8 Full Proof Ways to Grow Your Instagram Followers
1) Create and optimize your profile.
First things first: Customize your Instagram profile to make it look good, tell your potential followers who you are, and give them a reason to follow you.
How? Start by making sure your username is recognizable and easily searchable – like your business name. If your business name is already taken, try keeping your business name as the first part of your username so that people searching for your business are more likely to come across you.
(Note: Make sure to add your full business name to the “Name” field in the “Options” section – the gear button on iOS, or three dots on Android). This will appear under your profile picture and under your username in search.
Next, make sure your profile is public. To make your profile public, open Instagram, open “Options,” and make sure “Private Account” is turned off.
Next, choose a profile picture that’s on-brand with your other social networks, like your company logo.
Then, fill your bio with delightful, actionable, and informative information about your brand. Information like this lets people know what you’re about and gives them a reason to follow you. Include who you are and what you do, and be sure to add a hint of personality.
Next, add a link to your bio to make it easy for people to go straight from Instagram to your website if they want to. The space allotted for URLs is precious real estate because it’s the only place within Instagram where you can place a clickable link, so use it wisely. We recommend using a shortened, customized Bitly link to make it more clickable.
Finally, enable notifications so you can see when people share or comment on your photos. This’ll let you engage with them more quickly – just like a lot of companies do on Twitter. To enable notifications, go to “Options” and then “Push Notification Settings.” Select “From Everyone” for every category.
A word to the wise: We don’t recommend you link your Instagram account to Twitter and Facebook so your Instagram posts are automatically published on those other accounts. Post types are different.
2) Designate a content creator.
Just like there should be one (maybe two) people managing your other social media accounts, there should only be one or two people managing your Instagram account. If possible, choose someone who has experience using a personal Instagram account, and therefore “gets” the platform – and be sure they know all the handy features Instagram has to offer.
If you work for a large organization, you might find that a lot of people want to have a say in what’s posted. That’s when an organized request or guidelines document comes in hand. This document should inform people how to request a post on your Instagram account, when, the value of the post, and why.
3) Brush up on your photography and editing skills.
On Instagram, post quality matters. A lot. Your Twitter followers might forgive a few bad tweets, but a bad photo on Instagram is a big no-no. By no means do you have to take a photography course to be a good Instagram poster – nor do you have to practice for weeks before you start. But you should get familiar with basic photography tips and photo editing apps.
Since Instagram is a mobile app, chances are, most of the photos you post to Instagram will be taken on your mobile device. That’s not just okay; it’s expected. While some brands use professional photography for their Instagram photos, most use smartphones – and that’s the vibe that Instagram is meant for, anyway.
Here are some highlights:
- Focus on one subject at a time.
- Embrace negative space.
- Find interesting perspectives.
- Look for symmetry.
- Capture small details.
- Make your followers laugh.
Photo Editing Skills
Instagram has some basic editing capabilities, but oftentimes, they aren’t adequate to make a picture really, really great. Most of your photos should go through at least one or two other photo editing apps on your mobile phone before you open them in Instagram for the first time.
4) Start posting.
Once you’ve created and optimized your profile, have someone manning it, and know a thing or two about phone photography and photo editing, it’s time to start posting. It’s a good idea to have a solid number of great posts up – maybe 15 or so – before you start really engaging people and working down this list. That way, when people visit your profile, they’ll see a full screen of photos instead of just a handful, so they know you’ll be posting great content regularly.
Keep your target persona in mind when you first start planning out your posting schedule, as that can drastically change your posting timing and frequency – especially if you’re targeting an audience in a different time zone.
Optimizing your schedule for your specific audience might take time and experimentation. Our sources found that the very best times to post on Instagram were Mondays and Thursdays at any time except between 3:00–4:00 p.m. for the time zone of your target persona.
However, because Instagram is primarily an app for use on mobile devices, users tend to use the network all the time, any time – although many users engage with content more during off-work hours than during the workday. Some businesses have also seen success with posting at 2:00 a.m., 5:00 p.m., and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. Experiment with these to see if they work with your audience.
5) Curate some of your content.
Although it’s best to have only one or two people manning your account, one or two people can’t be everywhere at once taking photos. What about that fun sushi night the engineers had last night? Or the event your head of sales spoke at earlier this week? There’s a whole breadth of content you’ll want to post to Instagram, and more often than not, one person won’t be able to keep track of it all.
One solution? Create a system where you can curate photos and content from members of your team. There are a few ways to do this. One is to create a specific email address for employees to send their photos, short videos, memes, hyperlapses, and so on. Just encourage people to put a subject line on these emails so you can more easily sort through the photos they’re sending. While this doesn’t seem like the smoothest way to curate photos, it’s actually the easiest for the people sending you photos – and the easier you can make it for them to send content, the more content you’ll get.
If your team shares a Box or Dropbox account, you could also create a shared folder where people can automatically drop their photos and videos. This just makes a few more steps for the people sending you the content, and not everyone might have that app downloaded on their phones.
6) Write delightful, share-worthy captions.
Photos and videos might be the most important part of your Instagram posts, but captions should never be an afterthought. They’re an essential part of your post – icing on the cake, if you will. Consistently great captions can do wonders for humanizing your brand, winning over followers, and making your content more shareable – thereby giving you more exposure.
7) Use relevant hashtags.
Let’s go back to hashtags for a second. On Instagram, a hashtag ties the conversations of different users who wouldn’t already be connected into a single stream. If you use relevant hashtags, your posts will get exposure to a wider audience than the people who already follow you or know about your brand.
The key to using hashtags effectively is to use them smartly and sparingly. Try to limit the number of hashtags per caption to around three. Similarly, don’t use “like for like” hashtags, like #like4like or #like4likes. This is a dirty tactic that’ll leave you with a whole bunch of low-quality followers.
To find the hashtags your audience might be using, do a little research on relevant hashtags in your niche or industry. The easiest way to do this research is in the Instagram app itself, in the “explore” tab (i.e. the magnifying glass icon). When you search for one hashtag, it’ll show you a list of related hashtags at the top of your screen.
Once you build up a bit of a following, you can try creating your own hashtags – like your company name or a slogan that applies to a lot of your photos. This is a great way to build up your brand on the platform and build a more cohesive presence.
8) Interact with other users, including your followers.
Instagram is very much a community, and one great way to get involved in that community is to find people who post pictures that interest you, and follow their accounts and interact with their content. It’s the most natural way to draw attention to your own Instagram account while getting your foot in the door in the community, and getting inspiration from others’ content.
That does two things for you: For one, when they get the notification that you’ve followed them, they might check out your account and decide whether or not to follow you. (This is why it’s important to have some great content on there before you start reaching out to others.) Secondly, it means you’ll be seeing their recent posts in your feed, so you can Like and interact with them if you choose to.
As you build a following, celebrate your followers and show you appreciate them by responding to their comments, and even following them and engaging with their posts.
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