It’s the question pretty much every aspiring influencer wants to know: how do you grow your Instagram following? Type it into Google, and you’ll find a million articles from tech websites trying to answer it. But the real-life answer is often much more complicated. There’s not one single guaranteed way, and what is successful for someone else might not be successful for you. To get a better understanding of the main strategies that really work, I spoke with student influencers all around the country to get their tips and advice on how to gain followers on Instagram.
- Do something different: With millions of photos being posted to Instagram every day, it can be hard to stand out. To attract people to your page, find something that sets you apart from everyone else. “There are thousands of people trying to grow their pages on Instagram, but what makes you unique? What is something you can offer that no one else can? Be creative, and step outside the box,” says Amanda Smith of @amandasmitthh. “Think creatively when it comes to posting,” says Emma Topp of @emmaatopp. “We all know a blogger that has warm-toned photos with grain effects, has long braided hair, and travels solely for Instagram, so being different is key.”
- Find your niche: There’s one commonality among almost all of the successful non-celebrity Instagram accounts: they appeal to a certain niche. “Finding a focus really helps your followers understand who you are and what your account stands for and will most likely attract more people to your page,” says Erin Eagle of @inthesejeans. Whether it’s fashion, beauty, travel, or something else, picking a topic to center your account around will help people coming to your page identify what type of content you post and if they want to follow you.
- Be consistent: “Consistency is key” has never been truer than when it comes to gaining followers on Instagram. Because the platform uses its own algorithm instead of ordering photos chronologically (for now, anyway), it is super easy for posts to get lost on people’s feeds. To combat the algorithm, post frequently (at least once every couple of days) so that your photos are more likely to be seen by your followers. It’s also important to remain consistent in the types of content you post. “Sticking with an aesthetic has helped me gain more followers,” says Jessica Gulledge of @jessicagulledge. “I think a cohesive feed is attractive to people, at least in the line of fashion and beauty.” To create a cohesive feed, use similar filters on every photo and apps to plan out the order of your posts. “Even when it’s a random photo, I make sure it looks good in my feed,” says Jennifer Motaval of @jennifermotaval. “Apps like UNUM are good at that, especially if you want to plan out your feed or see how it can look.”
- Utilize tags and hashtags: Almost everyone we spoke to says they use tags and hashtags. By tagging brands and other pages relevant to your content, you give those accounts the opportunity to see your post, like it, comment, and maybe even repost your photo. You’ll also show up in the tagged photos section of their profile. All of this increases the visibility of your account and can lead to an influx of new followers. Briana Wilvert of @briana.wilvert says getting reposted by brands was one of the main ways she grew her Instagram following. Hashtagging is another way to get more eyes on your posts. Adding relevant hashtags to your photos allows people with similar interests to discover your page and, if they like your content, follow you. It works the other way around as well; you can use hashtags to find accounts that you like and engage with them.
- Show your personality: No matter what section of Instagram your content falls into, people love personality. Your followers want to see you! “I find the content that performs best is the stuff that has a personal touch, whether that means me being in the photo or keeping captions more personal and less generic,” says Briana. “It really is helpful when your authenticity shines through.” Accounts who show the person behind the content often get more engagement than those who don’t. “If I can tell someone’s personality through their captions and IG stories, I’ll be more likely to comment and like every photo they post,” says Amanda.
- Engage with your followers: Gaining new Instagram followers is great, but it’s important not to neglect the followers you already have. Don’t think of the people following your page as just followers—think of them as part of a community or even as friends. If your followers feel like they have a connection with you, they will be more likely to continue to follow you and recommend your account to others. “I maintain my relationship with people that already follow me by never missing a question or response they might DM me and making sure I respond to my best ability, even if it’s not right away,” says Brittney Hughes of @brittneyfhughes. “I’m so, so, so thankful for all the support from others, so I make sure they know it. Aspiring influencers need to remember that the way you interact with your followers is just as important as the content you’re giving them.”
- Make friends: As The Beatles one put it, we get by with a little help from our friends. Engage with people that you like by liking and commenting on their photos, replying to their stories, messaging with them, etc. Shout out accounts on your IG story, collaborate on giveaways and do meetups. In other words, make friends! Developing relationships with others on Instagram leads to mutual benefits; when you show love to someone, they often show love back. “The trick is to treat Instagram as more than a place with pretty photos—it’s a community first,” says Kate Terentieva of @pretaportkate. “So network with other amazing humans and don’t be afraid to meet them IRL.”
- Be yourself: It’s cliché, but it’s true. You won’t gain Instagram followers by being unoriginal. “It’s better to make content you love that represents who you are rather than sticking to a trend,” says Amanda. Take inspiration from accounts you admire, but always add your own personal touch. “Don’t be another copy of someone’s Instagram, and don’t portray yourself as someone you are not,” says Jessica. People love originality, and people are gonna love you.”
- Never buy followers: It’s no secret that some people on Instagram buy followers and likes. It’s a quick and easy way to increase your numbers, but in the end, it won’t help you achieve your goals. “My main tip is do not go to the dark side, and I mean purchasing likes or followers,” says Jennifer. “It’s very obvious, and you would want your followers to really be interested in what you post or about you because you won’t get any likes if you don’t raise the numbers in an organic way.”
- Be patient: Growing your Instagram following isn’t an overnight process. It’s easy to become impatient and take alternative routes, such as buying followers. But if you’re serious about growing your account naturally, you have to be in it for the long haul. “My biggest advice is to be patient,” says Erin. “Gaining followers organically does not only take time, but it also takes a lot of hard work.” So if you aren’t experiencing growth as quickly as you like, don’t get discouraged. “Just be true to yourself and keep curating bomb images and everything will work itself out,” says Demi Balogun of @itsdemib.
Want to get started creating your stellar grid? Check out these Instagram tips from some of our favorite accounts.
Featured photo by @inthesejeans.