Get more Instagram followers with these 10 tips to grow your real audience

7 Dec

Instagram is the foundation of so many brands’ social presence. The platform is proven to drive traffic, support sales and engage customers.

And that’s why 59% of marketers plan to up their investment in Instagram this year.

But if you’re not thrilled with your Instagram growth and engagement, you’re not alone.

Competition on the platform is fierce as more and more brands get on board. Thing is, taking steps to grow your audience is absolutely worth it. That’s because the bigger your audience, the more opportunities to delight your customers.

Ready to tweak your presence to attract authentic and organic Instagram followers? This post breaks down how to make it happen.

10 ways to increase Instagram followers

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, this post is about building an organic following.

And yes, the distinction matters!

Some brands want to take shortcuts when it comes to trying to get more Instagram followers. We don’t pretend that pay-for-play sites exist.

That said, these services aren’t worth it for brands long-term. The Instagram algorithm weeds out low-quality accounts and phony engagement from paid bots.

But we’ll bite: there’s definitely some legwork involved in growing your audience authentically.

Doing so it worth totally worth it, though. Below are our ten best tips for getting more Instagram followers the right way.

1. Optimize your Instagram account

Before you worry about how to get followers, consider how your Instagram account is set up first.

Ask yourself: does your profile “look the part?” For starters, consider your:

  • Your Instagram bio (including your slogan, tagline and/or a branded hashtag)
  • Your profile picture
  • Your bio link (and where it points to)
peach slices instagram bio

These details define your brand identity on Instagram. More importantly, they impact your account’s discoverability. Building a follower-friendly account means:

  • Having a search-friendly username. Stick to either your brand name or whatever’s closest to your existing social handles. If your name is too long, shorten it to a variation your audience would recognize (ex: Cold Stone Creamery’s account is @coldstone).
  • Making your profile picture professional. An appropriately-sized logo is ideal. Any text in your profile picture should be legible on a smartphone screen.
  • Minding where you point your bio link. This is crucial for turning Instagram followers into meaningful traffic or customers. It’s your only way to funnel social traffic to your site and promotions.

Linking to your homepage is fine but not always ideal. To encourage more meaningful interactions, a social landing page that points to multiple links can help.

peach slides call-to-action for their instagram followers

This gives your audience total control of how they engage your business next. That means a better experience for your followers.

The best way to optimize your account is to follow a proven Instagram marketing strategy. Download our free guide to get started.

2. Keep a consistent content calendar

Momentum matters on Instagram. In other words, you likely won’t get followers on Instagram if you post at random.

Creating content and providing value is what builds your audience. Doing so consistently is what helps you keep them. Don’t let your Instagram account gather cobwebs.

That’s why sticking to a regular posting schedule is crucial.  In terms of when and how much to post, you don’t have to stick to a set-in-stone number. Most brands post daily or near daily. This tracks our own research on how often to post as well.

For reference, below is a breakdown of the best times to post to Instagram.  “Optimal” engagement is during the mid-to-late morning and early afternoons during the week.

Best times to post on Instagram

If you’re worried about your posts not getting seen enough, we get it. Consider how features like Stories can get more eyes on your content if it wasn’t seen the first time.

3. Schedule Instagram posts in advance

There’s no denying that brands are at the mercy of the Instagram algorithm for reach. Still, posting at the right times can still give your posts more visibility. Anything you can do to maximize engagement is a plus.

This speaks to the value of scheduling Instagram content. With Sprout’s newest tools, brands can schedule Stories, Carousels, Reels and Posts.

Scheduling content in advance ensures control and organization. Instagram scheduling tools ultimately help you hit that cadence we mentioned earlier. The ability to crosspost content from other networks helps here, too.

Schedule Instagram Posts with Sprout

You can also use Sprout’s ViralPost feature to nail down your timing, too. Our platform analyzes your engagement history and identifies the best times to post.

Perfect your Instagram content plan with Sprout Social

In addition to scheduling a complete picture of your Instagram content calendar, Sprout offers even more features to perfect your brand’s feed.

Share IG-approved visuals with your team using our Asset Library, or test out our grid preview feature to make sure every aspect of your presence is true to your brand style.

Get a hands-on look at these features and more with a 30-day free trial of Sprout.

4. Engage with customers, brand advocates and influencers

Figuring out how to get more Instagram followers means engaging your audience.

And one of the best ways to do that is through responding to and republishing their posts.

Enter the power of user-generated content. UGC campaigns build social proof by showing followers you’re invested in them. For example, Drunk Elephant regularly regrams their followers’ posts. They gather content with their #BareWithUs and #DrunkBreak hashtags.

Partnering with influencers with an established following is another way to grow your own audience. Content creators can get your brand in front of your target audience and build ongoing awareness for your products.

5. Avoid fake Instagram followers

There’s a big difference between fake and legitimate followers on Instagram.

We get it, too. For the sake of quick growth, it might be tempting to purchase followers.

But the drawbacks outweigh the benefits 100%. Why? Because fake Instagram followers…

  • Confuse your potential organic followers. An inactive, low-engagement account with a big following is suspicious. This can be a turn-off for fans that’d otherwise follow you and engage.
  • Provide no monetary value to your business. Think about it. Your bot followers can’t buy your stuff, can they? 
  • Generate no buzz: If you have 10,000 fake followers, how many are going to engage with your posts? Does it really even matter if your posts are brimming with spam comments?
Real people have the ability to share, like, comment and engage with your Instagram posts. Additionally, real followers actually appreciate the time you spend interacting with them. 
lush engagement on instagram

For example, Lush Cosmetics takes the time to answer questions and engage followers all the time. This results in customers regularly returning to share shout-outs and positive comments.

6. Showcase your Instagram everywhere you can

Don’t be shy about promoting your Instagram if more followers are your goal.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to promoting your ‘gram, either. Here are a few ideas:

  • Add social media icons to your website and marketing emails. Social media icons make it easier for people to find your business and help you connect with customers.
  • Feature an Instagram feed on your homepage or product pages. Many ecommerce brands have dedicated UGC feeds on-site (see below).
  • Reshare Instagram-specific content or announcements on other social channels. For example, you could talk about an upcoming IG Live via TikTok or Facebook.
ikea promoting instagram on their homepage

7. Post content that followers actually want to see

Easier said than done, we know.

Filters. Captions. Content types. Post times. That doesn’t even scratch the surface.

There are so many variables to consider, right? It doesn’t help that Instagram’s algorithm is fickle. What works for one brand might not work for the next in terms of format and timing.

For example, some brands swear by Carousels. Others are all-in on Reels. Both approaches can work. You’ll quickly find on Instagram that some content performs better than others. This is why testing is so important.

Instagram’s native analytics are surprisingly powerful. That said, investing in Instagram analytics tools will take things to the next level.

For example, Sprout makes it easy to benchmark and analyze Instagram content across accounts. Rather than second-guess what’s working and what’s not, our reporting spells it out for you.

Instagram Competitors Tool Sprout

Be confident in your content strategy by analyzing those variables we mentioned earlier.

And if you’re unsure where to start, try analyzing your competitors. A staggering 90% of brands say that social media data helps them keep up with competing social accounts.

You obviously shouldn’t copycat your competitors. That said, you can take notes on what they’re doing or posting that drives engagement.  Sprout’s Instagram Competitors report can provide a breakdown of what’s working in your industry. A little competitive research can go a long way.

Oh, and keep your ear to the ground with new Instagram trends. That way you won’t miss out on platform-wide opportunities to hop on trending content formats.

For example, Reels are popping off right now. Our data shows that 66% of consumers want to see more short-form videos from brands. In terms of trends, Reels should be on your radar.

 Example of brand posting Instagram Reels

8. Make meaningful conversation with your audience

Food for thought: 60% of marketers use Instagram as a service channel.

The platform is perfect for going back and forth with followers. Likewise, many popular post ideas center around asking questions and engaging in a dialogue for a reason.

Off-the-cuff questions, shipping concerns or praise for products are all fair game from followers. Check out how Cometeer responds to all of the above on their Instagram posts:

cometeer responding to Instagram followers cometeer responding to Instagram followers

Being supportive and responding promptly shows people that you care.

You’d be surprised at how your Instagram followers increase once you start acting more personable. Our Index research shows that 89% of consumers will buy from a brand after following them on social. Every interaction counts.

Again, try to respond to as many questions or comments as possible. Doing so could make or break someone becoming a long-term follower or a customer.

9. Find hashtags where your followers hang out

Instagram hashtags have been a staple of the platform, like, forever.

That said, they don’t hold as much weight as they used to.

Dumping hashtags into your posts isn’t going to net you any new followers. Especially when there’s so much noise on the platform.

Be proactive by focusing on industry-specific hashtags relevant to your customers. For example, Lashify regularly posts content to the #LashEducation hashtag. Tags are less general and competitive than #beauty. Becoming more visible within these types of tags is meaningful for brands in the right niche.

#LashEducation hashtag on Instagram

Understanding how your hashtags perform on Instagram is critical. With Sprout Social’s hashtag analytics tools, you have direct access to in-depth performance and usage data. Figuring out which hashtags to use is just a few taps away.

Instagram hashtag analytics with Sprout

10. Take steps to delight your Instagram followers

When you make your Instagram followers happy, you’ll see the payoff in audience growth. The best Instagram accounts have fans and communities (hint: not just followers).

The tips below are the building blocks for a follower-friendly account. Put them into practice in a way that aligns with your brand voice and values. Avoid coming across as needy,  solesy sales-driven or robotic at all costs.

So much of how to get Instagram followers for free is about creating an authentic community. For many accounts, this means building customer relationships. Content that highlights your personality and the humans behind your brand is a plus. This includes:

  • Inspirational content
  • Humorous content
  • Re-sharing UGC with unique captions
  • Storytelling posts
  • Behind-the-scenes photos and videos
  • Posts that raise awareness for social causes

How to get more Instagram followers (the wrong way!)

Disclaimer: Sprout Social does not endorse purchasing Instagram followers. We don’t recommend services that sell followings or “Likes.” 

As the social space becomes more crowded and competitive, brands are willing to take risks for the sake of instant results.

We’ll say it again: brands shouldn’t buy Instagram followers. Nobody should!

Why you shouldn’t buy followers on Instagram

Here are some reasons why buying followers to grow your account is a serious mistake.

Your real followers know what fake followers look like

Social consumers are getting savvier. Privacy concerns and social scammers have made people hyper-aware of weird activity. In short, people today are spam-detectors.

A sudden follower spike is a red flag. Not to mention having bots stink up your account with endless spam followers. This all damages your reputation and keeps you from growing an authentic Instagram following.

Fake followers bring nothing to the table

You’re probably worried about your Instagram metrics and understandably so.

That said, your follower count doesn’t mean much if your “followers” don’t drive engagement. You might look “bigger” at a glance but who cares? Consider how your engagement rate on the platform will suffer if your follower count is inflated.

If nothing else, buying Instagram followers violates TOS

No surprises here.

Consider how Meta has taken direct action against buying engagement in the past. They’ve gone as far as to shut down companies that sell likes. That’s because this practice violates the platform’s terms of service:

Help us stay spam-free by not artificially collecting likes, followers, or shares, posting repetitive comments or content, or repeatedly contacting people for commercial purposes without their consent.

Platforms for buying Instagram followers

You shouldn’t risk your account or organic followers for the sake of boosting your numbers. But if you’re dead-set on trying an Instagram followers app, we can’t stop you.

Here are some options:

Path Social (Web)

Path Social’s platform is intended for influencers looking to grow their following. Touting “no bots, no fake users” and an AI-powered platform, the tool markets itself as being legit.

Followers & Unfollowers (Android)

This Android app identifies mutual followers and non-followers. This makes it easier to go on following and unfollowing sprees. Of course, doing so can be a red flag to Instagram.

Reports + Followers Tracker IG (Apple)

This Apple app has a similar function as the one above. In short, you can track mutuals and non-followers in one place.

How are you growing your Instagram following?

Listen: getting more followers on Instagram isn’t going to happen by accident.

And despite what you might have heard, there’s no silver bullet solution for making it happen.

The tips above can help you build the foundation for an organic following that actually engages with you. Putting these tips into action is so much easier with a powerful publishing and analytics tool like Sprout.

Want to see our suite of tools in action? Start a free trial today and see for yourself!

The post Get more Instagram followers with these 10 tips to grow your real audience appeared first on Sprout Social.

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