Let’s face it. Instagram is only fun if other people are following you. However, when most of us first sign up for Instagram, hardly anyone is following us. In this article you’re going to learn some simple and ethical techniques to build a following on Instagram.
There’s a lot of demand for Instagram followers, and different scams and spammy techniques have been created as a consequence. Needless to say, these techniques don’t work (and Instagram will likely delete your account if you use them), so this article only focuses on legitimate ways to get more Instagram followers…
1. Understand why you want more Instagram followers
Before you start using the techniques described in this post, take a second to think about why you need more followers. Is it because Instagram is boring when nobody is following you? Is it because you want to get exposure and feedback for your photography? Do you want to use Instagram to promote your business?
All of the above are legitimate reasons to build an audience on Instagram, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to gain more followers to boost one’s ego or street cred. You should only keep reading if you have a good reason to build a following on Instagram.
2. Pick a focus for your Instagram profile
Your profile needs to have a clear focus if you want to be successful on Instagram. If your goal is to showcase photography, don’t post photos of food or drinking with friends (or even worse – screenshots). Your target audience only wants to see great photography!
If you use Instagram to stay in touch with friends, it’s OK to post whatever you like, but the chances are that people who don’t know you won’t be interested in following you. Why would people who don’t know you want to see what you had for lunch today?
For a business I recommend posting awesome photos that people in your industry want to see (like beautiful beaches if you’re a travel agency) while occasionally giving people a behind-the-scenes look into your company to build a more personal relationship.
3. Write a personal description
Your profile description is the first thing people see when they click on your profile. You don’t have to get too fancy with this, just tell people who you are and what they can expect from you. Something like “iPhone street photographer form New York” will certainly attract the attention of people who are interested in that genre.
4. Make your Instagram feed awesome
Your last 30 photos should always look awesome, because when people make a decision whether to follow you, they look at your latest photos to get an idea of what they can expect from you in the future. If there are photos they don’t like, they won’t follow you.
It goes without saying that quality is more important than quantity. Delete your bad photos if you have to. Build a portfolio of at least 20 great photos if you’re just starting out. The following techniques will only work if your Instagram feed looks awesome.
5. Use hashtags to find potential followers
In order to get more followers, you have to get in front of the right people, and the easiest way to do that is through hashtags. If you’re a landscape photographer, search for other landscape photographers using hashtags such as #landscape. If you have a golf brand, look for people who play golf using hashtags such as #golf.
6. Reach out to potential followers
When you find the right people, you have to attract their attention so that they check out your profile – and if your feed looks good – follow you back. There are three ways you can get someone’s attention on Instagram: liking, following and commenting.
Liking is the by far the quickest out of the three, but it only works for users who don’t get many likes. People with many followers are used to getting likes all the time, so they no longer pay attention to them. If a photo has more than ten likes already, only the total number of likes is displayed and probably no one will notice your like.
Following someone and also liking their photos is more likely to get their attention, but you can only follow a limited number of people within an hour and in total. I would only recommend following people whose photos you actually want to see in your feed. If you just start following everyone, your Instagram feed will quickly become useless.
That leaves commenting as the best option for attracting people’s attention. Almost everyone reads the comments they get, and nothing will get their attention better than a great comment on a recent photo. But what makes a great comment?
First, you should say something good about the photo, but just saying “awesome picture” is not enough. You should show that you’ve put some thought into the comment. Try to explain why you like a particular photo or what kind of feelings or associations it creates.
Leaving interesting and thoughtful comments works for users with small and large followings. Those with less followers will certainly notice your comment and check out who left it. But if you leave an interesting comment on a recent photo of someone popular, their audience will also get curious about who left such a great comment.
7. Use Statigram for faster commenting
If leaving great comments sounds like a lot of work, I have some good news: you can do it from a computer where typing is a lot faster. There are many platforms for using Instagram on the web, but Statigram is the best. Just search for a relevant hashtag, select list view, and start going through the photos and leaving comments whenever you have something to say. You’ll be surprised how many great comments you can leave like this.
8. Do not post many photos at once
Once you get some new followers, it’s important that you keep them. The easiest way to lose a follower is to post many photos at once, which makes them a lot more prominent in your followers’ feeds. If they don’t like one of your photos, they probably won’t bother to unfollow you. But if you post too many photos at once, they might…
9. Don’t hashtag spam
Some people try to tag their photos with every possible hashtag – especially the popular ones – hoping to get more exposure. From my experience Instagram gives you the same amount of hashtag exposure no matter how many you include. Of course, a long list of irrelevant hashtags in the description of your photo just looks really bad, and your followers don’t want to see that. Your can use some relevant hashtags, but don’t be spammy.
10. Stay away from scams and spam
Some people go crazy about getting more Instagram followers, and different scams and spammy techniques have developed as a consequence. Forget about buying followers, begging for shoutouts, trading likes for follows, and so on. None of that works.
11. Engage with your audience
People tend to focus so much on the number of Instagram followers that they forget about the importance of audience engagement. I would rather have a smaller but more engaged audience with people who like my photos and start conversations in the comments.
There are a few simple things you can do to keep your audience engaged. First, you should post regularly – at least a few times each week so that people don’t forget who you are. Try to add an interesting description to your photos whenever possible.
Respond to all the comments that you get – simple things like saying “thanks” can make a huge difference. Whenever possible, start discussions with your followers and make sure that you always respond. While these are small things, they can make a huge difference for keeping you followers engaged and eager to see more photos from you.
As you can see there are legitimate ways to build a following on Instagram, but they take some work and dedication. At the end of the day, people will only follow you if your feed looks great, and how many new followers you get depends on how many people check out your Instagram profile.
Do you have any other tips to get more Instagram followers? Please let us know in the comments.
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Emil Pakarklis is the founder of iPhone Photography School, a website that helps people take better photos with the iPhone.