One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is “how do I grow my instagram followers?”. Although there is not one straight answer to this – and a whole combination of factors come together for growth to take place, I have come up with a number of simplified strategies you can adopt for account growth. Some of these strategies are straightforward, legitimate and organic methods – others are more controversial, some frowned upon and some definitely NOT recommended. I figured I’d highlight them all, as it’s worthwhile knowing why you SHOULDN’T use them.
This is the fundamental entry level of growing your Instagram followers.
The first and most basic way to get followers is to connect with your own friends and family! Within your profile options you can see Follow People – there you can add friends using your other social media accounts such as Facebook or from your contacts. Hopefully, if you follow them, they will follow you back!
Then, for an optimised account you should be sharing the very best of your photos or videos. If someone clicks onto your profile the first thing they are likely to do is to browse through the first 6 – 10 of your most recent images. It is important that these photos give a great first impression or a representation of who you are and your account. You will be adding a well thought out caption and possibly a few hashtags too.
The next way that you can level up your follower growth, is to do everything you would do for ‘core‘ but then build on that. Once you have followers…and they are engaging with your account, engage with them. If you don’t interact, people will lose interest, get bored and unfollow. You can learn a lot about your audience by interacting with them. When you post photos, provided your content is good, you will likely receive comments from users who appreciate your work. You can reply to followers comments on your photos by thanking them or responding to the comments they have made. It is good insta-etiquette to respond to them too! I endeavour to acknowledge all comments made on my photos as I feel it it courteous to respond if someone has taken the time and effort to write something. It’s a great way to interact and build up your community. It shows people that you value their interest and contribution.
One basic but powerful way to interact with people, find inspiration and to gain new followers on Instagram, is to ‘like’ other users photos. Liking photos is really the fundamental interaction on Instagram. When you do like photos make sure that you are authentic with the likes you give out and avoid spamming accounts for the sake of it. Don’t like for likes sake, as you will just irritate people. Take it another step further, by commenting too!
Also, by this point you will be more focussed with your hashtags – using ones that are niche, selected for the relevancy and with the content you are posting in mind. See my Ultimate Hashtags list for photographers to up your hashtag game!
Now, perhaps you’re wanting to speed up and encourage the follower growth on your feed a bit more. So, you will already be doing everything in ‘core‘ plus adopting the strategies in ‘level up‘ and now you will start adding a bit more targeted and focussed growth strategies. This is what I refer to as fishing – you will actively go out liking and comment on photos – but in an organised and strategic way, in order to try and reel people into your feed. You need to got out and let people know that you (and your content) exists. This is the ‘knocking on doors’ of Instagram!
Pick one of the hashtags that you use (or the geotag) and go to its feed. Select ‘recent’ and begin scrolling through the feed, liking photos as you go (but ONLY photos that you do genuinely like). When you get to about 20 photos, on the next one, leave a comment as well as liking. Make sure that the comment is genuine, sincere and shows a real interest in the content. Go back to the hashtag/geotag feed and begin the process again…liking 20 photos, then commenting on one. Repeat this for however much time you have spare. This is what I call the 20:1 approach. You can tweak the ratio to suit your available time or what works for you. By balancing out the likes v’s comments it means you are less likely to get banned for liking/commenting too fast and it gives you a rhythm to strategy.
With this method, your ‘fishing‘ will reel in people to your feed, primarily from your comments, but also through the likes. If you do this regularly, you will see a steady growth on your feed.
After you have implemented ‘core‘, ‘level up‘ and ‘fishing‘, there are very few ‘organic’ ways for you to grow your Instagram following. Two years ago, these three methods alone would have been enough to generate rapid growth. This is how I managed to get my feed to around the 10-12k mark. Sadly, now that Instagram have introduced the algorithm, it is much more difficult to get the same levels of organic growth. This is where pods (engagement groups) can come in.
A pod (engagement group) is a way to ‘hack’ the instagram algorithm. It is a group of Instagrammers (preferably of the same niche) who will collaborate to ensure that as a member posts, their post is getting an influx of likes, comments, saves and even shares. They are usually set up in a messaging software (Whatsapp, Messenger, Slack, Telegram etc) or within Instagrams own direct messaging, where members will announce when they have uploaded a new post. The idea being, that all the members of that group will then go and visit the post to like & comment on it ASAP, after it’s first posted. The reason this is important, is because the algorithm looks at the response the post gets within the first hour – before deciding whether to push it to a broader audience.
Pods are frowned upon sometimes because they can be seen as manipulative, false and cheating. If a pod is well set up – built upon a community of like-minded, supportive and genuine members they can work well. Sadly, many pods are just a load of instagrammers thrown together. This means someone who is a portrait photographer, could be engaging with a dog groomer or cake baker. In a set up like this, over time the interest will fade (unless the portrait photographer happens to be a dog loving, cake eater)!
This is a controversial, often frowned upon and dubious strategy. The basic principle of this is that you bulk follow a load of Instagram accounts, then shortly (24 – 48hrs) after, you unfollow them. Hopefully within that time period some of those accounts would have followed you. So your followers growing, but your following doesn’t. There are many issues with this – firstly, you risk getting your account banned. There are limits on the amount of accounts you can follow in a day. If the bots pick up that you are a serial follower, you do risk your account being banned and locked out. Notwithstanding the fact, that it blooming well annoys people when they see that someone has follow/unfollowed them!
This is a big no-no! I’m only adding it here as a word of caution and for readers to get an understanding of the lengths people will go to for the sake of ‘popularity’. ‘Big Spender‘ is when people buy followers. When you buy followers, you are often getting fake/spam accounts – they won’t be people that will engage on your feed. This will then become evident on your posts. I have seen accounts that have 50,000 followers, but only get 200 or so likes on a post. This is an obvious sign that they have bought followers. Also when followers are bought, the account growth will happen rapidly over a short space of time (a couple days), where as genuine growth is steady and gradual.
With all of the strategies you adopt, you are looking for QUALITY over QUANTITY. This is why Follow/Unfollow and Big Spender are not wise strategic moves in your growth plan!
A wise Instagrammer once said “Followers is vanity, engagement is sanity”!
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