Ways to Grow Your Instagram Organically
Instagram has become more than just a platform to share your photos. It’s a powerful marketing platform for businesses, bloggers, influencers, and even your pets. With over one billion active users per month, the opportunities are vast.
However, even though Instagram has grown exponentially, it has never been harder to grow on the platform.
It may be even harder to grow now that Instagram is testing hidden overall likes. The first reports have indicated that the engagement rates have dropped.
In fact, I’m one of the accounts that no longer see the total number of likes. I’m still assessing the impact on my account, but so far, yes, the engagement rate on my posts has dropped.
Instagrammers will need to adapt to these changes. I’m still standing behind efforts to grow my audience organically. It will unquestionably remain the most sustainable way to scale up. Thus, I’m sharing with you eight tips that I learnt along the way. I know that they will have an impact on the growth of your account as well.
Tip 1. Forget All Magical Overnight Growth Stories
Let me be honest here. You cannot grow your Instagram account overnight. Like everything else, it’s work, and it requires time, lots of effort and strategy — unless you’re willing to go down the bot-generated road, which I highly discourage you from. You will lose more in the long run by getting bot-generated followers, and most likely, Instagram will block you.
My best advice is to stay consistent and work on your Instagram account. Treat it as a part-time job. It cannot be a place where you randomly post random things. Even if you do so, it will not be sustainable in the long run and won’t bring results that you’re hoping for.
Magical overnight growth stories are a sham. They are bots that generated fake followers that never engage with the content and make us work harder to achieve our Instagram success. Imagine an account with 100K followers, but an engagement rate of less than 1%. This is the first signal that the followers were generated dishonestly. What’s the point of even keeping an account like this?
I use this tool called Tanke to spy on others and better understand where their huge following comes from.
Tip 2. Be Proactive Within Your Niche
Instagram is a social media platform, and we are expected to socialise on a social media platform, aren’t we? That’s what you’re expected to do on Instagram. If you post your photos and won’t engage with the other accounts, chances of you growing your account are meagre.
What I do is I spend at least one hour per day working on my account. Apart from content production and publishing, I also look for people who are interested in my niche. I comment and engage with their content. A friendly and honest comment makes a huge difference and often leads to a genuine follow.
In this way, you put your name out publicly. People who come and also engage with the same person are likely to see your name and potentially visit and follow your account.
Tip 3. Don’t Spend Money on Sponsored Ads
This might be controversial as many so-called social media gurus will tell you to invest in ads. I don’t believe in Instagram advertising as it solely promotes that particular post.
Think for a second. How many ads have you clicked into? I double-tap on the advertised post, but I never go beyond and check the profile. Most of us do the same. Therefore, if you only want to get a lot of likes on a particular post, go for advertising; alternatively, it’s not likely to bring you any followers.
Instead, invest the money you would use for Instagram ads into something more helpful. Maybe purchase a photo editing app, or enrol in a Udemy course on photography.
I know some people will disagree with this and will claim that ads were a great way for them to generate sales or followers. Well, good for you! However, in most cases, ads don’t really generate followers. Even if they do, these followers are most likely to be short term, and may not engage with your content in the future.
Tip 4. Often Interchange Your Hashtags
Previously, I used to have a list of generic hashtags that would apply to any photo within my niche on my smartphone. It was easy and convenient when I was posting my photos on the go.
What I noticed is that Instagram gave less organic traffic to my posts if I kept using the same hashtags. It sucks because I need to keep changing my hashtags all the time, but at the same time, it gives lots of space for experimentation to find new followers.
Now I have a pool of hashtags that are relevant to my niche, and I select from them for every post I make. It works. Once I started interchanging my hashtags, surprisingly, my reach and engagement grew.
Interchanging the hashtags is also a great way to keep in touch with news in your niche and find out the inspiration for new posts.
If you need the inspiration to boost your hashtag game, I can suggest Hashtags for Promotion App. It’s a valuable tool to discover new hashtags within your niche. It also supports multiple languages (Russian, Korean, Portuguese, English, Italian, and Turkish).
Tip 5. Switch to an Instagram Business Account (or Not)
I’m indifferent about this one. I have never tested the difference. What I love about my Instagram business account is the analytics, which are extremely scarce on Instagram anyway.
I have read people claiming that Instagram expects business accounts to use sponsored ads; thus, they are exposed to lesser audiences. I am not sure whether it’s true or not, but logically it makes sense.
If you want to track your progress, you will need some analytics. Instagram provides those on a business account, but I also use the Followmeter app, which gives a pretty good overview of the activities as well.
Tip 6. Concentrate on Your Content
If you are within a niche that you’re passionate about, this tip should be a joy for you. You should spend time and plan your content with captions and hashtags. It would be best if you also planned how often per week you’ll post and when. Don’t spam. Quantity does not mean quality and is not an easier way to success. In most cases, it’s the opposite, and you’ll annoy your followers.
I wouldn’t say I like using the Instagram content planning apps like Later or PlannThat; I prefer using the old-fashioned way of editing my photos in advance and keeping them on my phone. I also write captions and save them on Google Docs.
Captions are essential. I’d suggest starting with a thought-provoking question or statement, followed up with a personal story. Try to sound neutral and be engaging. Emoji are great to attract attention and set the mood for the post.
When it comes to time, I’ve noticed that my audience is most active before lunch and before dinner, sometimes late at night. This is when I try to post. I do not follow specific hours as my practice has shown that it t doesn’t give any significant impact.
Tip 7. Share Your Posts on Pinterest
As weird as it sounds, Pinterest is a great way to attract audiences. It’s also a picture-centric platform, but the major difference is that it has become a search engine for many as well. What does that mean? If you share your Instagram posts on Pinterest and optimise them well, people will be able to find them when they search for info on something.
I am learning to start using it more proactively as an added value to my social media game. The problem is that it requires additional time and attention, which is often troublesome. If you’re eager to step up your social media game, you should invest some time in making sure you know how to expose yourself on Pinterest. No, it’s not dead. It is super powerful.
So far, my experiments gave very encouraging results. On average, the posts that are shared on Pinterest see at least an 8% increase in reach. Pinterest is a great tool to improve reach and grow the audience.
On the other hand, if you have a blog — you can also embed your Instagram posts into your blog articles. It is an awesome and easy way to get extra exposure.
Tip 8. Utilize All That Instagram Has to Offer
Instagram is excellent as it is, and you need to tap into what it has to offer. I’ve met people who want to grow on Instagram, but never use geo-location tagging, or seldom use hashtags, or use the bare minimum of them.
To be clear, Instagram does not penalise if you use more hashtags. You can use up to 30, and my suggestion is to maximise your list. Why? Because hashtags are the most basic way to find your content. Even if you don’t engage with anyone, don’t like any other photos, people will still be able to see your content through hashtags.
Geo-location is also very important as people tend to search for things in specific locations. For example, if you’re at a restaurant, you should use the restaurant’s name as location, not the district or the city where it is. Why? Because people want to discover content in that particular restaurant. They want to see what’s there. I wouldn’t be looking for content from restaurants if I search the location New York.
Maximise what Instagram has already given.
Bonus Tip. Give It Time and Don’t Be Harsh on Yourself
Growth takes time. It took you years to acquire all the knowledge and skills that you have today. You didn’t have it all once you were born, nor did you have it once you were six.
My point is that growth is a gradual process. If you implement the right strategies that I’ve shared with you, you will see incremental growth. It’s a matter of time for you to start getting 20 new followers a week, later on, 50 a week, 100 a week, etc. — the list goes on.
The best way to track your progress is to have a weekly or monthly spreadsheet with the metrics that you feel are important for you. By continuously tracking your progress and growth, you will notice how far you’ve come.