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Real, Organic Instagram Followers

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“I got over 3,500 new Instagram followers my first month, this blew my brand up and was the fastest way to grow my Instagram followers.

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Milton Arnold

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  • @MiltonArnold
  • Nov 2019
  • 220,784
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  • +96k

Brianna Howard

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  • @BriannaHoward
  • Jun 2020
  • 76,551
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  • +24k

Mario Howell

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  • @MarioHowell
  • Nov 2019
  • 136,885
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  • +87k

Roxy Soukup

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  • @roxy.soukup
  • Sep 2019
  • 11.3k
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  • 4,688


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  • Oct 2019
  • 33.7k
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  • 22,486


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  • @thefitnesspassion
  • Jun 2020
  • 6,522
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  • 2,784

Katie Okeley

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  • @kokeley
  • Sep 2019
  • 98.3k
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  • +39k


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  • @Mountyz.official
  • Oct 2019
  • 237,854
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  • +80k

Kelsie Sievers

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  • Jun 2020
  • 13.2k
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  • 5,365


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  • @veggirina
  • Sep 2019
  • 14.7k
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  • 8,902

Lago Garda

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  • @instagarda
  • Jun 2020
  • 130k
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  • 54,729

Billie Byrd

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  • @BillieByrd
  • Sep 2019
  • 241,452
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  • +73k

Robert Silva

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  • @RobertSilva
  • Oct 2019
  • 237,854
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  • +80k

Zoey Lee

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  • @ZoeyLee24
  • Jun 2020
  • 57,387
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  • +36k

Last Update: 07/10/2024

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How To Gain Instagram Followers Guide

Sara had an Instagram account for her apparel business — and it only had 200 followers back in 2015. She once told a potential buyer of her brand that she wasn’t putting a lot of energy on Instagram because she’d rather focus on selling on Amazon, where everyone seemed to be going to buy everything.

Despite the business being financially stable at the time, the deal fell through and then suffered a huge blow when Amazon started launching its own apparel and used her clothing ideas as their own. They also tightened their restrictions on selling and increased fees for selling on their marketplace. Soon she had a hard time selling anything on Amazon.

Sara had always thought that Instagram was only a place where friends and family went to catch up and stay in touch. But Instagram has proven to be more than just a platform for maintaining personal relationships. In fact, it has been key to the success of countless businesses, as it can effectively help build brand awareness, drive huge traffic, boost engagement and sales, generate leads, and reinforce customer relationships.

From 500 million users worldwide and 100 million active users per day using Instagram back in 2015, the platform has grown to a whopping 1 billion accounts and more than 500 million active users every single day. More than 60% of Instagram users often go on the platform to discover new products. Even back in 2015, the 100 million daily users visited at least one business profile each day.

These days, Sara is running a number of retail businesses and her strong Instagram presence is a big contributor to her impressive sales numbers.

Whether you already have an established business or are just starting, you can and should take advantage of Instagram’s amazing potential. Setting up an Instagram account should be SOP for new business owners. An Instagram account can also be used as the business’ main platform — this is actually a popular practice among millions of ecommerce owners around the world.

Keep reading for insider tips and tricks on how to become Instagram savvy. Our Instagram growth guide is perfect for both IG newbies and old-timers.

We have divided our Instagram growth guide into two parts:

Part One

  1. Basic steps to take to start your Instagram journey on the right path
  2. Rules you need to know when growing your account
  3. Learn about Instagram don’ts, such as automation tools like bots
  4. Learn more about Instagram growth service offerings on the market

Part Two

  1. Planning your Instagram content
  2. Effective use of IG’s built-in marketing features
  3. Building meaningful relationships with your target market
  4. Leveraging the power of Instagram influencers
  5. Learn about cross-channel marketing
  6. Supplementing your organic growth plan

Part 1: Setting Up the Right Backdrop for Your Instagram Growth

Create your Instagram business account

First things first, create an Instagram business account; if you already have a personal account, you can convert it into a business one.

An Instagram business page is free to set up and gives you access to unique tools and functionality that are not available to personal accounts:

  • Call-to-action buttons
  • Third-party integrations
  • Instagram insights

Switching a personal account into a business account is quick and easy. You can view the instructions here.

After setting up your account, ask yourself the following questions to determine if your brand is primed for successful Instagram growth.

Is my Instagram handle suitable?

Having the perfect IG handle can take your business a long way. Your handle should be on-brand, memorable, and appealing, especially to your target market. You should avoid a handle that’s plain, a cliche, or inappropriate in any way as you wouldn’t want people to just shrug you off or to turn them away.

Using your brand/company name is the obvious choice, but given that 1 billion IG handles are already taken, you’ll have to get a bit creative in order to incorporate your brand name into your handle. You may use an Instagram username generator to get some ideas; you can also try adding a keyword that’s relevant to your brand, such as your niche (e.g., pets, CBD, beauty), specific interest or skill (e.g., travel, photography, gardening, arts and crafts), or even your target geographic market (New York, Mexico, UK, Bali).

Of course, your IG handle should match your other social media page names or, at least, be as close to them as possible. At the same time, make sure it is not too long and, preferably, does not include hyphens, periods, or other symbols.

You also have the option of negotiating the transfer of a name that’s already been taken; you’ll need to contact the owner and come to an agreement. Just keep in mind that Instagram’s terms and conditions prohibit the purchasing and selling of usernames.

Is my Instagram profile suitable?

Your brand should be easily recognizable from your Instagram profile picture. When designing and choosing a profile picture, instant brand recognition should be one of your main concerns.

Make sure your brand’s logo fits neatly in Instagram’s circular profile picture frame and that it’s optimized for Instagram viewers. Depending on the length and design of your logo, you may have to shorten the text or do away with it altogether and just use an icon that identifies your brand.

You may have to create a logo from scratch in order to make sure it’s optimized for Instagram’s parameters for profile pictures. There are a lot of design platforms you can use for free online, such as Canva, to help you develop your IG-suitable logo and profile picture.

How do I take advantage of Instagram’s live URL option in my bio page?

Instagram allows a business page to share one live URL in the bio section. Most companies provide a direct link to their website; some direct their Instagram visitors to a landing page or product page, if their goal is to generate leads or boost sales of a particular product.

Remember that most Instagram users visit the platform using their mobile device, so make sure the site or page you’re linking to is mobile-optimized to give your viewers a good browsing experience. For example, the site/page’s load times should be lightning fast so your visitors won’t lose interest and turn back.

It’s also a great idea to take advantage of link-tracking so you can keep track of your visitor traffic from Instagram and gauge how your IG growth journey is going. You’ll have to use a custom URL builder, like bit.ly, to enable link-tracking on your Instagram.

Use a call to action, emojis, and other encouragement strategies to stimulate curiosity and persuade your visitors to click your link.

Is my Instagram bio engaging?

There’s no magic formula to a great bio, but you must know your target audience in order to write a bio that will appeal to them. You don’t have to be an amazing writer, either; you just need to know what kind of story you want to tell that perfectly describes your brand.

Fortunately, you can keep changing your bio — this means you can test different versions to find out which one works best for your purposes, i.e., are link clicks your priority or new follows? When testing each version, do it under equal conditions of time and activity so you’ll get reliable results.

Don’t shy away from using emojis when crafting your bio. Emojis may help you maximize your limited character count, as well as make your bio more appealing to younger users.

Instagram Analytics 101

Instagram Insights — the platform’s native analytics tool — is one feature that you should get to know intimately. As you’re growing a brand and running a business, you should know that data is critical to any marketing strategy, and the analytics tool available to you on Insta will be your constant and enlightening companion on your growth journey.

You should know which Instagram analytics and metrics are of most value to your business so you can effectively make use of the insights you’ll have access to.

Track and enhance your growth through Instagram Insights

You’ll find the Instagram Insights tab directly below your bio. When you click on the tab, you’ll be shown an overview of your account’s performance over the past 7 days. The insights will include:

  • The number of accounts you have reached
  • The rate of engagements for your content (including individual stories, posts, and videos)
  • The number of followers you have
  • Percentage fluctuations for each of the above

Your Instagram growth is, of course, defined by your target audience reach and following. Depending on your brand/business, you should know exactly the type of followers you want. When you tap on “Total Followers” on your Insights overview, you’ll get a breakdown of: the top locations (by city and country) of your followers; your followers’ age distribution; gender ratio; and follower activity times. Based on these data, you’ll be able to gauge the effectiveness of your targeting strategies and what hours and days of the week you should publish your posts to reach the greatest number of users.

Your Instagram growth goals will define the other metrics and analytics you should focus on. If you’re a new brand and still building brand awareness, then your chief concern would be increasing follower count, audience reach, and number of impressions. If your primary goal is to increase sales or generate leads, then you should focus on what your insights say about your website clicks and conversions. If your brand is about building and nurturing a community, then engagement metrics, such as comments and replies on posts and stories, would be the most valuable insight.

What about analytics tools?

There’s a limit to what Instagram Insights can give you, so you should also consider using a paid or freemium third-party analytics tool.

One of the drawbacks of Insta’s Insights is that date range customization can only go as far as 2 weeks, in most cases. If you want to keep track of data over a longer period to have a better measure of trends, you’ll have to manually record the data or keep screenshots of weekly/bi-weekly data.

Insta’s analytics tool can also only be accessed on mobile devices. So beyond keeping a record of your data through screenshots, you’ll have limited options to leverage the available insights for your business growth.

And then there are valuable insights that you won’t be able to get using Insta’s native analytics tool. For example, it does not provide hashtag tracking, additional information about followers’ activities, or the best time to post based on engagement.

The costs of third-party analytics services, whether paid or freemium, vary but most of them will address the aforementioned limitations of Instagram’s Insights. More specifically, you’ll be able to:

  • Cover a wider date range so you can generate customizable and more revealing reports
  • Access the tool and available data on a desktop computer
  • Access more detailed and a greater variety of metrics and analytics to help you meet your growth needs

Maximizing the use of Instagram Insights and deciding whether or not you’ll benefit from third-party service will depend on your Instagram growth objectives and strategy.

Instagram’s Rules on Automation and Growth Strategies

An effective growth strategy will depend on several key factors, but it should also be properly guided by Instagram’s rules and regulations.

The obvious and standard don’ts when publishing content on Instagram include:

  • Nudity
  • Hate speech
  • Terrorism promotion
  • Copyright and trademark infringements
  • Hashtags promoting fake news

Growth on social media is intricately intertwined with “appeal” and trends, and while “appeal” may be subjective, any clever and sensible marketing strategist would know to steer clear of any objectionable or outright abhorrent content which might displease or anger a civilized audience.

Engagement and outreach are essential to Instagram growth, as these define the level of connection you have with your followers and measure the extent of your reach. Reaching out to your target audience and making your presence constantly known takes a lot of work, and you may be tempted to take advantage of automation tools to make things easier.

Automation, however, carries the risk of your content being labelled as spam. Spamming is defined as “the sending of the same or similar messages to a large number of recipients.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what most automation services do.

Instagram’s Community Guidelines clearly state that spam is not allowed; they define spam as “creating or submitting unwanted email, comments, likes, or other forms of commercial or harassing communications.” Instagram has been doubling down on its efforts to curb spammy activities, and they are targeting bots and software-based automation tools, which are the most common spamming tools.

Insta’s strategy on managing and discouraging automation includes setting daily thresholds on how much activity an account can perform depending on its age, size, and overall engagement rate. These daily limits are not specified, but based on our research, here are the average numbers that will most likely get flagged:

  • Up to 10 DMs per hour under strict considerations
  • 7-13 follows per hour / 100-150 follows daily
  • 2-5 comments per hour / 20-30 comments daily
  • 300-400 likes per day (of followed accounts)

Duplicated content, such as posting the same comment over and over again, even if the frequency is well within the daily limits will be marked as spam.

Instagram will flag this as bot-like activity and will temporarily restrict your account. The temporary ban can be general or specific, and may last anywhere between one and 48 hours. Repeated violations of their anti-spam policy can cause your account to get the boot — permanently.

After your account gets out of jail, so to speak, you may still be “shadowbanned,” this is a common punishment for accounts with suspicious bot-like activities and which limits the use of the platform and reduces or eliminates the visibility of published content, i.e., the content may no longer appear on public hashtag feeds or on explorer pages.

Say No to Bots and to Buying Followers

“Starting today, we will begin removing inauthentic likes, follows, and comments from accounts that use third-party apps to boost their popularity. We’ve built machine-learning tools to help identify accounts that use these services and remove the inauthentic activity.”

This was an announcement made by Instagram last 2018, further reinforcing their zero-tolerance policy on automation tools in response to the persistent use of bot and automation services on the platform and the ever-growing innovations in automation technology, which often brag about being “completely undetectable” by Instagram.

The statement came at the heels of the permanent shutdown of Mass Planner and Instagress, two of the most popular Instagram bot services available at the time.

But as growth continues to be a numbers game, growth automation services also continue to flourish. Cutting-edge AI technology is giving bot developers sharper and more effective tools that allow them to keep up with and steadily adapt to Instagram’s cat-and-mouse game.

Instagram’s core aim is to provide a platform for authentic, person-to-person interactions. Automation for the sake of driving growth is not consistent with this goal as the work is done sans the human touch. Whether the technology is designed to create fake accounts or to make scheduled and/or automated posts and replies, automation is a risky growth strategy that will ultimately backfire and cost you your hard-earned Instagram gains.

Buying followers is also an extremely ill-advised tactic. Artificially inflating your follower count is futile and self-defeating for a number of reasons.

First, if you get a massive spike in follower numbers courtesy of a disreputable Instagram growth service that controls thousands of accounts and without any corresponding increase in engagement, Instagram will detect this suspicious surge and you will most likely receive a push notification that reads like this:

We’re removing inauthentic likes and follows.

Second, whether or not you receive such a message, you still end up with thousands of inactive and useless accounts — none of which will engage with any of your posts in any manner. Alert and discerning Instagram users can quickly identify your fake numbers, especially these days when the public is already well aware of the shameless practice of buying followers, and your credibility will be ruined in the eyes of your genuine followers and the rest of the Instagram universe.

Third, having paid and fake followers will also distort your performance metrics. It’ll be more difficult for you to correctly interpret your real engagement insights as your total follower numbers and engagement rate will be highly skewed.

And finally, it’s never a smart idea to give your personal and financial details to an Instagram automation service that thrives on deception and does not care about rules and regulations.

Instagram growth is a numbers game, but just as important as the numbers is authentic engagement. You have to do a lot of heavy lifting to drive your growth and engagement in a way that is sustainable, meaningful, and rewarding for the long term.

Part 2: Taking the Path of Human-Powered Growth

Now that you know the most important rules that you need to follow and the pitfalls of adopting the quick fix offered by automation and paid followers, you’re ready to start devising a human-powered growth strategy.

Remember that your goal is not only to increase your number of followers and engagement rate, but also to make sure that your strategy yields your desired results consistently and organically and that it’s sustainable for long-term growth. One sure way to achieve all these is by creating and posting relevant and high-quality content.

This is easier said than done, especially at the beginning of your journey. But with the following tips to guide your organic growth strategy, you’ll be well on your way to Instagram success.

Always Have a Plan and Be Consistent With Content Posting

When it comes to building your brand through relevant content, you have to demonstrate an adequate know-how of your niche or specific area of interest. And you will need a concrete content plan for your daily, weekly, and monthly posting.

Define your content plan

When devising your plan, make sure it’s realistic so you can ensure that you’ll be able to stick to it. Consistency is important so that your followers will always have something to look forward to. Can you post daily or several days a week? If posting infrequently is more manageable, your content will have to have a lot of impact so that it will leave a lasting impression that will sustain your followers until your next post and will have them on the lookout for your content.

Needless to say, the competition for attention on Instagram is tough, to say the least. It’s a very busy place and increasing your visibility will require constant exposure through a consistent stream of stories, comments, and likes. You will need to plan your Instagram activities in advance and to establish daily, weekly, and monthly quotas. At the same time, you should be flexible enough to react promptly to relevant and trending events, especially those that directly impact your brand.

Having a well-devised content plan will also allow you to create a cohesive and nicely balanced feed. Consistency is also important in your brand’s messaging and aesthetics. For example, choose a single filter or theme to apply to all the photos you post or use a uniform writing style or wording that people will immediately associate with your brand.

When’s the best time to post?

You’ll find the answer in your Instagram Insights. Your Insights will give you an idea of the best times to post, based on when your posts have the most reach and engagement.

Keep in mind that best post times are determined by a wide variety of factors. A travel agency, for example, may find that the ideal time to post is every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — when people are more relaxed and most likely to be thinking about booking a trip. A nightclub, on the other hand, will benefit from posting announcements mid-week to prime weekend partygoers. If your business is in the food industry, you may schedule your posts before mealtimes when food posts become more relevant.

If you’re just starting your journey on Instagram, you can create a content plan that includes a series of posts that complement each other contextually and aesthetically, spread out equally across 2 weeks or the entire month. Check your Instagram Insights regularly and take note of engagement spikes, and then adjust your post times accordingly.

Actively comment on target users’ posts before you post your own content. This can increase your post’s exposure during the first few hours after it’s been published — this is the most critical time to get the highest number of views possible.

Take Advantage of Instagram’s Built-In Marketing Tools

You have great content and a solid content plan. The next step is getting your posts the attention it deserves. Instagram’s built-in marketing tools will help you do just that.

There are two tools you should master: Instagram’s tagging tools and carousel posting tool.

You can quickly and effectively expand your account’s visibility across the platform with the proper use of hashtags and location tags. The carousel feature, on the other hand, which allows you to create a carousel of up to 10 photos or videos can help you maximize your post’s level of appeal and rate of engagement.

How to use hashtags

Hashtags are one of the best ways to reach your target audience. In case you’ve been living under a rock and still don’t know how hashtags work, their main purpose is to facilitate on-platform searching, i.e., you can type the hashtag in the Instagram search bar and all posts using that hashtag will appear.

As a business page, you should know how to properly choose and use hashtags to help you grow your following and engagement. This means doing research to find the hashtags that are most relevant to your content and creatively inserting them into your posts. Alternatively, you can jump on the latest hashtag bandwagon and create content around a trending hashtag — given, of course, that you will still be remaining on-brand.

When you properly use hashtags, your hashtagged posts will show up in searches made by your target audience, which is a great way to collect new followers. Hashtags that are most relevant to your brand will guarantee that your posts will get views from Insta users who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

Here are some tips to get you started on the right hashtag track.

  • Check out some of your top competitors’ pages and browse through their posts. Take note of the hashtags they use consistently.
  • Open the search tab in your Instagram app, and tap the “Tags” tab. Type a word or phrase related to your brand. The search results will give you a list of related hashtags containing your original term. The results will also show you the average number of posts associated with each suggested hashtag.
  • If you’re just starting out, avoid hashtags with more than 500,000 posts. These hashtags are extremely competitive and often too broad to zero in on your target audience.
  • Ideally, choose hashtags with 50,000 to a few hundred thousand posts. These should be specific enough to your niche and target audience.
  • Pick 5 to 7 of these hashtags for testing.

Keep track of your hashtags’ performance through your Instagram Insights. When you open a post’s Insights, the Discovery tab will show you how many impressions that post is getting from hashtags. Although Instagram’s Insights does not give a breakdown of impressions per hashtag, you can open the top posts for a hashtag to see how your post ranks against others.

How many hashtags should you use? Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post; using 10-15 in your posts should be sufficient. Hashtags are often placed under the main post or caption and there should be spacing in between for easy readability.

Instagram stories allow up to 3 hashtags. In-story hashtags do not often lead to new eyeballs and follows, but there’s no reason not to use them. Use Instagram’s special hashtag sticker for stories for a cleaner look; you can also play with the size of the text box to optimize the readability of your hashtag/s without compromising the quality of your story.

As your brand-building efforts gain more traction and your brand presence grows, you’ll need your own branded hashtags. You can use these regularly in all your posts and stories, and will play a key role in future community-building campaigns, product and event promotions, or when collecting user-generated content (UGC).

How to use location tagging

Location tags are just as important as hashtags when setting your mark on a specific target audience. Location-specific searches are often done by users to look for posts associated with their location of interest. And as with hashtags, select location tags with a user volume that’s not too high and not too low.

If you have a luxury watch business in New York, for example, you can zero in on the Wall Street finance crowd by tagging specific locations where they usually hang out, such as rooftop bars, Michelin star restaurants, and luxury hotels. Avoid using the location tag for New York, NY, as this would be too wide and competitive.

Create a custom geotag for your physical store to put your business on the map. To do this, go to Facebook and use the Check-In feature (you’ll find this option when creating a new post). Make sure you have your location services enabled. Once done, you’ll be able to use this geotag in all your posts and stories.

In-story geotags are actually more useful than in-story hashtags, as a lot of people are often interested in what’s going on around them. So go ahead and add a location tag to your stories to boost their reach and visibility.

How to use carousel posting

Instagram is continuously developing ways to optimize the platform for businesses. Carousel posting is one of their built-in marketing tools that has proven to be amazingly helpful in creating engaging content.

Carousel posting is the perfect tool to use when your post would be better represented by multiple photos or videos. Carousel posting allows you to tell a visual story and in a more creative way, so that your post can be more enticing to viewers and you’ll have a higher chance of earning more followers and engagement. When users swipe through your carousel posts, they spend more time on your page; Instagram tracks these activities and, based on the popularity of carousel posts, uses the data to recommend pages to users who may be interested in a brand.

Here are some ways that you can take advantage of carousel posting:

  • Create stories about your brand
  • Highlight different angles or specific features of your product
  • Show before and after photos to demonstrate results
  • Share customer testimonials
  • Share a collection of user-generated content
  • Include a call-to-action

When creating a carousel post, make sure the individual items complement each other and come together nicely to create a complete picture.

The carousel feature is a relatively new Instagram feature. Instagram rewards accounts that are quick to adopt new features and uses their full suite of built-in tools. So make the most of the tools available to you on the platform and you’ll reap the benefits in more ways than one.

Engagement is Key

Building meaningful relationships requires a lot of effort, and this is just as true when building your brand on Instagram through engagement. It’s a well-known truth in business that consumers who respond to your promotions and campaigns and interact with your store are more likely to become paying customers. On social media platforms, this interaction is called engagement.

Boosting engagement is one of major services offered by many Instagram growth services, because engagement is a major driver of Instagram growth. How is engagement measured? The basic formula is this:

Total number of likes, comments, and shares

Divided by total number of followers

x 100

Bots and automation can artificially inflate engagement rates through auto-likes and auto-comments. Again, using these services is risky as your account can be banned temporarily or even permanently, and fake engagement will end up driving away real followers. What long-established and successful new businesses have in common is the human touch — building real and meaningful interactions and relationships with customers.

Here are two broad strategies you can use to develop meaningful engagement with your followers.

Personalized Outreach

This involves personalized direct messaging and commenting to establish real connections. What it’s not is spamming your target audience with copy and pasted comments and DMs, or going on a liking spree in an attempt to boost your visibility.

First things first, who do you reach out to?

You can start with the people who are using the hashtags and geotags that you’ve been including in your posts and stories. Make a list of these individuals and then devise a DM outreach strategy that supports your business goals.

This strategy is also called cold messaging. One way to make the message more personal is by mentioning the user’s content and then describing how it fits into or resonates with your brand’s message. End your DM with an invitation to engage with your brand (with a follow and post likes and shares) or an incentive to take action.

Here’s an example: An event organizer reaching out to potential attendees who had been at similar past events. The DM could read like this:

Hello, [First Name]! I’m [your name] from [company name]. I saw from your recent post that you attended [X event] and it looked like you had a great time! I’m reaching out because you might be interested in our [your event], which will be held on [date/time] at [place]. Feel free to check out the event info on our page. We would love to have you at our event and should you decide to come, you can show this DM at the entrance to enjoy a free drink — as a token of our appreciation. Please share the info with your friends, too! The more, the merrier!

Make sure that your outreach is thoughtful, friendly, and genuine. Instagram users are wary of spammy communication and you don’t want your target persons just deleting your message without bothering to read it first or, worse, reporting your message as spam.

Of course, don’t leave your super followers out, and give them even more personalized attention. Reserve the best offers for them, such as including a preview of unreleased and upcoming content in your DM, or special promo codes. Make them feel special so they’ll engage more with your brand and they may even decide to become a brand advocate.

User-Generated Content Campaigns

What gets better engagement than even the most trending post? Contests. Whatever your business may be, your growth plan should include occasional contests that will help drive user-generated content.

In a gist, user-generated content is organic content about your brand created by a random Instagram user — word-of-mouth promotion, if you will. One of the most effective ways to encourage such content is through contests and giveaways. When a user organically talks about your brand to take part in your campaign, they help expand your brand’s reach and credibility, and you’re likely to also get engagement and to generate sales from their family and friends.

UGC is also a great opportunity to start using and promoting your branded hashtag/s.

Take note that you must respond to a user-generated content promptly by commenting on the post that mentions/tags your brand and resharing brand-relevant stories within their 24-hour duration.

Large-scale UGC campaigns that actively invite everyone to join a promotion or giveaway by using a branded hashtag are a common practice among big names. Starbucks, for example, often asks their followers to share photos alongside their branded hashtag for a chance to be featured on their page.

If you’ve seen a contest or giveaway that asks users to: follow the page; like the contest announcement; comment on the announcement post or share the post using unique content and specified hashtags and then tag their friends — this is another example of prompting user-generated content.

Below is a guide on how to run a successful Instagram contest:

  • Publish an enticing contest post; don’t forget to use branded hashtags.
  • Promote the contest on your IG stories and your other social media accounts
  • Monitor the contest and keep track of your branded hashtags’ performance through your Instagram Insights
  • Use the poll feature on IG stories to get more followers involved by asking them to decide among the top contenders
  • Create another announcement when the contest ends to thank everyone who joined and to promote the results.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of Influencers

The numbers don’t lie. Sponsored Instagram posts made by influencers cleared about 8 million USD in 2020, and the global market for Instagram influencer content was estimated at more than 8 billion USD for the same year.

Influencers occupy a unique spot in the Instagram marketing world — they offer real-world, unscripted, and unembellished perspectives, at least when compared to the traditional and highly edited marketing materials often used by big-name brands. This unique and independent frame of reference lends influencers a lot of credibility among their followers, so their recommendations hold a lot of water and have the potential to massively expand your visibility and reach.

Selecting the right influencer for your brand, however, is not an easy task — that is to say, you should not take it lightly.

To help you with the selection process and to ensure a successful partnership and influencer marketing campaign, we have outlined the following guide.

How to select the best Instagram influencer-partner

There are more than 500,000 influencers on Instagram and thousands more are taking on the influencer mantle on a regular basis. Where do you begin your search? Should you go with a self-proclaimed influencer or a celebrity?

What you need to look for in the right influencer-partner are: a. A big follower base that’s verifiable and relevant to your target market, and b. High and genuine engagement with their followers.

Knowing all about Instagram bots and automation services, you should be more discerning when reviewing influencer accounts and you should know how to weed out the real from the artificially enhanced. Remember to watch out for swarms of followers that are inactive and for spammy comments. You wouldn’t want to compromise your brand image and suffer from a failed marketing campaign investment by associating yourself with a fake and deceitful “influencer.”

How can you check if an influencer is legit? Although far from perfect, a third-party analytics tool will still give you a good idea of an account’s engagement rates. A 3% engagement rate is the average on Instagram and is a good benchmark to start with.

How do you know if an influencer is suitable for your brand? First, let’s differentiate between macro-influencers and micro-influencers. Macro-influencers have anywhere between 100,000 and 1 million followers; you could say they’re Instagram celebrities. Micro-influencers have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers and although they’re not widely famous, their reach is more specialized.

Between the two, micro-influencers are generally the better choice when it comes to authority, cost, and relationships.

  • Authority. Their smaller number of followers means their focus is more specialized, whether it’s an industry niche or a topic of interest. Their followers are more uniform in terms of their shared interest so you’ll have a better measure of your marketing campaign performance. Finally, their narrower follower base will allow you to target the right audience more accurately than if you’re working with a macro-influencer.
  • Cost. For obvious reasons, micro-influencers charge less than macro-influencers. But their lower fees don’t mean poorer quality of service. Many micro-influencers also accept products or services as payment for their promotion.
  • Relationships. Again because of their smaller number of followers, micro-influencers have a greater ability to build genuine, meaningful, and lasting connections. They are also more relatable, generally more friendly and approachable, and can deliver consistent value.

Celebrity or macro-influencers have their obvious advantages, but micro-influencers may be the better choice for brands that are just starting or those within a more specialized niche. Micro-influencers have a tighter grasp of your target market, their fees are generally lower, and you can be assured of genuine, good quality, and actively engaged followers.

Up next is a guide on launching a successful Instagram influencer campaign.

  1. Defining Your Deliverables. These include your influencer campaign methods, performance targets, and budget, among others. You will have a powwow with your marketing team or Instagram growth agency to come up with a solid plan for your campaign. Defining your deliverables will also serve as a guide in determining your ideal influencer profile. You don’t have to focus a lot of time on the content as influencers are content creators in their own right and will be taking point on the content creation for your campaign.
  2. Influencer Outreach. With the help of analytics tools, social media research, and relevant databases, you’ll start your search for potential influencer candidates. Once you’ve narrowed down your list, you can reach out to micro-influencers via DM or email (as they are often self-managed); macro-influencers and celebrities can be contacted through their management agency (the contact info is typically included in their bio). Make your message short and sweet: quickly but clearly describe your campaign and expectations in the introduction, and then end with a request for a quotation or your budget (always state the maximum amount to leave room for negotiation). Reach out to as many influencers as you can.
  3. Closing the Deal and Briefing. Negotiate with your ideal candidate, when necessary, until you reach an agreement on the terms of your engagement, and then seal the deal. Give your influencer-partner a complete briefing of your campaign; provide them with all the resources they’ll need. Make sure to communicate all the important information and that your influencer-partner fully understands their role and your expectations to avoid misunderstandings and having to make changes and adjustments when the campaign is already underway.
  4. Trial Period. This is a good option for multi-step campaigns. The initial step can serve as the trial period so you can gauge your partner’s ability to meet your campaign goals. There should be a mutual agreement from both parties on what performance quotas are acceptable for the trial and that the client (you) can terminate the collaboration if the quotas are not met.
  5. Execution. During the early stages of your actual campaign — after about one or two posts — you should keep a close eye on performance metrics at all times so you can promptly address issues and make suggestions for subsequent posts.
  6. Evaluation. After concluding your campaign, you may have to wait a few days or weeks to analyze all relevant metrics and find out if your influencer-led campaign has paid off. Compare the numbers against a corresponding time frame from before the campaign. What you should see are respective increases in followers, interactions, leads, and/or sales during and after the campaign period. Better engagement and a boost in user-generated content are other variables that may indicate a successful campaign. Depending on the results, you can decide whether or not to continue working with your influencer-partner or if influencer marketing was a good strategy.

Market on Multiple Platforms

Instagram’s greatest advantage for ecommerce brands and B2C brick-and-mortar businesses is its unparalleled ability to consolidate their target online community and drive sales. Instagram should be your digital marketing strategy’s “command center,” but you should also leverage other platforms to further drive your Instagram growth.

This means engaging in cross-platform marketing, which will ensure that you’ll reach even more potential Instagram followers. With your Instagram page already optimized for growth, cross-channel marketing will not require a lot of work to produce your desired results.

If you have a website, you can earn a lot of follows from your visitors by simply placing an Instagram widget prominently on your site’s pages. Keep in mind that many of your website visitors may not even be aware that you have an Instagram page. Cross-channel marketing, in a sense, is like a big, neon arrow sign that points directly at your Instagram business page.

Making followers out of your site visitors who didn’t convert after their first site visit will give you another chance to turn them into buying customers. Engaging them in consistent, high-quality content may convince them to give you their patronage.

Whether it’s your Instagram page or your website/online shop that serves as your main business page, don’t forget to have consistent messaging and aesthetics across all your platforms.

If you have other social media accounts, you can simply repost some of your Instagram content — but make sure to make the necessary revisions and additions when repurposing any content. The demographics of your Facebook audience, for example, may be different so you will have to adjust the messaging and hashtags to make them appropriate.

Given the 280-character limit for tweets on Twitter, you’ll have to revise your content to make them short, punchy, and easily digestible. You can use Twitter to post customer testimonials posted on Instagram comments and link back to the original Instagram post.

Create original content for other platforms that’s specifically designed to direct traffic to your Instagram page. Effective content ideas include discounts or giveaways for new Instagram followers and announcements of new content exclusive to Instagram.

Your overall goal is to consolidate your followers and customers, wherever in the world they may be, on Instagram — which is your central platform for marketing.

Utilize Paid Ads

Paid advertising is old school, but it has withstood the tests of time because it works. For any or all of the Instagram growth objectives we’ve already discussed — expanding your reach, driving traffic, generating sales, or increasing your engagement, among others — Instagram ads can give your strategy a huge boost.

Instagram ads give you access to the advanced targeting algorithms also used by Facebook. Through Instagram’s targeting, your content creation efforts can be applied beyond your generalized demographic and geographic parameters so you can target more specific groups. For example, you can specifically target people based on certain interests as determined by their online activities, such as the accounts they follow or the ads they click. Or you can target “Lookalike Audiences,” Instagram’s term for individuals who are “similar” to your existing customers.

Paid Instagram ads offer a variety of ad formats, including photo ads, video ads, and story ads. Another option is running an ad that also appears on Explore pages, so that your business will show up when users who are in “discovery mode” are searching for something specific that’s related to your business or for what’s currently trending.

Paid ads, obviously, come at a cost, and the cost usually depends on whether you’re a B2B brand or a B2C brand; Instagram ad expense is markedly higher for the former compared to the latter. The advertising cost will also be determined by your desired targeting, your preferred running period, ad placement, and format.

For example, our client — a large ecommerce brand — recently invested in an ad campaign that resulted in an average cost per thousand views (CPM) of about . Our client’s straightforward strategy was designed to drive sales and deliver a substantial ROI. This was a highly targeted campaign in a competitive industry, hence the high CPM spend.

Needless to say, paid Instagram ads may not be the right strategy for certain Instagram pages. A paid ad might not be the right fit for an immigration attorney who wants to raise awareness about migrant workers’ rights, for example.

As with any marketing strategy, repeated testing may be required to determine if Instagram ads will work for you. You can test the waters by running story ads using your most organically successful posts. You can keep your Instagram ad cost low by using Facebook ads’ automatic bidding function and optimizing your campaign for conversions through Facebook’s auto-optimization tools.

Your immediate or potential ROI will let you know if you should continue investing in paid ads. Refine your strategy as necessary until you cinch the most effective messaging for your target audience. Once you get it right, you’ll soon find out how Instagram ads can serve as a predictable growth tool.

For the majority of brands on Instagram, a fully organic growth strategy aided by the expertise and scale of a specialized Instagram growth service is the best option — at least at the start of their Instagram journey.

Conclusion: Kicking Off Your Human-Powered Growth Strategy

The first few steps of our Instagram growth guide were focused on learning the basics of Instagram for business pages. We described how you can start growing your Instagram numbers, how to use Instagram analytics, and Instagram’s rules and regulations regarding automation. We hope your key takeaway from this part of our guide is that buying Instagram followers and/or using Instagram automation and bots is not a shortcut you should take.

The remaining steps in our guide outlined a comprehensive, human-powered growth strategy that is focused on achieving genuine engagement from real followers and generating real results. The right content planning approach, proper hashtag selection, a carefully planned influencer partnership, and a smart investment in paid ads all add up to create a sustainable Instagram growth strategy that delivers far better and lasting results than even the best Instagram automation tools can. An effective Instagram growth strategy that delivers time and time again is time-intensive and requires human touch and expertise.

As there is no person who knows your brand better than you do, doing everything yourself may seem like the ideal option. But there’s also a great advantage in outsourcing the work to a team of experts whose time and efforts are exclusively directed at pushing your Instagram growth to great heights.

Finding the best Instagram growth service for your brand will require a careful examination of the options available to you and knowledge of the right questions to ask. We’ve provided a checklist for you:

  • Have you or do you use bots or buy followers?
  • Do you use any analytics tools?
  • Do you have any case studies with influencers, creators, or agencies?
  • Can you provide a growth strategy optimized for my brand?
  • Do you help with content posting and strategy?
  • Have you worked with clients in my niche before?
  • Do you keep up with the latest Instagram rules and changes?
  • What kind of followers and engagement can you provide?

If an Instagram agency is worth its salt, they will be more than willing to give you clear and satisfactory answers to all the questions above. And they will invest all their efforts and expertise to help you develop a growth strategy that’s a perfect fit for your brand.

Everything You Need to Know

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