“I wish I had the swipe-up feature, but I’ll never reach 10K.” “Oh, look, another picture of flowers — with 3,000 likes.” “And here’s my post…with six likes after 20 minutes. Ugh.” Sound familiar? Well, you definitely aren’t alone. With so many gurus claiming that you too can make millions on Instagram, it’s easy to feel like you’re missing something. Some vital piece that is supposed to grow your Instagram organically overnight. But let’s get a couple of things straight: Many Instagram influencers buy their followers. In fact, this epidemic is costing brands roughly $1.3 billion annually. Not as authentic as they claim, huh? Instagram success doesn’t happen overnight. Anyone who tells you otherwise likely falls into the above category. Organic growth takes time. It means you naturally grow your presence without spending money on advertising or paying for engagement. And while it always takes patience, there are some things you can do to make sure you at least grow at the best speed possible. Here are eight seeds you can plant to grow your Instagram followers organically.
1. Post Consistently Consistent does not mean constant. You do not have to post every day. Your audience just has to know when they can expect to hear from you. Set your own rules (that is the benefit of running your own business right?) Pick days that you want to post and keep at it. This doesn’t mean you have to manually post each day and set aside whatever you’re doing for the ’gram. Take one day out of the month to create and batch out your content. Then, use a social scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule out your content in advance. Social media expert Neil Patel explains: “If you make a habit of posting several times a day and then transition to only a few times a week, you will start to lose followers and generate less engagement per post.” Another key thing to remember is that you don’t want to post-and-ghost. Make sure you’re choosing times to post when you’ll be available to hang out on the platform for a little and engage. The sooner the engagement rates increase, the better your post will perform.
2. Quality Over Quantity Instagram tells us to “create great content.” But how do you define great? While there might not be one clear answer you can certainly start by increasing your photo game. Take advantage of free apps like VSCO, Snapseed, and Lightroom to give your images a more insta-worthy feel. Note: Before posting, ask yourself what is the point? What value are you providing your audience? Aesthetics are great. But you’re a business owner, so aesthetics alone just won’t cut it. Here’s a few ways to share value:
Educate on a particular topic.
Answer frequently asked questions.
Share insight into your workflow.
Tell a story that illustrates a point.
Offer free resources.
Discuss new trends in your industry.
Motivate and inspire.
Share behind the scenes content (yes, this includes the face behind the brand!)
3. Engage With a Variety of Users So many posts tell you to engage on Instagram by liking and commenting, which isn’t wrong — but there’s more to it than that. You must engage with your ideal audience, with your industry peers, as well as with relevant influencers in your niche. But how do you find them? Start with past clients. Continue to engage with them even after your work together is complete. You never know when they might be looking for your services again, or better yet, refer you to others. Never underestimate the power of word of mouth. Then, search industry-specific hashtags to connect with others in your field. Start with the most recent posts and then move to the most popular. Pick a few people you are genuinely interested in and browse their page. However, do not just start spamming people! Engage with the intent of forming relationships, not simply increasing followers. Commenting by answering calls to action or asking questions of your own. Remember, responding with a string of emojis is not enough. Keep it genuine!
4. Choose Hashtags Wisely One of the biggest steps to grow Instagram followers organically is through the use of hashtags. Did you know that you can include up to 30 hashtags per Instagram post? The important thing to remember is that you cannot use the same 30 hashtags every time or the algorithm will show your posts less frequently. Start a Google doc and start collecting relevant hashtags. You can find them by:
Looking at the kinds of tags your competitors are using
Checking out industry influencers’ tags
Using the IG search feature to find your own
When searching for hashtags, you should start by looking up general tags. At the top of the search feature, more related tags will appear. Oftentimes these are more specific (based on industry, niche, or audience). This is a quick and easy way to build a massive list of related tags that you can rotate through on your posts. A quick note: Aim to use tags with anywhere between 10,000 and 500,000 posts. This will ensure that your post doesn’t get buried under millions of posts.
5. Experiment With Stories Instagram stories are incredibly powerful for organic growth right now. While our feeds tend to be beautiful, curated, and scheduled, stories give businesses a chance to truly be natural. You should aim to post at least one thing to your story every day. Users see stories of the accounts they engage with most pop up at the top of their home page. All the more reason to provide value that keeps your audience clicking! Now, stories aren’t just for uncurated shenanigans. Instagram Story apps such as StoryArt, Designlab, or Storyluxe will help you create stand-out graphics that draw your audience’s attention. Some ways to use Instagram Stories:
Share a sneak peek.
Promote a recent blog post.
Share your recent feed post (just in case they missed it earlier).
Share mini-trainings about hot topics.
Use stickers, e.g., take polls, ask questions, make quizzes, and include sliders for higher engagement.
6. Collaborate Collaborating is an amazing way to get your business in front of new eyes on Instagram. A few ways you can collaborate: Instagram story takeovers Have something valuable to share that you think would resonate with someone else’s audience? You each can guest-post to each other’s stories. (Psst… you don’t actually have to have access to the other person’s account.) Simply record your video and send them to each other. Post your collab partners’ video to your account! Flash sale and bundling Combine your products or services with someone else’s and offer a discounted rate when a customer purchases them together. Giveaways Encourage engagement for all parties and go in together on a fun gift for some lucky follower(s).
7. Understand Your Insights If you have an Instagram business account, you have access to analytics that will help you understand your audience’s behavior and better plan your content. You can track data from your feed posts as well as from your stories. A few important insights to monitor:
Reach — The number of unique accounts that have seen your posts
Impressions — How many times your post has been seen (this could include repeat views from users)
Engagement — Feature that allows you to see what your most liked, commented, and saved posts were (perfect for gauging what kind of content your audience prefers).
Website clicks — Self-explanatory, but the goal of a high-converting Instagram page is to send traffic to your website, after all! To increase this number, consider writing and promoting a new blog post. Even better, offer a new freebie or lead magnet that your audience can opt-in for.
8. Ask ‘Em What They Want *Cue the spice girls* Yup, even the most successful Instagrammers can’t read minds. You can make some pretty educated guesses on what your audience wants to see based on the strategies above, but asking will always be clearer. Plain and simple. Ask them to vote for preferred content using polls or the question sticker on your stories. This surface-level data gives you a good starting point. If you want more in-depth answers, you can create a longer survey and link to it in your bio. The catch? Human nature will lead your audience members to ask “What’s in it for me?” If you opt for a longer survey, make sure you are thanking your audience for their time! Enter their name for a chance to win a gift card, a free product, a service, and so on. Or simply give away a free resource to anyone who participates.
Let’s Recap In short, don’t overthink your Instagram strategy. Start making the platform work for your business by implementing these organic growth methods:
Quality content over quantity
Engaging. Engaging. Engaging.
Choosing relevant hashtags
Taking advantage of Stories
Learning to read IG insights
Asking your audience straight up what they want to see
Are you struggling to grow your Instagram organically? Let me know if you found these tips helpful! If you’re already crushing the Instagram growth game, share your best tip in the comments!