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Over the last few years, Instagram has become an incredible platform for businesses to grow their brands, and has developed into a digital hotspot for networking and entrepreneurship. But not to be lost in the vast growth of the app with all its business- and brand-oriented bells and whistles is the element of genuine personal connection — and isn’t that what social media is really all about?

With over a billion users now, it can’t be that hard to find new people to connect with… can it? If you feel like your feed has gotten a bit stale, if you’re in need of fresh and exciting narratives to follow, and if you’re ultimately looking for new people to engage and connect with, here are 7 ways to find new accounts to follow and create genuine connections through Instagram.

1. Use the Explore Feature

Let’s start simple. Instagram’s Explore tab shows popular photos and videos, posts made at nearby locations, as well as trending tags, stories, and places. But more than that, the Explore tab is designed to feature content curated for you. This is really where Instagram’s personal and explorative nature comes to the forefront. The more you engage with the app, like posts, and visit profiles, the more suggested and curated posts based on your interests and aesthetic tastes will appear in the Explore tab. You’ll see posts liked by your friends or accounts you follow, which in turn leads you to discover profiles you may otherwise not have found.

2. Get Connecting With Geotags

More than likely, you live in the same area as Instagram users with great content but whom you’ve never met. Tagging the location of your photos, videos, and stories is the easiest way to both find people close to you and explore photos from those local areas you know well. These days, it’s possible to go from strangers to Instagram acquaintances to actually meeting in person when you discover someone through geotagged photos. Simply by finding people posting in the same locations as you, you may develop authentic personal connections that otherwise would not have existed.

3. #hashtags

It almost goes without saying, but hashtags are still a crucial part of finding and forging new connections on Instagram. All those new potential friends and accounts out there that you would be interested in are likely using the same hashtags as you! For example, #makeportraits connects you with thousands of other people creating portraits. From there, it’s easy to find users whose stories and personal narratives you find compelling. Reaching out with likes, comments, and personal messages is easy enough in the Instagram community, and connection develops before you know it.

4. See Who Your Friends and Favourite Instagrammers Are Following

Browsing through the following lists of people you already know or follow is an easy and intuitive way to inject fresh and interesting content into your newsfeed, as well as create new personal connections. Since these new accounts you find will already be followed by your friends or Instagrammers you admire, these people may likely have similar aesthetic tastes and interests as you, and even similar beliefs and values as well.

5. Go Through Your Own List of Followers

If you have a popular account and a large following (way to go, by the way) and don’t keep up with each individual follow you get, then it may be time to have a look through your own followers and see who’s new to your profile. Since these people have sought you out and followed you, it’s likely they discovered you through one of the aforementioned ways of connecting and found you to be worth following. So check out their profile since they likely have things in common, and you may find an interesting new follow.

6. Browse Through Someone’s Likes and Comments

If there’s a particular person or profile you follow and you wish you had more content and stories like theirs in your feed, see who else has been liking or commenting on their posts. This way, you can see what other brands or people are actively engaging with a page or person that’s important to you, and from there you can follow and connect with new people and accounts you find fascinating.

7. Ask For Recommendations

Last but not least… just ask! We all have our favourite accounts whose posts we love, so ask your friends or followers who their own favourites are. People love to share recommendations, both to extend and develop common interests and to grow the popularity of accounts they are passionate about. Some of my favourite people to follow right now are wildlife and nature photographers @kpunkka and @hannes_becker, local gourmet donut shop @donutmonsterhamilton, freelance model and traveller @shelby.kleiman, and of course my favourite band @switchfoot.

So there you have it, a roundup of 7 easy ways to find new accounts and forge genuine new connections with people on Instagram! And if reaching out through comments and messages isn’t really your thing (and you’re worried it might come off as weird to start talking to people you don’t know in real life), don’t worry. The Instagram community is a supportive place filled with people just like you looking for the next compelling story and the next new connection.