13 actionable tips to get your first 1000 Instagram followers and keep growing

Instagram is changing the whole ball game for travelers and photographers all over the world. You may hate it or you may love it but you surely can NOT ignore it.

Whether you are a brand looking to increase brand exposure or an individual looking to become an influencer or simply looking to grow your social media following, mastering Instagram is an absolute must. To be honest, I am no Instagram expert but I have learnt my fair share of things since I joined Instagram a few months ago. Part of this learning came from reading a lot of resources, attending webinars and partly from my own mistakes.

In case you haven’t followed me on IG yet, go on and follow me already!
There are 2 parts to the strategy, building a great profile and drawing attention to your profile. Here are 10 tips for you to get that first 1K IG followers and keep growing:

Part I- Building a great profile

  1. Decide your target audience, your brand voice and tone

    This is more important than you can imagine. Most of us start using Instagram with a random set of pictures without a clear goal or strategy.

    The type of pictures you post on IG should reflect the impression you want to give about your brand.

    If you want to portray yourself as an adventure traveller, try to skip the random family pictures taken home that you post from time to time. If you want, create a separate IG account for your personal pictures..

    Do you want to be seen as funny? Or informative? Or inspiring? Your photos and captions should reflect that!

  2. Fix a color scheme/ tone

    Have you seen those amazing accounts where all the pictures have a warm tone? Or the accounts where the pictures tend to have a beachy vibe?

    The moment someone lands on your IG page, they don’t open one picture, they look at the thumbnail version of all the pictures together.

    Thus, it is vital to follow one tone for your entire gallery to create a strong and lasting impression. [Learnt from my own mistake]. Here is what my gallery looks like now:

    Notice how the gallery has a unique effect? The trick is to use 2-3 same filters/lightroom presets in all your images. Also, if you are into portraits, then better stick to just those for one account. If you are into landscape and portraits, think about how you can combine the two and if not then create 2 accounts.

    While Adobe Lightroom is simply amazing for professional photographers, I also find the Snapseed app very useful. I have tried and tested various free editing apps and this is one of the best.

  3. Post regularly at optimal timings

    I can’t even begin to tell you how important this is. Instagram’s algorithm has undergone significant change in recent years. Posts don’t appear in the order of time when it was posted.

    If you don’t post regularly at the same time, there is a high chance that your posts will be shown less and less to your own followers. This is terrible for engagement (which we will talk about in another post)

    Optimal time is usually 9am but may change with the ever-changing algorithm. Use a scheduler (Like iPreview or any other) to schedule your posts if you require.

    Remember: Post every day at different timings < Post every day at same time

  4. There is NO substitute to high quality images

    Have a picture with a great background story but is not high quality? Skip it! Instagram is a visual social media. If it doesn’t grab your audience’s attention at the first look, it’s not worth being on your IG page

    Remember to stick to square or images that are vertically longer. Since IG is a mobile first social media, these images attract more attention.

    Some images look great on desktop but too clumsy when you see them on mobile. Before publishing, save it as a draft and check how it truly looks on Instagram.

    If you are ever running out of great images and need something different, for example- posting an inspiring quote every Thursday, it is wise to use Canva’s free templates to create a visually appealing post consistent with your account theme.

  5. Write meaningful captions that can engage people

    I have personally seen the difference with a caption of 2-3 words and 2-3 sentences. Think what kind of caption would want to make you comment on someone else’s picture and deploy such a caption yourself.  Example: You have a picture of yourself on top of a mountain after a hike

    Possible captions:

    1. “View at the top

    2. “7 hours of struggle, 2 hours of getting drenched and some great encouraging words from my hiking buddies and I am finally on top of Mt. Fuji.

    At some point, I was sure my legs can’t possibly move anymore but the sight of the peak kept us going. We endured the terrible weather but kept encouraging each other to not give up.

    When we finally reached the top, the first ray of the sun rising from the horizon took our breath away. Challenge yourself today and you would be surprised at what you can achieve!

    What is your biggest achievement?

    Notice how the second caption tells you an emotional story and ends with a question (a call to action) which inspires people to share their own stories? This is what fetches you engagement!

  6. Hashtag Research is key

    See those numerous hashtags people put on their pictures? They are for a reason. The right hashtags can make you discoverable to earn you followers and if your pictures are brilliant, it can even get you featured.

    There is a difference between hashtags that make you more visible and hashtags that are aimed to earn you a feature in a popular account. Learn the difference and use your hashtags wisely.

    Now, you have built a great profile but how would people know about it? To get your first 1000 Instagram followers, having a great profile is not enough. You must make yourself visible.

Part II: Drawing attention to your profile

Running an Instagram account is a lot like running a blog. You may have a fantastic blog but it won’t matter if people don’t know about it. The act of distributing content is as important as creating it.

The idea is to first have a great profile and then draw people to your profile. Once they land there, they are impressed by your profile and find something valuable enough that makes them want to follow you. So, here is how to make yourself visible.

7.  Find who your followers are following

A great way to find people is find who your followers are following and what they are liking. Go ahead and interact with these people. You can find them under the “Following” tab.

Leave some meaningful comments and follow them if you really like their profile. Remember comments attract more attention than likes!

8. Location based targeting

Chances are that many of your pictures are possibly from one country or city because you live there. If not, your target audience lives there.

Either ways, location based targeting is a great method. Go under the location tab and type out your city or country’s name. Go ahead and drop some comments on the recent posts (not the top posts, they already have enough) and follow some of them if you wish.

The idea is that if you are providing a product/service from the same area, they would perhaps be interested. Remember, people tend to reciprocate when you interact with them

9. Utilize the network of influencers

Find those accounts that have similar themes as you. If you are a travel Instagrammer then every country specifically has a few accounts that feature the best posts.

For Singapore, some of the accounts are: @exploresingapore, @visit_singapore @wonderlust.singapore to name a few.

These accounts have a humongous number of followers. Go follow their followers and interact with them. The idea is if they like this account, they would like a similar account.

10. Keep track of followers and unfollowers

In order to grow systematically, you need to keep track of who is following you and who is not.

There are many free apps that allow you to do this [ I use Unfollowers]. Unfollow the people who are not following you back even after quite some time.

Remember: you can NOT follow unlimited number of people on Instagram. So, it is important to keep a check.

11. Master Instagram stories

Instagram stories is evolving, FAST! Master it and use it well. Make sure you tag locations in your stories and use relevant hashtags so that you show up in the location and hashtag story searches.

A few free apps that I find helpful are Ripl and Inshot. While Ripl gives you lovely templates for creating videos, Inshot gives you the option to size them according to the dimensions of Instagram story so that your video/image does not get cropped from the sides abruptly.

12. Join Instagram pods in your niche

To beat Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm, many users are forming Instagram pods (basically groups) to support each other and drive up engagement. Look out for details on whether you should join a pod or not in the next article regarding engagement.

13. Organize a competition by collaboration

Now, I know exactly what you are thinking. If I am a brand/individual with say 400 followers, why would any brand want to collaborate with me?

It’s not easy but it can be done if you target the right brands. You would leverage on their network but your idea and take responsibility. I would be discussing this in more details soon. Do sign up for my newsletter and stay tuned to hear more on this!

A few words of caution

  • As you begin to expand your profile, you will receive a lot of undesired attraction as well. A lot of users use bots to target and grow their profiles but I do not believe it is a good way to grow. You will see a lot of profiles following you. Don’t feel obligated to follow them back. Follow back the ones whose content you genuinely like.
  • There is a very common method called the follow/unfollow method which is used to grow accounts. It basically implies following tons of people and then unfollowing them all later on. The idea is that a good portion of those people are now following you back in return and you have kept the number of people you follow under control.
  • While this method is a highly controversial topic, I do not use it as I believe that most people nowadays keep track of their unfollowers and unfollows them anyway. Even if you gain some followers in return, they are not likely to fetch you high engagement. So, use your judgement while deciding to use this method.
  • Instagram (which is now owned by Facebook) is changing its algorithm constantly and the common view among users is that you must be active and engage constantly in order to receive engagement on your own profile. However, your comments on other pictures should come across as meaningful and not forced.
    Skip the generic comments like “Nice shot!” and “Love this one!”. Instead talk about specifically what you liked about the image, if it reminded you of a memory, if it makes you want to visit this particular place or any other questions that pop up in your mind. This shows the user that you are genuinely interested in their content and not just randomly placing generic comments to attract attention to your own profile.

Overall, it is important to understand that if you wish to gain a large number of followers, you must give them something valuable in return.

What no one tells you is that getting your first 1000 Instagram followers is hard work and is all about consistency. Make it a habit to login to Instagram every day for some time and follow these tips. Spend at least 10 minutes every day posting great content and engaging with profiles from the same niche. The results eventually begin to pay off!
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @madhurimadutta12

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