12 free and paid ways on how to get more Instagram followers

Elena Sinekovich
by Elena Sinekovich on May 18, 2021

Article summary

Getting more Instagram followers is one of the biggest challenges for marketers. Searching for answers on how to grow following, we analyzed recommendations in the Instagram guides and discovered the recipe for success. Follow these steps to develop your Instagram strategy and attract new followers.

Are you dreaming of a million or 5 000 active followers on Instagram?

All in all, it does not matter how many new followers your Instagram account has if your posts do not attract engaged users. Ideally, people who follow your page visit your website, purchase your products or services, and advocate for them in the Instagram community.

These results can be reached if you will grow your Instagram following organically. In this article, you won’t find unscrupulous means of getting new followers through using bots or buying followers.

Here are 12 legal ways on how to get more Instagram followers. You can click any tip for more details, or read the whole article to improve your promotional strategy or create a new one from scratch.

  1. Create a content strategy for Instagram and keep it
  2. Optimize information in your Instagram account
  3. Dress up your Instagram account in a branded theme
  4. Experiment with Instagram content formats
  5. Make custom stickers for Instagram Stories
  6. Work with influencers
  7. Map out hashtag strategy
  8. Be active
  9. Try Instagram ads
  10. Improve Instagram content distribution
  11. Be honest
  12. Bonus tip

 1. Create a content strategy for Instagram and keep it 

Without a clear Instagram marketing strategy, you do not have much of a chance to grow your following.

  • Why are you here?
  • What objectives do you want to accomplish?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What kind of content do they like? 

Answering these questions, you will learn how to get more subscribers on Instagram.

For quick audience analysis, you can use any social listening tool, for example, Awario. All you need is several keywords that describe your industry, brand, product, or service. 

Screenshot from Awario

Awario searches for your keywords all over the web, including social media. After a while, you will get the portrait of your potential customers — people who mentioned you or your brand — based on such metrics as Age, Gender, and Countries. Additionally, you can estimate Sentiment of their posts. 

Screenshot from Awario

Once you have identified your target audience, it is time to create an Instagram content plan. You need to define:

  • when to post on Instagram and how often;
  • what content topics to cover;
  • what visuals to make;
  • what hashtags to use and how many.

Clarifying these points, you can specify your visual and text style, create branded hashtags, prepare and schedule Instagram posts through special tools. It helps you to be consistent when posting on Instagram, which users will appreciate. 

For example, this bridal dress store created a branded Instagram hashtag encouraging the clients to replicate it under their photos. As you can see, this tactic works well.

2. Optimize information in your Instagram account  

Last November, Instagram upgraded search options for users in six countries, including the US, Canada, the UK, and Ireland. Now they can use not only hashtags but keywords for searching on the platform.

To bring relevant results, the Instagram algorithm considers the quality and the type of content, and the time when it was posted. It means that you should optimize your brand page to attract more followers.

If you want to see your page in the top results on the Explore tab, you need to optimize your Instagram profile:

  • check out your Instagram account name. It should be clear and related to your brand. Try to avoid numbers and special characters in the name. Otherwise, it will be hard to remember and recognize for users;
  • fill in your Instagram bio with relevant keywords. Describe what the profile is about and why a user should push Follow button. You are limited by 150 characters;
  • add a link to your website or landing page where users can find more information about your brand or offer. Additionally, the link will drive Instagram traffic to your web page. 

Pro tip

Do you know how to add multiple links to your Instagram profile? Use services as Linktree that allows packing several links in one, which you can post in your bio. Clicking this link takes your followers to the page with other ones. It is a great solution for holiday campaigns and several webpages promotion on Instagram.

As a business Instagram account owner, you can tag your location, share your contacts, and indicate the type of business as well. 

For instance, this Instagram profile’s bio contains two keywords — ceramics and pottery. The first one helped me to find the page very quickly. Think about what queries your potential followers use to find your content and add them to your bio.

When you start the page optimization, do not forget about adding keywords in captions and hashtags, too. 

3. Dress up your Instagram account in a branded theme

Instagram is about aesthetic and high-quality content. On this social media platform, users want to see beautiful photos similar to pictures of famous painters, not random blurry shots. Do not forget that you are competing for their attention with professional photographers and videographers. If your page looks like a big family album with photos of all times, formats, and colors, you will lose the war.

On the other hand, you can use glossy content to attract new followers on Instagram. There are a plethora of themes for your home page. They are differentiated by composition, style, color, formats, and so on.

Source: thepreviewapp.com

Imagine your Instagram grid is a store showcase. It should be stylishly decorated and attractive for your visitors. You can take your brand stylebook as a basis. Use branded colors, drawings and mark all content with your logo. There are no strict rules for you! Just choose your style and stick to it. It helps you to get more Instagram followers who will fall in love with your visuals.     

4. Experiment with Instagram content formats  

Your Instagram feed can contain different types of content. The platform provides various features for creating enticing visuals, improving them year to year. 

The Instagram algorithm evaluates your experiments positively, pushing your posts to the top of the Feed or Suggested Posts where potential users can see them. 

What types of Instagram content you can use to attract organic followers:

  • Reels are 15-30-second entertaining videos similar to TikTok. It is one of Instagram trends now. You can shoot them to showcase your products, introduce yourself as an expert, or participate in a viral challenge (read this article if you want to learn what is Instagram Reels in more detail). 

For example, this bakery company shot a short story of its business and earned tons of likes and comments. 


A post shared by For Goodness Cakes Co. (@forgoodnesscakesco)

  • IGTV series are ideal for guides, FAQs answering, tutorials, or other educational content. The maximum length of the video is 60 minutes.
  • Instagram Live session. It is a good real-time video format for online events, presentations, or industry talk shows. You can invite influencers as hosts to drive more engagement, reach, and followers. 
  • Longreads in captions. You have 2 200 characters as a limit to tell a fascinating story peppered with relevant keywords for quick search. The caption length of posts between 1000 and 2000 characters is optimal. They receive the most engagement, this study finds.

Also, you can run a contest, post memes, or infographics — all that users want to share with their friends by DMing, tagging their accounts in comments, or publishing in their Instagram Stories. 

Sponsoring user-generated content around your brand through a viral challenge is another way to attract new followers to your page.

Use Instagram analytics tools to measure your results and define the best formats for your business goals.

5. Make custom stickers for Instagram Stories

Nearly 500 million users create and check Instagram Stories every day. Using this format is is an answer to the question "How to get new followers?" because many users prefer to follow Stories updates rather than Feed.   

Many people add stickers to their Instagram Stories. Businesses try keeping up with them and provide Stories with trending and relevant additions, too. You can use not only ready-to-use embedded stickers but also create your own pictures and GIFs. For example, you can digitize your printed set of stickers for Instagram. 

How to make your custom stickers? Firstly, select a picture you want to use and save it on your smartphone as a .PNG file with transparent background. It may be your brand logo, mascot, or cool handwriting. Then, you can upload it to your Instagram Stories. Read the full instruction here.

GIF stickers work even better because they can be included in the searchable Instagram Sticker library. Other users can find and add them to their Stories, increasing your brand awareness.

Source: sociality.io

To make a GIF sticker, you need to use a special service — Giphy. Check this step-by-step lesson on how to create one.

6. Work with influencers 

Top bloggers can help you to grow your Instagram following as well. I bet, on Instagram, there is a group of influencers in every business niche. Partnering with brands that are not your direct competitors can be fruitful, too. 

Of course, you can run a paid campaign featuring celebrities as your marketing budget allows. However, collaborations with micro-influencers with 10-30K followers on average work just as good if not better. 

To find influencers on social media, you can seek help from social listening tools. Usually, they select suitable accounts by estimating their audience and the number of mentions. Awario shows the sentiment of their messages — positive, negative, or neutral — around your keywords as well.

Screenshot from Awario

The number of followers on Instagram and the engagement rate are important criteria. However, searching for influencers, pay attention to the feel, tone, and values of their posts. You need to find a voice that complements your brand. The best one can reach your target audience and build trust. 

7. Map out your hashtag strategy  

On Instagram, hashtags design the navigation system. Your task as a marketer is to integrate your posts into it. Then, users will easily find your content by clicking on relevant hashtags in other posts or searching by hashtags that they are interested in. 

Instagram allows adding up to 30 hashtags to a post but do not overuse them. Try to avoid generic words like #spring, #city, #business. It is better to choose the trending ones. Creating Instagram hashtags, focus on your topic, brand, and industry. 

For example, this computer museum describes its niche with topic hashtags. Potential followers can find this post by searching for them.


A post shared by HomeComputerMuseum (@homecomputermuseum)

Tricks like #followforfollowback and #tagforlikes can work on Instagram, too. However, you can’t be sure in advance that followers attracted by them are your target audience.  

Remember to always check if hashtags you intend to use are not banned, choose proper and popular ones. 

Awario can help you find suitable hashtags for your Instagram posts. Type in some keywords related to your niche or brand. After a while, go to Mention Statistics to analyze Topic cloud, an illustrative hashtag report. By the way, you can add new keywords to your alert already created and keep the results you have received earlier.  

Screenshot from Awario

The Topic cloud shows the most frequently used hashtags and keywords on social media and the web. On Dashboard, any word in the cloud is clickable, so you can study all posts, tweets, and articles where people mentioned it.

Screenshot from Awario

8. Be active 

If you want to grow a successful Instagram account, you need to be social on the platform. People are always interested in the personal, human side of brands. Your task as a marketing specialist is to find a unique brand voice, define its tone and the emotions that it is filled with. 

Feel free to engage with your followers on Instagram, responding to their questions and replies. Take a look at how Nestle does it.


A post shared by Nestlé (@nestle)

Also, you can follow other accounts — pages of your competitors or customers — to leave comments, like posts, and share user-generated content related to your brand with Instagram Stories. Tag people, for example, an Instagram influencer you want to cooperate with, or interesting Instagram profiles in your posts. Mentions always draw attention!

People will appreciate your activity if you show that your brand has a human face. However, this Instagram strategy doesn’t work when you have an over-promotional account cluttered with monotonous content. 

9. Try Instagram ads  

In 2020, Instagram’s potential advertising reach was 1.16 billion users, as Hootsuite said. One of the best formats for showcasing your product or service is Instagram Stories with a strong call-to-action. They perform better 89% of the time. 

Scheduling Instagram ad campaigns, you can also choose Photo, Video, Carousel, Collection, Explore, IGTV, or Shopping ads beyond Instagram Stories. Each type of ad has a lot of CTA buttons and helps to achieve various marketing objectives, including the increasing reach of your Instagram posts among potential followers. As a result, any business can successfully promote Instagram accounts through ad tools.

10. Improve Instagram content distribution 

Thinking of how to grow your Instagram following, you need to take care not only of good content but also decide on a distribution tactic. 

First, try to promote your posts within the social platform. There are a lot of free ways to grab attention beyond ads. For instance, scheduling Instagram posts, do not forget to announce a new one on Instagram Stories or Instagram Reels. Also, you can collaborate with popular accounts and experts for mutual promotion.

Second, use other social channels which you have. Synchronizing your Instagram account with a Facebook page is one of the ways to increase the number of your followers. You can share Instagram Stories or posts across linked pages in a matter of seconds. Adding a link in bio of your account on Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitch, and other social media works well, too.

Additionally, you can use your blog to embed your Instagram posts in the articles as examples. Sharing a link to your account via your website or your email signature is a good idea, too. Also, you can announce new posts in your email newsletter and mention how to find your page on Instagram during online events.  

Offline marketing materials also come in handy for this task. Put your Instagram nametag or QR code in your PDF presentations, printed leaflets, brochures, business cards, and even branded packaging. In the end, you can print and hang it up in your store!

Source: wersm.com

11. Be honest 

Some SMM “specialists” may advise you just to buy fake Instagram followers. They justify it by saying that a potential follower won’t take a look at the page with few subscribers. 

Yes, you can get a big Instagram following without efforts within several days. However, this dangerous Instagram strategy leads to poor results in the future:

  • You lose credibility of new followers 

There are tons of pages packed with bots and fake followers on Instagram. People have learned how to spot cheaters. A big Instagram following is not a social proof for them if your posts have low engagement rate. 

For example, this sofa store has 3 800+ followers, but its post gets just 5 likes and no comment at all on average. This is not the result you want to get, isn’t it? 


A post shared by The Sofa Society (@sofa.society)

  • You put your money on the table without any guarantees

Your Instagram posts should work for your brand — drive traffic to your website, generate leads, increase brand awareness, and so on. Bots and paid followers won’t help you to achieve these marketing goals. Also, they are extremely unreliable so they can click unfollow any minute.

Besides, the platform cleans up bots regularly. So, by buying followers on Instagram, you can throw money away.   

12. Bonus tip 

If you still haven't found an appropriate approach on how to grow a big Instagram following, listen to the story of a business coach Gary Vaynerchuk. Maybe his original $1.80 strategy will help you to get more Instagram followers. Spoiler: this method requires a lot of your time every day! 

Before you go 

Is a follower the king on Instagram? Both yes and no. You can rely on the number of followers as the most important metric. However, the engagement rate, comments, likes, saved posts are significant indicators, too. The more analytics you consider, the more detailed picture you receive. It helps you to improve your Instagram marketing strategy and succeed on this social platform.    

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