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How to Gain More Followers and Grow Your Brand on Instagram

A billion dollars. That’s how much Facebook paid to acquire Instagram in 2012. A billion reasons everyone thought they were crazy. No one understood what was so special about the photo sharing app back then.

Fast forward to present day and it’s become clear Facebook has severely underpaid for the acquisition. These days, Instagram is a behemoth of an app with over a billion active monthly users. Everyone and their dog has an Instagram account.

This creates a ton of opportunity for both people and businesses to reach an enormous audience. At no point in history have we had such a tremendous potential to amass a following. But with great opportunity comes great competition.

These days, it’s not easy to play the Instagram game if you don’t know what you’re doing. With constant algorithm changes and a bigger shift towards paid advertising, it seems like Instagram is losing its luster. Let me assure you – this is not the case.

Of course, you need to be more strategic and systematic about your approach. But know this – Instagram still works. And it’s still severely underutilized. If you’re wondering whether you’ve missed the train, the answer is, “Not even close”. So buckle up, settle in and let’s see how you can get more followers on Instagram, grow your brand, and build a community around your business.

Table of contents:

Step 1: Switch to an Instagram Business Profile

Step 2: Identify Your Target Audience

Step 3: Make the Most Out of Your Bio

Step 4: Optimize Your Content

Step 5: Be Active and Be Consistent

Step 6: Engage with the Community

Step 7: Profit

Step 1: Switch to an Instagram Business Profile

When Instagram introduced business profiles in 2016, companies were worried. Many businesses got flashbacks from the dropping reach of their Facebook pages. They thought the same thing would happen on Instagram. But the “Reachpocalypse” never came.

Fear of lower organic reach is one of the main reasons why some businesses shy away from a business profile. Yet, ironically, this decision only hurts them in the long run.

It’s true organic reach is slowing down, but it has nothing to do with the type of account you have. On the other hand, switching to an Instagram business account comes with a ton of benefits you’d be otherwise missing out on.

Benefits of Switching to a Business Profile

Business profiles make life on Instagram a lot easier when you’re trying to promote your goods or services. When I first switched to a business account, I was surprised at the amount of features and information I could play with. Here are some of the main benefits:

  • Instagram Insights – this is pure gold. You get a metric ton of data to inform your decisions. You can see how many people your posts are reaching, how many people view your stories, what activity your posts generate and how many people interact with your account divided by post. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. You also gain valuable insights into your audience (age, gender, location, times they’re most active). Thanks to all this data, you can easily see what works, what doesn’t, and when’s the best time to post.
  • Ability to add Action Button – people value efficiency more than ever. In the business world, you want to make getting in touch with you or ordering products and services as easy and painless as possible. Adding Action Buttons is a huge step forward in that process. Action buttons allow people to contact you, shop from you, or go over to your website. Conversion rates skyrocket when people can reach you with the click of a button.
  • Your industry will show up on your profile – clarity is important if you want to cut through the noise. Placing your industry on your profile will make it clear to your potential followers what kind of content they can expect.
  • Ability to add links to your stories – Instagram likes to keep users engaged on the platform. That’s why links aren’t a staple of the app. You can’t add links in posts or comments. But Instagram recognized that with business accounts being a big part of the ecosystem, they needed to give companies some way to send customers to their sites. Enter “links in stories”. However, there’s a catch – you need to have more than 10,000 followers and a verified account before you can use this feature.
  • Enables Promoted Posts – Instagram advertising is still dirt cheap when compared to traditional ad avenues. And it’s way more targeted. With Promotions, you can reach a lot of people, increase your follower count, and attract a lot more attention to your brand. Sprinkle in some smart marketing decisions and your ROI will skyrocket.

If you want to develop your brand on Instagram, a business profile is the way to go.

You’re probably wondering if there are any downsides to switching to an Instagram business account? Not really. The only “downside” is that you’ll lose the ability to make your posts private. Which isn’t really a downside for your brand, is it?

There is one caveat. You will need to link your Instagram account to your Facebook business page. It’s a little inconvenient if you don’t already have one (though why you wouldn’t have one is beyond me – you know it’s free, right?). But that’s it. Switch to a business profile as soon as possible.

Step 2: Identify Your Target Audience

The beauty of Instagram is that you can create high quality content aimed at a specific demographic with a pinpoint accuracy. You can perfectly align your feed on the platform with your overall marketing strategy.

Knowing your target audience is key to your business development. If you don’t know who your business is targeting, then I suggest you pause and think about it. Answer the following:

  • Why are you in business?
  • What are you selling?
  • Who is most likely to buy it?
  • Who is actually buying it?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Whom is your competition targeting?
  • What kind of problem does your product solve?

These should be enough to start turning the wheels. Once you get some answers, more questions will pop up. By the end of this improvised Q&A session, you will have a much better understanding of your target market.

Best case scenario, you want to create a profile for your ideal customer based on these questions. The more narrow-focused you can get, the better. Dig into both the demographics and psychology of your audience. All the other marketing decisions on Instagram will stem from this ideal customer profile.

This will allow you to create the right type of content for your audience. If you’re selling running shoes, obviously you’ll be creating content for runners (even then, you need to think about specifics – what type of runners, what distance, what type of content?). Sadly, most businesses aren’t in such clear waters. So dig in and try to clarify the picture as much as you can.

I know this may sound basic, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses ignore this step. Do you want to know what most of them have in common? They fail quickly.

Step 3: Make the Most Out of Your Bio

The Instagram bio is where you neatly display the most relevant information about your business. It’s like a digital ID, if you will. This is where you get to tell people what your business is all about and refer them to your website. The catch? You have a limited number of characters to tell your story. So make them count.

Make Your Bio Crystal Clear

Brevity is the name of the game. You need to be efficient with your words. Like a poet wooing his muse under the gentle caress of the pale moonlight.

This is how you tell your story and convince people to follow you. Remember – you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Having a strong positioning statement would give you an awesome opportunity to let your followers (and customers) know what your business is all about. In a sentence or two, you can win them over. Furthermore, you can try to integrate your target market into your bio. This way, they will immediately recognize themselves which will give you an advantage.

What is a positioning statement? It’s the entirety of your business condensed into one or two sentences. It tells people what you do, whom you do it for, and why they should bother with you instead of your competitors. Ideally, you want to have one of those front and center in your Instagram bio. It will also help you stand out from your other profiles in your space.

Add a Call to Action

Calls to action are demonstrably powerful. If you don’t believe me, remove all CTAs from your website and see if that affects your bottom line. The traffic coming to your site won’t know what to do. So they’ll leave.

You need to prompt people into action. Otherwise, they need to come up with what you want them to do on their own. Why would anyone be this invested in your brand the first time they see you? A CTA will help you mitigate that risk and tell them exactly what to do.

It’s important that your CTA reflects your brand’s character, as well as your target audience. Here are some pointers:

  • Use active language – if you’re going to tell people what to do, be direct.
  • Give them a benefit for doing what you want them to do – self-interest is one of the main drivers for human behaviour. If you want them to do what you want, explain how they will benefit.
  • Don’t overdo it – use a CTA to send people to your site. Or to ask them to follow you. Or to buy your products. But not all of the above.
  • Use emojis to focus the user’s attention – emojis work better than plain text. Use them, but be conservative.
  • Be original – since your bio will be one of the main conversion drivers on your Instagram profile, you want to make it awesome. So spend more than two minutes on it. And don’t be afraid to experiment.

Your bio is one of your biggest assets on Instagram. Show it the proper respect and it will lead your brand to new heights.

Step 4: Optimize Your Content

You’ve created an ideal customer profile and optimized your profile. Now what? This is where the fun begins.

Armed with tons of features and loaded with data, now you can start creating content that resonates with your target audience.

What does your target audience like?

Because you’ve already accomplished Step 1 and you have a business account, you have access to many delicious insights. You can easily test out your assumptions from Step 2 against reality.

Ideally, the people who most interact with your content should be a close match to your target audience. This means you’re creating the right type of content for the right kind of people and your posts will blow up once you promote them.

If there is a discrepancy, you need to analyze it and figure out why. Are you creating the wrong kind of content? Or targeting the wrong crowd? Let the data show you the way.

I once consulted a client who was making moisture absorbent T-shirts for gym goers. Turned out, many of his target consumers prefered tank tops.

One of the main selling points of his gear was that you didn’t need to wash the t-shirt after every workout due to the properties of the fabric. This didn’t resonate with his target audience.

Can you guess who it did resonate with, though? Outdoorsy types. Turns out, moisture absorbent T-shirts are great when you’re hiking in the mountains for 10 days straight.

Once he started targeting the right customers (and creating content for them), his business took off big time.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Or is it?

Create unique content. I cannot stress this enough. Your content should reflect your target audience and their needs. Think about your target audience and their problems. What are their needs?What value can you bring to them? Providing value should come first.

You can look at other profiles for inspiration, but never copy. The whole point of someone following you is for your content. Not a copy/paste of someone else’s.

People often get put off by plagiarism, so be advised. (Note: collaborations with other content creators and businesses are an entirely different topic)

How to Provide Value to Your Instagram Followers

Value is a very elusive term. Everyone has some idea what it means, but few people actually provide it. If you want to succeed, you want to be among those few people (or companies – you get the gist).

Since you’ve done your homework (told you Step 2 was important), you have a pretty good idea what problems your followers are facing. To resonate with them, your content needs to educate, entertain, or inspire. These are the only three types of content that perform well on Instagram (or anywhere).

You can post well-designed carousels and provide tons of useful information. Carousels perform very well on Instagram, especially if you can get people to the third slide. This is an indication to the algorithm that your content is engaging and more people need to see it.

Video is another content format that performs great on Instagram. If you can afford to regularly post entertaining or educational videos around your brand, that would be great. Especially if you promote the best ones.

This is also the best way to showcase your products. Your message will be a lot more effective if people can see the benefits of whatever you’re selling.

Visual Consistency

If you’re sharing photography, make sure you develop a unique aesthetic. Our brains crave consistency so we react better to profiles with a consistent visual style.

Posting visually consistent content will make your brand’s style recognizable. In turn, this will boost brand awareness. It will also signal to your followers what they can expect, increasing your follower count. And finally – it just looks more professional.

All that being said, don’t be afraid to experiment every once in a while. Share your view of the world and show some character. Prove to your audience your business has a soul. Let your creative juices flow and splash on your digital canvas. Show your audience that while you’re consistent, you’re also growing and changing.

Step 5: Be Active and Be Consistent

Consistency wins the day. Like developing a brand, growing an Instagram profile takes time. You can look at it as a Herculean effort, a feat for the ages… Or you can see it for what it is – a process. Those who focus on the process always win in the long run.

How often should you post?

Keep your audience engaged. Share a post at least once a week, but aim for three or four times. I find this is optimal – you don’t want to seem pushy by posting too often. At the same time, you don’t want to seem uninterested in your audience by posting too rarely. Aim for a good balance.

Stories are a different… story. You can post stories daily, or even several times a day. This will keep your most interested and loyal followers engaged, without spamming everyone.

Also, stories usually have a bigger reach than posts, so you could gain a lot more exposure.

Creating quizzes and polls is another way to connect with your audience and keep them engaged. If you’re going to post a quiz or a poll, make them interesting.

When it comes to stories, post with a purpose. Show people what’s happening behind the scenes. Show your process. Your humanity. Make stories fun and engaging. Tell an actual story and make people feel like they’re a part of the journey.

Should you use a content management software?

If you find yourself unable to follow your post schedule, you can use a content management software. There are several benefits to this:

  • It will allow you to plan your posts well in advance.
  • You’ll be able to schedule a series of posts to go live at the appropriate times. So you will never again “forget” to post.
  • Mapping out your content becomes a breeze when you use this type of software.
  • You free up more mental space for creativity instead of planning.

There are paid and free solutions you can use. Both having pros and cons, so research your options before you choose.

Captions and Geotagging

Many people say Instagram users don’t read captions. Many people are wrong.

As a matter of fact, many brands have turned their Instagram profiles into micro-blogs and reaping the benefits.

With descriptive captions and calls to action, you can grab your followers’ attention and never let it go. Try to make every caption “the best thing people will read all day”.

Also, don’t forget to engage with the users. Ask questions. Try to start a dialogue and give them a reason to comment. The more engagements your posts get, the better.

Provide value with everything you post. Whether it’s education, inspiration, or entertainment, make sure users receive something from your post.

It’s also important to geotag your posts if your business has a physical location. This would allow Instagram users to more easily find you, as well as geotag your store, themselves.


No article about increasing your Instagram follower count can go without talking about hashtags.

Hashtags have been Instagram’s bread and butter since the beginning. Using the proper hashtags can be the difference between your post reaching thousands of new people or only a small fraction of your own followers.

Unless you have a huge following already (and if you’re reading this, you probably don’t), don’t bother with huge hashtags. Aim for hashtags that have between 20,000 and 100,000 posts. This way, you have a much greater chance of making it to the Top posts for the hashtag.

Getting to the Top posts is no easy task. Your content needs to be top notch and your post needs to get immediate engagement. So don’t skimp on quality. And don’t forget to include a call to action.

Focus on hashtags that are relevant to your niche. You can also check out what kinds of hashtags your followers are using. This could provide a jolt of inspiration if you’re not sure what hashtags to use. And allow you to enter conversations your potential customers are having.

Unlike other platforms, there is no “optimal” number of hashtags to use. Make them descriptive and make them relevant. If you don’t spam mindless hashtags, you’ll be fine.

Finally, make sure you create your own branded hashtag. You can use it so you can keep followers posted, increase brand awareness, allow people to talk about you, as well as announce sales, giveaways, etc.

Step 6: Engage with the Community

Imagine you’re at a cocktail party. The music is mellow and atmospheric. There’s a hypnotic ambiance of hundreds of voices talking around you. Everyone is dressed to impress.

You grab a glass of champagne and start looking for company. You walk around the room and begin to notice different groups of people passionately talking about certain topics. You also start to notice something else – groups where one person occupies the conversation quickly disband.

Ironically, since most people are self-centered, there’s nothing more off-putting than a self-centered person. If you go to a networking event only to talk about yourself, you won’t make it very far.

Instagram is a lot like that. If you’re on the platform only to “gain a following” by talking about yourself, you’ll remain at the start for a very long time. You’ll be like “that guy” who went backpacking through Europe 10 years ago and hasn’t shut up about it since. Nobody cares about that guy.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie gives us an awesome blueprint about getting people to like us. Yes, the book is from 1936, but many of the principles are universal. Apply them to Instagram and reap the benefits.

  • Become genuinely interested in other people. Since people are naturally interested in themselves, showing interest in them makes them interested in you. I know, it sounds like black magic but it works. Engage with your followers. Comment under their posts and ask them genuine questions. You’d be surprised at how much more interested people will become in your brand.
  • Be positive. Let your brand be a positive force for your online community and see that community thrive and grow. Make your followers feel good about themselves and they will engage with you a lot more.
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests. People reveal all kinds of information about themselves online because they think others care. Show them they’re right. When you engage your target audience, talk about them – their interests, their problems, their pains, their dreams.
  • Make the other person feel important. We all like to feel important and we’re naturally drawn to people who make us feel this way. So help your target audience feel important, but be genuine. People can smell deception through their screens.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation. Look, I don’t care if you’re a startup or you’re Nike… Your success is predicated on other people. So you better show them the appreciation they deserve if you want to be successful.

Whether on social media or in life, success is about what you give, not what you get.

How to Engage with the Community

Instagram offers many ways to engage with the community. Ways, such as:

  • Like and comment – you can take the principles I’ve showcased above and put them in practice here. Make an effort. Like and comment on your target audience’s posts. You’ll gain a ton of traction this way.
  • DM people – now this is a little tricky. Don’t just DM everyone. But if you identify people who you think could benefit from your products or services, then DM them. Be genuine and conversational. No one (and I mean not a single soul) likes corporatespeak.
  • Launch contests and giveaways – show your followers some love and increase your engagement at the same time. Launch contests and giveaways every once in a while, but make sure the prize is worth it.
  • Outreach influencers – this totally works. If you can collaborate with people your target audience already follows, you’ll win. Big time.

Show actual care for your community and they will return it in kind.

Step 7: Profit

Once you’ve completed all the above steps, you’ll see how your follower count will exponentially grow. Your brand will become much more established. You will learn a lot more about your clients. They will communicate with you directly and your business will become much more stable.

Doing things the right way isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. This is the way to build longevity in your business. Once you’ve established your brand, you won’t be as dependent on Instagram and other platforms. Until then – keep building. Keep growing. Best of luck!