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How to grow your Instagram account in 2021

Seeing all the popular Instagram profiles, we get jealous. We all want our Instagram account to be popular and get many followers. But how do we achieve that? To grow your Instagram account and make it well-known, you need to work on both your account and your actions. Read further to view the most important steps in my opinion on growing your Instagram account in 2021.

But before the good practices, I want to comment an often-seen practice that so many use, but it is not good. I’m talking about follow-for-follow.

Do not do follow-for-follow (FFF)

You might think that doing follow-for-follow is a nice way of growing your follower count. Actually yes, it does grow your follower count, no lying there. But the problem lays in the fact that the followers you get might not even be active followers. In fact there even might be a lot of followers that follow you, but haven’t ever liked or commented on any of your photo. These are called ghost followers, and they harm your account more than do some good.

To read more about why inactive followers are bad for your account, and why shouldn’t you do Follow-for-follow, you can read my blog post Why shouldn’t you do Follow-for-Follow in Instagram.

Make your account seen

To earn more followers, you need for people to see or find your account somewhere. The more people notice your account, the more people will visit your account and perhaps – give a follow.

Hashtags and Location

I really suggest using hashtags under your photos, because hashtags surely help your post to get discovered more. When you add hashtags to your post, people who visit the hashtag will see your post in the “Recent” section, as well as in the “Top” section, if your post went viral. When your post goes viral, Instagram might also show your photo to users who follow the used hashtag.

Adding location to your photos also can help some people discover your photos and page.

Choosing the right hashtags

You might think that using hashtags like #flowers #nature #macro is a good practice, but it isn’t. Hashtags like these are too general and too popular. The hashtag #flowers, for example, has 172 million posts, and around 20 new posts use it every minute. You would have a very weak chance of getting to the top section in this hashtag, and your post will disappear from the Recent section way too quickly for someone to even notice the photo. It’s just not worth it. The only scenario where I suggest using such tags, is if you gain big enough boost from other hashtags and your own followers so that Instagram starts to put your posts in the hashtags “Top” section. I have had posts that were seen from the big hashtags, and that was only because the smaller hashtags helped the post grow.

I suggest using not so general hashtags with a more specific category (a tag for a specific flower you’re posting, for example #snowdrops). They would be more relevant to your picture, and you would get more targeted audience.

A good practice is using only few popular hashtags, and split the remaining amount between mid-range and less popular (but more specific) hashtags, so that your post is in many range of hashtags, giving you a better distribution.

Remember that the limit for hashtags is 30 per post. I always use 30 hashtags, so that I have a bigger chance of being seen, as well as – bigger chance of being featured (I mostly use feature hub hashtags, you can read about it further).

It is good to switch up your hashtags from time to time. Instagram might shadow ban you if you use the same hashtags on each of your photo (Shadow ban = Instagram won’t show your posts in the used hashtags). Switching up your hashtags also gives you a better chance of being seen by more people.

My Instagram post, which went viral and was seen 10’000 times from hashtags alone

Exposure from stories

Did you know that you can also add location and hashtags to your stories? That also is a way of getting a little exposure. When someone goes through a hashtag or location – there is also an option to see the stories that have been tagged.

Feature hubs

Getting seen is accomplishable when using feature hub hashtags. A feature hub is an account that has their own hashtag, and that post other people photos in the Instagram feed. When a feature hub shares your photo – they credit you by tagging you in the photo and/or mentioning your account in the caption. When people visit the account – they might navigate to your account from the featured photo. The bigger the feature account is (more followers/more likes per photo), the better the impact will be on your follower growth.

I get featured almost daily, which help my exposure grow. You can search for feature hubs by checking out other user’s “Tagged” feed. The photos in this feed are from other accounts, that have featured and tagged the user (except when other users tag people that do not own the photo).

To get featured by a feature hub, you have to either use their provided hashtag or tag them in your photos (every hub have their own rules). Take a note that some hubs require for you to follow them to be featured.

Feature hubs usually write all the important information and requirements for featuring either in their bio or in each photo description.

There are also themed feature hubs that have daily, weekly or monthly themes (meaning – new hashtag for each theme, which might give you a better chance at being featured). Some of such feature hubs (which I often tag) include graffi_ty, gramoftheday, jjcommunity, 9vaga_dailythemes9, 9vaga_weeklychallenges9, nothingisordinary_ and picturetokeep_weekly. During these daily or weekly themes, if specified, you can even tag all your old photos that match the theme.

Shoutouts

When someone shares your account in theirs – you gain exposure, perhaps receive new profile visitors or even new followers. That’s why getting featured by a feature hub is useful. But there is another way you can get such exposure – when someone shares your profile or your photo in their story. That’s called a shout-out.

Many accounts often go from a profile to profile, leaving messages like “Shoutout for shoutout?” or “SFS?”. If the user agrees to do so, both the sender and receiver will share each other’s account in their stories.

When your account is small, shout-outs can really help you getting out there and being seen. And the bigger the account that shares your photo, the better the chance of you earning more new followers.

Where to start with shout-outs?

Don’t go rushing to an account with 10’000+ followers asking for a shout-out, if you have only few hundred followers. They simply wouldn’t see it being worth it. Try to aim on accounts with similar follower count to yours, so that you both benefit from the shout-out.

I have dedicated shout-out days on my macro account once a week. That means when I share a shout-out time announcement, I return all the shout-outs given to me for 24 hours. If you’re interested in participating, keep an eye on my stories on Wednesdays and Thursdays (that’s when I usually announce the shout-out time).

Get the attention of other accounts

Searching for new accounts yourself and getting their attention is another way of earning new followers. But how to achieve that?

Find users with similar niche to your account (for example, photography or nature), and who aren’t following you. Like some of their photos, leave some meaningful comment (yes, nobody likes single emoji comments, because they don’t make any engagement for Instagram algorithms), and perhaps give a follow. If they notice these notifications, they might visit your page, and even follow you, if they find your page appealing. Voilà! You have earned a follower in return.

This is a much better way than asking for a follow-for-follow, because the follower you earn will be voluntary, and because they like your page.

Take in mind, that the user might not see your interactions, if they have left Instagram, and many other actions happened on their page, overwriting your notifications.

You can also get users’ attention by reacting or replying on their Instagram stories – this way they will definitely receive the notification in their messaging requests.

Sometimes by being friendly, you can earn a follower too. I sometimes do not return a follow right away. But when I start to connect with the user, chat regularly or simply have good interactions, I feel closer to them, and that may lead to me starting to follow their account too.

Where to search for users with similar niche?

Try people who use a hashtag from a feature hub that posts your type of photos. Also it could be people who tag feature hubs their photos (visit the hubs’ “Tagged” feed to see that). Go through people who are featured by your beloved feature hubs. Or just visit those accounts that others share in their story as shout-outs.

Get the attention of your own followers

Did you know that only around 10% of your followers are those who interact with your content? Instagram don’t even show your new post to all of your followers, rather than a small part of them. Instagram chooses to show it to more people only if the posts did well (you got great engagement in the first hour or so after posting).

How does Instagram chooses whom to show your content? It’s the people that interact with your content the most.

Connect with your followers

You can define if a user sees your content by building a relationship. If the user likes and comments on your photos often, or direct message you a lot, then there is a better chance that your new post will be loaded in their home feed. Instagram’s algorithm orders the posts by showing as first those which you might be interested the most in.

When I open Instagram and the posts reload – the first ones usually are the people whose content I often like and comment on.

Connecting with people builds a friendship on Instagram, which makes your posts appear higher in their feed.

To get the user interact with your content, you need to make a frequent appearance in their page, showing that you’re a real supporter that’s here to stay. Reply to their stories, comment regularly on their photos, and perhaps the user will start to do so in return.

Post regularly

Doing somewhat regular posts is an action that can help you gain exposure or gain followers.

You need to leave good first impression with your page.

When someone visits your page – the way your page looks is the first impression. If your recent posts are made two weeks ago – the user might not want to follow you, because you might not be active.

Take a note that it is also better to post less frequently, but good quality content in your page rather than to post daily average/bad quality content.

When you make a post – you are creating a chance for you to get in the top of the hashtags you use. But you do not stay there for long, because other new posts earn the places in the top. That’s why you have to make new post after a few days.

Post at least multiple times a week. But don’t overdo it. There are people who don’t like to see too frequent photos from a user in their home feed, and that might lead to an unfollow. Once a day is the posting frequency I use for my macro account.

Host a contest

A very good way of getting more exposure is hosting a contest. It can be a photography voting contest, a lottery, editing contest or something else.

You could be asking – “how a contest will get me new followers?”. You can ask for the participants to follow you, or share your contest announcement in their story to participate. If you’re creating a contest where people need to vote for the best photo, then the participants might share your contest in their story, asking their followers to vote for their photo. This brings new people in your profile, and some of them might find your age appealing, and even give you a follow.

Don’t forget about the prizes. For users to participate in your contest, you need to have tempting prizes. It could be a bunch of shout-outs over some time in your page. Or maybe you will share their photo in your page and leave it there for a week. It could also be a permanent shout-out in your story highlights.

Promote your posts

If nothing else works, there is always the option to promote your posts (create advertisements for money).

To create a promotion, your account needs to be a business account, and it has to have a connected Facebook page. When your account is switched to business, you will have a new button next to each of your posts – “Promote”. You will have the option to choose your target audience (if you choose automatic, most probably it will be your own country), your budget and promotion duration. After completing the set-up, you will have to wait for Instagram to approve your ad. When that happens, your post will be shown to people in your chosen audience. Take a note that you need to connect a credit card or a PayPal account to create promotions.

Conclusion

There definitely are many ways on growing your Instagram account. Some are good, some – not as much. But you will have to put in either your time or money for it to happen.

Do remember that not only the actions decide if you will earn a new follower – but your page does too. Always leave a good first impression to your visitors.

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