Social Media

Proven Strategies on How To Grow Your Instagram Following

Kim Wacker
min read
Proven Strategies on How To Grow Your Instagram Following

How to Grow Your Instagram Followers

Instagram is on the precipice of becoming the biggest social network in the world with 1 billion monthly active users. This puts Instagram in third place behind Facebook and YouTube, with 1.9 billion and 2.4 billion users, respectively.

More than 100 million photos and videos are shared daily on Instagram. And approximately 500 million users post Instagram Stories each day. It is the second most engaged social media platform behind Facebook, with an average of 53 minutes per day spent on the platform.

Most importantly, Instagram has become a premiere place for users to find new products and services.  So, naturally, if you can get more Instagram followers, you'll boost engagement, and potentially increase your business.

So, how do you get more followers on Instagram?

In previous years, Instagram followers could be bought (technically, they still can, but it is strongly discouraged). But the latest Instagram algorithms, along with savvy bot-recognition technology, have made it possible for brands to organically grow their audience.

Organic audience growth leads to higher engagement rates, so learning how to grow Instagram followers that genuinely want to follow you is key to a successful Instagram marketing strategy. Don't have a strategy yet? Keep reading to find out exactly how to get more followers on Instagram.

Improve your Instagram SEO

There are many ways to increase your Instagram following. The first step is to make it easy for people to find your Instagram account. With the right keywords and a polished profile, your business (and content) will show up in searches that will connect you to real people who will actually follow your account.

No longer does a person needed to know the exact spelling of a username when searching for an account; or the exact spelling of a hashtag to locate a topic. Instagram developers have made several changes to th Instagram algorithm, making it easier for users to find accounts and topics. This is great news for brands because it means there are more opportunities to appear in the right searches.    

The Explore​ page hosts the search bar, which can be used to conduct a general keyword search. And just like a web search engine, it will return various listings—Instagram accounts, locations, sounds, and hashtags.

Instagram Explore page for nutritionist

We'll show you how to optimize your profile to ensure your business, brand, and content show up in relevant searches on Instagram so you can be found by the right users.

Optimize your profile with keywords

Working with the right keywords and keyword phrases throughout your Instagram profile (and content) is the foundation for discoverability.

Start by making a list of the keywords that matter most for your brand. They should reflect your industry at large, your niche, and even your audience persona. Regularly revisit this list of keywords to make sure they are relevant and current.

There are four components to your profile that showcase keywords—Username (handle), Business Name, Business Category, and Bio. And they all rank high with the Instagram algorithm, so be sure they contain the highest priority keywords or phrases on your list.

The name you selected when you opened the account is your username. It's probably your established brand name, or full name, and also acts as your IG URL. Don't change it if you are already established. You can simply use the business name to spotlight heavy-hitting keywords associated with your business.  

For example, Starbright, a floral design studio in New York City, goes by the username @starbrightnyc. This is good name branding, and tells users about location, but unfortunately, it does not clue people in to what kind of business it is. As a result, they've properly used the business name, "Starbright Floral Design," to indicate their industry with the keywords "floral design".

However, it would be smart for them to change their business category from "Entrepreneur" to "Florist" to optimize their searchability.

Starbright NYC Instagram bio

Your Instagram profile is one more chance to throw in some keywords related to your brand, yet secondary to the ones in your user and business names. List specific services or products offered. Got anything to brag about? This is a time to include media appearances, places you've been mentioned or featured, or to drop names.

Find the best hashtag​s​​

Using relevant hashtags ​allows you to ​reach more people and gain new Instagram followers​. This term gets thrown around a lot, so what constitutes "relevant hashtags?" They are hashtags directly related to your brand's industry, image, products, location, activities, and causes.

But how do you know if you use hashtags that are relevant enough or if you're using them the right way? As far as Instagram goes, here are a few hashtag do's and don’ts.

Narrow it down to niche industry hashtags

Relevant industry hashtags put you on the map, covering a broad base of people who might be interested in following your account.

Get clear about who you are targeting with highly specific niche hashtags that stand out, and will likely attract your ideal target audience. This is where you can experiment using hashtags "outside of the box," or even make up one of your own.

Here are some examples of niche hashtags for photographers that will get them found by the right people: #outdoorweddingphotographer, #underwaterportrait, and #dronerealestatephotography.

Research trending hashtags

Don't always go for the most popular hashtags. Check them out in advance to see what kinds of posts they are connected to. Simply click on the hashtag to visit the hashtag's page.

For example, a photographer may be tempted to use #photography (455 million posts), #blackandwhitephotography (21 million posts), #naturephotography (76 million posts), or #foodphotography. You can easily judge by the sheer volume of posts, that every amateur photographer (41 million posts), or human with a smartphone is flooding these hashtags.

A general search for these hashtags is like a needle in a haystack.

Trending hashtags tend to be more exclusive to a local or global community. Photographers could consider #photooftheday, #noir, #landscapephoto, and #foodphotographyforbusiness, respectively.

Avoid haphazard hashtags

There is always a bit of experimenting when it comes to social media, but refrain from throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks with random hashtags or guesswork. Go in with some sense of a game plan.

Stay away from irrelevant hashtags

Some social media accounts have been known to use less than relevant tags to lure random people to their posts. This hashtag strategy could increase your views, but it won’t get you any new followers.

People dislike being duped by inauthentic attempts to attract their attention. Remember, we are a part of the attention economy, and people have very little tolerance for their attention being abused. Make sure your hashtags are authentically chosen to reflect your content and your brand's personality.

Present your brand impeccably

Branding is the foundation for success in social media marketing, and your Instagram account as a whole package is an opportunity to define your brand. We broke down the profile and how to make it discoverable. Now let's look at the first impression people will get once they find you.

Think of your Instagram account as your Profile (and profile picture), Stories Highlights, and Feed—basically, all things users see when they first pay a visit to your Instagram account.  It takes a good first impression to get people to follow you, so if any of these elements are sloppy, or not on-brand with your other channels (products/packaging, website, or digital marketing), it can weaken your impression with new visitors.

Let's delve into each Instagram account component and discuss how you can be consistent in your branding to secure new Instagram followers.

Choose a distinctive profile picture

The most iconic element of your Instagram profile. Make sure your profile pic is a branded visual asset such as a logo or headshot that people can identify immediately, setting you apart from other accounts. Try not to change this image unless you rebrand or update your headshot.

Embellish your bio

Make sure your bio stands out and looks complete. A compelling Instagram bio is your digital business card and elevator pitch—it should convince people you're worth following.

Select an on-brand font and write descriptive, yet concise copy that tells visitors what you do and what you're about. Include any unique, branded hashtags and use emojis (sparingly). Link to your website, YouTube channel, or any other channel you want to direct traffic to. It can even be within your Instagram account, such as your IGTV channel.

Show off a multi-faceted brand

Stories Highlights are quickly becoming essential for conversion. If you aren't using the Stories highlights feature, you are missing out on an opportunity to reinforce your brand strategy.

Highlights add dimension to your brand presence on social media at first glance, by introducing facets of your brand's personality. And having a multi-faceted brand image is very attractive to potential followers.  Just like you trust a company that has a website, you now trust a brand on Instagram if their account is abundant with Stories Highlights.

Stories Highlights, each with an album cover and clever branded moniker, clearly identify a specific aspect of your business visually and by name. Later on, we'll discuss Stories content, but for now, take a look at how highlights contribute to a full brand strategy on Instagram.

Burt's Bees, known originally for their beeswax chapstick, has Stories Highlights for extended product lines such as Skin Care and Cosmetics. They also have a BTS (Back to School) album of stories and a Fan Love collection.

Burt's Bees Instagram feed

Keep your feed clutter-free and on-brand

Your Instagram feed​​ is ​the next ​​factor in determining whether ​users get a good first impression of your brand and convert to followers.​

Your feed should be a gallery of polished, evergreen content.  Start by placing user-generated content in your Stories Highlights archive, since it may be less on-brand and less polished. Maintain consistency in colors, ​fonts, graphics, ​types of posts, ​and ​tone of voice, ​so your brand is recognizable and indicative of your personality.

The storyboard feature in UNUM is a perfect tool for creating beautiful and consistent Instagram posts.

UNUM Storyboards

Tap into user-generated content

One of the most organic ways to attract new Instagram followers is through user-generated content.  Just think, your most loyal fans, customers, or followers can become best brand ambassadors. Social media is built on connection, so sharing their brand-related content on your account establishes an actual connection to those followers.

When people feel seen and acknowledged by influencers and brands they love through tags, shares, or mentions, they are more likely to recommend you to their friends and family. Plus, any posts you tag them in will be seen by their followers.  

Don't you want your follower's followers to follow you? Make content creation fun with challenges, discounts, or giveaways. You can ask your followers to post:

  • unboxing videos
  • a visit to a new store location
  • photos of buyers wearing or using their purchase
  • videos of buyers demonstrating how they uniquely enjoy or use your product

Create shareable content

Great content is what will draw new followers to your account. But, consistently great content will sustain follower retention, and even turn those followers into mini brand ambassadors.

Tap into your current audience's followers, by creating content they can’t resist sharing. What do they want to see? Put yourself in their shoes to imagine which types of evergreen posts they would be excited about and want to share to their stories, or DM to their contacts.

What makes content worth sharing? Value, authenticity, and aesthetic are the three main ingredients that will produce shareable content, guaranteed to increase brand awareness and grow your Instagram following organically.


Content has value if it is valued by your followers. But what does that mean? So, take a moment to list the values of your target audience. Do they value freedom, beauty, health, family, or abundance? For instance, if your followers are entrepreneurs, they may value efficiency, so create bold graphic posts with productivity hacks.

Get to the bottom of what makes your followers tick, and you’ll understand what types of content they find engaging. For instance, you can even take a poll and ask: Do you want to see more A) tip and tricks or B) trivia? The people that engage are probably the users that will share your content with friends, so take their responses seriously.


The followers at the receiving end of your social media account are human beings with emotions. Authenticity is achieved by stirring sentiment or emotion to make people feel connected to you and your brand.  

If you're posting click-bait or feed filler that does not align with your brand ethos, I guarantee the disconnect will be perceived by your followers. Go back to the list of what you believe your followers value, and look for creative ways to express those values as a content creator.


Your content may have value and it may be authentic, but if it isn’t visually appealing, your followers may be bored or less likely to share your content.

Remember, Instagram is a visual discovery platform at heart, so continue to put effort into the design of your posts to wow your followers. Keep them on-brand with the right fonts and colors.

This especially goes for feed posts, but also for Stories and Reels. Although, they may be less choreographed, they should still maintain your unique brand aesthetic where ever possible.

Create content for all Instagram surfaces

A comprehensive Instagram marketing strategy guaranteed to get more Instagram followers is to embrace multiple content surfaces, aka formats. It would be a mistake to only create and schedule evergreen posts when Instagram now offers Stories, Reels, and IGTV.  

Posting content across multiple surfaces on Instagram increases the chances you will reach a wider audience to funnel in your most loyal future followers. Let's explore how each one of these Instagram surfaces can contribute to Instagram growth.

Post Stories

Instagram Stories have been around for a while, but they are slowly becoming the new newsfeed. When archived and used in conjunction with Instagram Stories Highlights, they can serve as a catalog of content to showcase product lines, collections, media, FAQ videos, tutorials, user-generated content, collaborations, causes, communities, and more.

Stories are more behind-the-scenes, impromptu, unplanned, and unscripted than evergreen Instagram posts, making followers feel as if they are a member of your club or tribe. Instagram Stories can also lead to higher engagement than regular Instagram posts, since they can include more interactive features such as stickers, polls, and quizzes.

Remember, you don't just want to focus on getting new followers on Instagram, you should also think about how to keep your current followers engaged. When you're ready to outline an Instagram Stories content strategy, check out Why Instagram Stories Should Be Part of Your Content Strategy.

Create Reels

The latest addition to the Instagram family, Reels have the power to harness a TikTok-type viral sensation with their short, entertaining, and immersive style video content.

Prioritized by Instagram algorithms, these 30-second videos, set to music, are an effective tool for attracting followers to your Instagram in a heartbeat. Reels exist as an open platform and appear in the Explore tab, so literally anyone can see your creation and get a taste of what your account is about.

Start an IGTV channel

Instagram TV is the longest video format offered on the platform with the capacity to stream or upload up to 60 minutes of video content and feature 60 seconds of it in your feed. Keep in mind, this is the only Instagram format that supports live video.

Take viewers behind the scenes, publish interviews, offer tutorials and classes, or stream live video events. It's another way to maximize your social media presence and attract new followers from different angles.

Start thinking of your Instagram growth as both lateral and vertical. Sure, you can achieve more and more followers through more and better feed posts or Stories, but at some point, crossing the bridge into parallel content can be a game-changer for your following.

Craft quality captions​

Whereas other social media platforms are governed by a word count (like Twitter), Instagram has become a place where people can engage on deeper levels than just curating a stream of well filtered photos.

Beautiful Destinations captions

Consider length

Captions have become considerably longer since the inception of Instagram and caption​ing posts is an art that give​s​ you a chance to engage your current audience​ and attract similar mindsets to your account.

People love a good anecdote, so tell the story behind the picture or video that you’re sharing. Be vulnerable and make a personal connection. Long blocks of continuous text can be visually and mentally exhausting, so make sure you use line breaks to increase readability.

Include tags and mentions

Tagging​ ​people and other accounts​ is a generous way to introduce something, while also encouraging sharing. You can ask questions and spark conversations, prompting your audience to be interactive by commenting and reposting.

Friends​ and followers of those you tagged will also be likely to see your post and jump in on the discussion​, all of which increase your visibility and raise your profile in the overall algorithm. ​

Link to location

Many people search for local content using Instagram’s search feature, so you should look at ways to reach your local audience whether that’s your country, city, town, or neighborhood.


One way to grow your Instagram following is by adding geotags to your content. It's similar to local SEO​ for websites​, but specific to Instagram's algorithms, attracting local audience to your profile and resulting in more Instagram followers.​

Post on Instagram and include your store or office location to—or your current location if traveling—to connect with people in your area.

Location-specific hashtags

​Local hashtags ​also help you reach people who are interested in a particular niche such as events and local businesses​.

Lots of people​, including media outlets and journalists ​follow local hashtags​ just so they don’t miss out on anything going on nearby. Reaching this local audience​ can translate into followers.

Get on a schedule

Grow your Instagram presence by  looking at the clock and the calendar. What are the best days and times to schedule Instagram posts? How often should you post on Instagram?

Instagram posts and Instagram stories should be scheduled at peak times, when your audience is available and online. You might have a sense of when your audience checks Instagram, but you might be surprised if you actually check the analytics to determine the most optimal times to post on Instagram.

Always schedule posts in advance in chunks of a week, two weeks, a month, or as far out as you like. And post consistently to maintain consistent performance metrics.

Cross-promote your Instagram account

Not everyone will find your Instagram account by simply searching Instagram. And, some people don't spend as much time on Instagram as they use other social media platforms. You should have a marketing strategy for promoting your IG account outside of the platform.

On your website

It goes without saying that your website is a place to funnel more Instagram followers. Be sure your social media icons are in the footer of every page of your site. You can also embed your Instagram feed on your website, giving visitors a sneak peak of your Instagram posts.


Do not underestimate the power of suggestion. You can get more followers from consumers foot traffic at your brick and mortar store, pop-up, food truck, or vendor booth.

Good old fashioned business cards that spell out your Instagram url can help people keep in touch with your brand and potentially boost your following. Generate a QR code that people can scan to be directed to your Instagram feed. QR codes can be placed on business cards, signage, posters—literally, any collateral at an in-person event.

On packaging

Many brands are discovering that product packaging is a great way to get more followers. No, a customer cannot click on a package, but simply seeing an IG icon is a suggestion to follow. There are also some clever ways to get customers to follow you when they receive or open your product.

Some brands are offering perks such as discounts or free accessories for an unboxing video or honest video review of the product. In order to share the video, the customer must follow and tag the brand.

In blog content

Blog posts are a great way to make your brand known and get Instagram followers. If your content is valuable, it could lead to a follow. Be sure to use social media icons to link to your Instagram account and other social sites.

Interact and engage

Social media is built on connection. In addition to creating and scheduling posts, Stories, Reels, and IGTV content, you should also interact and engage as an Instagram user.

Participate in discussion​s​ started by ​those you follow, accounts that come up in your niche​, and accounts that show up in your location via likes and comments. You can attract followers through people ​who are amused, inspired, or generally impressed​ by your support of another's account.

​Following and engaging on ​​influencers​' accounts​ ​is another way to attract followers. Influencers have ​considerable reach in their particular niche, and their fan bases tend to be ​devoted, ​so they won't be leaving the other to join you, but they may check out your account, like what they see, and follow you too.

As long as the influencer​ is from your niche and relevant to your brand​, this can be a method of increasing and hopefully retaining followers.

Embrace accessibility and inclusivity

Following this advice will not only attract people who would might otherwise miss your account, but it is simply negligent to not take into consideration the spectrum of your potential audience.

Don't forget about alt text

Take the time to go into the settings of each post and edit the alt-text to an appropriate description of the image. Those who are blind or sight impaired will truly appreciate it and if they know your visual content can be interpreted by a screen reader, your content is more valuable to them. In addition, the Instagram search algorithm picks up alt-text, so why not have each image labeled correctly?


Sure you may have a target audience, but think of that audience as being on a spectrum. Make sure your account showcases—and speaks to—a diverse array of people, or you may miss out on valuable niche followers who would engage and support your brand.

Include subtitles

Take the time to make subtitles for videos. Those who are hearing impaired will appreciate it.

In fact, you should create subtitles as a best practice for both hearing and hearing impaired audiences. Statistically, many people scroll through social media with the sound off, due to environmental etiquette on public transport or in public places, work constraints, or the appropriateness of certain content around young children. You don't want to lose followers with content that can't be enjoyed with the volume off.

Invest in Instagram Ads

This is exactly what it sounds like, and is the most traditional strategy of all with regards to building an audience. With many consumers first getting exposure to brands via Instagram, the platform has become indispensable as a marketing tool.

With a wider reach than any of the other account functions (except maybe Reels), Instagram ads are shown to a relevant audience of a certain demographic or established target. Your brand’s purpose and content can reach a large number of people in the niche markets you are aiming for.

In Summary

  • Increase your Instagram SEO with by keeping up with keywords and optimizing your profile. Find the best hashtags by: narrowing it down to niche industry hashtags, researching trending hashtags, avoiding haphazard hashtags, and staying away from irrelevant ones.
  • Present your brand impeccably by choosing a distinctive profile picture, embellishing your bio, showing off a multi-faceted brand via Stories Highlights, and keeping your feed clutter-free and on-brand.
  • Create shareable content that embodies the three qualities of value, authenticity, and aesthetic.
  • Create Instagram content for all surfaces by posting Stories, creating Reels, and starting an IGTV channel.
  • Craft quality captions by considering length and including all the tags and mentions.
  • Link to location with geotags and location-specific hashtags.
  • Get on a schedule
  • Cross-promote your account on your website, in-store, on packaging, and in blog content.
  • Interact and engage with your followers and accounts you follow.
  • Embrace accessibility and inclusivity.
  • Invest in Instagram ads.

The importance of growing and maintaining a community of followers on Instagram has become imperative for businesses and personal brands. Follow the advice outlined here and you are sure to have more followers.


Additional reporting by Tara Purswani

Tara is an accomplished social media and marcom copywriter and researcher. She got her start at Gotham Writer’s Workshop and continued to hone her craft at NYUSPS where she has completed a certificate in Copyediting, Proofreading, and Fact-Checking.

March 8, 2021

About the author

Kim Wacker

Kim Wacker

Kim is a seasoned content marketing professional with twelve years of corporate communications experience. Her sweet spot is with creative writing both short and long-form, and she has a proven track record working with IBM, Jackson Healthcare, and Walt Disney World, among many others. Kim is also a singer and actress and has been performing on stage and screen her entire life and has a great passion for TV and film production.

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