So you’ve started an account on Instagram and is eager to watch your Instagram followers skyrocket in the next 3 months. Bad news, because that isn’t going to happen automatically, not unless you put in some effort. Note that for Instagram to work for you as a marketing tool, you must post engaging and relevant images and content targeted at your audience. Although there are dodgy services that will artificially boost your followers rapidly through using bots or buying followers, there’s practically no need for you to do that because as a business, your ultimate goal is to connect with followers who really like your products or services and who would finally be converted into your customers.
This article will provide you with 60 solid ideas for genuinely boosting your Instagram followers and increasing engagement.
(1) Create a Clear Social Media Strategy
Develop a clear social media strategy across all your digital platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. A good strategy can let you know what is your objective and all the members of your team can then align your efforts towards that objective and attract the right batch of followers.
(2) Develop a Brand Story
You should also develop a brand story that align with your objective so that you can gear your content towards that direction. How did your company started? Was it due to a certain challenge that you were facing, and you wanted to solve that problem? Do you have an employee that special? Share your story visually, maintain a consistent voice and personality and your Instagram followers will be engaged.
(3) Choose a Good Username and Profile Photograph
If you have not already chosen a username, be sure to choose one that is relevant to your business or niche. Do not use a lot of weird symbols such as underscores, hyphens or exclamation marks as it will look spammy.
Also choose a relevant image as the profile photograph so that your potential followers will know what your business is all about when deciding whether to follow you. For instance, if your business is all about organic food, you can use a picture of natural looking foods or meals which are organic.
(4) Give Your Instagram Account a Shoutout on Other Social Media
If your brand has other social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest, be sure to promote your Instagram account on them. It’s very likely that your followers on other channels will follow you without a thought.
(5) Promote Your Instagram on Offline Channels
If you also have physical outlets, namecards, product packaging or delivery vans, you can also print a sticker and stick it on with your Instagram account. Activities and events with your Instagram printed on signage can also help you increase your followers too.
(6) Use Appropriate Hashtags
Use hashtags that are relevant to your post and also look beyond the one-word hashtags but instead try to mix up your hashtags to tell a story such as #vintagesinkwithahistory or #storyoftheicecreamman.
(7) Use Popular Hashtags
Also try to use hashtags that are more popular and can help increase followers such as #tagforlikes, #l4l (Like for like) or #followback, so that you let Instagram users know your intention. Some of the most popular hashtags are #love, #instagood, #tbt and #photooftheday.
(8) Create a Dedicated Hashtag for your Company
Create a dedicated hashtag for your company, such as #megsicecream, and put it prominently on your profile everywhere, such as on your social media profiles, website, emails and also in your outlets, delivery vans, mobile sales vehicles if you have. Use this tag on every one of your photos and also include it in your bio. Make sure your fans use it to share any images or content about your company, and they will get a prize, for instance.
(9) Like Other Instagammers’ Images
Try and like images of your fellow Instagrammers, especially those in your niche or industry. It is a proven strategy used by most famous influencers, and they said that their followers increase every time they like other Instagrammers’ posts.
(10) Comment on Other Instagrammers’ Photos
This is perhaps the fastest and easiest way to get new Instagram followers. Scan through the followers of other accounts and comment on their photos. Some will start to follow you.
(11) Develop a Contest
Start a contest or competition on Instagram. For example, post an image on Instagram to broadcast your contest, asking your followers to like it, use some relevant hashtags and also tag, for instance, at least 2 friends in order to qualify for the contest.
Also promote your contest on other social media account such as Facebook or Twitter. Let your fans know what they can get if they start to follow your account, such as perks, special previews, free coupons or free gifts and samples.
(12) Post Photos at the Right Time
Try and post photos at the time when your target audience are most active on Instagram. For Singapore, I’m guessing that it’s probably in the mornings between 7am – 9am and 6pm – 8pm when the locals are commuting on the trains, with nothing to do but look at their phones. Research shows that it is at 2am or 5pm in the day but it could be different between different countries, so research and try different timings to find your optimum and most effective time.
(13) Find and Follow!
Search for hashtags such as #followme, #likeforlike, #followus, #followback, #follow and #tagsforfollowers and follow people. Many will likely follow your account back.
(14) Follow Random Users Under “Suggestions”
Also, follow random users that have been suggested for you under the section “suggestions for you”. As a guide, about 30 percent of those you follow randomly will most likely follow you back. After a while, see who do not follow you back, and then unfollow them because there is a limited to how many you can follow in a single account. However, do continue to follow those who follow you.
(15) Use Bright and Nice Photographs
Instagram is all about visual effects so it makes sense to brush up on your photography skills and post nice photos that will engage your customers. Some tips are to focus only on one subject in one photo and give lots of space all around it, or find interesting perspectives for your subject. Finally, edit your photos on your phone before you post.
(16) Make Use of Your Bio
This is the most important and probably the only space on your official Instagram account that you can use to put an active link so remember to fill up as much of your bio as possible – include the website URL, relevant keywords and hashtags. Make sure that your username is recognizable and can be searched easily. Most people still check out your profile before they decide whether to follow you.
One tip – you can change your URL frequently, perhaps once a week to other of your sub-domains such as another product or service or a tip of the day and give a shoutout in your posts.
(17) Insert Your Instagram Button on Your Website
Make sure that you’ve make it easy for your web visitors to follow you on Instagram by inserting a follow button on your homepage, your “About” page or any other appropriate places on your website.
(18) Ask Questions!
Ask questions in the captions of your posts, especially intriguing questions that your followers feel eager to answer to show their knowledge, and you will increase engagement. For example, said “Double tap if you agree with us!” or “Share your experience below.”
(19) Use Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories, which appear on top of your Instagram app, disappear after 24 hours, but you can still make full use of it to engage your audience. This section is for you to show your unscripted and raw images or videos that your followers cannot get elsewhere, for example, your office, some behind-the-scene snippets of your factory or processes, or even how your team receives training daily. What’s most important is to make it fun!
(20) Use Some Filters
Choose about 2 to 3 of your favourite filters and make them in different styles, such as colourful, exotic, vintage or old-fashioned. Keep to a uniform theme to make your account looks professional. Research have shown that using the Mayfair filter is the single most effective filter for marketers, while other influencers have said that some of the more popular filters that have worked for them included the Earlybird, X-Proll, Lomo-fi and Hefe filters.
(21) Post on Sundays
According to research, the fewest images are usually posted on Sundays, so try posting on Sundays to see if your posts will get more engagements and likes on this particular day.
(22) Post Often!
Post often and although some followers might drop off if you post too many times a day, do not be afraid to post often because research showed that the majority of your fans will not unfollow you – there is no relationship between the amount of posts and the engagement received.
(23) Cross Promote With Users Who Have Similar Audience
Try as much as possible to build a relationship with the accounts that have a similar audience to you. Once you do that, you might want to ask some of them whether they want to do a co-promotion on each other’s accounts. For instance, food and photography goes well together. Do be careful however, not to be overly promotional and spammy.
(24) Leave Funny or Thoughtful Comments
Be active about liking photos, leaving funny or thoughtful comments regularly or daily. Find new people to follow and engage them actively by responding to comments and followers’ questions.
(25) Be Strategic with Your Comments
According to Sue Zimmerman, an Instagram expert, there is a strategy to follow to get more engagement when you are commenting. First, list down 10 to 20 people or brands with an audience similar to your business. When you have time to engage them, go to each of their accounts and leave genuine comments on their latest posts. However, the trick is to be the last one to comment, she said, so that those who sees that post in future will see your comment. Of course, try to avoid generic, one or two-word comments like “nice pic!”, “cool” and instead construct one or two sentences that other Instagrammers will find useful, funny or interesting, packed with your personality.
(26) Use Geotagging
If you are a local business, remember to use geotagging for your photos so that other instagrammers who are located in the same place will see your posts on the location’s page and some might just like or follow you.
(27) Use Software to Find Photos with the Highest Engagement
Certain software such as Hootsuite, Instagram Feed WD, SocialRank or Crowdfire will help you find the images with the highest engagement. Research on your own feeds, and try to post more of the photos which lead to the highest engagement.
(28) Sync Your Instagram with Other Social Networks
Sync your Instagram account with all your other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. This will make your feeds appear on other networks as well when you post on Instagram, saving you a lot of time and potentially increasing your change for new followers. How do you do that? Simple, just go to ‘Settings’ on Instagram and you will see the other social networks available for you to link.
(29) Appreciate Your Followers
As you start to build a small but steady fan base, you should continue to interact with other users and be actively involved in the community. Respond to their comments and even follow them and engage with their posts if you can.
(30) Multiple Photos into A Collage
Combine many photos together into a big collage and piece them together by posting them in sequence on Instagram. This will get you a higher level of engagement. You can try to use a software like PicFrame to help you stitch the images together.
(31) Partner with An Influencer
Find some influencers by keying in your niche keywords through the search bar and then turn on the post notifications to be notified each time they share new posts. Select some of them that are relevant to your niche or strongly advocate the purpose you are supporting to mention you in their post or tag your product or service. If he or she has a good following, chances are your followers will increase too. It takes time to nurture a relationship with influencers, so do not be too hasty in pushing for results or ROI.
(32) Use ‘Comment’ or ‘Comments’ In Your Captions
According to some research and a couple of testimonials from influencers, it helps if you use the word ‘comment’ or ‘comments’ in your captions, as it tends to give you more likes and followers. For example, “Let us know what you think of our new design! Comment below to get a prize if you are chosen!”
(33) Analyze Your Competitors
Find out what your competitors are doing. For instance, the kind of content that they are churning out for their followers, and whether they lead to following or engagement. If not, find out why it’s not working and if it’s possible for you to modify it to make it work or try to avoid the strategy totally. Discuss it among your team for the optimal strategy.
(34) A Face Speaks a Thousand Words
Using humans or faces with happy expressions will get you more likes and followers. That is according to research too and does not only apply to Instagram – it seems to apply to other marketing channels too. Try it, and let us know.
(35) Follow Popular Users Who Follow Many Accounts
One trick often used by influencers is to look for Instagram accounts that follow many users, some many more than they have followers. This means that they are looking to increase their followers rapidly and will very likely follow you back.
(36) Post on Wednesdays
Research have shown that if you post on Wednesdays, they will receive slightly more engagement than those images posted on other days of the week. It might not work for every niche but there’s really no harm trying it and testing this strategy for yourself.
(37) Make Sure Your Profile Is Public
If you’re doing everything you can to generate likes and engagements, do ensure that your profile is public. Check this by opening Instagram, clicking on ‘Options’ and then make sure your ‘Private Account’ is turned off.
(38) Post Images with More Light
Again, research have shown that photographs that have 65 to 85 percent light gets on average 24 percent more likes than those that are less than 45 percent light.
(39) Post Photos that are Blue
In the same research, it said that photos of things that are blue get 24 percent more likes than photos of things that are orange or red in colour.
(40) Use a Mixture of Short and Long-Tail Hashtags
Mesh up your hashtags into a combination of short and long-tails, with short ones such as #tbt, #picaday, #follow, #instagrammers and long ones such as #cheapblueshoes, #nikeshoeshops, #womensbraceletsforsale. The short-tail hashtags will give you exposure to more people in general, while the long-tail hashtags will give you followers who are more likely to buy your products. So you need a good mix of both to boost your Instagram account.
(41) Tag People In Your Photos
Whenever possible, tag people or your followers in your posts to ensure that these photos show up in their feeds, making it more likely for them to be shared and liked.
(42) Use Apps to Speed Up Your Tagging Process
Use mobile apps such as TagsForLikes, InstaTags4Likes or Instag to speed up the tagging process and increase the number of your likes on posts. Such apps allow you to just copy and paste a bunch of popular tags that are trending on the day that you post.
(43) Local Focus
Find out what’s happening in your own country, city or neighbourhood by going to the search page and choosing ‘Places’ and typing in the name of the place. You can then see all geotagged posts for your own location.
(44) Connect Instagram with Contact List
Connect your Instagram account with your contact list by looking for the ‘Find friends’ button on the top right hand of your screen. You will see some of your friends’ Instagram account thereafter. Connect with them and encourage them to be your Instagram followers.
(45) Promote Your Instagram Account to Your Email List
If you have a huge email list that you frequently send promotions or events to, do send a shoutout to your Instagram account. You can also run a contest on your account and let your email subscribers know that to participate, they have to be your followers on Instagram.
(46) Delete Tagged Photos that You Don’t Want
It’s better to only feature the best content about your brand or business on your Instagram account. So it makes sense for you to remove such user-generated tagged photos of you or your business from your account. Choose “Edit Tags”, and then select the ones that you don’t want to remove them and then choose “Hide from Profile”.
You can also change your settings under “Options”, “Photos of You” and “Add Manually”, such that tagged photos won’t show unless you physically approve them.
(47) Schedule Your Posts
You can better time your posts by using mobile apps such as Hootsuite or Latergramme to schedule your Instagram posts. This is because it is vital to post consistently to increase your followers over time.
(48) Write a Story – Amaze Your Audience
Although the images are important, captions are too. If you are a good storyteller, use interesting, short stories to capture the attention and interest of your audience or dream up captivating content that will make them like and follow you.
(49) Insert Your Instagram Images or Posts in Selected Blog Posts
You can try to insert some of your posts with the most likes or engagement on your website or blog posts. This also mean that visitors to your blog will know that you have an Instagram full of worthy images and will choose to follow you.
(50) Try to Get on the Instagram Explore Tab
You can see the Instagram Explore tab when you click on the small magnifying glass icon at the bottom of Instagram. This is where Instagram curates the most popular posts, whether they are videos or images. Now it also features Instagram Stories. It’s not that easy to get featured there, but try to create engaging content that are targeted at your audience and you might see an explosion of likes and followers for your account.
(51) Move the More Important Keywords to the Front
On Instagram, some text in your captions will be cut off at the end, so it is important that you formulate the more important keywords or sentences up front first.
(52) Ask Your Followers to Tag Their Friends
One way to increase engagement is to ask your followers to tag their friends in the comments below. For example, you can say something like “Tag someone whom you think will like this!”, or “Tag your friends who want to go on this holiday too!”
(53) Emojis Work Wonders
I’ve personally used many emojis in some of my Instagram accounts and it worked wonders in generating comments and likes. It draws more eyeballs, much more than just posting text and sentences. Try it and let me know!
(54) Share Interesting Videos
Take advantage of the ability to upload videos onto your Instagram to actively engage followers and get likes. Whether you are hosting a live events, conference, a live promotion instore or just a small gathering among fans, Instagram is the perfect platform for you to showcase your activities with videos. Currently, such live videos appear together with your brand’s story but you can choose for it to disappear after it ends or let it remain there for 24 hours. Instagram videos will definitely get you more and higher engagement than just posting images.
(55) Use Captions with Different Lengths
Sometimes, long content worked better than short ones, and sometimes, short captions worked better than long ones – you won’t know until you try. Try an arresting image with a short caption versus a simpler image with a long caption and see which one works better for your audience.
(56) Get Statistics from Instagram Insights
Get useful statistical information about each post from Instagram Insights, which will provide you with impression figures, reach, engagement and which are your top posts. There are also insights about your followers such as age, gender and where they come from. It’ll help you to check your statistics regularly to help see any trends so that you can tweak your marketing strategy for this platform. For instance, you could think that your followers are mostly females in their 20s, but it could very well turn out that women from an older age group are engaging more actively with your account.
(57) Delegate At Least Two Persons to Manage the Account
You can give up to two persons exclusive access to your Instagram account, which can be an intern plus a more senior marketing executive who is well versed in social media management. Be sure to brief both of them on your objective and any dos and don’ts before handing over the confidential details to them. And if your company starts to expand, it would be good to have a small logbook on the guidelines of handling your Instagram account, in case your executives leave the company.
(58) Keep a Common Storage Folder for Contributions
Keep a folder such as Dropbox, Google Drive or OneDrive where everyone in the company can contribute images, videos or stories. Make it fun and encouraging contributions by giving an attractive prize for content that are used for your Instagram account.
(59) Keep Different Accounts
If you have a personal Instagram account, do not use it for your business. Start a new account for your business and post exclusively images or videos that are relevant to your niche. Branding is important.
(60) Develop Your Own Theme
In general, Instagram accounts which have a unique theme has the most followers so far. You can try to find a theme for your business, and integrate this seamlessly into your images and videos with your own style. For instance, themes like food, fitness, animals, photography or fashion tend to be more popular. Choose a niche in one of these themes and just go with it.
Lastly, well, this is not free but if you really want to boost your followers rapidly, you can consider Instagram ads, which are targeted based on location, demographics or main interests or behaviours, much like how Facebook ads are structured.
So there you are – 60 free and ethical ways to increase your Instagram followers. It’s not hard to become an Instagram unicorn really. With close to 800 million active monthly users, this platform offers numerous opportunities for businesses of all sizes and is a quick and affordable alternative to paid advertising. Try our methods and let us know how they work.
We do offer monthly content creation packages for your Instagram accounts at affordable rates. Do check out our services here.
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