your own and are willing to spend a little money, a lot of bloggers sell their own presets.
Ignore “viewer envy”: when scrolling through Instagram, it’s easy to get discouraged and think that everyone is everywhere and doing everything except you. This can lead to getting discouraged about the production of own content – “my posts are so boring compared to that person’s….”. Understand that your own content might be sparking the same thoughts in someone else scrolling through their feed. Your Instagram followers are following you because your content doesn’t look like everyone else’s.
Use multiple accounts: using multiple Instagram accounts is helpful in a number of scenarios.
Scenario 1) One is if you are just starting out Instagram and want to test the traction you get in multiple niches. For example, if you are interested in both bmx biking and soccer, you could create two separate Instagram accounts – one account for biking, and the other for soccer. Over time, you could see which account is performing better and slowly begin to put more effort into that account.
Scenario 2) if you are a business with multiple products, services, and/or demographics. For example, if you are a sports attire business, you could create different a Instagram account for each sport that you offer products for. This way, you can more accurately target people who would be interested in each product.
Feel free to post outside of your theme, but transition slowly: if you would like to post outside of your channel’s theme, transition into different kinds of photos slowly so as not to disrupt the overall flow of your content. If a potential follower looks at your channel one day and loves your content, you don’t want them to return the next day to find completely different and unrelated content. You can lose potential followers this way.
You may have noticed that the “Content” section was by-far the most explored section. This is because creating attractive, engaging content is by far the most influential factor in gaining more Instagram followers, plain and simple. Consistently creating incredible content, however, takes a lot of time and energy. Taking away from this time are supporting factors such as engaging in the community, responding to DMs, and tracking down potential new followers.
This is why we created AiGrow – to allow you to hand off the hard work of Instagram networking so that you can devote more time to the production of engaging content. Many of the most effective methods mentioned above, namely creating an editorial calendar, scheduling your posts, and genuinely engaging with your community, can be completely handed off to AiGrow.
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