The best ways to achieve Instagram growth have changed a lot in the last year as the platform has pivoted hard towards video – especially Reels.
In this post, we’ll look at how to build an Instagram growth strategy that brings in new followers and keeps them around for the long haul.
Keep in mind that real, meaningful Instagram growth doesn’t happen overnight. The average monthly growth in account followers for Instagram business accounts is +1.25%. Let’s see if you can beat that benchmark and effectively grow your account by implementing these tips.
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a fitness influencer used to grow from 0 to 600,000+ followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
11 strategies for organic Instagram growth
1. Use Instagram Reels
Instagram users currently spend about 20% of their time on the app watching Reels, and it’s still the fastest growing format. If you only have time to make one change to your social strategy to prioritize growing your Instagram account, this is it.
For everything you need to know about creating quality Instagram Reels, check out our blog post on using Instagram Reels for business.
2. But not only Instagram Reels… for now
Instagram also says, “Sharing across formats (like Reels, Stories, Instagram Video, etc.) can help you find new followers and expand your reach.”
It’s interesting they don’t actually mention main feed photo posts at all here – likely because photo posts are the least likely to get your content in front of new eyeballs, since they’re limited to your followers with no native option to repost.
But the distinction between in-feed video and Reels looks to be in flux. Instagram is currently running a test where all Instagram videos become Reels for some users.
It’s more indication that Reels will be an increasingly important way to achieve Instagram growth moving forward. But for now, keep using a mix of formats with a focus on video.
3. Post regularly
Bringing in new followers is only one half of the equation for Instagram growth. The other half is keeping existing followers around so your total follower count keeps rising. That requires a steady flow of valuable content that keeps users engaged without overloading their feeds.
The last insight we have on this from inside Instagram comes from Creator Week in June 2021, when Mosseri said a “healthy feed” is a “couple posts a week, a couple Stories a day.”
Hootsuite’s Global State of Digital April 2022 update reports that the average Instagram business account posts 1.64 main feed posts per day, broken down into:
- 58.6% photo posts
- 21.5% video posts
- 19.9% carousel posts
Finding the right rhythm for your brand will take some experimentation. With all growth strategies, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on your Instagram analytics to see what’s providing the best results.
4. Focus on high-value accounts in your niche
Instagram’s in-feed recommendations (aka the Instagram algorithm) are based on a number of signals.
A simple one to focus on is “other people they follow.” Following and engaging with accounts in your niche will signal the algorithm that you’re part of that niche.
Focus on some quality engagement with high-value accounts in your field. If you can get their attention so that they follow you back, that’s an even greater signal to the algorithm that people who follow them might be interested in you, too.
5. Engage with your audience
Reels can bring new viewers your way, but it’s your job to turn them into long-term followers. Again Instagram weighs in: “The easiest way to turn casual followers into fans is by liking, replying, and resharing their responses.”
Engaging with your fans by responding to comments increases the odds that you will get even more comments. People are much more likely to engage with you if they can see that you’ve taken the time to respond to people who have commented before.
Get creative with the way you engage your audience. Questions stickers on Stories are a great way to get the conversation going while also providing the basis for new content.
And on Reels, you can even respond to comments with video replies.
Of course, you can’t forget to reply to DMs. If you’re working with a team and want to share this task with your colleagues, check out a tool like Hootsuite’s Inbox.
All of that Instagram engagement sends sweet signals to the algorithm, so your content is more likely to appear in your followers’ feeds, keeping them interested in you so they’re not tempted to unfollow.
Tip: Don’t be tempted to buy Instagram followers. We go into detail about why you shouldn’t (and what to do instead) in this post. TL;DR, the Instagram algorithm knows if bots, not real people are engaging with your content — and it doesn’t like it.
Hashtags are an easy way to expand your reach, which is a key component of achieving Instagram follower growth.
Using the right hashtags can bring new followers to your account in three ways:
- Your post may appear on the relevant hashtag page. That means anyone who clicks on the hashtag can see your post, even if they don’t follow you.
- Hashtags can help your post appear in Instagram search results.
- Since people can choose to follow hashtags they’re interested in, your post might appear in the main feed of people who are specifically interested in your niche. These are highly targeted potential followers who have self-selected to see content like yours but don’t follow you yet.
Advice on the best number of hashtags for Instagram growth seems to be constantly changing.
Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post and 10 per story. But you probably don’t want to max out your hashtags very often.
Instagram says, “For feed posts, use 3 or more hashtags that describe your business, product or service to reach people who may be interested in your business but haven’t yet discovered it.”
But they’ve also said to “keep the number of hashtags between 3 and 5.”
The best hashtags for Instagram growth are not necessarily the biggest or most popular ones.
Instead, highly targeted, niche hashtags with far fewer Instagram posts and less competition may send better signals to the algorithm by making it very clear what your content is about. Plus, as we said, they get your content in front of exactly the right eyeballs, rather than a more general audience.
Social listening using a social media management tool like Hootsuite is a powerful way to discover valuable hashtags in your niche. What are your competitors using? Your followers? The accounts that you want to emulate?
Note that for hashtags to boost your Instagram SEO, they need to appear in the caption rather than in comments.
Since hashtags are such an important part of your Instagram growth strategy, we’ve got a whole guide on how to use hashtags effectively on Instagram.
Or, check out this quick video guide:
To help achieve follower growth, captions for Instagram need to do two things:
- Send signals to the algorithm that your content is interesting and relevant to new potential followers (through keywords and hashtags).
- Engage the followers you already have so that they interact with your content and remain followers over the long term.
Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long, but you’re unlikely to need that many most of the time. If you have a really compelling story to tell, go ahead and tell it. But a short, snappy caption that makes effective use of emojis, keywords, and hashtags might work just as well.
The only way to learn what really works best for your audience – and potential new audience – is to experiment and track your results.
Hootsuite Analytics is a powerful tool for understanding the results of your Instagram caption experiments.
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Lacking inspiration? We’ve got a list of more than 260 Instagram captions you can use or modify, along with tips on how to write a great caption from scratch.
8. Create a complete and effective bio
The Instagram growth strategies we’ve covered so far all relate to your content. But your Instagram bio is also an important factor in growing your following.
Most important is to make sure your handle and Instagram profile name are relevant and clear, so that people who are specifically seeking you out on Instagram can find and follow you. If you can fit a relevant keyword into your handle or name, even better.
Keywords are also important in your bio. Use the 150 characters allotted for your bio to tell visitors what you and your brand are all about. This will help encourage new visitors to follow while also sending important ranking signals to the algorithm to get you in front of more potential fans.
Finally, add a location if that’s relevant to your business. This can help build your local following and make it easier for other local brands to find and connect with you, which benefits all the businesses in your community.
9. Collaborate with creators
Working with Instagram creators can be an effective way to spread the word about your brand. It’s a way to get your name in front of a targeted, engaged audience while also uncovering new content ideas and opportunities.
Look for creators who align with your brand values and aesthetic. Again, social listening is a great tool.
Another new option to help you find the right creators to work with your brand is the Instagram Creator Marketplace, which is currently in the testing phase. It will allow creators to indicate the brands and topics most relevant to them and streamline contact and communication between brands and creators.
When looking for creators to partner with, keep in mind that the size of their audience is not necessarily the most important factor in helping you achieve Instagram growth. Instead, look for a creator with a good engagement rate who’s already creating content highly relevant to your brand niche.
Branded content that creators make for you shouldn’t feel like an ad (although it should be appropriately labeled as such). It’s always most effective to work with creators who are passionate about your brand and can authentically share your message with their followers.
10. Post when your audience is online
We talked earlier about the importance of engagement. Early engagement is most likely to occur if you post when your audience is online. And because the algorithm uses timing as a signal, posting at the right time is also critical to ensuring your audience sees your post in the first place.
You can get some information about when your audience is online from Instagram Insights. Or, you can use the Best Time to Publish feature in Hootsuite to get personalized recommendations about the best time to post for your audience.
In Hootsuite Analytics, click Best Time to Publish, then choose the Build Awareness goal to find times when your content is most likely to get the highest number of impressions based on real data from your own account in the last 30 days.
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11. Be original – and stay true to your brand
Above all else, be true to your brand. It’s important to keep an eye on platform updates. (FYI: Hootsuite posts a weekly Instagram story highlighting important changes to the main social networks.) But it’s impossible to revamp your entire social strategy every time there’s an update or algorithm change.
Instead, focus on creating great content that speaks to your audience and honors your brand values. It may not sound sexy, but it’s a surefire way to grow a loyal following over time.
Instagram has updated the algorithm to “prioritize distribution of original content in recommendations.” Original content means content you created or that has not been posted on the platform before. That means reposting UGC is great for social proof, but it is not likely to boost your content in recommendations.
📣 New Features 📣
We’ve added new ways to tag and improved ranking:
– Product Tags
– Enhanced Tags
– Ranking for originality
Creators are so important to the future of Instagram, and we want to make sure that they are successful and get all the credit they deserve. pic.twitter.com/PP7Qa10oJr
— Adam Mosseri (@mosseri) April 20, 2022
The exception is when you add your own take through native features like Remix or Collabs. That counts as original content and is eligible for recommendation by the algorithm.
Plus one paid method for Instagram follower growth
12. Try Instagram ads
While the rest of this post focuses on organic Instagram growth, we just can’t avoid mentioning Instagram ads.
The simplest way to use Instagram ads for Instagram growth is to boost a post or Story and use the More Profile Visits ad objective. You can run a seven-day campaign for as little as $35.
To make the best use of your ads budget for Instagram growth, it’s important to target the right audience. Use Analytics to learn everything you can about your existing followers and use them as the basis for creating a target audience for your ads.
For more control over your Instagram ads, you can choose to create them in Meta Ads Manager. In this case, choose the Brand Awareness or Reach ad objectives. First, you’ll need to connect your Instagram account to Meta Business Manager.
To run and track your organic and paid Instagram content side by side, you can also check out Hootsuite Social Advertising.
Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. Schedule and publish posts directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles — all from one simple dashboard. Try it free today.
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