Over the past few weeks I’ve been tinkering around with Instagram trying to work out the most effective ways to get more followers and build an engaged audience. During that time I’ve read a lot of posts, watched a lot of videos and generally absorbed as much information as I possibly could. At the same time as this I’ve been experimenting with my own Instagram account to find out what works and what doesn’t.
At the start of this experiment, the account I’m using – ukulelego (the supporting account for my ukulele website) had 600 followers, it had taken me well over a year to get to that 600. 12 weeks later it has a following of 2400 and engagement is significantly up. I’m getting more likes, comments and followers than I ever did before. Admittedly it’s still not huge numbers, but it does mark a vast improvement over a relatively short space of time.
Before you begin, to try and grow your following I’d highly recommend that you define two things: Your perfect follower and the perfect account to follow.
Defining the perfect follower will help you to build a relevant audience that will be happy to engage with your content. It will stop you chasing followers that are purely a vanity number. There is no point building a following of users that have no interest in your content.
In this post I’ve avoided providing generic tips like take great photos and use hashtags as these are already heavily covered around the web.
I ran 3 loose experiments whilst growing my account. Those experiments were…
- Following 100 Instagram Users Accounts
- Liking 100 Pics
- Commenting on 50 Posts (reduced to 50 as this is way more time consuming)
I used each of the techniques above at 8am and took a follower count 24 hours later. Clearly they’re not the most scientifically accurate experiments but I think there are a few learnings that can be taken.
Experiment 1 – Liking 100 Pics
Follower count at start point: 1126
Follower count 24 hours later: 1134
Success rate: 8%
Experiment 2 – Following 100 Instagram User Accounts
Follower count at start point: 1134
Follower count 24 hours later: 1146
Success rate: 12%
Experiment 3 – Commenting on 50 Posts
Follower count at start point: 1146
Follower count 24 hours later: 1158
Success rate: 24%
Although these tests (probably a bit more appropriate than experiments) aren’t conclusive, you can see a pattern starting to emerge. My concentrated effort on engagement delivered the best results although it was the most time-consuming.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the techniques that I used.
Following Accounts Works
The easiest way to attract more followers is to follow a lot of accounts yourself. This is effectively like prodding those users. By following them, you’re instantly making them aware that your account exists. If you’re prodding the right accounts, you’ll definitely see an increase in followers of your own account.
How To Do It
Find similar accounts to your own account
Look for accounts that post similar content to yours that have a healthy following, I like it to be in the tens of thousands if possible. What we’re doing here is making sure that the accounts you follow will be interested in your content.
Follow the followers of that account
Take a look at the accounts that are following your target and hit the follow button. This is a very blanket approach and typically I’ll be looking to follow around 300-400 accounts a day. Instagram does have limits here which I believe are around 200/hour, they will temporarily block your account if you push too hard and I like to steer well clear of the limit.
You won’t necessarily see an immediate return here, but over the next 24-48 hours you should see a healthy percentage of those followers following you back.
Although this is one of the most effective techniques when it comes to gaining more followers it does come with its own problems. You’ll quickly find out that your feed fills up with irrelevant content. Although you are following accounts that should be interested in what you’re posting, you may not be interested in their feeds. This can make it very difficult to browse content from the accounts that you genuinely want to follow. And if you’re not engaging with the accounts you’ve chosen to follow, it won’t be long before they stop engaging with you.
There is a more advanced version of this approach that is a little bit more targeted and produces better, more immediate results. Here’s how you do it…
- Use the same criteria as above for picking a target account. We’re looking for large numbers here with frequent posts.
- Turn on post notifications for that account
- As soon as you receive a notification about a new post from that account, follow the accounts that have liked that post. You need to be quick here, within 5 minutes of the account posting their photo.
Using this technique you’ll find that accounts start following you back far sooner.
The reason this works is that you know those users are engaged right at the moment you’re giving them a virtual nudge. They’ve most likely got their phone in their hand and Instagram open.
The Engagement Method
This method is all about using Instagram exactly the way Instagram want you to.
Look for content that your perfect follower would be interested in, this should be similar to the type of content that you’re creating. Use popular hashtags to help you find that content – Hashtagify can be a big help here.
Now it’s time to get to work liking photos and videos. Don’t stop there though, you’ll need to get busy commenting too. Your comments need to be real, there’s no point typing great photo and moving on, you need to be unique, ask questions and show a genuine interest. It’s all too easy to spot someone faking it. Questions will provoke responses that will help your comment be shown,
This approach takes time. It’s isn’t as simple as blanket following accounts, you need to be committed. The rewards are definitely worth it though.
More Dubious Methods To More Instagram Followers
There are a couple of more dubious methods to help boost your followers that I haven’t personally tried:
Firstly there’s buying followers and buying engagement. Typically this is very cheap to do. It goes against Instagram policies and it’s not something I would ever try – any follower that can be bought isn’t going to be the most engaged follower available to you. I would seriously doubt the worth of the accounts provided.
Secondly you could turn to bots. A bot (or multiple bots) can be set to leave comments and engage with other users inline with your instructions. You can set them specific hashtags to engage with and provide a stock bank of comments that they will leave. I was partially tempted to try a bot but in the end I decided against it. Sooner or later that bot will be leaving out of place comments and ultimately damaging my account. It may be faster but it’s not without its risks and at this stage, these aren’t risks I’m prepared to take.
Growing your Instagram following isn’t particularly tough but it does take a level of dedication that is beyond just posting photos. The techniques listed above work without doubt (my account is living proof) and I will continue to use a combination of all of them to keep my account moving in the right direction. Give it a try, experiment with your account and see if you can get more Instagram followers like I did.
If you’re interested in growing your social network audience, check out my post on how to increase Facebook page likes.