How to grow your Instagram account

Growing your Instagram audience is a big priority for many businesses. Whether you’re looking to get those follower numbers up on your Instagram account or want more eyes on your content, we get it. Did you know that you can boost your following for free, and target an active, and engaged audience to boot?

Knowing when to post, how much to engage, using Instagram best practices and increasing your use of keywords can all help towards increasing your Instagram followers – and we’ve broken it down for you here in our in-depth guide.

Increasing your following on Instagram all starts with getting as many eyes as possible on your account through the content you post: images, videos, Stories and Reels. Once someone has seen one of your posts, ideally you want them to go to your profile and take a closer look at what else you have to offer – on Instagram, and off.

Getting started with Instagram

First things first, take a good look at your account. Have you seen our helpful beginners guide, with all the tips you need to get started? Check that all your details are up to date and that your bio gives all the info your followers might need. Your display name and bio are one of the first things people will see on your profile, so you’ll need to give all your relevant info out, but keep it short, sweet, and interesting, to give those people a reason to stay on your profile and engage further with you. Easy peasy… right? OK, perhaps not. Don’t worry, we’ve got some top tips on writing a cracking Instagram bio for you here.

Writing a cracking Instagram bio will tell your Instagram followers exactly who you are and what you're all about.

Next, make it easy for your customers to find you on Instagram: via your username, and keywords in display name. Like your bio, your username and your display name all come together to build a first impression on Instagram. Unlike your bio, your username and display name are searchable.

Try using keywords next to your name (also known as a headline) to help people find you. Let’s say you’re a clothing retailer. Next to your company name on your profile, you could include the type of clothing you offer; such as ‘outdoors’, ‘retro’, ‘plus size’ – any term that your customers might use when looking for the stuff you sell.

Using Instagram search

Take a look at your Instagram grid. By ‘grid’, we mean all the images and videos that appear on your profile page, underneath your bio. Your content doesn’t need to be award-winning, but if you use photos, they need to be clear and consistently shot and/or styled so that your grid feels put together, and on brand.

Want to learn how to get your photos looking tip-top? See our case study of how a local pub uses photography to attract attention on social media.

If you use text on your images and videos, be sure that your fonts are readable and easy to understand at a glance. That doesn’t mean that you need to stick exclusively to capitals, or big, round letters. Handwriting or cursive fonts can look great, as long as they are large enough to be read on a small screen. Generally speaking, if you have one or two fonts that you use across your website and marketing materials, you’ll want to continue using those fonts in your social media content. It’s all about being consistent.

Next, does your imagery match your brand colours? We’re not talking ’matchy-matchy’ here, but do make use of a colour palette that supports your brand, using one or two main colours, and a handful of complementary supporting colours. Your Instagram grid needs to feel like an extension of your business – it needs to feel like ‘you’.

If you don’t have brand colours, here is an excellent opportunity to get started. Perhaps you can take some colours from your logo. Maybe use one or two of your favourite colours that work well together. Try building a palette of colours that you can use in your Instagram content to really make your grid pop.

For example, at Maybe* you’ll notice we use a particular shade of blue across our social media channels and website. It’s our colour. To stop our content from being too samey, we also use shades of grey, purples and white. When used together, they form a palette of colours, that all work to support the Maybe* brand.

Taking the time to review your grid as a whole will help your followers – old and new – understand what to expect from you on Instagram. Tell people who you are, and then deliver on that promise through your content.

Your strategy to grow your Instagram account

Essentially, consider why you’re using Instagram for your business, and how it can help you achieve the results you’re looking for. Think about whether you want to:

  • Build brand awareness
  • Boost sales
  • Improve your reach
  • Drive traffic to your website.

You need to be clear on your aims so that you can be sure you’re putting out the content that will deliver the results you want to grow your Instagram account. Here are some tips on a variety of content themes you can use to help engage your customers.

Define and get to know your audience – think about how and why they use Instagram, and how best you can create content to meet their needs.

Ask yourself these questions about your target audience:

  • Are they predominantly male, female or non-binary?
  • How old are they?
  • How regularly do they shop with you and what for?
  • Who influences them in the press or online?
  • What other brands might they like locally and nationally?
  • Are they parents, young professionals or empty-nesters?
  • What other passions do they have in life?

Try to have a good think about these questions, or any others that might spring to mind when considering your ‘ideal’ customers, and see if it helps you when you come to create content. Start to build up a range of typical customers in your mind - try creating two or three ‘typical’ customers and tailor your content to their interests and needs. When you create content for the type of customer you want to attract, you will grow your Instagram followers from the pool you want to be fishing in.

Tag your Instagram posts to improve reach and engagement

Another way you can make it easier for your audience to find you and ultimately get more Instagram followers is by tagging your content. There are three different ways to do this.

1. Location tags

Tagging your location, or place, is a really useful tool on Instagram to help grow your Instagram account with people who are local to you. Clicking on a location under one of your posts will take your followers to a new page, where they can see a map of your general location, and underneath, a range of posts, all with the same location tag. This means they will be able to see the other posts in your local area, and you may be able to find new customers or businesses based locally, too.

See how a local Essex business uses location tagging to boost their visibility on Instagram.

2. Account tags

Tagging other Instagram accounts can be a great way to encourage engagement and get more eyes on your posts. If you tag an account in your post or Reel, your post will appear on their profile (in their ‘tagged images’ tab). If your post is then shared by the account you’ve tagged, it’s a great way for you to get your post seen by more people. You can also encourage accounts to tag you in their posts, for you to share with your own followers.

Word of warning though; this approach can be very effective, but it can also appear quite spammy, depending on the types of accounts you tag, how often you do it, and the volume of tagged accounts per post. We’d recommend keeping your tagged accounts relevant and industry specific, where possible.

See how an Essex hair salon have used tagging really well in their Instagram posts.

3. Hashtags

Hashtags help people to find content that they are interested in. They also group posts together in one place, so that you can see who and how many people are using a particular hashtag at any given time. Use Maybe*’s ‘What’s Being Said’ feature to do your research and use hashtags as tools to make your content reachable. You can also include a hashtag in your bio to encourage people to join in with particular topics or campaigns, then by clicking on the hashtag (or following it in Maybe*), you can monitor the posts using your hashtag and share them with your followers.

Equally, join in yourself. Some hashtags are used to create groups, mini communities on Instagram, and are typically ‘hosted’ by one or two larger accounts. The hosts monitor these hashtags and regularly pick out posts to share with their audience. If your post is picked and shared, then you automatically get many more eyes on your content than normal. This type of approach may suit you if you are a retailer offering homewares, for example. Can you join in with any of the interiors hashtags doing the rounds on Instagram? There is a community out there for most sectors on Instagram, so don’t be scared to dive in and find your people. At the end of the day you want to increase your Instagram followers and grow your Instagram account with the people who want to support you and buy from you.

People can also follow hashtags alongside their chronological feed, so do use them in your posts. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post, either in your caption, or in the comments. While you don’t need to use the maximum allowance in every post, it’s good to know that they are there for you to use.

NB: As with tagging other Instagram users, don’t be spammy (and use hashtags such as #likeforlike etc). Stick to your topics; you’ll have a better chance of reaching your target audience.

The Maybe* Your Report feature will measure your Instagram growth and show you the hashtags used in the conversations about your business or place.

Use all of Instagram’s features

Instagram likes it when you make the most of what it has to offer. By that we mean your grid, Stories & Reels. They also love it when you use the features within the different post types, such as carousel posts for your grid; stickers, filters and music on Stories and Reels. These features help increase your Instagram reach and engagement. We’ve created some helpful video guides on each of these.

Make the most of the different Instagram post types and features as part of your Instagram growth strategy.

Engage, engage, engage

On Instagram, when it comes to engagement you need to give as much as you want to receive. To maximise your time, try the following:

  • Be strict with the accounts you follow. Follow people that you want to engage with; don’t clutter up your feed and make it harder for you to find the accounts you want to talk to.
  • Follow relevant hashtags to your business.
  • Add your likes and comments to both Stories and Reels, not just posts on someone’s main grid.
  • A story share can go a long way – sharing is caring, so share posts of interest on your own Stories and tag the account owner, too.
  • Pin comments on your own posts to show that you value what people are saying to you.
  • Go live. We know it can be daunting, but it can be great, too.
  • Encourage user-generated content (UGC). You can do this via hashtags, or by asking people to tag you in their posts. If you’re tagged in a customer feed, be sure to react to it and show an interest in their post.

Use Maybe*’s social listening tools to help you get on top of your engagement and find people you want to work with.

Writing a cracking Instagram caption

Your followers will swiftly scroll through their Instagram feeds and only stop if something grabs their attention. Your captions will need to:

  • Grab - and keep - your followers' attention
  • Be easy to read - keep your language accessible and engaging
  • Relate to the content and your audience

Captions can be long or short. As long as they are compelling, it won’t matter. Try varying the length of your captions and see which approach suits you best and garners more engagement.

Captions that are longer than 125 characters mean users have to tap ‘show more’ on their screens, so make your characters count – make them want to see more.

Be sure to have a clear Call to Action (CTA) in your captions: what do you want your followers to do once they’ve seen your post? Tell them. If you’re asking questions, invite them to leave a comment with an answer or an emoji. Ask them to save your post. Direct them to your bio or Stories if you want them to click on a link.

Make it easy for your followers to engage with your posts, and keep your language open and friendly so that they want to. As ever, keep an eye on your spelling and grammar, and a well-placed emoji or 12 can go a long way to help bring your Instagram caption to life.

Use Reels to improve your reach on Instagram

Reels are reigning supreme on Instagram, and they’re a very useful tool for growth. This is because Instagram wants its users to create lots of Reels; so they’ve put a lot of emphasis onto them, and are using Reels to push your content out to a wider audience. More Reels, more reach, more rewards.

Here’s a great walk through just how Reels can help boost your reach on Instagram.

The Instagram algorithm and how to make it work for you

There is a lot of information bandied around about the Instagram algorithm, usually under the complaint ‘the algorithm is out to get me’. It isn’t. Instagram is simply a very busy place, with a lot of users and even more content. The algorithm prioritises the content that gets seen in feeds.

Essentially, the Instagram algorithm cross-references content (posts, Stories and Reels) with the information it holds about its users (so your interests and behaviours while using the app).

The Reels algorithm, with its focus on growth, comes together with the main algorithm to help bring your content to your target audience.

To make it work for you, find your people and focus on them. Instagram is vast enough to have space for everyone, and there are small and large communities across the app with amazing content, and engaged followers. Ensure you post consistently, and engage regularly with your audience to continue growing your Instagram account.

Making Instagram work for your business

Consistency is the name of the game on Instagram. To keep on top of things, you’ll need to make the time to plan properly. You don’t need to post constantly, just consistently. Your audience will build their expectations of you quite quickly, so be realistic about how much you can offer on a weekly basis. Two to three brilliant posts per week is far better than one or two rushed posts every day. Create purposeful content. Bring your company to life through your feed and share content that is of interest to your target audience.

How can Maybe* help?

To be consistent and to continue growing your Instagram account you need to plan ahead. With our Content Calendar and social media tools, Maybe* can help you do this. You can plan, post and boost weeks in advance, in seconds.

Here’s how to schedule your social media posts using the Maybe* Content Calendar. Be sure to review your data regularly and use Maybe* to monitor, engage and schedule content, all in one place.

Need more help?

Join us each Monday at 10am to learn all about Maybe*. We’ll show you how to use our scheduling, engagement, listening, reporting, and loyalty tools. See how they can help you grow your Instagram account and deliver better business results.