How to Grow Instagram Followers Organically
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7 Tips to Increase Instagram Engagement
Are you a blogger looking for tips on how to grow Instagram Followers organically? Are you wondering how to grow your Instagram account without losing your mind to the follow / unfollow crowd?
In this blog post, I explore ways to grow Instagram followers organically. And the key? Increase Instagram Engagement. So, without further ado, here are my seven tips to increase Instagram engagement and grow Instagram followers organically.
An Instagram Reckoning
A few years ago, I was sitting at my computer trying to write a blog post about pesto sauce. I was having a bit of writer’s block in the sense that I like to share fun and interesting facts when I’m working on a recipe and I was coming up empty. When this happens, I find often find it’s a good idea to do something else for a little while and then come back to writing. So, every 2-3 minutes, I would pick up my phone to see if someone…anyone…had liked the post I had made to Instagram a few hours earlier.
At the time, I had less than 10k followers on Instagram. I had had my vegan recipe account for about a year and I watched my follower count like a hawk. This many follows. That many unfollows. Wait as second…WHO unfollowed me? I’m going to unfollow them back. And on and on and on.
On this day though, I finally had my moment. The moment where I realized that I was letting Instagram be the tail that wagged the dog. The dog, of course, being my blog that never quite got enough attention because I was too busy counting follows and unfollowing those creeps that play the follow / unfollow game. You all know that game, right? I hate that game.
Deciding to Use Instagram as a Business Tool
On this day, I decided to increase Instagram engagement to grow Instagram followers organically. No more focusing on the wrong things.
And, you know what, I grew three sizes that day. Well, not that day exactly. But I made the commitment in November 2019; it’s now August 2021 and I’m closing in on 50k followers. Real followers. This by focusing on a plan to increase Instagram engagement and then sticking to it.
The plan, of course, is comprised of a series of tips about how to grow Instagram followers organically that I’m about the share with you. Before I get started though, I want to talk about what this blog post covers (and what it does not).
First, I’m a firm believer that there is no silver bullet. Growing your Instagram account takes a lot of time and effort. There are many pieces to the puzzle. This piece is designed to help you increase Instagram engagement.
Other pieces, like getting feature account attention, using promotions, creating great captions, etc. are all good things too. And, I will cover them, just not in this post. (Psst…this is your cue to sign up for my Confessions of a Food Blogger newsletter so you know when those pieces become available).
Tip #1: Stop Grazing on Instagram
If you’re using Instagram as a means of growing your business, you need to make sure that the time that you spend on it has purpose. And your purpose is? That’s right to grow Instagram followers organically.
I use this word, grazing, very intentionally. You know this behavior. You pick up your phone and just start swiping your thumb, scrolling through everyone’s posts wondering why (why!?) they’ve got 30k followers to your 1,200. Your photography is good and your captions are inventive. Your hashtags are on point. So, what then, IS TAKING SO LONG?
You need to stop doing this immediately. Scrolling idly is a huge time suck. Before you know it, you’ll have blown an hour (or more) and gained next to nothing except a lower self-esteem and a lot frustration. It’s also a huge distraction from doing what you do best – which is to create new content that you can then share on Instagram.
Tip #2: Find Your People
If I know you (and I’m sure I do because I’ve been there) you probably have upwards of 1,000 accounts that you follow. I’m sure you’ve acquired these in an effort to hang on to every person who extends you the courtesy of following you. You’re afraid that if you unfollow them, they’ll unfollow you back.
Guess what? If they were going to do that, they probably already have.
Gaining followers by playing the “I’ll follow you, if you follow me” game is painful. And it’s certainly not the best way to grow Instagram followers organically.
What you need to do is find people like you. Smaller accounts with good, quality content that you actually enjoy. Like their images. Leave them a comment. And then do it again the next day.
Chances are, over time, these people will like your images and comment back in return. This behavior builds you a loyal tribe. And that loyal tribe, those people who are giving you content to engage with and then engaging back, is making the Instagram algorithm happy. This is how you increase Instagram engagement.
Tip #3: Make a List and Check It Twice (a Month)
I have a list of 300+ accounts that make up my tribe. This list is divided into two groups: (1) the team players, and (2) new accounts that I think might be team players.
I genuinely enjoy each account’s content, **but** I do not genuinely enjoy taking the time and effort to engage with someone who won’t take the time and effort to do the same for me.
Yes, this is a bit tit for tat. But the effort it takes to increase Instagram engagement takes a significant amount of time. It just makes good sense to spend your time and energy on people who want to be a part of your community.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. There are accounts that I follow and engage with who just don’t engage back. These are usually accounts from which I draw ideas and inspiration. And that’s a worthwhile follow too.
Tip #4: Be Genuine & Generous with Your Tribe
My list (and, yes, I really do have a list) is housed in my Close Friends tab in my Instagram account.
Close friends is an apt description. I know everyone’s first name and when I engage with these accounts, I use it. As in: “This tofu bowl has me swooning! Loving all the veggies in there. Nice work Kate!”
The best part? I’m actually getting to know people. And, it’s really lovely, actually. It makes the time that I spend on the Instagram platform feel enjoyable. In fact, there are several account owners that I chat with on the phone regularly. It doesn’t have to be an impersonal place and the more personal you make it, the more rewarding it will be.
Tip #5: Share the Instalove
You know Instagram Stories, right? Use them to show your tribe that you love them. Congratulate another account on a milestone (yay for 10k!) or give them a shout out for getting a feature on a larger account.
I’ve seen members of my tribe try and share each other’s recipes – a really cool way to generate new content. However you choose to do it, be generous and genuine!
Tip #6: Cull the List of Accounts that You Follow
As you refine your tribe, start culling that list of people that you follow. If you have 100 accounts that you meaningfully engage with and that meaningfully engage with you, there’s absolutely no need to follow 1k.
I did this by checking each account that I followed. More often than not, that account had either already unfollowed me or they hadn’t posted in 6 months. These are the accounts you want to unfollow yourself.
Beware of the Instagram Unfollow Limit
But…and this is a huge BUT…you have to do this slowly. I did ~20 accounts per day. You don’t want to trigger the Instagram unfollow limit. Unfollowing too many accounts too quickly will lead to Instagram temporarily blocking you (at least at the time of this publication). So, each day or two, make an effort to clean up that list.
Tip #7: Engage and Then Get Out!
I try and make it a point to run through my tribe’s accounts every day. It’s quick and easy when I keep up with it and because I took the time to cull the list of people that I follow (Tip #6), my feed helps me to increase Instagram engagement with folks that I know will engage back.
Yes, it would be lovely if I could be a very prompt responder to each person’s newest post, but I can’t commit to receiving notifications on my phone for 300 accounts. I would never put my phone down and the whole point of this post is to make more time for content creation.
Once I’ve hit on all of the accounts I want to engage with, I spend some time responding to all of the comments that people have left on my posts. If a new account comments, I make sure to hop on their account and comment back. If they’re consistent, I follow them and add them to my Close Friends list.
And when I am done, I’m done. I put my phone down and focus on something else until the next time I’ve purposely set aside to spend time on Instagram. I do not pick it up at every red light (I know you know what I am talking about).
7 Tips to Increase Instagram Engagement and Grow Instagram Followers Organically
There you have it: my 7 Tips to Increase Instagram Engagement and Grow Instagram Followers Organically. As I mention above – this isn’t a silver bullet. I don’t think that there is one. But, with discipline, you’ll be able to not only grow your Instagram account, but free up more time for creating new content. So go! Get started!
About Confessions of Food Blogger
Kate Friedman is the creator of Herbivore’s Kitchen, a vegan food blog, and Confessions of a Food Blogger. Confessions of a Food Blogger is an informative resource for food bloggers (and, actually all bloggers) that provides helpful articles, online courses and tips and tricks for starting, building, marketing and managing a food blog.