Everyone is on Instagram now, and Instagram is proving to be a lucrative place for people who are able to amass large followings. Whether you believe that influecer marketing is effective or not, many people are out there each and every day trying to grow their followings in order to achieve the sacred status of “one who can influence.”

So if you are thinking about growing your following, you are not alone. Gone are the days when posting beautiful images was enough to get you loads of followers. Now Instagram has become like society, to jockey for position you’re going to have to do it better than others in order to get ahead. And most of the techniques for growing your audience reflect reality more than viruality.

Fortunately, I’m here for you, and I’m going to share the truth about getting followers on Instagram. It’s not easy, but there are proven techniques that you can adopt in order to grow your audience.

First, before we get started, ask yourself this question: “why do I want more followers?”

If you only want followers to have more followers, to show your friends how “cool” you are, then stop reading right now and search for an Instagram bot. There are many Instagram bots out there that will automatically execute growth techniques for you so that you gain followers over a short period of time.

The flip side is that this audience will be useless to you later since it will not be made up of people who are genuinely interested in you. It will also make scrolling through your personal feed a nightmare, since you will have to follow all kinds of random people in order to get them to follow you.

But if you don’t care about that, nothing will be more effective than a bot, and you should find one that works before Instagram shuts them off.

To be clear, I have no moral judgement about bots. Instagram is becoming a lot like Twitter in the sense that people follow other people just to get more followers. Then they unfollow when you don’t follow back. I find it annoying but people can do whatever they want and I can always make my account private.

How to (legitimately) grow your followers on Instagram

If you answered the first question (why do you want more followers?) with something like “I want to promote my personal brand in the beauty space,” or, “I want to get my freelance photography career off the ground” then these techniques will help you to concretely achieve your goals.

The amazing thing (and the thing that is very counter-intuitive) is that it’s not really about content any more. Sure, the better your photos are, the more people will follow you, but this is no longer automatic. Content has never been created equally. Attractive people not wearing clothes, baby animals, and anything posted by National Geographic will always perform better than your artwork or your food photos, no matter what.

So it’s positive then that it’s less about content than what you might expect. And you don’t need to worry about posting every single day. In fact posting too often is a way to lose followers. Everyone can breathe a collective sigh of relief!

Have a plan – know who you’re targeting

Instead of saying, “I want more followers,” you need to ask yourself, “who do I want to follow my account?” A wide audience of random people that have nothing in common other than a mild Instagram addiction is much less valuable than an engaged audience of quality people that share things in common with you.

Defining who you want to have follow you is the way that you make a plan (yes, an actual plan) for attacking the userbase. The following techniques will only work to achieve your goals if you are targeted, otherwise it could wind up being nothing but a gigantic waste of your time.


In order for people to follow you, they have to know that you exist. On Instagram, this means interacting with other people. Your content will only get you so far, and in fact it often doesn’t even reach the majority of your current audience because of the algorithm selection.

You have to step out of your bubble and reach out to other people.

Follow other people

Just like the bots that I mentioned above, you will have to get out there and follow other people. When you follow someone, they receive a notification on their account. Very often, people check to see who follows them (Hello Narcissus!). This is the #1 reason why it is very, very important to target the people you follow: if you have a lot in common with the person you follow, you multiply the chance that they follow you back.

If you follow a random person, there is a much smaller chance that they will follow you back. There is one caveat to this argument though and that is if you are super hot. It’s sad but true: if you’re really, really attractive, then go for it, you will get a ton of followers.

For all of us normal folks, we have to target.

Comment on their posts

Affinity might not be enough, particularly when you follow people who don’t follow you back. Maybe you have too many pictures of your kids on your profile, or you have too many selfies. Maybe your handmade resin tables are actually really ugly. Who knows. If the profile isn’t beautiful enough, time to let that inner beauty shine through.

This is where comment come in handy. Commenting on other people’s posts is a great way to draw attention to yourself, and at the same time allow some of your personality to come out. A very unscientific guess would be that 98% of comments on Instagram are emojis right now (October 2018). Taking the time to leave a real comment, a witty remark, or even better – a question, can make a huge difference.

Just like with real life, compliments go a lot further than taking people down. If you see a beautiful photo of a sunrise through Arches National Park, you could just like the post or comment a heart emoji, but that’s the equivalent of wasting your time. Instead, find a question to ask that purveys value to the person who shared the content. For example, “wow that shot is incredible, what time did you have to wake up to take it? Did you camp next to the canyon?”

This comment shows warmth towards the creator, and leads them to the natural answer. As a nature photographer, they probably spend a lot of time sleeping weird places in order to be in the right place at the right time, and they would be really happy to share the experience.

Keep the conversation going and watch the followers roll in.

Get tagged in other people’s posts

Probably the most powerful way to gain followers is to get other people to tag you in their posts. This is much easier said than done. You often have to be physically with other people for them to tag you. To do that you have to spend a lot of your life with other people. For the socialites among us, this might be natural. If you have a friend who posts to Instagram all the time, then get in their photos and ask them straight up to tag you.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be physically with other people for them to tag you. Many people are trying to accomplish the same thing as you. Just search for the hashtag #likeforlikes which has been posted over 42M times. This is people clearly saying that they are trying to grow their audience. There are many of these types of hashtags to use in order to draw attention to yourself. Use them the other way and get in touch with people using those hashtags, and try to get them to repost your content or story and tag you.

If might seem like a desperate move, but if you are working in your targeted audience, it’s not desperate, it’s a solid business strategy.

Use recruitment hashtags

The last thing I’m going to talk about is hashtags. I’ve already written about recruitment hashtags, so I will let you go back to that post and read about the best practices. But hashtags are an absolute must. Too often people use hashtags that have been posted way too often or hashtags that are way too obscure. You have to find the sweetspot.

The takeaway

If there are two things to take away from this article, it’s that you need to figure out why you want more followers in order to determine who you are going to target. The other thing is that your personal community building strategy should take up much more time than worrying about posting amazing content every single day.

How have you found success growing your Instagram audience?

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