Instagram is more than a place to connect with friends, share vacation photos, or upload a silly video of your dog. Since its inception, the social media platform has grown into a powerhouse marketing channel, used by brands everywhere to connect with potential customers.
Meta’s photo and video sharing app has also springboarded the careers of countless creators who monetize their personal brands through their content. If you’ve ever thought of leveling up your presence on Instagram or starting a business on the platform, you’re in the right place.
More than 1.35 billion users browse Instagram every day, hungry for visual inspiration and trends. How do you get their attention?
In this guide, learn how to create content that wins real followers (not bots) and to increase engagement on your Instagram posts, Stories, and Reels.
How to grow your Instagram: 17 ways to get more followers
- Incorporate Reels into your content mix
- Cross-promote content
- Optimize your Instagram profile
- Work with creators and influencers
- Build your personal brand alongside your business
- Show up on feature accounts
- Build a hashtag strategy
- Post at the right times
- Engage with your competitors’ followers
- Collaborate with compatible accounts and creators
- Use location tags to boost local discovery
- Organize your Instagram Stories in Highlights
- Ask for more followers in Instagram posts
- Run a giveaway
- Share user-generated content
- Use Instagram Live
- Try Instagram Ads
Marketers say Instagram is the second most important social channel for marketing, behind Facebook, and 80% report that they use the channel to promote their businesses. Getting the most from your marketing dollars, however, starts with building a loyal and engaged audience of followers on Instagram.
While follower count is only one success indicator on Instagram, increasing followers can unlock monetization opportunities for influencers and provide businesses with valuable social proof.
1. Incorporate Reels into your content mix
Instagram started as a photo sharing app, quickly getting into video with its Stories feature. Stories are a more intimate form of vertical-format video, viewable only to friends, followers, and visitors to your page. Reels, however, are public-facing, offering more reach through Explore on Instagram and, therefore, viral potential.
Brands and creators should consider adding Reels to their Instagram strategy due to their high engagement rates compared to Instagram posts. Average likes on Reels is 42% higher than that of posts, and Reels see four times the number of shares over posts.
“Reels give anyone the opportunity to reach new target audiences,” says Trilce Jirón Garro, owner of social media marketing agency TBS Marketing. “Creators can produce community-driven content that builds trust, gains followers, and makes sales over time.”
On the heels of TikTok and the popularity of its unpolished video format, Reels offer brands and creators a chance to be more candid and human. To create content for Reels, keep these tips in mind:
- Keep content unique and trend-driven. Identify trends on Instagram, TikTok, and across the web and put your own spin on them. This increases the chance your Reels will go viral and get in front of new audiences.
- Make content relatable and simple. Not every Reel needs to be a Hollywood film. Lower quality videos can perform as well as (if not better than) Reels with high production value.
- Educate your audience. Find the balance between education and entertainment in your Reels. This can be a mix of how-to videos, tips, industry info, humorous takes on viral trends, and product demos.
“Don’t sell your products through Reels content,” says Trilce. “Share facts. Provide tips about the industry you’re in. Entertain viewers.”
Home brand Tarte Gelatina has nailed this format, transforming product launches and even order packaging into entertaining clips.
To understand what works and what doesn’t, don’t forget to tap into analytics built right inside your Instagram account. Using Instagram Insights for Reels, you can see patterns and understand different spikes in engagement that affect your visibility on the platform. That way, you can double down on the content types that bring more engagement and followers.
2. Cross-promote content
Cross-promoting involves posting similar content across various social media channels (or Instagram accounts). It’s a tactic used to save time and resources. It’s also effective at increasing brand awareness and growing an audience on Instagram.
Whether it’s a short-form video or a lengthy tutorial, you can improve the reach of your Instagram content by testing it on other platforms. And, if one of your TikTok videos goes viral, try it (or a similar concept) on Instagram.
Why is this important? While some of your audience may overlap, you will have unique followers on each social app. “There are different people on different platforms,” says Hugo Amsellem, angel investor and adviser at Jellysmack. “The overlap is only 10% to 20%. You’re not going to repeat the same message to the same person across different channels.”
In an interview with Modern Retail, Nadya Okamoto, founder of lifestyle period brand August, said, “As we’ve grown on TikTok from August, we’ve also grown to 175,000 followers on Instagram.” Actively posting on multiple platforms has affected August’s customer acquisition cost (CAC), allowing the brand to steer away from paid media as its main acquisition channel.
TikTok isn’t the only channel you can cross-post on. The Instagram Reels format translates well to YouTube Shorts and Pinterest Stories. If you’re cross posting, however, make sure you understand the preferences in each community and tweak to accommodate.
3. Optimize your Instagram profile
Instagram users will likely discover you through your content when it appears on the Explore page. If they’re compelled to learn more, they’ll navigate to your profile. This is a critical step in gaining a new follower. That’s because a strong brand is a signal to potential customers and followers that your account is for them (or not).
Your Instagram profile is one of many touchpoints along the customer journey. Your brand should therefore show up in the same way it would on your ecommerce website, other social channels, your product packaging, and customer communications.
Everything from your avatar to your Instagram bio to your content grid matters. “Your Instagram feed serves as the billboard for your brand. It’s a customer’s first touchpoint with you and captures the essence of your brand,” says Trilce.
- Do the elements effectively communicate some degree of consistency through personality, filters, colors, or layout?
- Am I taking full advantage of the clickable link in my bio?
- Does the overall combination of elements effectively capture my brand?
- Does my Instagram bio take full advantage of this space, conveying the right tone and information?
On Letterfolk’s Instargam profile, consistent color palette and graphics give the account a professional look. The grid features a mix of inspiration, products, and customer appreciation, offering visitors a taste of what to expect.
When Instagram users click Letterfolk’s link in bio, they are taken to a page with multiple options, including a shoppable grid that mirrors its content.
You can even establish branding in your Reels grid. Creator @alokvmenon uses a consistent captioning and titles style to give their content a cohesive look and help visitors identify Reels they want to watch.
4. Work with creators and influencers
While Instagram ads can get you reach, partnerships with influencers can add trust and credibility to your paid promotions. One survey found that only 38% of consumers trust content from brands, while 61% said that they trust influencer recommendations.
When adding influencer marketing to your strategy, be sure the partnership is a fit for both your brand and the creator. The better your target audience aligns with the creator’s follower base, the more likely you are to find success with the campaign.
Instagram influencer marketing examples
Frank Green consistently works with influencers of all sizes, including celebrities and professional athletes, to create branded content campaigns like this one:
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5. Build your personal brand alongside your business
If you run a founder brand (basically, a brand with a strong tie to its founder’s story), build out your personal brand’s Instagram account alongside that of your business.
Harnessing both the company account and your personal account can increase brand recognition, follower counts, and sales. It’s a tactic that works for fashion label ANINE BING. In addition to the brand’s own Instagram profile, the company’s founder also drives engagement and awareness through her personal Instagram account.
Another great example of using your personal brand to drive followers to your business account is Katie Sturino. The body positivity influencer shares popular content series like “Supersize the look” where she creates plus versions of celebrity outfits on her Instagram account.
Occasionally, she also features her brand Megababe’s products, nudging her followers to the brand page.
6. Show up on feature accounts
Certain Instagram accounts, often called feature accounts, are those that curate the best content in a specific niche—and some have a massive following. If you can get placement on these accounts, it has the potential to send new Instagram followers to your profile.
There are feature accounts for every niche: travel, fashion, photography, pets, and more. For example, @discoverearth curates travel content from creators and photographers around the world for more than 6.6 million followers.
The first image here, shot by Instagram user and aerial photography brand KG Airview, was amplified to Discover Earth’s following—an audience that’s a close match for its own.
To get picked up by these accounts and have your content broadcast to millions of Instagram followers, use common hashtags that these accounts use, tag them in relevant content, or check out their specific submission guidelines.
This is a great way to gain new followers on Instagram who already engage with content like yours.
7. Build a hashtag strategy
Your goal on Instagram is to engage your current audience on a regular basis while also growing your account. Posting consistent and engaging photo and video content will keep current followers loyal, but how do you attract new followers with your Instagram posts?
Using hashtags is one way to show up in search results for users looking for content like yours. A common strategy is using popular Instagram hashtags that users often search. These hashtags, however, tend to be saturated.
At the time of writing, these are the top 10 hashtags on Instagram:
The hashtag #love has been used in more than two billion posts. The chances of standing out from other popular accounts using this tag are slim—and it may not even be relevant to your brand.
A better strategy is finding hashtags that are relevant to your brand and content. Research hashtags and keywords within your industry and get to know which hashtags your target audience is using.
A social media hashtag generator tool like Iconosquare or Later can help you find hashtags for your business account. These are paid apps that help you generate suggested hashtags based on popularity and relevance.
If you’re on a budget, you can still find relevant hashtags by typing target keywords into the search bar in the Instagram app. Try different keywords that describe your brand and products, building out your hashtag keyword list as you go.
Doing competitor research is another hashtag discovery tactic. Check out the content of your top competitors on Instagram. What hashtags are they using on their most popular posts?
Creating a hashtag list
Your keyword and hashtag research should result in a list of tags you can use consistently across your content. For example, if you run a men’s sock business in Toronto, your final list of relevant hashtags might look like this:
- Brand keyword hashtags: #mybrandname #mensfashion #mensaccessories #mensgoods #fashion #mensstyle #instafashion #menswear
- Product category keyword hashtags: #happysocks #corgisocks #socks #sockswag #socksoftheday #sockgame #socksofinstagram #happysockday
- Location-specific keyword hashtags: #Toronto #TorontoFashion #TorontoFashionBloggers #madeinCanada
Store these groups of keyword hashtags in a convenient location like a notes app or Google Doc. This makes it easy to copy and paste into content, even on the go. Some Instagram scheduling tools even let you save caption templates (including hashtags) for one-click captions.
Independent bakery Small Scale Bread uses hashtags relevant to the product, location, and season in its Instagram post announcing new fall goodies.
✏️ Note: To bump older content, you can add hashtags to comments or use the edit feature on Instagram to add them to the captions after posting.
Using hashtags in Instagram Stories and Reels
Don’t forget to use hashtags in Reels and Stories, too. In Instagram Stories, you can use hashtag stickers (which can be found in the Instagram Stickers menu when creating a Story) or just hashtag directly in your post captions.
Since users can follow hashtags, your Stories on Instagram have a chance to be seen by people who are following that hashtag—not just your account followers.
Hashtags in Reels are added at the third stage of the Reel creation process. Add your video and edit it before proceeding to a screen where you can add location tags, hashtags, and user account tags.
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8. Post at the right times
A strategic approach to your social media content calendar involves analyzing user behavior and your account’s performance to discover what content works best at what times. While there are a number of social media tools for brands, Instagram’s own built-in analytics can offer plenty of insights here.
If you’re just starting out, try consulting the best times to post on Instagram based on marketing research. You may find, however, that your own audience doesn’t follow this standard. That’s why it’s important to tweak your approach as insights roll in.
To automate the task of posting on time, consider using a social media scheduling tool to automatically publish your posts when your audience is the most engaged—even if it’s when you’re sleeping.
📚 Read more: Uncover the Best Time To Post on Instagram
9. Engage with your competitors’ followers
Your direct competitors’ followers are an ideal focus for your efforts. After all, they’ve already indicated they’re interested in a product or brand like yours.
The five types of engagement on Instagram are:
- Follow a user
- Like a post, Story, or Reel
- Comment on a post
- Tag a user in content
- Send a direct message
Engaging with your target audience is a great way to show that you’re open to two-way communication and building a relationship with fans and customers. Eighty-eight percent of consumers say that authenticity is an important factor when choosing to support a brand. Engagement is a great way to show there’s a real human behind an account—not just a bot auto-posting content.
10. Collaborate with compatible accounts and creators
In addition to influencer marketing on Instagram, you can partner with other brands and creators on campaigns and content that offer mutual benefit. This works best when both accounts have something to gain, like access to an audience that resembles a target customer.
When collaborating with other companies, choose a brand that is complementary to your own. For example, if you sell activewear, a water bottle or smart watch company would likely have audience overlap.
Here, hosiery brand Rachel partnered with clothing brand Rose Buddha to run a giveaway offering a prize of one year’s worth of clothing. The brands and products are aesthetically compatible without being directly competing.
11. Use location tags to boost local discovery
Besides hashtags, you can also make your Instagram posts, Stories, and Reels discoverable by tagging your location—either the city you’re in or the venue where the photo or video was taken.
Locations not only have their own Instagram feed but also their own Story where you can surface your content to locals and tourists searching the location.
Local businesses can get the most value out of location tags by posting regularly to these feeds and also engaging with posts from prospective customers who are physically in the vicinity.
While The Backcountry Hut Company ships its prefab cottages and saunas throughout North America, its brand is proudly Canadian and aligns with the culture and lifestyle of its home, British Columbia.
12. Organize your Instagram Stories into Highlights
One of the elements of your page that shouldn’t be overlooked is Story Highlights. Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, but you can prolong the value of the content by organizing them into Highlights.
These provide an additional opportunity for new visitors to your page to get a taste of your brand, content, and products. If users can instantly find the information they’re looking for, you’re more likely to gain Instagram followers.
Here, Ruggable uses Highlights to group Stories into product collections, specifically its collaborations with recognizable names and brands like Barbie and Iris Apfel, giving instant credibility to the business.
Lifestyle brand Frank Green uses highlights to group content types including cleaning tips, new product collections, collabs, gift guides, and customer information.
Story Highlight ideas
You can organize Stories in a number of ways to attract more Instagram followers. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Create trailers that tease what your account and brand are about.
- Organize your Stories into themes, product collections, seasons, or content type (DIYs, product launches, behind the scenes, etc.).
- Create a new highlight each time you launch a new product or collection to keep Highlights fresh and relevant.
- Gather user-generated content into one Highlight to celebrate your loyal customers.
13. Ask for more followers in Instagram posts
Don’t be afraid to occasionally ask your target audience to follow you. The same way YouTubers ask viewers to subscribe, you can also nudge Instagram users to follow you for more content.
You can do this in your Instagram captions or mention it in video content like Reels and Stories. Use common marketing tactics to encourage users to follow. What’s in it for them? Tell your audience why they should follow you, what to expect, and what’s coming up.
💡Tip: Creators should also nudge current followers to become subscribers. Instagram Subscriptions allow creators to offer exclusive content to paying subscribers—one of the easiest ways to make money on Instagram.
14. Run a giveaway
One of the best ways to incentivize a follow is by running a giveaway. Often, brands and creators ask users to complete one or more actions in order to enter. These include:
- Following the account (and the accounts of any collaborators)
- Liking the contest post
- Tagging one of more friends
- Leaving a comment
- Clicking out to an entry form on the brand’s website (this also helps build an email list)
Tags bring you a potential new follower, driven by a trusted recommendation, and engagements are favorable to the Instagram algorithm, meaning your post could get even more reach.
These two contests by Portland Leather and Saints & Sinners go one step further, encouraging contest entrants to share the post to their Stories, gaining exponentially more reach for the brand and contest.
✏️Note: Follow Instagram’s promotion guidelines and be aware of any legal requirements that govern Instagram contests in your country or region.
15. Share user-generated content
User-generated content (UGC) is any type of content—videos, photos, written reviews, audio, and more—that is created about a brand by a fan, customer, or follower. UGC helps humanize your brand and give it credibility, because it serves as a trustworthy review from a real customer. This increases purchase confidence.
And, when you share a post from a customer, their 15 minutes of fame is likely to strengthen their loyalty to your brand, encouraging them to refer friends and purchase again.
UGC can help you gain more followers on Instagram—and more sales. Consumers are 56% more likely to buy something after seeing a photo of the product shared by other customers.
Book Wurm often reposts content from happy customers directly to its Instagram page, thanking them for their purchase and tag.
UGC best practices
Your biggest fans will share their experiences with your products without prompting, but there are ways to encourage more UGC:
- Create a branded hashtag feed where customers can post images.
- Add a call to action in your Instagram bio.
- Run a contest and ask for video or photo reviews as entries.
- Reach out to smaller influencers and offer free products for an honest review.
- Add a postcard or callout in product packaging asking customers to share their experiences on Instagram.
💡Tip: Use a Shopify App like Social Photos to pull UGC from your Instagram followers into your website to display on product pages. These become visual reviews that help other customers see your product in action.
16. Use Instagram Live
Instagram Live is a feature that allows you to broadcast live video to your followers. It works much like a Reel or Story but is recorded live and has additional interactive features that let you engage directly, monetize your content with Instagram badges, and save Lives to repurpose into evergreen content.
In this Instagram Live, influencer Alfredo Lewis hosts a live chat with makeup artist @makeupbyloveandrea, in partnership with beauty brand K18 Hair. This smart collaboration increases reach for the brand and helps the creators get exposed to compatible audiences.
Here are a few tips for using Instagram Live to grow your following:
- Host influencer account takeovers.
- Host an interactive AMA (ask me anything) or Q&A.
- Tease a product launch or update, or give live viewers exclusive access (try Instagram Live Shopping).
- Go live in a “room” with up to three other accounts to increase reach.
- Go behind the scenes on your operations to humanize your brand.
- Run a how to or product tutorial and answer viewer questions in real time.
- Interview creators or other compatible brands and promote in advance across both accounts.
17. Try Instagram Ads
You’ve learned how to build instagram followers through a number of organic and paid methods, but there’s one last tactic used by many marketers and brands on Instagram. Paid ads are a great option to gain followers quickly if your social media strategy includes a budget for paid promotion.
Instagram Ads are accessible through a self-serve platform that allows you to set your own goals and budgets. They can help you reach Instagram users with matching interests or in locations where you do business.
This ad by Kind Laundry can be identified by the “Sponsored” tag under the profile name. It was served to a user who follows similar accounts and has an interest in eco-friendly products. These ads look just like organic Instagram posts and appear in users’ feeds mixed with content from friends and suggested accounts.
Your Instagram account is a powerful sales channel
Now that you understand how to get more followers on Instagram, it’s time to put that learning to work. Develop your social media content calendar, start creating Instagram posts, and prepare to reach new audiences. Don’t forget to engage with your existing followers and tweak your social media strategy as trends evolve and new Instagram features become available.
Growing your Instagram followers is only the first step in using the platform to reach your business goals. Your Instagram account is one of many social media platforms and channels where you can surface your brand to new followers and customers. Once you’ve built an audience, you can unlock even more opportunities to monetize your personal brand or convert follows into sales.
Feature illustration by Eugenia Mello
Additional reporting by Mark MacDonald
How to get more followers on Instagram FAQ
How can I increase my followers on Instagram?
There are a number of ways to grow your Instagram followers, including:
- Using the right Instagram hashtags
- Engaging your competitors’ Instagram followers
- Using geotags on Instagram posts
- Organizing Instagram Stories into Highlights
- Posting user-generated content
- Collaborating with other brands and influencers
- Posting at the best times
- Using Instagram analytics tools
- Publishing Instagram Reels
- Adding user-generated content to your Instagram feed
- Livestreaming on Instagram Stories
- Understanding Instagram’s algorithm to get on the Explore page
How can I get to 1,000 Instagram followers?
There are a number of ways to get to 1,000 Instagram followers. It starts with crafting a compelling Instagram bio, posting content your potential followers want to see, engaging with relevant users, and consulting Instagram Insights to understand what content is performing.
Instagram content should be authentic, relevant, and relatable. Using tactics that Instargam’s algorithm likes gives you a better chance of appearing on Instagram Explore and reaching new followers.
How do I gain real followers on Instagram?
While there are ways to buy Instagram followers, this is not a good strategy for brands. Fake followers or bots do not give you the engagement that you can get from real Instagram followers. Bots and fake Instagram followers may also get banned from Instagram, meaning they can give your Instagram account only a temporary boost.
To attract more followers, post high-quality content, mix up the content in your Instagram feed, tag relevant users, and post consistently. You’ll see your real follower count—and your engagement—increase on the social media platform.
How do you get more Instagram followers for free?
If you want to understand how to grow on Instagram but you don’t have a budget to promote Instagram posts or buy paid ads, try these tactics to find potential followers:
- Find and use popular hashtags related to your photo, product, or brand.
- Create your own branded hashtag.
- Use hashtags in Stories.
- Create Instagram Reels.