Want to know how to get followers on Instagram? And how to do it the right way, without shelling out big bucks or engaging in shady tactics? You’ve come to the right place.
Sure, there are shortcuts you could take like buying followers or using bots. But Instagram has stepped up its game when it comes to spotting and removing “inauthentic activity.” These shady tactics might boost your follower count for a short time, but they won’t do you any favors long-term.
Your goal is to grow a following of real people that actually care about and engage with your brand. That’s the only way your Instagram strategy will deliver real business results.
Click on any tip below to learn more, or keep scrolling for the complete list of ways to get followers on Instagram for free.
How to get followers on Instagram for free: 27 simple tips
25. Run contests
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
1. Have a thoughtful Instagram strategy
Using any social network without a clear plan leads to wasted resources and a low return on investment.
Since you’re reading this post, you’re clearly aiming to get more Instagram followers. This is a great goal to start with. But it needs to be part of a larger strategy that connects to your overall business strategy and marketing objectives.
Think about why you want to get more Instagram followers. Maybe you want to:
- increase brand awareness
- boost product sales
- drive traffic to your website.
Staying focused on these business-oriented goals will help keep your Instagram account consistent. It will help you tell a compelling brand story that appeals to new profile visitors and helps build (and keep) a loyal following.
In our guide to using Instagram for business, we walk you through each step of creating a strategy to help you get more Instagram followers.
2. Define your target audience
Ask yourself some questions about who you are trying to reach:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- What do they do for work?
- When and how do they use Instagram?
- What are their pain points and challenges?
Answering these questions will help you craft the right kind of Instagram content to bring in reach the right Instagram followers.
3. Create a consistent brand story and aesthetic
Maybe you want to satisfy curiosity by showing off how your product is made. Or share an employee’s perspective to humanize your brand. If you want to position your brand in an aspirational way, you could try showcasing the lifestyle or achievements of your customers.
No matter what you want to achieve, make sure to maintain a consistent brand personality, visual look, and story. Your posts should be easily recognizable and relatable at a glance.
For example, if you like succulents (and you do, right?), you might love the all-succulent grid created by Tierra Sol Studio:
4. Craft a great bio and profile
Your profile is the backbone of your presence on Instagram, and a well-crafted one is key to growing your audience.
Two-thirds of Instagram business profile visits are from non-followers. Your profile needs to convince those new views to click the follow button. They won’t do so if your profile is unclear, incomplete, or unappealing.
Here’s what you can include in your profile:
- Name: Up to 30 characters, and included in Instagram search, so you may wish to include a keyword.
- Username: Make it the same as your other social channels. This will make it easy for your followers on other platforms to find you on Instagram.
- Website: The only place on Instagram where you can include a clickable link (aside from calls to action in ads or swiping up on Stories).
- Bio: 150 characters to convey your brand identity and show new visitors why they should follow you.
Check out our Instagram bio ideas and tips for strategies to make the most of your profile.
5. Share engaging content
Great content gets people to like, comment on, and share your posts. That engagement gives you an Instagram algorithm boost and helps you get more reach and new followers.
Everything you post must be interesting to your target audience. Your goal is to inform, engage, and entertain them with content. Your visuals must be compelling and your captions engaging.
6. Promote your Instagram presence on other social networks
If you want to get more Instagram followers, you need to make it easy for people to find you.
In other words, you need to make your Instagram profile easily discoverable.
If you’ve already built a following on another social network, let those fans know about your Instagram account. Share a link to your Instagram profile and give your existing social followers a reason to check it out. (Like an Instagram-exclusive coupon code.)
The automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler Group has more than 107,000 followers on LinkedIn. When they launched their Instagram account, it was an obvious choice to promote it to that existing group of potential followers.
If you’re just starting your Instagram account, make sure to post some content before you promote the account elsewhere. Aim for a minimum of 12 posts.
You could also highlight some of your best Instagram posts on your other channels. Consider boosting these posts with paid advertising to ensure that more of your followers follow you on Instagram.
7. Share your Instagram account in other communications
All communication tools—both online and offline—give you an opportunity to direct people to your Instagram account.
Make sure you have links to your Instagram account on your website, in your email signature, and in your online newsletters. This will ensure that people who are already in contact with your brand online can find you on social media.
If you’re promoting a new Instagram account, a quick email blast highlighting some gorgeous posts is a great way to get some free Instagram followers fast.
8. Use the Instagram nametag
Your Instagram nametag is a scannable code that allows Instagram users to follow you instantly. We said earlier that even offline communications materials offer a chance to promote your Instagram account. The Instagram nametag is an easy and effective way to promote your account on offline materials like packing slips, signage, and product packaging.
Your nametag is also a great way to get new followers in real time at networking events and conferences. People you connect with in person can scan your code to follow you without having to type out your handle.
Access your Instagram nametag by tapping on the three lines icon at the top right of your Instagram profile.
9. Use relevant hashtags
Hashtags make your posts and Stories discoverable to people searching for content related to your brand, industry, or products.
Before using hashtags to get more Instagram followers, make sure you know the DOs & DON’Ts of using hashtags on Instagram.
DO: Find and use what’s popular.
Use the search function within Instagram to find popular hashtags related to your product, service, or industry. Then, set up a stream in Hootsuite to monitor content posted with that hashtag on Instagram so you can get a sense of what kind of content people respond to.
DO: Create your own hashtag.
Come up with your own hashtag that will motivate your audience to share photos related to your brand.
DON’T: Go overboard.
Using too many hashtags can be distracting for your audience and dilute your message. It can also come off as desperate or, worse, spammy.
DON’T: Use hashtag gimmicks.
Using hashtags such as #likeforlike, #tagsforlikes, or #followme may give you a temporary boost in followers. But they will likely be spammers or people only interested in being followed back. And that won’t will help you build a meaningful, engaged community on Instagram. Instead, focus on using hashtags specific to your photo, product, or business.
DON’T: Forget to use hashtags in Stories.
Make use of the hashtag sticker in Stories to maximize your chances of reaching new followers.
For more on mastering the hashtag, here’s everything you need to know about using Instagram hashtags.
10. Aim to get featured
Feature accounts are simply Instagram accounts that curate and reshare other users’ content based on a hashtag or tagging. Some of these accounts have a huge following, and having them share one of your posts (along with your handle) can send a new stream of followers your way.
There’s a feature account for just about every niche and interest on Instagram. You’ll start to uncover them as you do your hashtag research, as recommended in the previous tip. Some of them can get pretty specific.
For example, @elite_owls features only photos of owls. The account has more than 43,000 followers.
But the mother of all feature accounts is Instagram itself. Every week, Instagram posts a new Weekend Hashtag Project challenge. Users who create photos and use the relevant hashtag have a chance to be featured on the main Instagram account.
Keep an eye on @instagram for info on the Weekend Hashtag Project.
11. Tag your location
Any time there’s a clear location element in your post or Story, it’s worth adding a location tag. It’s one more easy way for people to find your content on Instagram.
If your business has a physical location, make sure to tag it and encourage customers to do the same. Users can then click on that location and see all photos and Stories posted from your store, restaurant, or office. This can help expose your brand (and Instagram account) to more people.
For example, here’s what you get when you search for the location of Van Wonderen Stroopwafels in Amsterdam:
If you’re posting from a conference or event, adding your location can help you connect with other attendees, exposing your account to a highly targeted group of new potential Instagram followers.
12. Aim for the Explore tab
The Explore tab is what you see when you click on the magnifying glass icon at the bottom of the Instagram app. According to Instagram itself, this is where “you can find photos and videos that you might like from accounts you don’t yet follow.”
The Explore tab features Instagram posts, Stories, and IGTV. Users first see a grid of content chosen by the algorithm. They then have the option to choose to dive deeper into specific content subjects using the topic channels at the top of the screen.
More than 200 million people visit the Explore tab every day. That’s a huge opportunity for brands looking to grow their audience.
So, how can you get your content to appear on the Explore tab? It’s not easy. Luckily, we’ve got an entire article dedicated to helping you figure it out.
13. Follow other relevant users
When you follow a user on Instagram there’s a good chance they will check out your feed. If it’s full of compelling content that’s relevant to their interests, they’re likely to return the favor.
Social listening is a great way to find conversations relevant to your brand. And from there you can easily identify influential users (a.k.a. influencers) to follow. It’s a great idea to follow those top users’ followers, too.
But keep in mind that you shouldn’t follow too many other accounts too fast. Your follower ratio is important for credibility.
Of course, following is just the first step. To maximize the number of new followers, you also need to…
14. Engage with existing communities
Like all social media networks, Instagram is about the communities built within it. You want to engage with those communities.
Get involved by liking, commenting on, and sharing content from other credible users in your community. Avoid generic comments (like “Awesome post!”) that look like they come from bots.
This helps draw attention (and potential new followers) in three ways:
- People see when you like and comment on their posts and may check out your profile to return the favor.
- When anyone interacts with your content, it appears on their followers’ Activity tab, exposing you to an extended new audience.
- More engagement is a great signal to the Instagram algorithm and increases your chances of making it to the Explore tab.
Think your product or brand doesn’t have a relevant community? Consider that slime popping and makeup shaving were among the top niche communities on Instagram in 2018. There really is a community for everyone.
15. Tag relevant users
You can tag Instagram users featured in your photos with an @-mention in your caption or by using Instagram’s tagging functionality. Either way, they’ll receive a notification when you do so.
Tagging someone encourages them to engage with the post and share it with their own following.
When you tag someone on Instagram Stories, they can share that content to their own Story with just a couple of taps. If they do so, everyone who views their Story sees your user name and can click through to your account.
16. Ask your followers to tag their friends
Every once in a while, try encouraging your followers to tag their friends in the comments. This can help expose your Instagram account to a larger network of people.
Save this for your most compelling or feel-good content. Users should feel like they’re doing their friends a favor by tagging them.
17. Post consistently
Your existing followers want to see content from you. That’s why they followed you in the first place.
As we just mentioned, when users interact with your posts, that activity is visible to their followers. So give them something great to interact with!
How often should you post? An analysis by Tailwind found that daily posting will “grow followers four times faster than posting less than once a week.”
18. Post at the right time
Yes, Instagram uses an algorithm rather than a chronological feed. However, timing is still important, as it’s one of the signals the algorithm considers.
Hootsuite worked with Unmetric to determine the best time to post on Instagram based on your industry. To figure out the best time to post for your own brand, consider your audience. What does their typical day look like? When are they most active on Instagram?
Start testing various times and measuring results. If you’re a retail brand, for example, you might want to test posting during commute times and on the weekends when people aren’t at work.
19. Schedule your posts
Is the best time to post not a convenient time to be on Instagram? Use a tool like Hootsuite to schedule and publish directly to Instagram.
Scheduling your posts in advance allows you to plan a cohesive Instagram grid that tells an overarching story. It also allows you to dedicate time to creating excellent captions, rather than trying to come up with something witty on the fly.
On that note…
20. Write compelling captions
Although Instagram is a visual platform, your captions play a big role in increasing engagement, thereby helping you get more reach and engagement. And, as you’ve already seen, reach and engagement are key factors in how to get more followers on Instagram.
Here are some key strategies to keep in mind:
- Put the most important words up front. Captions in users’ feeds cut off after a few lines of text, so convey the most compelling information right off the top.
- Ask a question. This makes it easy for your audience to leave a comment. That engagement will help make your account visible to more people.
- Try emoji. Emoji can help draw the reader’s eye and are appropriate for most types of accounts on this visual social network.
- Try different caption lengths. Instagram allows long-form captions, so you can test out some in-depth storytelling if your post warrants it. Ultra-short captions can also be very effective when the visuals speak for themselves.
Photographer Matt Payne posts visually stunning images. But he also backs them up with great captions that make viewers want to see more.
You can find more tips, along with plenty of great brand examples, in our guide to writing great captions that drive engagement.
21. Embrace Instagram Stories
We’ve mentioned Stories in several of the tips already, but it’s worth calling this feature out specifically. Simply put, if you want more Instagram followers, you need to use Instagram Stories. Half a billion Instagram accounts use Stories every day, and 45% of the most-viewed stories are from businesses
People who use Stories are highly engaged. According to Instagram, nearly one in five stories results in a direct message.
Use the hashtag and location features in your stories to expose them to people who do not already follow you. This is a great, and still underused, way to get followers on Instagram for free.
Learn more in our complete guide to using Instagram Stories.
22. Use interactivity features
Instagram Stories offer plenty of interactive features to get users engaged, like poll or question stickers.
Polling stickers increased three-second video views in 90% of Instagram’s beta campaigns for this feature.
If users come across your Story from a hashtag or location page, that immediate opportunity to engage is a great way to make them want to learn more about your brand by giving you a follow.
23. Try an Instagram Live collaboration
Instagram is the perfect place to take advantage of live video, a trend that is continuing to grow on social media. Through interactive features like questions and comments, you can engage with viewers in real time, creating more of that precious engagement that can help boost your reach.
Live videos appear within your brand’s Story. When the live video ends, you can let it disappear or choose to make it available for replay on your story for 24 hours. Users are notified when an account they follow starts broadcasting live, so a live video really grabs attention.
To get your Live video in front of a whole new audience, use the “Go live with a friend” option to co-host a live video with someone else in your industry. Ask the other person to host a Live video, then invite you as a guest. The two of you will appear in a split screen, introducing you to all of their followers.
Here’s what it looked like when Demi Lovato joined Wilmer Valderrama’s Instagram Live, a move that got fans more than a little excited.
Demi Lovato looked healthy and happy on Instagram Live with Wilmer Valderrama who gushed over her:
“You look awesome, girl!” pic.twitter.com/NF1nF9Uplo
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) April 30, 2019
24. Make the most of Stories highlights
Stories highlights give you an opportunity to introduce your brand to people who visit your profile. Pack those highlights with loads of great info and content to show new visitors exactly why they should click Follow.
Make great use of the cover photos on your highlights, too. Vancouver nail artist Bee Lalli does a great job of this on the Instagram account for her salon, @ClassyClaws.
25. Run contests
To use contests on Instagram to get more followers, ask people to follow you and comment on one of your photos by tagging a friend.
For even greater reach, partner with another Instagram account on the contest, and ask entrants to follow both accounts. The Abbotsford Tulip Festival often partners with local businesses for giveaways, increasing exposure for both accounts:
Encouraging user-generated content as part of your contest can also help you reach more people. People will learn about your contest from posts their friends create. This is an effective way to build trust with new followers, and get more eyeballs to your page.
We’ve got a whole blog post outlining everything you ever wanted to know about running an Instagram contest.
26. Consider Instagram advertising
Instagram ads are a powerful way to reach new followers, fast, by getting your content in front of people who would otherwise not see it. Target your audience by location, demographics, other users, and even key behaviors and interests.
For example, when cookware brand Le Creuset launched in Israel, it used Instagram ads to reach 70% of its targeted Instagram audience within two months.
Besides the feed, you can advertise in Instagram Stories. For all the details of how to create and post an Instagram ad campaign, check out our detailed Instagram ads guide.
27. Learn from Instagram Insights
Instagram analytics tools will give you data on impressions for each post, along with reach, engagement, top posts, and more. You can also find demographic information about your followers, including gender, age, and location.
Reviewing this data on a regular basis can help you identify areas where you can adjust your strategy to help you get more followers.
One of the key things to keep an eye on is what time of day your followers use Instagram.
Matchaeologist, for example, found out from insights that their followers did not live where they expected. While they thought their following was in the U.K,. many followers were actually based in Hong Kong and Taiwan. That knowledge allowed them to change the timing of their posts to reach (and gain) more followers in those regions.
Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can schedule and publish posts directly to Instagram, engage the audience, measure performance, and run all your other social media profiles. Try it free today.