Instagram is an incredibly dynamic and fast-growing social media platform. The number of brands joining and growing customer engagement on the platform is boosting up as we speak.
But Instagram business accounts see just 1.46% growth in monthly followers on average, which means growing your Instagram follower count can feel like a slow, tedious game. While you can buy fake followers, they won’t serve any real purpose besides a quick ego boost.
Keep reading to learn ten different strategies you can use to grow your real follower count on Instagram and drive real engagement.
Table of Contents:
- What is Instagram engagement and why do you need it?
- Strategies to grow your Instagram followers today
- Time to Grow Your ‘Gram
What is Instagram engagement and why do you need it?
When your audience interacts with your Instagram content in some way — such as a like, comment, share, video view, or DM — instead of simply scrolling past, it counts as engagement.
While there is no universal way to measure Instagram engagement, an accepted way is to add up the average likes and comments that you receive per post and divide it by your total number of followers. You can also consider views, DMs, etc., based on what’s important for your brand.
Engagement is a clear sign that your Instagram content is resonating well with your audience. And that’s great, but what about people who haven’t yet followed you? How do you reach them effectively and compel them to follow and engage with your brand?
Strategies to grow your Instagram followers today
Here are ten powerful ways to drive real followers and engagement on Instagram.
1. Optimize your bio
Located under your username, your bio is prime real estate on your Instagram profile. Most potential followers who visit your profile check out your bio description first. So you better make these 150 characters count.
Here’s how to craft a bio that drives more followers:
- Write a crisp description of what you do
- Use your brand voice to add a touch of unique personality
- A call to action text, such as “shop now”, “read more”, etc.
- A clean link
Check out Mention’s Instagram bio below for inspiration.
Your Instagram bio is equivalent to your website’s homepage — it should straight away convey that this is your brand’s genuine account where you actively post fresh content.
Back up your bio with a high-resolution logo. Sprinkle a few emojis as an alternative to bullet points if it fits your brand’s style, but don’t overboard with emoji usage.
Your in-bio link is the only way to drive people to see your website or a particular landing page, so use it wisely. Instead of always pointing to your homepage, it’s a good idea to change the link anytime you wish to increase sign-ups for an event, showcase a new product launch, or even attract visitors when you start a blog for content promotion.
You can also include a branded hashtag that tells people which hashtag to include in their posts to catch your attention. And when anyone clicks on the hashtag, they’ll see user-generated content from your fans.
2. Find the best time for you to post on Instagram
Read that subheading again, with an emphasis on for you — you’ll often find people saying that a specific time and day is ideal to get the best possible engagement and reach for your content.
In truth, however, there is no all-embracing answer to the question “what’s the best time to post on Instagram?”. You’ll have to experiment with different posting times and track engagement to figure out the best times for your audience and niche.
Instagram makes this easy. Use Instagram Insights (available on the Instagram mobile app) to learn more about your followers (age group, gender, most active times, etc.) and performance.
On your business profile, tap “Insights”, scroll to “Your Audience”, and then click “See All.” At the bottom, you’ll find your audience’s most active times.
Next, think about when your content will be most relevant. For instance, a quick follow-along workout video may garner more engagement outside of work hours when people are likely trying to squeeze in a workout session.
Besides using this feature, it’s a good idea to do your own research on audience behavior (for example, check out your competitors’ post timings vs. engagement) and survey your customers about their social media preferences.
Once you find the ideal times to post for your particular audience, use social media scheduling tools to plan, schedule, and automate your Instagram posting and get detailed analytics reports on your content performance.
3. Post regularly and dynamically
A recent study across 14 industries suggests that on average, businesses share four Instagram posts per week. Aiming for this number is a good starting point.
But ideally, to gain more followers and engagement, the more you post, the merrier. If you’re able to share one post daily, you’ll likely see far better results. That’s because the more content you put out, the more opportunities you have to be noticed and shared.
That being said, quality is always a priority over quantity. Never cut corners in terms of quality just to get something out daily. And it’s safe to say that Instagram success is all about posting visually enchanting content, so consider using high-quality photo editing software to create stunning images rather than posting plain, unexciting photos.
Put simply, establish a posting schedule that keeps you on track to post at least four to five days a week without compromising quality. As you gain traction, try to take it up to one post daily.
Moreover, be dynamic with your content types. Over the years, the platform has evolved greatly, with new ways to share content such as Stories, IGTV, and Reels. Take Instagram Reels for example — announced in August 2020, Reels is one of the newest content types and Instagram always pushes its new features.
Since its launch, Reels has taken over a good chunk of the Explore page and appears larger than standard photo posts. With over 200 million people visiting the Explore page each day, that extra visual real estate can substantially boost the number of people you reach.
Similarly, Stories is now one of the most popular Instagram features that lets you publish quick daily visuals that disappear after 24 hours. Stories are easy to post without needing much prep, show up on the top of your followers’ homepage, and prove that you’re an active brand.
Experimenting with a mix of content formats not only enables you to reach different audience segments with different preferences (and thus gain more followers) but also helps you solve the common puzzle “what to post on Instagram” and ultimately, stay consistent in posting.
4. Become familiar with the Instagram algorithm
While you can find full-fledged guides on beating the Instagram algorithm, at its core, the Instagram algorithm essentially favors content that satisfies the following six signals:
- Interest: How much a user prefers the post based on past engagement
- Timeliness: How recent the post is
- Relationship: The accounts a user frequently engages with
- Usage Frequency: How often a person checks Instagram
- Following: The number of accounts a user follows on the type of content they post
- Session Time: How long does the user spend on Instagram
The algorithm strives to showcase content that’s more engaging for each individual user. So the more engagement (likes, comments, and shares) you’re able to garner, the more likely your latest content will be discovered by potential followers. Be sure to initiate conversations (see Knix’s example below) with your posts and respond to comments.
5. Showcase your brand voice
Besides staying in the know about the latest deals and discounts, one of the biggest reasons people follow brands on social media is to know more about their personality.
Instagram is not the place to constantly post sales pitches, and potential followers would likely never hit the follow button if that’s all you have to offer. Instead, think about your brand voice and showcase that in your Instagram content.
If you haven’t already, think of your brand as an individual and ask yourself — what’s your brand’s personality? Is it playful and cheeky? Or is it inspiring and straightforward? Keep that voice consistent across all your content marketing, be it on Instagram or your website’s blog.
And regardless of what kind of brand voice you adopt, your content should reflect your brand’s passion for its mission.
For instance, Kate Spade and Privacy Please are direct competitors with opposite brand voices. The former has a more inspiring personality, whereas the latter has a rather edgy one.
Though they’re niche rivals, both of these brand’s voices work well to attract and retain their individual audience. So, be original with your voice and incorporate it in all your content.
6. Write amazing captions
Gorgeous visuals work to capture your audience’s attention — amazing captions work to keep it. Use these 2,200 characters available to give more context to the photo or video you post.
Here are a few tips to write great Instagram captions:
- Keep important information first
- Incorporate keywords to improve the odds of appearing on the in-app search results
- Use emojis and light humor to showcase your brand’s personality
- Encourage people to share their thoughts
- Structure longer captions with bullets or emojis to improve readability
- Mention other accounts (whenever possible) to increase reach
- End with a descriptive call-to-action (see Airbnb’s example below), such as “Check out the link in bio to browse the summer catalog.”
Also, make sure to diversify your captions so they don’t feel robotic and automated. Try different formats such as question-answers, recommendation requests, personal stories, tag-a-friend, share-your-content, etc.
And while it’s a good idea to keep the caption crisp and to the point, try different lengths based on the content you’re sharing. For example, long captions may work well for descriptive stories, while a short and snappy one may work better to showcase a product. The sweet spot of engaging caption length is in the 500-1,000 and 1,000-2,000 characters range.
Oh, and don’t forget to…
7. Use smart hashtags
Hashtags are similar to keywords in the sense that they help users find content on a particular topic. They are typically used in the captions or comments of a post and when included sensibly, they can help your content reach a larger audience, thus improving your brand’s visibility and odds of gaining new followers.
With the right hashtags, your content is more discoverable via search or filtering when users tap on the hashtag from another post. Users can also follow hashtags on their favorite topics and the top content with that hashtag will show up in their Instagram feed.
For instance, if you wish for your post to reach people who are into running but are also mothers, you could use the hashtag #runningmom. And as mentioned earlier, creating and promoting a branded hashtag (such as Lululemon’s #thesweatlife) in your bio and posts is a smart way to encourage your community to produce free, user-generated content.
Mention’s latest report suggests that the average Instagram post has 6.93 hashtags, but the optimal number of hashtags to get the highest engagement rate is just one. So just because you can include up to 30 hashtags in an Instagram caption, doesn’t mean you should.
See below how LEGO uses hashtags that are relevant to both the post and the brand (#LEGO). They also use a neat blend of popular and specialized hashtags. #Holidays, for example, has over 60 million posts associated with it. #RebuildTheWorld has just under ten thousand posts, and many of them are LEGO-related. Also, #ChristmasDecor is a more niche, targeted hashtag.
So, create relevant, targeted hashtags with smaller, yet still sizeable followings rather than only using all the popular generic hashtags on a broad topic. Also, it’s a good idea to group your go-to hashtags by category so you can readily add a few relevant ones to each post.
8. Collaborate with influencers and brand advocates
An effective way to reach new audiences and gain new followers is to join forces with influencers in your niche who already have a notable following. But standard influencers with a near-celebrity status and hundreds of thousands of followers often have exorbitant price tags per promotional post and often, low engagement rate.
So your better bet is to collaborate with micro-influencers — who have a smaller but stronger social following of between 1,000 to 100,000 followers and are regarded as trustworthy experts in their niche. Some examples include travel vloggers, food bloggers, fitness enthusiasts, etc.
They are considered more authentic and have more intimate relations with their followers. They connect on a much deeper level with their audience and thus, have far better engagement rates. Plus, you can easily figure out if their follower base and engagement are real or fake.
So with a micro-influencer, you can have a low-budget (such as by offering your best product or subscription for free) yet a highly impactful partnership that may also turn that luminary into your brand advocate for years to come. The collaboration exposes your brand to a bigger audience in the right light and boosts engagement for your content.
Besides, such partnerships give you a chance to showcase your brand’s values and personality through association, as the people you associate with say a lot about your own brand.
9. Promote your Instagram everywhere
Don’t limit your efforts to promoting your business on Instagram only. If you have a respectable following on other social platforms, a decent-sized email list, or steady website traffic, try to funnel those people to your Instagram profile.
Make it easy for people to find your Instagram, by adding your account’s link to:
- Email footers
- Website footer and/or sidebar
- Bios on other social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube
- Social media posts from team members
Many businesses feature their Instagram accounts through live feeds as well, as Casper does below. This also helps boost their social proof and may encourage the visitor to give the brand a follow.
10. Don’t be afraid to get local
Last but not least, location tagging on Instagram is a useful feature you can use to gain more followers for your local business. Instagram is a platform for discovering new products, travel destinations, retail brands, cafes, etc. — and many users geotag their posts.
If you tag your post with a location, it has the potential to surface when a user searches the location or keyword under the Places tab. Not only does this bring you more local exposure but posts with a tagged location result in 79% higher engagement than posts without a tagged location.
And so, include your whereabouts whenever you can across all content types — carousel posts, videos, Stories, Reels, etc. Also, create a location tag for your business. Once people start to check into it, you can see all posts tagged with it and learn how your local community is talking about your business.
Time to Grow Your ‘Gram
Any strategy is only as good as its execution. It’s time to put all these points into practice. While you’re at it, check out our latest Instagram Engagement Report that features data and insights collected from over 100 million Instagram posts.
It’s time to start growing your Instagram today!