With more than a billion users on the platform and growing, it can be difficult to cut through the noise and find your tribe. Yes, today’s Instagram is more competitive than yesterday’s, but it’s not impossible to grow your Instagram if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and put in some work.
Whether you’re just starting your Instagram account or trying to revitalize a stagnant growth pattern, we’ve got lots of tips to help you kick it up a notch.
How to gain your first 1,000 followers
Attracting the first 1,000 followers to a brand new Instagram account may seem like an immense undertaking. You struggle to gain a few followers each day, only to find that they’re gone the next day.
Take heart, friends — Instagram followers are fickle creatures, but if you’re willing to put in the work, you will increase the momentum to make things easier as you climb the Instagram ladder. Here’s how to attract your very first 1,000 followers on Instagram.
Tip 1: Optimize your Instagram profile
Think of your Instagram profile as an overview of who you are and what you represent. You want to portray a clear message to potential followers. Your profile includes your username, name, profile photo, bio, and link. Use them together to help followers find you in a search and stick around after they’ve discovered you. Here’s how to optimize your Instagram profile to increase your followers:
- Create a username that’s short and catchy. With a billion users on Instagram, many of the best usernames are taken. Spend some time brainstorming your name before choosing one that works. Try to steer clear of random letters and numbers, which are easily forgotten. A combination of your first and last name is a good choice, as is a combination of short words, a blog name, or something random that describes you. You’ve got 30 characters to be creative with.
- Use your real name. When you create your profile, you will see a spot for your name, which is different from your user name. Use your real name, followed by a few keywords that describe what your Instagram feed is about. As with your username, your name is limited to 30 characters.
- Your Instagram bio can be up to 150 characters. Use it to sell yourself and your Instagram feed. Not only should your bio tell your viewers what your feed is about, but it should also convey a bit of personality.
- Choose a crisp, bright photo of yourself. A photo of yourself lets your readers know that you’re a real person behind your phone and really helps attract followers. Feel free to use props to help tell your story — hold your cat, your camera, or your rolling pin to get your point across.
- Choose your link wisely. Instagram allows one link within your profile. Use it to promote your work, whether it’s an Etsy shop, an online portfolio, your blog, or a YouTube channel.
Tip 2: Write authentic long-form captions
You’ve likely been told over and over again to post great photos for the best engagement, but that’s only half the story. You also need to write meaningful captions that will engage your audience.
Your followers want to get to know you, and every time you open up with authentic captions, you will find that your viewers respond. The more engagement you get on your posts, the more people Instagram will show them to. Once you’ve captured your readers with a good story in your caption, end things with a question so that they feel compelled to respond.
Tip 3: Tag locations and accounts that feature photos within your niche
You can tag accounts and locations to help get your content in front of more eyeballs. Your geotagged post will show up when someone is searching for photos from a certain area (great for travel content). If you post great content and tag relevant accounts, there’s a chance that those accounts will feature your work, putting it in front of more viewers who may become followers.
There are thousands of accounts that will feature photographers that tag them, but finding them can be a chore. Try @pocket_family to choose from 31 different photography niche accounts you can tag, @iphonephotographycapital for shots taken with your iPhone, and @discoverearth for nature and photography photos.
Tip 4: Cross-post your Instagram content on other social channels
Are you active on other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube? In order to cross-populate these channels, you should periodically promote your Instagram account on your other platforms. You can also set up your Instagram account to automatically post to some of your other channels. Here’s how to do it.
- From your Instagram profile, tap the menu in the upper-right corner.
- Tap Settings > Account > Linked Accounts.
- Tap the account that you want to link to your Instagram and add your login credentials.
- Now, when you create a post, you will be asked whether you want to post to any of your other accounts before posting to Instagram.
Tip 5: Research and use relevant hashtags
We could write a whole book about using hashtags on Instagram. The purpose of hashtags is to connect relevant posts based on a single theme or niche. Brands use hashtags to promote themselves, and there are hashtags to promote everything you can imagine.
There are thousands upon thousands of hashtags to choose from, and you are limited to using 30 for every post. So before using a hashtag in your posts, do a quick search on Instagram to see if the content using it matches your niche and the feel of your post. Make a list of the 30 hashtags that best suit your content and use them in your post.
Time-saving tip: You can copy hashtags from related posts on Instagram while on a computer and paste them into the comment field on your Instagram post.
Tip 6: Spend time and engage
Engaging with your audience is one of the most critical aspects of growing your following. It’s also very time-consuming. The more time you have to invest in this part of your strategy, the quicker you will grow.
To keep on task, we recommend setting a timer on your phone each day (or even several times a day) for whatever you can spare to engage with your Instagram community — 15 to 30 minutes is a good place to start. Comment on posts within your niche, follow other Instagrammers whom you admire, like your favorite photos, and respond to every comment on your posts. Keep it authentic and watch your numbers grow.
How to grow your Instagram once you have an audience
Once you’ve hit 1,000 followers, you will have to shift a bit and focus on other tactics to grow your Instagram even further. Keep up with the strategies mentioned above, but also use the following tips.
Tip 1: Create Stories, Lives, and IGTV videos
Up until now, you may have been sporadic with your Stories and other video posts, which is totally fine when you’re just starting out. But once you develop your momentum, it’s important to take advantage of the extra traffic you’ll get by posting video content.
Start with Instagram Stories. This will help you get the hang of posting videos and more personal content with your followers. Stories can be photos or videos under 15 seconds, but you can certainly post longer videos that have been cut into segments. To start, try shooting some behind-the-scenes videos showing your viewers how you create your Instagram posts. This can be a video of the setup behind your beautiful flat lays, a video of you packing your camera bag, or a series of photos describing how you edit your photos before posting.
Stories don’t always have to be videos. You can also use the Layout feature in Stories to create a collage of your best photos.
Once you’ve figured out Stories, try doing an Instagram Live. It’s really no different than Stories, except that you only get one take! Instagram Lives are awesome because they are the first Stories that show up in your followers’ home screens. Use them to show your community your camera gear, your home office, or your favorite spot to take photos.
When you create a Live video, the top of the screen will show you how many of your followers you will be able to reach with your video. The more people you can reach with your Live, the better!
Finally, when you’re ready to get creative and put in the work, try out the IGTV feature. IGTV videos are longer than Instagram Stories — up to 10 minutes in most situations. Your IGTV videos need not be perfectly polished, but they should be engaging. Use Instagram’s search function to explore what other IGTV creators are doing in your niche before you get started.
Tip 2: Use analytics to your advantage
If you have an Instagram Creator or Business account, you will also have access to Instagram analytics. You can access it through your account menu under Insights. Creator accounts are available to everyone and are recommended for public figures, content producers, artists, and influencers.
Your Instagram analytics will tell you where your engagement is coming from (your profile, hashtags, geotags, or the explore page). It will also tell you when your audience is most engaged, where they are from, their age, and their gender. Use this information to your advantage as you plan the content you want to post.
Tip 3: Develop a cohesive Instagram theme
Giving your Instagram feed a cohesive “look” that is uniquely you will help you stand out from the crowd. Consider the look you’re going for, and create content that fits together within that look. In addition to creating specific content, you can also use a collection of your favorite filters to help your photos fit your theme.
Tip 4: Follow and engage with relevant hashtags
In addition to following accounts within your niche, you can also follow hashtags. Accounts that use the hashtags you follow will show up in your feed when you scroll through. Choose a handful of the hashtags you use regularly and begin commenting, liking, and following other accounts that use those hashtags. This is a great way to build a community within your niche and attract new followers to your account.
Tip 5: Collaborate with others
Once you have gathered an engaged following of your own on Instagram, you can start collaborating with others to get your content in front of new eyes. There are several ways you can collaborate with others on Instagram, depending on your niche and your goals. One of the easiest ways is to do Instagram Story takeovers, where you create content for a friend’s Stories and they create content for yours.
Another idea is to create a challenge that you can promote with multiple accounts to share with your followers. You can also promote user-generated content from people who decided to take on the challenge.
Organic Instagram growth vs. buying Instagram followers
So, by now, you may be asking why you can’t just buy followers to quickly grow your Instagram account. First of all, buying followers is frowned upon by Instagram and may result in your account being permanently suspended. Buying followers will only inflate your numbers. You will get very little engagement on your posts, and they won’t show up on the explore page or on the feeds of your real followers.
By comparison, growing your Instagram organically allows you to build a real community that engages with your content and helps you grow as a creator. Yes, growing Instagram followers requires real effort. But you will find that your numbers grow consistently day after day, month after month. If the goal is to share your photography with the world and make authentic connections, then you should focus on attracting the people who are genuinely interested in the content you produce.
Remember the reason you hopped on Instagram to begin with? You loved the platform and wanted to connect with people. Growing your following may not be easy, but with great content and a strategy, it’s totally possible.