Whether you’re on it to live vicariously through your more adventurous friends or spend hours looking through cute dog videos, Instagram can be a wonderful place.
And as a business owner or entrepreneur, it can be an incredible source of new customers or a great place to connect on a deeper level with your current audience, building more trust and authenticity.
The more followers you have, the more those benefits multiply.
But how can you gain engaged followers without running any ads?
Here, we will show you ten ways that you can rapidly increase your Instagram follower count (no, we are not talking about bots, and #f4f is so 2017) that you can use to increase brand awareness, trust, and loyalty.
How the Instagram Algorithm Works
Before we discuss our ten growth hacks, we should probably dive into the Instagram algorithm a little deeper. After all, our list of ten hacks attempts to directly utilize and maximize the algorithm to help you grow your followers as quickly and as authentically as possible.
Here are the three main aspects Instagram considers.
Instagram attempts to serve you the best possible content related to what you have watched previously, as they know that’s what you like. You see what you like; you stay on the app longer. The longer you stay on the app, the more Instagram can charge for the ad space. Simple.
The “Insta algo” also prioritizes posts from accounts you interact with on a regular basis, whether it be likes, comments, or direct messages. That’s why whenever you log in, your bestie’s content is right there for you to see before you finally make your way to the content from people you don’t even remember following in the first place.
Recent posts are also prioritized over old ones because we are all simple creatures who have been programmed to prefer new, shiny things.
10 Instagram Growth Hacks to Build Your Follower Count
1. Utilize Instagram Stories
How many hours have you lost endlessly swiping through Instagram stories?
It’s where people post about their daily lives and helps you keep in touch (AKA, have a little nosy), with what people have been up to.
But it’s also a fantastic way for brands to seamlessly integrate into a follower’s daily socials check.
The content here shouldn’t be too “salesy,” and instead should focus on engagement like Q&As or polls or a peek behind the curtain of your brand.
In a world where consumers are spoilt for choice in almost any industry, creating a human connection is crucial for standing out and building your loyal customer base, and being authentic in stories can help you achieve this.
2. Keep it Reels
Ever since Instagram introduced the Instagram Reels feature, brands have been using it to feature more prominently on the Discover page. This makes the content format crucial for growing your brand by creating video content that adds value to your audience while also showing off the personality and skill behind your business.
While stories only give you 15 seconds to show off your magic, Reels offer you a whole 60 seconds, allowing you to dive deeper into subjects, creating longer-form, short-form content (is that just “medium-form” content?) that helps your service stand out.
3. Influencers who truly influence
If you’ve followed foundr for any substantial length of time or undertaken any of our masterclasses, you know how much we value influencer content.
When you’re starting out, and cash is tight, search for microinfluencers with less than 50,000 followers to promote your products or services, as chances are they will do so for free.
Larger influencers will likely have a bigger impact on your brand, but they are also expensive, and that’s an expense many brands can’t afford as they start out.
Find influencers in your niche through relevant hashtags or recommended accounts, drop them a quick DM outlining your brand and offer, and make sure they tag you in anything they post.
Remember, you’re not the only brand or entrepreneur out there trying to grow their social media presence.
And rather than seeing it as a competition, why not turn it into a team effort? After all, rising tides aid all ships, and rising follower counts aid all businesses.
So what if another brand in your space also gains some followers from your collaboration? There are plenty of customers to go around.
Pro Tip: Look for aligned brands that have products that complement your own. For example, if you make handcrafted coffee mugs, partner with a craft roaster with a special package offer.
5. Get engaged
No, we’re not talking about creating a meaningful relationship with a senior algorithm expert at Instagram, all to get the inside scoop (that would be a SERIOUS power move, though).
We’re talking about engaging with your followers, your target audience, and other brands in the space.
Instagram keeps track of your engagement on the platform, and the more active you are, the more likely Instagram is to show your content to others.
But do this authentically. Try and respond to every (sane) comment or message. No bots posting generic slop comments and liking content at random. For starters, it’s not ethical, and secondly, Instagram could seriously penalize your account or, worse, remove it, and all your hard work will be undone.
6. #Use #hashtags #wisely
Using hashtags is a brilliant way to make your page more discoverable, increasing your reach rate significantly.
The jury is still out on where you should put your hashtags, but unless you have a large following already, we recommend including them in the post rather than burying them in the comments.
However, there is no confirmed best way, so test and learn around with your hashtags, how many you use, and where you post them to #findwhatsrightforyou.
Pro Tip: A standard practice to begin with hashtags is having a 1:1:1 ratio. One branded hashtag, one general (mass) hashtag, and one niche hashtag in your industry. Using our coffee mug example, you could use the hashtags #carlsmugs (brand), #craftcoffee (general), and #handmademugs (niche).
7. Encourage user-generated content (UGC)
Wherever possible, champion and encourage user-generated content. The more you can promote it, the more likely you are for others to join in, helping grow your brand and improve your authenticity.
Followers expect you to say how great your product or service is, but if they see it from others who have invested in what you offer, that is a huge selling point.
Not only is UGC great for authenticity and trust, but it is also a great way to get more content for your Instagram account! You can repost it, reach out for short interviews, collaborations, and anything in between.
Hismile does a great job of this, with people posting content regularly about their brand.
8. Create scroll-stopping content
Don’t fall into the trap of what I like to call “that’ll do” content on social media. Sure, you’re ticking it off your never-ending to-do list, but you will not gain anywhere near the potential rewards with this approach.
When creating content for social media, find a unique angle, create an attractive design, and ask yourself, “Is this adding value for my followers or potential followers?” If not, hold off and tweak the content until it does. This approach will pay off in the long run.
Pro Tip: Our content creation course instructor, Talia Datt, coaches her clients to generate proactive and reactive content. Proactive content is created specifically for your brand and can be batched, generated, and scheduled. Reactive content is about capitalizing on trends on social media and adapting them for your brand (i.e. any “challenge,” song trend, or viral meme).
9. Identify your dream customer
Close your eyes and imagine your perfect customer.
Wait, no, keep them open; you’ll want to read the rest of this article!
But do imagine your perfect customer. I’m talking about the ideal customer for your product or service. The one who will make repeat purchases, champion your brand, and influence others to buy from you as well.
Learning as much information as you can about this dream customer will help you decide what content to create to ensure it really resonates with them.
10. Create a highlights reel
Put yourselves in the shoes of a user who clicks on your page for the first time. They’ve never heard of your brand before, but they’re intrigued to learn more.
However, scrolling through your recent content may not give a true reflection of the services or products you provide.
That’s where the highlights feature comes in clutch.
Here, you can break down your content into an introductory section, a services or products section, and anything else you fancy.
Klarna has done a brilliant job with this, using striking and colorful icons to differentiate each section.
Keep Learning: How to Use Instagram for Business to Smash Your Goals
Grow your brand on and off social media
As you can see, attracting faithful fans who engage with your content is way more important than merely increasing your follower count.
Ready to grow your Instagram? Explore our free Instagram growth course, to gain all access to proven follower-boosting frameworks.