How to grow your Instagram following without cheating

It’s easy to buy Instagram followers and less easy to grow a following legitimately. But if you’re using your Instagram for your business you need loyal, engaged followers who trust you. So here’s how to make that happen…

I’ve never paid for followers but I have done the ‘follow loads of people in the hope some will follow you back then swiftly unfollow en masse’ thing – and I don’t recommend it. It’s a dishonest way of growing your following, Instagram will penalise you and the followers won’t be of value.

What you want is for people to follow you because they’ve seen your posts and like what you’re offering. And then they’ll engage with your posts (‘like’ them and comment). Then – if and when you have a product or service to sell – they may well be your first customers.

It’s about offering value but expecting nothing in return. Because the hard sell scares people off. So if you start an Instagram account and before introducing yourself and sharing some interesting/ funny/ insightful posts (depending on your approach), you try to sell – people won’t be interested.

Now, some tips for growing a loyal Instagram following…

1. Focus on your content not follower numbers

When you have no followers, it will feel like 100 followers would be amazing. Then you get there and want 500. Then 1000. And so on. But the only way to keep increasing the followers is to focus on the content you’re putting out. So make it good.

Where possible, use your own images. If you’re a designer or illustrator, this might be easier than if you’re not a visual artist but you can take your own photos, create quote boxes on Canva or even try your hand at drawing.

And the caption matters too. Whether you’re into funny one-liners, ‘micro blogs’ (much longer captions that tell a story) or something in between; these words will help people to get to know you better. So have a think about your message and delivery.

2. You need people sharing your posts or mentioning you

The only real way to get lots of new followers is by someone with a big following mentioning you or sharing your post. If their audience is the same as yours – just bigger – you can get hundreds, or even thousands, of new followers in a day from their recommendation. It feels good.

BUT if you start messaging people asking them to share your content, they’ll get fed up. Because it won’t just be you doing it; loads of people will. And it’s lazy. Instead, there’s a two-step process…

Firstly, you create amazing content, without the intention of it being shared. Just being true to yourself, putting out a message that you think’s important, starting interesting conversations etc. So your feed is full of good value – teaching people something, or entertaining them.

Secondly, you engage with people. Comment on their posts, share them in your Stories if they resonate. Be generous. Your name will then become familiar, in time people will follow you back and when they see how ace your content is, they may well share it.

3. See what works and do more of that

At first, you might drop a few disaster posts. Stuff that no one likes or comments on. And it’s pretty disheartening. But then, hopefully, you’ll put something out that captures people’s attention and that they can’t help but comment on.

When this happens, look at your post. What was it that made this one work and not the one before? Break it down and then work out how you can create other posts that are similarly received. In time, you’ll work out what your followers like and it will become easier.

Growing an Instagram following is a lot of trial and error. It feels really good when you get it right and pretty demoralising when you get it wrong. But it’s worth persevering because with hard work and some creativity, you could soon have a sizeable and loyal following.

Do you have any tips to add for growing an Instagram following?