Building a Genuine Instagram Following: Our Expert Tips

Profile photo of Heidi Lang, author

Heidi Lang

Instagram 101 | Jan 04, 2024

Want More Real Instagram Followers?

There is a lot of prestige and glam associated with being an Instagram influencer. Aside from fame and the “aesthetic” lifestyle, these creators have heaps of loyal followers hanging on to their every word. It’s the prize they get for working hard and building a genuine Instagram following. But sadly, that’s not the path that a huge chunk of influencers take on their journey to fame and fortune.

The concept of buying followers on Instagram has become so frustratingly commonplace today. Statista reported that 49.32% of influencers engaged in follower fraud (buying fake followers) in 2022. Sure, it gives creators a temporary confidence boost to see their follower count get an uptick. But later, it will start to negatively affect their engagement rates and the overall quality of the “community” they built.

Today, we’re discussing the importance of having real Instagram followers. We’ll also share our top tips and hacks to get potential followers to hit that “Follow” button on your page. Keep reading to learn how to boost organic growth and get genuine followers on Instagram today.

An engaged audience gathering around a female speaker to listen to her talk.

Why Is It Important To Have Real Followers on Instagram?

It’s easy to assume that it doesn’t matter if your followers are real or fake. To some creators, it doesn’t matter if there are real people behind the accounts following them. As long as they contribute to the shiny follower count plastered on top of their page, they’re okay with the bots.

But if you know anything about how the Instagram algorithm works, you’ll know that having an ingenuine following can hurt you. They don’t engage with your content and might even end up unfollowing you after some time. In the end, all they do is plummet your engagement rate and visibility on the Instagram feed.

Real, genuine followers, on the other hand, drive authentic engagement in your content. Because there are real people behind those accounts, they will actually like and comment on your posts.

And as you may know, Instagram’s algorithm rewards accounts and posts with a lot of authentic engagement. The higher your engagement rate, the more the app pushes out your content to show up at the top of people’s feeds.

Having real followers on Instagram is also the only way you are legitimately influential as a creator. You can’t communicate with bots and fake accounts. If you have hordes of fake followers and tell stories or promote brands, no one is going to care. It’s like talking to a brick wall.

Brands on the lookout for ambassadors and creators to work with know full well if an influencer’s engagement is authentic. They don’t just look at your follower count; they take into consideration your engagement rate, too. They know how to separate real, credible trendsetters from the wannabes with no real, loyal fans who listen to them. That means having a genuine following online is the only way to score brand partnerships.

Paying for Fame: Can You Buy Genuine Instagram Followers?

Gaining lots of followers on Instagram is no walk in the park and definitely doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of hard work to build a solid community of loyal followers. So, it’s understandable that some creators wonder, can you buy genuine Instagram followers as a shortcut?

There are plenty of sketchy websites out there that claim you can buy real followers from them. They promise fast Instagram growth and thousands of real fans overnight. But most of the time, these sites are overpromising something that is pretty much impossible to achieve.

Think about it—how can a random website get thousands of “real people” to follow you overnight? And all without executing marketing strategies like content promotion or influencer marketing efforts?

While these websites do technically deliver and give you a boost in followers, most of them will be low-quality bots. A lot of them might also end up being ghost followers who don’t engage with any of your posts. By buying fake followers online, you might think you’re investing in something to kickstart your influencer career. But in reality, it’s just money down the drain.

One last thing. Aside from wasting money and getting stuck with bots, buying followers online is also a violation of Instagram’s guidelines. The platform is serious about its fight against inauthentic activity. If the algorithm flags your account for buying inauthentic followers, you could end up shadowbanned.

In a nutshell, yes, you can buy followers on the internet. But no, you can’t expect real, high-quality, engaging followers from the websites that sell them. It’s much better to focus on organic growth by coming up with top-notch social media marketing strategies. That way, you can churn out exciting, valuable content that will engage real people on the platform.

A man handing over his credit card to purchase fake followers.

How To Get Free Instagram Followers With the Content You Put Out

Not everyone has the marketing budget to spend on ads to promote themselves on Instagram to drive follower growth. But don’t worry—setting up paid ads isn’t the only way to grow the app. If you know how to use Instagram’s post features to your advantage, you can do it for free.

Are you wondering how to get free Instagram followers without spending a cent? The answer is simple: focus on creating compelling, high-quality content and make sure it reaches your intended target audience. Here are just a few ways you can do that: 

Create Posts That Are Relevant to Your Target Audience

Perhaps the most important tip we can impart is that you should always make content for your target audience. Sure, you also need to make content to express yourself and to meet the demands of brands you work with. But at the end of the day, you need to produce content that will excite your fanbase.

Your posts should always be the type of content your target audience will be excited to see and engage with. If you’ve positioned yourself as a travel influencer, you should be consistently posting stunning photos of the cities you visit. Or, if your followers look to you for beauty tips, you should plan content related to skincare and makeup ahead of time.

Creating relevant posts aligned with your niche and your followers’ interests allows you to be influential in those specific spaces. And when you’ve put yourself on the map in those niches, your posts become more credible and shareable.

The bigger you become in the space you operate in, the easier it is for potential followers to discover you. If your content resonates with them and is something they want to see more often, they’ll give you a follow. Before you know it, you’ll have a community of people who genuinely enjoy and look forward to your regular content.

A content creator taking a cozy, aesthetic photo of a book and hot cocoa for her followers.

Add Hashtags to Your Post Captions

Another way to reel in potential followers for free is by using relevant hashtags in your post captions. When Instagram users follow that tag or explore its page, they may stumble upon your content for the first time. If they like what they see, you could potentially get new fans.

Hashtags are a terrific way to make yourself more visible to a specific type of audience. If you want more fitness lovers to follow you, post content with hashtags like #fitnessmotivation or #workouts. If you have a family account and want to cater to parents, use tags like #familytime or #momlife.

Just make sure that the tags you use are actually relevant to the photo or video you’re posting. Don’t spam your caption with too many tags, too; that just looks tacky. Pro-tip: you can only use 30 hashtags in one caption!

A woman writing the words “short,” “relevant,” and “unique” on a whiteboard to describe the hashtag symbol.

Include a Location Tag in Your Content

Location tags are similar to hashtags in that they’re an awesome way to push your content out to new people. Each location tag also has its own Instagram page to house the top posts in every town or city. This is a terrific way to catch the attention of people interested in a specific place.

Travel influencers, for example, always pin their location on their posts to catch the attention of other travel lovers. Let’s say you’re a travel creator, and you take a soul-searching trip to Bali. And every time you post photos from your trip, you add a location tag for “Bali, Indonesia.”

Now, every time someone looks for Instagram posts in Bali, there’s a good chance they’ll see your content. If they click on your profile and love your travel content, they might give you a follow!

Location tags are also perfect if you’re trying to get new followers who live in a specific city. Instead of geotagging the city itself, pin the location of restaurants, cafés, parks, and other local establishments in that area. It’s a terrific way to connect with the locals of that town and hopefully get them to follow your page.

A world map with pins on multiple cities in Australia

Make Relatable, Shareable Instagram Reels

Learning how to create and edit Instagram Reels might be another smart way to reel in genuine followers for free. These trendy, bite-sized videos aren’t just addictive—they’re also incredibly engaging. A 2022 study by HypeAuditor found that Reels get higher reach and engagement compared to feed posts.

If you’re trying to get more people to discover your page, it would be unwise not to try posting Reels. Experimenting with this format is the equivalent of catching a wide net. You can reach more people and potentially grow your community of followers.

The secret sauce to an effective, engaging Reel is making it funny and relatable. The more entertaining it is, the more people will want to share it with others. They might do this on their Instagram Stories or DM it to their friends. Either way, you’ll get more eyeballs on your profile, which can win you more followers over time.

A female influencer setting up her phone camera and tripod to film an Instagram Reel.

How To Get Genuine Followers on Instagram Using Your Charisma as a Creator

Although consistently coming out with relevant posts is a must to gain followers, it’s not the only option. True influence and charisma go beyond how cute and trendy your photos and videos are. If you have a firm hold on your target audience, you can win over potential followers with your magnetic personality.

Beautiful content is a huge pillar of Instagram as a platform. But you can also captivate new audiences and create a solid community of fans by building great online relationships. Here’s how to get genuine followers on Instagram by using your influence and rapport with others:

Build a Solid Relationship With Your Existing Fanbase

Engaging with your existing follower base is a terrific way to attract new people to your page. If you consistently interact and engage with your current followers, chances are they’ll end up recommending you to their friends.

They might lead others to your page if they share your content on their profile. You may even come up in conversations when someone asks who their favorite influencers are. These word-of-mouth recommendations can be incredibly impactful in your journey to building a big, genuine online following. But first, you need to gain their loyalty by engaging with them like a genuine friend.

There are plenty of ways to build rapport and a strong relationship with your current followers. Try to reply to your followers’ comments on your posts or direct messages they send. You could also encourage them to engage with you through interactive stickers like polls and quizzes on Instagram Stories.

 Someone replying to other people’s comments on their Instagram post.

Collaborate With Other Influencers Your Target Audience Loves

Another way to extend your reach and get new followers using your online influence is by collaborating with other creators. Creating content with another influencer doesn’t just excite your fanbase. It also gives your brand more exposure to your collaborators’ following. If some of their followers end up liking you and your content, they may give you a follow.

But don’t collaborate with just anyone. Reach out to creators you know are influential in the same space as you. Ideally, these influencers have a similar target audience to yours.

That way, you already know that their audience will likely be interested in your content, too. It increases your chance of reeling in some of their followers and getting them to follow you as well.

Two young female influencers filming a video for their Instagram collaboration.

Smart and Sly Instagram Hacks for Organic Growth

A stellar personality and a knack for making creative content are the bare minimum to become a successful influencer. But there are even more techniques you can try to grow your community and get real followers on your side.

Do you want to learn other smart, sneaky ways to increase your chances of getting more real, genuine fans online? Check out these sly Instagram hacks for organic growth

Optimize Your Profile To Catch the Attention of Potential Followers

Real people recognize other real people. If you want more real followers in your fanbase, optimize your Instagram profile page to look interesting to others.

Think of it this way. The top half of your Instagram profile is pretty much your resume on the platform. It’s how you introduce yourself on the app, so you want to make it look as good as possible. That way, they can decide right then and there that your page is worth a follow.

Optimizing your profile includes using a high-quality profile picture aligned with your branding. It also means writing an interesting bio that explains who you are and what you do. You can also go the humorous route and write a one-liner bio that will make your audience laugh. Add website links to your other platforms, too, if you want!

A plant with a phone next to it showing a highly optimized Instagram profile on the screen.

Host Giveaways To Boost Engagement and Visibility

Another smart way to gain real followers is by hosting an Instagram giveaway.

People love getting free stuff. If you create a simple contest with a shiny prize, it’s almost guaranteed that many users will join. You can set the prize to whatever you want, from some of your favorite products to some holiday gift cards.

The trick to gaining more followers through a giveaway lies in setting the mechanics. You’ll want to ask your followers to do a specific action that can widen your profile’s reach. Some common giveaway mechanics that serve this purpose include:

  • “Tag three friends in the comments section below.”
  • “Share this post on your Instagram Stories to enter the giveaway.”
  • “Like this post and comment your favorite Christmas movie below to join this holiday giveaway!”
  • “Like my last three posts to join the contest.”
  • “Make sure you’re following me to be considered for the raffle!”

If you’re a business owner, you could also host a contest encouraging customers to post their photos with your products. Not only will you drive engagement and reach, but you’ll also get a bank of user-generated content for future use.

Not only will contests and giveaways excite your followers and encourage them to interact with your content, but They will also lead more and more people to your profile. This presents you with the opportunity to gain tons of new followers.

Cross-Promote Your Content on Other Social Media Platforms

Our final hack for organic growth is to cross-promote your Instagram posts to other social media platforms you may have. This might include TikTok, YouTube, or even blogs and newsletters.

Cross-promoting content allows you to reach people who might not have discovered you yet. Not everyone is glued to their phone, checking Instagram 24/7. Some people who fit the parameters of your target audience are more active on other platforms and sites. Broaden your visibility and lead them to your Instagram page by promoting yourself on these other channels.

An iPhone screen showing multiple social media app icons.

Path Social Can Help in Your Journey To Building a Genuine Instagram Following

There are many ways to gain genuine followers on Instagram. From creating exciting content to rubbing elbows with other influential creators, there are tons you can do to captivate real audiences. By going the extra mile and optimizing your profile, cross-promoting content, and hosting giveaways, you’ll attract even more potential followers.

But even with the tips we’ve laid out, it can still be difficult to get tons of real followers fast. Are you having a hard time building a genuine Instagram following? Let Path Social lighten the load!

Our proprietary targeting tool helps hunt down the niche audience most likely to engage with your content. Then, we’ll promote your posts to their feed. That way, you can be sure that the content you work hard on is actually reaching the right people.

Not only will this get you higher engagement rates, but you’ll see an increase in your follower count, too! The best part is that these followers are 100% real, never bots. Grow your online community and get more genuine followers on Instagram today!