I’ve been asked a lot about how I grew my Instagram account and continue to gain followers on Instagram. I grew my account to 10K followers on Instagram in about 6 months, which seems like fast growth to some and slow to others. It’s all relative and I am no expert, but I’m happy to share what I have learned so far!
When I first started thinking about posting on Instagram it seemed like a daunting prospect. I had never been a social media fan. But, a friend showed me some images on Instagram as inspiration for a project we were working on. I downloaded the app and started following a few favourite local and Canadian bloggers. From there I started discovering a whole community of design-loving people just like me!
My mantra for Instagram is “Have courage and be kind.” I’ll explain what I mean below as I go through the best technical and practical tips that I can give you to help you succeed and to gain followers on Instagram.
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes
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The most successful accounts on Instagram have one thing in common…they speak clearly to a niche audience with a distinct voice. So before you start posting, decide what your message or brand is and make sure you are following that message every time you post. For example, my message for The Ginger Home is “make your home dreamy even if it’s not your dream home”. We are fixing up a 90s bungalow that was most certainly not our dream home, but we’ve made it a beautiful, functional, and unique family home. By documenting our renovation journey, DIYs, budget hacks, seasonal decor, lifestyle etc… I hope to help others make their homes dreamy too. Everything I post is relevant to this message. I have a separate personal account to share personal photos of my kids, memes or other random posts.
This one might be the most important considerations when you are trying to gain followers on Instagram. You MUST have good content. Instagram is a visual platform. If you don’t have beautiful, high- quality images, it will be much harder to grow. In this era of information overload, we all have short attention spans. If you don’t catch a viewer’s interest visually, they aren’t going to stop and click, read your caption, see what you are about, or follow you.
One of the best decisions I made was to hire a branding photographer, Tracey Jazmin, when I had been on Instagram for a few months and was ready to launch my blog. Having professional photos has allowed me to be featured on Apartment Therapy and Rue Magazine. Next month I’ll be in the August issue of Good Housekeeping and there are more publications in the works!
If a professional photographer isn’t in the budget do your research on taking your own photos and keep learning. There are great apps and tutorials out there on taking good photos using just your phone! I bought a starter DSLR and took a Photography 101 class from Sparkle Media. It was so helpful to learn the basics and a great opportunity to meet some wonderful people. Stock photos are another great option if you are a business, not a creator.
So you’ve honed your message and you’ve focused on creating quality content. When you present that content, remember to offer value. If you created a DIY or craft, offer a practical guide, tips or a tutorial on how your readers can do the same. If you learned something new about parenting share that wisdom. And if something funny happened, tell the story and share the laughs. Pretty pictures are important, but there are literally millions of them on Instagram. You have to offer value to make it worth someone
Some Ideas to offer value:
If you focus on providing value to the followers you have, you will naturally gain followers on Instagram.
If you want to be seen you have to use hashtags properly! You need to research hashtags that your ideal audience would be searching for. Then find hashtags from that subset that have top images which are visually similar to the image you are planning to post! Read that again slowly and let it sink in lol. It took me a while to do this!
I research hashtags by typing in the general category I’m looking for in the Instagram search bar. For example, if I’m posting an image of my kitchen I simply type #kitchen and Instagram will auto-fill a list of suggestions like #kitcheninspo or #kitchenrenovation. I go through the list and find hashtags that have somewhere between 10K and 500K posts. (If they have too many posts the likelihood of anyone seeing it becomes much less. Even if it made it to the top of that hashtag list it would be bumped down almost immediately because there are so many posts being added all the time.) Then out of the list of hashtags that fit my criteria I go through and look at the top posts (Make sure you are looking at top posts and not recent posts.) I see if any look like my photos and use those ones.
If I feel like I am running out of ideas I will also go and look at the hashtags that other accounts similar to mine are using. I use a planning app for Instagram called PLANN. You can easily keep lists of hashtags organized in the app. Or you can simply keep some lists in your phone notes.
There are all sorts of apps out there that claim to generate tailored hashtag lists. In my opinion, they are no substitute for your own detailed research.
Another way to increase your exposure is to use the hashtags of larger accounts or brands or to play hashtag games. In both cases, you use a specific hashtag that someone has created in the hopes of being featured by that account. For example, using the hashtag #myhgtv allowed me to be featured several times on HGTV Canada’s Instagram stories. Lots of times accounts will list their feature hashtags in their bios.
And one other thing about hashtags…there is intense controversy over how the algorithm views the number of hashtags you use. Some people say use all 30 (the maximum number allowed) and some say use less than 10 so that Instagram doesn’t flag you as being spammy. I usually use around 25 hashtags and have not noticed a difference between using less or more. Reach seems to be random based on the algorithm, which no one understands! I also notice no difference posting hashtags in my captions or in my comments.
You need to post regularly and at prime times. I personally struggle with this one. To gain followers on Instagram and create a loyal following you need to be present, predictable, and smart about when you post. People like knowing what to expect from you. Posting regularly helps to keep you top of mind. I use a paper planner to organize my content & schedule.
Also, you need to post when your readers are online! If you post at
If you upgrade to a business or creator account there are built-in analytics that will tell you when your audience is online and the best times to post. My best time is around
Posting daily is important, but it can be exhausting. I work with my branding photographer every couple of months to shoot content for the upcoming season. This way I have high-quality images ready to go and I can organize and plan what I’m going to post well ahead of time. You can do this without a formal branding session. Think about what you would like to post and what events are coming up. Then set aside time to shoot that content. It’s a much more efficient use of your time and takes away the stress of scrambling to find something to post.
This is another one that I find challenging. When you are building a brand on Instagram as a creator or as a business, it’s important that you show up in your feed, stories or IGTV. When I am able to see the person behind the account I feel much more connected to that account and am more likely to keep following. If your feed is very curated, show up in stories and show some fun behind the scenes moments. Not only does it take the pressure off trying to create false perfection it fosters real connection.
It can feel really scary the first time you post a story or IGTV video or go live. It gets easier each time though and after a while, it feels less awkward!
It’s called social media for a reason! The number one way I’ve gained followers on Instagram is by being featured by other accounts. One larger account that shared me early on almost doubled my follower number overnight! Get out there and find your tribe. It makes it so much more fun to surround yourself with inspiring and supportive friends! If you are brand new to Instagram don’t be afraid to like and comment on other accounts. Find similar accounts and reach out and say hi. Leave kind comments on accounts you love.
This brings me back to my mantra of “Have courage and be kind.” Remember that all the accounts, no matter how large, are run by people. And our worth is not determined by a number on an app. You are not “less” than someone else because you have fewer followers. And just because someone has 100K followers doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a kind comment.
Here’s where the courage part comes in to play when you are trying to gain followers on Instagram. You need to reach out both personally and professionally. Rejection is never fun (and it will most definitely happen) and it can be hard to put yourself out there. But most successful Instagrammers and Bloggers say that they didn’t sit around waiting for opportunities to fall into their laps. They went out there and created opportunities for themselves. Is there an account that you adore? Send them a DM and tell them you love their work. Is there a brand that you love? Reach out and see if there is an opportunity for collaboration.
More and more brands are realizing the power of the “micro-influencer” and are putting more resources into partnering with smaller accounts that have very focused audiences. So don’t wait! Start asking even if your account is small. Local businesses are a great place to start and it’s always fun to get to know your community.
If you are starting out find other accounts that you genuinely love that are just starting too and ask if they would like to start a share group, or even just a group chat to share ideas, successes and failures. That kind of support can be invaluable. Especially on the days when you get rejected or feel discouraged.
This one is pretty simple. Just don’t be shady lol! I know it’s tempting to buy followers or likes when it feels like everyone else is doing it with no repercussions. But don’t do it!! As Instagram is becoming saturated with “influencers”, companies and users are becoming much more savvy about determining the authenticity of accounts. It’s better to have a smaller number of real and engaged followers. It’s a dead giveaway when someone has tons of followers, but no likes or comments; Or if all their comments are spam or emojis; Or if their follower demographics are strange.
My followers are from the US and Canada with a very small percentage from other countries and 95% are women between the ages of 25-45. When I send these statistics to a brand they know right away my followers are real and I serve a specific demographic. So do yourself a favour and build your account the right way, even if it’s slow and frustrating!
This one is tough. But don’t let yourself fall into the comparison trap. You’ll hear this over and over again if you read enough Instagram captions “comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s very true and it’s such an easy trap to fall into. In the design niche, I am constantly looking at beautiful images of expensively renovated dream homes. I love looking at these beautiful images, but I have to remind myself that these images are created by entire teams of people working for large design firms!
There will always be something to envy or something that makes you feel less than. So if you start to feel negative not inspired, depressed not creative, take a break! Do less scrolling and more creating! Or just put it all aside and spend some time with your friends or family. Remember in the end, IT’S JUST AN APP!!
A lot has changed in the Instagram world since 2018-2019 when I wrote this article. The biggest change is probably the dominance of video content. Creating Reels on Instagram is now considered the best way to grow as Instagram prioritizes content from new features as it rolls them out. Also, I know of many friends who have very successfully grown a huge audience on TikTok in a short amount of time, some of who then follow on Instagram as well. I can’t say I’m an expert on creating video content as it’s not something I’ve spent a lot of time or energy on myself. But I would definitely recommend starting there right from the beginning if you are trying to grow in this new environment!
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