There’s no denying that Instagram (and social media platforms at large) are powerful places for brands and businesses to play. This low-cost marketing channel can give businesses the opportunity to reach new audiences, build an engaged community and even convert followers into paying customers.
However, Instagram is more crowded than ever before. With over one billion monthly active users on Instagram, it’s never been tougher to stand out and make a lasting impression on the platform.
But, there are still ways to build a loyal, engaged following on Instagram (without pouring thousands of dollars into social media advertising).
Let’s walk you through everything you know to know about building an organic Instagram growth strategy as well as eight practical tactics you can implement today to build your following on Instagram.
What is an Instagram organic growth strategy?
In a nutshell, an Instagram organic growth strategy is a way of boosting your follower count without dipping into your marketing budget. It involves using organic (a.k.a. unpaid) marketing strategies on Instagram that increase the number of followers your business has.
Unlike running Instagram ads or using third-party apps that promise to grow your account quickly, an organic strategy is a long-term commitment. It means dedicating time on a regular basis to engage with your existing followers, reaching out to potential followers and designing content that boosts your brand’s organic visibility on Instagram.
But here’s why you need to remember: having a huge follower count is simply a vanity metric unless you have a strong engagement rate to back it up. And using Instagram bots or paying for fake followers isn’t going to help your account grow in a meaningful way (and can even heighten the chances of your account being restricted or disabled altogether).
Ultimately, the best way to boost your Instagram follower count is to connect with relevant, high-intent users who are likely to convert into paying customers. And that’s where an organic growth strategy can help you uncover valuable new pools of Instagram users and turn them into loyal followers.
The benefits of growing your Instagram account organically
Before we go any further, you might be asking yourself: what are the advantages of an organic Instagram growth strategy?
It’s a fair question, especially considering how much work is involved in growing an Instagram account organically. As we mentioned, there are plenty of ‘quick fixes’ and ways to cheat the system using Instagram bots, third-party apps and other platforms that allow you to buy followers.
While these tactics might give you instant gratification and a quick boost to your follower count, they come with plenty of drawbacks.
By paying for “fake” followers, you’re boosting your audience without growing your engagement rate. The result? Your engagement will plummet and you’re unlikely to see any meaningful results from your Instagram marketing activity. Because let’s face it: fake followers aren’t going to buy your products or services, right?
Instead, it’s much wiser to play the long game of growing your Instagram account organically – and here’s why:
- You’ll safeguard and increase engagement rate on Instagram: the bigger your follower count, the lower your engagement rate is likely to be. However, if you’ve sustainably-grown your Instagram following using smart organic strategies, you can retain a good engagement rate (anywhere from 2% to 3.5% or beyond). That’s because organic growth is built on inspiring real, high-value users to follow and engage with your brand on Instagram.
- You’ll boost your brand’s credibility: your followers (as well as potential brand and influencer partnerships) will be able to spot inflated follower metrics a mile away. But if you’ve grown your follower base organically, they’ll see legitimate users interacting and engaging with your brand, which helps to boost your credibility and authenticity.
- You’ll protect the integrity of your Instagram analytics: your Instagram Insights and analytics can easily be thrown off if your followers are fake or inauthentic accounts. But by growing your followers organically, you’ll be able to use this powerful data to help you improve the performance of your content and drive meaningful results from your social media marketing.
- You’ll be able to attract and nurture potential customers: your aim on Instagram is to find, attract and convert your ideal demographics. With an organic growth strategy, you can target users you are likely to be interested in your brand, make better use of your time and effort and boost the chances of organic followers converting into paying customers.
- You’ll lower the chance of your account being shut down: last, but not least, an organic growth hack strategy ensures your Instagram page is protected against being closed or temporarily disabled by Facebook. By focusing on interacting with legitimate users and steering clear of suspicious activity, you’ll build an engaged follower base and minimise the risk of your account being taken away, too.
Like any marketing strategy, boosting your Instagram followers organically takes time, dedication and a clear plan of action. The best results will come from brands who are willing to put in the effort to grow their following sustainability and safeguard their engagement rate at the same time.
8 strategies to boost your organic growth on Instagram
Ready to start growing your Instagram follower base with tactics that will help you reach your ideal target audience, boost your engagement rate and turn leads into customers? Keep reading to discover 8 proven strategies to organic grow your follower count on Instagram.
1. Optimise your Instagram profile for search visibility
One of the best ways to boost your follower count organically is to maximise your chances of appearing on the Instagram Explore page. And a key part of achieving this goal is to ensure your Instagram profile is optimised for search visibility on Instagram.
If your business is ready to tap into the 200 million Instagram users that are visiting business profiles on a daily basis, you need to ensure your Instagram business account follows the principles of social SEO.
Here’s an overview of the key areas you need to optimise for maximum visibility on Instagram:
- Your username: this is how new users search and discover your brand on Instagram, so make sure it’s easy to remember and spell and clearly captures your brand name.
- Your account name: this appears above your Instagram bio and should contain one or two strategic keywords related to your business or industry (such as “New York Florist” or “Graphic Designer”).
- Your Instagram bio: in less than 150 characters you need to explain who you are, what you do and your key selling points in a way that captures and converts profile visitors. Make sure to use at least one hashtag and ensure you’ve got the right business category selected for your Instagram account.
The easier you make it for your businesses’ page to appear in the search results, the more likely you’re going to capture and convert Instagram users who are already looking for what your brand has to offer.
2. Ensure your Instagram posts gain maximum reach
But it’s not just your Instagram profile that needs to be optimised for maximum visibility. In fact, every post you share (from videos to carousels) needs to follow SEO best practices to boost your content’s reach on Instagram.
Within each post, you have a range of Instagram platform features and marketing tools you can harness to improve the discoverability of your high-quality content. These include:
- Location tags: this involves selecting a geographic location to tag your post to, and is particularly effective for brands with shopfronts or servicing clients in a particular local area. Make sure to mix these locations up and use a variety of suburbs and cities that are relevant to your business and each Instagram post you share.
- Tagged accounts: by tagging relevant, high-profile users in your Instagram posts, you can boost the visibility of your posts with new, high-intent audiences. Whether it’s tagging an influencer, a related brand or a collaborator, using the tagged accounts feature allows your posts to organically reach new, relevant users on Instagram.
- Hashtags: it’s a smart move to develop a tailored hashtag strategy for your business that ensures every post you share has a handful of relevant hashtags included in the post caption. Using the right hashtags on your posts can boost the chances of your content being shown to users who are primed and interested in your businesses’ offering.
- SEO keywords: plus, peppering your Instagram captions with a handful of strategic SEO keywords can also increase your chances of appearing in the search results on Instagram. Obviously, make sure the keywords you choose are related to the post you’re sharing and look for keywords that have high search volume on Instagram.
By making these simple tweaks and edits to your Instagram posts, you can increase the likelihood of your content being seen by your target audience on Instagram.
3. Use hashtags in your posts
As we mentioned, hashtags are a powerful way to boost the discoverability of your content on Instagram.
These popular search terms are a way for new users to find your brand organically, helping you to reach the right audience on Instagram (without having to pay for social media advertising).
The best way to find popular hashtags that are relevant to your brand on Instagram is to:
- Look for hashtags that are used by your competitors or influencers: take a peek at the kind of hashtags your direct competitors are using and create a list of hashtags that are both popular and relevant to your business.
- Look for industry-specific hashtags: this means thinking about keywords related to your business, industry or the products and services you offer and assessing their search volume on Instagram. By checking how many times they’ve been used on Instagram, you’ll be able to select the right mix of hashtags that are popular and relevant to your brand.
With the right mix of hashtags, you can enhance your account’s organic visibility and form connections with your target audience on social media, too. This is a powerful way to build brand awareness and inspire users to visit your profile and ultimately follow you on Instagram.
4. Schedule your Instagram content at the best posting times
There’s plenty of reason why your brand should be posting to Instagram when your real followers are most active. The more engagement your posts receive within the first hour or so after they’re published, the more relevant these posts are deemed to be by the Instagram algorithm.
Ultimately, posting your content at the right time can help boost the reach of your Instagram posts. It’s all about increasing the value and mileage of every single piece of content in your posting schedule.
While there are lots of conflicting opinions about when is the right time of day to post on Instagram, the best rule of thumb is this: check your own Instagram analytics to see when your audience is most active.
While industry-standard posting times can be useful, the most relevant metrics for your business can be found in your own Instagram Insights. Head into the audience tab and scroll down to see when your current followers are online (both by the time of day and days of the week).
By scheduling your posts for these times when your followers are most active, you can boost the chances of your content being seen by a wider audience on Instagram.
5. Harness the power of Instagram’s content formats (Stories, Reels, IGTV)
Long gone are the days of only publishing static images and single videos to the Instagram feed. Now, Instagram offers brands and creators stacks of interactive content formats to play around with.
Instagram wants users to take advantage of these new platform tools and will reward the brands and businesses that get creative with these new content formats.
So, here is a quick overview of the content platforms you should be using as part of your organic Instagram growth strategy:
- Instagram Stories: these pieces of ephemeral content allow for powerful two-way conversations and interactions with current and potential followers (especially for brands that use Stickers such as Polls, Questions, direct messages and Quizzes).
- Instagram Live: these live broadcasts allow your brand to team up with other relevant accounts and boost your organic visibility with new followers on Instagram.
- IGTV: these longer-form pieces of content allow you to educate your followers about what you do best and give them a reason to reshare your content with their own followers (thereby boosting your organic visibility).
- Reels: these punchy pieces of video content offer phenomenal opportunities for your brand to be discovered on the Explore or Reels feed. Who knows, your next Reel could even make your business go viral with trending content on Instagram!
6. Tap into the power of user-generated content (UGC)
One of the best ways to drive strong organic growth on Instagram (or any social network) is to encourage your customers to advocate for your brand in their own words.
Whether they snap a photo of their experience in your shop or cafe, capture an Instagram Story featuring your new product or vouch for your experience in a video, these pieces of user-generated content allow you to boost the reach of your brand on Instagram (without spending a cent).
The key to getting this type of content right is to ensure you have a branded Instagram hashtag in place to collate all of these UGC posts. Whether you include this hashtag on your Instagram bio, add it to your store decor or print it onto your packaging, make sure your customers are aware of which hashtag they need to use when posting UGC.
These pieces of content act as reliable reviews and recommendations of your brand, and give other Instagram users a reason to trust, remember and ultimately follow your brand on Instagram.
7. Team up with influencers on Instagram
Another proven tactic to grow your Instagram following organically is to harness the opportunities of influencer marketing.
By collaborating with the right influencer (whether their big names or micro-influencers) who shares a similar target market to your ideal customers, you can get your brand in front of valuable new audiences on Instagram.
But before you message a potential influencer, make sure you’ve checked their engagement rate to ensure they’ve got an active and engaged audience. Plus, make sure you provide clear posting guidelines, key messages and review and approve all posts before they go live.
8. Leverage competitions, giveaways and promotions
Last but not least is our final Instagram follower growth strategy: running competitions and promotions. A fantastic way to boost your following is to incentivise new audiences to follow your brand with the chance to win a prize.
Think about what kind of prize or incentive will attract your target audience. Remember the more lucrative the prize, the more engagement and entrants you’re likely to get.
Plus, to boost your follower count be sure to make following your brand a condition of entering your competition or promotion.
And that’s a wrap! When it comes to building your Instagram following organically, having a strategy in place will allow you to build your follower base (without sacrificing engagement along the way). Remember organic growth takes time and isn’t going to deliver overnight success. However, investing the effort and time into an organic growth strategy will ensure you build a lucrative Instagram audience that has a high chance of converting into paying customers.