Hey you! If you clicked on this post then I assume you are wanting help with growing your Instagram audience in one way or another. I also assume this is not because you are trying to win a popularity contest, but because you know you have something to offer other people, whether that’s a product, or blog posts, or other meaningful content. No one should ever make you feel bad for wanting to grow. Growth is a GOOD thing and it is something I believe we should always strive for. I grew my business Instagram following to 10K in a little less than 3 years, but most of that growth happened in about 6 months, and I will tell you how.
First, you will notice I didn’t title this post “How to Grow Your Instagram Following,” because the numbers, to a certain extent, don’t really matter. It can definitely benefit your business to reach 10K for the swipe up feature in your stories, BUT if you don’t have genuine followers who enjoy your content and WILL swipe up, it doesn’t even matter. When presenting myself to a company for a collaboration, I always mention engagement because I believe that’s what any good company looks for – someone who interacts with their followers and has genuine, trusted relationships with them.
You’ll also notice I didn’t title this “How to Beat The Algorithm,” because it’s not about that either. I don’t pretend to understand the algorithm fully, but I do know that it shows users content that they like, engage with, search for, etc. In some ways it’s cool because what you’re seeing is usually what you’re interested it, but sometimes it can be frustrating. Bottom line, nothing is perfect, so you can choose to complain about it or make do with what you’ve got. Social media is still a wonderful platform and I’m thankful for it! Alright, I’m done preaching to you about that now. 😉
If I could only give you ONE piece of advice for growing engagement, it would be to BE engaging. But don’t worry, I’m going to unpack exactly what I mean by that and give you some tips! I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I want to share with you what has worked for me in the hopes that it can help you too!
I do want to point out, though, these tips require time. But if you’re committed to your business and passionate about what you do, it won’t be a problem. You can certainly set healthy boundaries for yourself, and you should. So we’ll talk about that too at the end.
Let’s start with the main thing Instagram is for: posting pictures. When you post to your feed, you want others to see it, right? Nothing is more frustrating than spending time creating a beautiful picture and having no one see it. That’s why your caption is so important, because it encourages engagement.
About half (or less) of people who see your post won’t actually read the caption. I know this because I will put information in the caption and still get questions about it in the comments LOL. But a lot of people WILL read your caption and you want to write something that is meaningful and worth their time, and will also prompt them to leave a comment. The IG algorithm is supposedly always changing, but from everything I have heard, if they leave a comment that pertains to the caption, it will boost your engagement and help more people see your post. I try to make sure I do the same when I comment on posts.
I like to make my caption not too short, and not too long. You want to give people something to read but also not drag it out and lose them in the process. If a caption is crazy long, I usually just keep scrolling to be honest. So keep that in mind. Your caption doesn’t really have to relate to the picture completely, but I like to ask a question that is related to the post, and also personal. I have noticed people really like to talk about themselves LOL and that is totally not a bad thing. It’s just a fact. So if your picture has a cup of coffee in it, you could ask something like “how do you like to drink your coffee?” or “do you have a mug that holds a special memory?” and then you also get to engage with your followers by getting to know them a little better! There’s lots of posts and articles on Pinterest with some question ideas for your captions if you need some inspiration.
It’s also important to put the attention grabber in the first two lines. Why? Instagram hides the caption when scrolling and users have to click the “more” button to read the whole thing. Write something that makes them stop scrolling and click to read more.
One more thing, the best engagement seems to happen within the first hour, so you want to post during a time that you’ll have at least 15 minutes to hang out on the app and reply to comments. I like to post in the evenings after my daughter goes to bed so I have a little while to engage in the hashtags and respond to comments right after I have posted. DON’T POST AND GHOST.
This brings me to feed consistency. You not only want great captions, but a great looking feed. Keeping your color palette in check is really important if you want a nice flow. I typically post a variety of neutrals with some pinks and mustard yellow. Presets are also a great way to quickly edit your photos and make them all “match.” A preset is a pre-made filter that you can use on every single photo to give them all the same look. I currently use the Aloe Vera preset from LouMarksPhoto. I usually switch it up depending on the season and what colors I’m using the most. If you don’t know how to use a preset, don’t worry! They come with instructions or you can do some extra googling.
Likes vs. Comments
It’s always a little surprising to click on an account with THOUSANDS of followers and see very few likes. But I’ve stopped noticing the likes so much. In fact, a lot of accounts can’t even see like counts at all. I cannot see likes on my personal account and I know some countries like Canada can’t at all, so this makes likes even more irrelevant. What I like to see is comments. One of the best things you can do to support someone without spending a dime is commenting on their posts. A comment tells the person “Hey, I value your content and what you’re sharing!” and that feels so good to the creator.
But how do you get comments? This is where BEING engaging becomes really important. Some people just get lucky and get comments no matter what, but they’re usually the “so pretty!” comments and not very genuine. I didn’t start getting consistent, genuine comments on my posts until I started being genuine myself, and this happened about a year ago. This is also when I started to see my engagement and following really grow. You can’t expect something to happen for you without doing it yourself.
When you think about it, how is anyone going to know you exist if they don’t know you or ever see your name anywhere? When you start putting yourself out there and interacting with other accounts, it’s easier for people to find you. And you will make a lot of friends and meaningful relationships and connections along the way, which is the best part!
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that going around reading, commenting on other’s posts, and engaging with people can be very time consuming. I told you that investing in your growth takes time and you have to be willing to put the work in. I usually spend some time when I’m drinking my coffee in the morning looking at IG and commenting on posts. I also spend some time in the evening after I post, and then randomly throughout the day. You’ll start to notice that people are really nice and will often come to your most recent post and comment as well! You can also do the same and when someone comments on your post, go check out their feed. This creates a sort of relationship, even if it’s just commenting on each other’s posts.
And last but certainly not least, respond to the comments on your own posts. Sometimes you won’t have time, and you don’t have to respond to every single one. But if someone took the time to engage with you, the very least you can do is respond. It takes only a few seconds. If I continuously see someone’s posts with comments and no responses, it makes me want to not engage with that person because they don’t seem very friendly or interested in their followers. Just being honest.
Giveaways are fun and nice way to say “thank you” to your followers, but if your main goal for a giveaway is to gain followers you may want to rethink doing them. The following you gain from a giveaway most likely won’t be genuine and some will probably unfollow. You want someone to consciously follow you because they like YOU and the content you share. Not because they wanted to get something free from you.
Use all the features
Use all the features Instagram offers you like stories polls and stickers, IGTV, and now Reels! Reels are huge right now and not many people are making them. This is a great way to boost engagement. I’ve had a couple reels go “viral” and one brought in about 100 new followers. If you’re a maker you could post video tutorials to your IGTV. Have fun with it!
Do they work? Absolutely. I pulled up the insights for one of my recent posts that got the best engagement as an example. Out of 14,605 accounts that the post reached, 7,191 were from hashtags. That’s almost half! You want to choose your hashtags wisely, though, because you can only use 30. Try to choose hashtags that have less than 100K or even 50K posts if possible. For example, the hashtag #beauty currently has 378 MILLION posts. Your post will immediately be buried under thousands of other’s posting each minute, making that hashtag totally pointless to use. So get creative and specific. The good thing is when you type in a word, a bunch of suggestions come up. So instead of using #knitting you could use #knittinglover or #knittingtime for example. A cool app for helping you come up with more hashtags is Smarthash.
After you post, click on a few (or all if you have time) of the hashtags you used and engage (like and comment) with some of the posts. This tells IG you are an active member in this hashtag and you will also have some nice people who come back to your feed like I talked about. I’m not kidding, this actually works when you take the time to engage in the hashtags!
Stories are an awesome way to engage. I love looking at stories and chatting with people about what they’ve shared. To boost engagement in your own stories, use the interactive stickers that IG has like polls, question boxes, quizzes, etc. Stories work like posts so when more people engage, more people see it. Also try to keep your stories aesthetically pleasing and not spammy. Canva.com is a great resource for creating fun content! There are sooo many wonderful, free templates and designs, but you can use this link to get a free credit for something that’s paid! I have some customizable templates for sale here that you can use as well.
You don’t have to share every detail of your life, but it really helps to show the face behind the brand. Here’s a few ways you can do this:
- Make your profile picture YOU, not your logo. This is the easiest way to add personalization to your brand. You are a small business, not a big box store. When someone makes the decision to support a small business, a lot of the reason they are doing it is because they want to support a person, which is you! I know sometimes it’s hard to get in front of the camera but posting pictures of yourself seriously helps. If I don’t feel like I know someone and what they look like, it’s really hard to feel connected to them and their brand.
- Put your first name in your bio. It’s always a little awkward to talk to someone when you don’t know their name.
- Do a “Meet the Maker” or “Friday Introduction” post on your feed. Share some facts that will help others get to know you and then open it up for them to leave a comment about themself so you can get to know your followers better!
- Share little parts of your life in your stories. These are fun to watch and show followers that you are real! Keep in mind you don’t have to share anything you don’t want to. Your privacy, as well as anyone else in your family, is the most important.
I want to close this post by talking about boundaries. At the end of the day, you are one person. You have a life, feelings, and privacy. You do not have to do anything you don’t want to or give more of yourself than you want to. If you’re invested in growth, you’ll work hard for engagement and to be engaging. But sometimes you won’t feel like it or won’t have time and that’s absolutely okay. It’s also okay to takes breaks, and you don’t even have to let anyone know or tell them why. We all need a little refresher and that’s healthy.
You also don’t have to answer questions about your business, how you do things, etc. if you don’t feel comfortable. You don’t owe anyone your methods or secrets. You are not google and don’t have the time or energy to be! Just kindly say no or don’t respond.
I have IG notifications turned off on my phone. I only see notifications and DMs when it is convenient for me to get on the app. Otherwise it’s out of sight, out of mind. This has been super beneficial for my mental health as well as time management!
What’s worked for you?
Do you have a strategy that works for you that you’d like to share, or have you tried one of these? Let me know in the comments! And be sure to pin for later. 🙂
I hope you found this post helpful! For more business tips, check out the other posts on my blog including this post on How to Ship on a Budget.