How to Grow Your Instagram Account [Updated 2020]

A step-by-step guide

Shane Barker
Jun 20, 2018 · 10 min read

Ever since Facebook changed their policy for businesses, Instagram is the new hub for gaining visibility in the virtual world. From local, family-run businesses to large global brands, everyone is growing their Instagram account.

There are more than 500 million active users on Instagram every day. Out of this, 80% of accounts follow at least one business. So it’s only natural that marketers want to make money from their Instagram accounts.

But for that, you first need to form a strong community of followers. You need more views on your posts, and you need to get your audience engaged. So how can you grow your Instagram fan base? We’ve got some tips to help you get started.

1. Post Creative Content

Instead of just posting about your products and promoting them, you could create stories around them.

Airbnb does a great job of weaving stories in their niche. They want to promote traveling and want people to discover different cities around the world by staying with locals.

So to create curiosity among users, they post snippets of the lives of their hosts from around the globe.

Image via Instagram

Their caption talks about the host’s interests or what sort of experience they can provide to travelers. Along with this, they also showcase different travel destinations. They connect with users through real-life stories. So users don’t feel like they are only looking at promotional content.

2. Post at Regular Intervals

The study found that the social media handles who posted more often saw a significant increase in engagement rate. Additionally, their follower growth rates also increased.

Image via Tailwind

So it’s a good idea to post at least once every day on your Instagram account. Don’t expect results right away; you will have to be patient.

3. Use the Right Hashtags

Let’s say you’re creating content related to a FIFA match. You shouldn’t just use #football because the term is too broad. Instead, use #FIFA, #FIFA2018, #FIFAWorldCup or #FIFAWorldCup2018.

Specifically for events, try to use variations of the same term. These hashtags are generally trending and everyone is searching for posts related to them. So you have a great opportunity to cash in on the opportunity.

Before using a hashtag, also check out the search volume for it. You risk getting lost in the flurry of posts if your hashtags have search volumes that go into the millions. Also, analyze which hashtags are giving your posts more engagement and try to use them more often.

If you use a tool like HashtagForLikes, which is my personal favorite, you can drill down to find trending hashtags with low competition and high engagement rates.

Image via SproutSocial

Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags in one post, but it’s advisable to use only nine per post. SproutSocial found in a study that posts with nine hashtags got the highest engagement rates.

The exact number of hashtags to be used has often divided digital marketers. But everyone agrees that overusing hashtags isn’t a good strategy.

4. Encourage Your Followers to Create Content

Instead of giving your audience content to consume, get them involved in the content creation process. Your followers’ content can help you grow your Instagram account.

Encourage your followers to create videos, photos, and GIFs with your products. Create a branded hashtag that can showcase all user-generated content for your brand.

This way you are increasing your brand awareness and also getting more content. This is a smart way to get your followers to become advertisers for you too.

Buffer’s Instagram account saw an incredible growth of 400% by using user-generated content. They posted relevant photos that their followers had clicked, along with their Instagram handles.

Image via Instagram

This shifts the focus from the brand onto the followers, which actually encourages users to post more for the brand.

5. Organize Contests

You can get as creative as you want with your contest ideas.

You could ask users to repost an image that you’ve posted previously. Along with it, ask them to mention your Instagram handle in the caption section to increase visibility.

Another way is to create a hashtag and give your users a specific theme to post images on.

Image via Instagram

Earthpix used a similar strategy to get more people hooked on their content. They encouraged users to like and share their content with their friends.

By doing so, they could get a chance to win a free trip to Fiji. The post got an overwhelming response. There were over 10,000 comments on the post.

6. Collaborate With Influencers

Get social media influencers to try out your products and encourage them to post about them.

Getting tagged in their posts can work wonders for you. Additionally, you could also give them promo codes or discount coupons that they can feature in their caption. This way, influencers can redirect their followers to your Instagram account or website.

Even if your own Instagram account doesn’t have many followers, you can reach out to a wider audience. Influencers can connect you with their loyal fanbase.

Image via Instagram

My First Years, a company that specializes in personalized gifts for babies, used this strategy to their advantage.

For their range of Father’s Day clothes, they collaborated with fashion blogger Fleur de Force. Her Instagram post showcasing their products got more than 10,000 likes in just two days.

7. Post Content at the Optimal Time

Sprout Social conducted a study to find out the best time to post content on Instagram. They found that posts should be published from Tuesday through Friday. And they should be published between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. to maximize engagement.

It also showed that posts published on Thursdays received the most engagement in the week.

According to the study, on Thursdays, 5 a.m., 11 a.m., and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. are all suitable times to post content on Instagram. For Wednesdays, the recommended posting time was at 3 p.m., while on Friday, it was at 5 a.m.

Image via SproutSocial

You should schedule your Instagram posts to suit the optimal timings suggested. Use the findings from this study to your advantage to grow your Instagram account.

8. Advertise on Instagram

You can choose from four basic formats for advertising: photo ads, video ads, carousel ads, and slideshow ads.

Photo ads and video ads are exactly like your normal Instagram posts. The only addition is the “Sponsored” label that you can see above the photo.

Carousel ads allow you to organize a number of related posts into a single carousel. You get to showcase your product from more than one perspective in these ads.

Recently, Instagram even extended the features for Stories. Brands like Gap are already using the feature to highlight more about their campaigns by posting multiple videos together.

In their post for the Logo Remix campaign, Gap even used features like pinning and drawing tools.

Image via Adweek

Slideshow ads allow you to tell a story by combining up to ten images into a sequence of animation. You can add background music to your slideshow ads to weave an engaging video from your static images. These ads are lightweight, so they are easier to load compared to video ads.

Instagram has a wide range of ad formats that enable you to get creative with content. You can even add leads and target audiences for your Instagram ads.

To grow your Instagram outreach, use a mix of these ads. It’ll give you publicity and also allow you to analyze the demographics of your audience.

9. Geotag Your Posts

You can either just include the name of your city or pin down the specific location that you are at.

It’s a simple feature that can grow your Instagram engagement rates as well. Simply Measured found out that posts that used geotagging got 79% more engagement than those that did not.

Image via Simply Measured

If you have a brick-and-mortar location for your business, you should use it to get more publicity too.

Encourage your customers to post pictures and videos from your store or office and ask them to geotag the location. This strategy can be especially helpful to create buzz around a product launch or a store opening.

10. Engage with Your Followers

Your caption provides a valuable space that lets you tell stories and promote your partners. If you write it well, you can even use it to get further engagement on your posts.

In general, using open-ended questions and using emojis can encourage your followers to engage with you.

You could ask how the day has been for your followers or what their plans are for the weekend. It could be anything really. When you encourage your followers to share their experiences with you, you make them feel valued.

The Cheesecake Factory does a great job with this. For most occasions, they post photos of what their celebrations look like. At the end, they ask their users to share their plans too.

Image via Instagram

It sets the tone for you to connect with your followers. Additionally, once you start getting comments or personal messages, make it a habit to respond to them.

Many businesses try to go with automated messages, especially when it comes to reviews and feedback. But that’s not what you should be doing.

Appreciate the enthusiasm of each follower and genuinely try to have a conversation with them. If they appreciate your posts, saying a simple “thank you” can also help your brand image.

Even if you’ve received criticism, be polite and try to keep the tone of the conversation courteous, yet casual. You could also offer some freebies if you find that there were some shortcomings from your side.

By responding courteously to comments, you can set a friendly tone for your brand. You need to make yourself look approachable. Only if you do that, you can grow your Instagram followers and gain more loyalty.

A study by Sprout Social found that 83% of social media users wanted brands to engage with them. The study found that being perceived as honest, helpful, and friendly helped in boosting engagement for brands. So make sure you create a brand image that has these traits.


It’s important to post creative content consistently with the right hashtags. This way you can get more visibility. To increase engagement, collaborate with influencers and organize contests for your followers.

Growing your Instagram outreach will require a lot of effort and patience. Results will take time to show, but in the meantime, keep up the good work consistently.


This post contains some affiliate links. This will not incur any extra cost for you but they will help me create more such value-added posts for you.

Better Marketing

Marketing advice & case studies to help you market…

Shane Barker

Written by

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant that specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. #InfluencerMarketing Writer for INC.

Better Marketing

Marketing advice & case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and efficiently.

Shane Barker

Written by

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant that specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. #InfluencerMarketing Writer for INC.

Better Marketing

Marketing advice & case studies to help you market ethically, authentically, and efficiently.

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