How to Get Instagram Followers

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I met with a woman today who is totally new to Instagram. She’s in her early 40’s, has never used Instagram before, and she recently started a spray tanning business. She heard about how powerful Instagram can be for growing a business, and she wanted to know how to get a lot of followers. As I started getting into the specifics, she looked disappointed. After giving her my best advice, she asked “So there isn’t just some easy trick I can do to get a ton of followers overnight?”

Sorry, the answer is no.

Here's the thing. You don't just want followers. You want engaged followers. That means people who are genuinely interested in your content, and will comment and interact with you and your other followers. It becomes a community. This is ideal.

Here’s the best metaphor I can think of when it comes to real, long-lasting Instagram success: getting a ton of engaged followers on Instagram is like losing weight. You can do it, but it’s not going to be easy. You're going to have to work for it.

If you want to lose weight, you essentially have two options.

Option 1: Good old-fashioned diet and exercise. Diet, meaning controlling the types of foods you eat, and the quantities—yes I’m talking about counting calories. And exercise, meaning burning calories through physical activity. You must be CONSISTENT if you want to see results. And if you are consistent, YOU WILL. 

OR... 

Option 2: You try fad diets that claim to work really fast and get amazing results. I don’t know why people fall for those things. They don’t work. (IMO, Fad diets can be compared to buying followers, IG cheat apps, bots or 'Instagram Targeter' software that you'll see advertised online these days. They may temporarily boost your followers, but the followers will be fake and engagement will be non-existent. And like a fad diet, you will end up right back where you started. Or worse—with Instagram shutting down your account. Whether it's a fad diet or an Instagram hack, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.)

Like losing weight, you want to do Instagram the RIGHT WAY. It truly is simple! But like I said before, simple does NOT mean easy. I will tell you right now exactly what you have to do, just like a personal trainer could tell you how to work out or a nutritionist could tell you how to eat. But YOU have to do the WORK.
 

Here’s the secret sauce. If you want to gain a large following on Instagram, you have to:

  1. Post fantastic photos and/or videos

  2. Write captions that are authentic, genuine, interesting, informative and/or engaging

  3. Do it consistently

It’s really that simple. No magic tricks, no chocolate chip cookie diet. If you're thinking right now... what about #hashtags?! Yes, they're important too. But what I'm about to tell you is your bread and butter. I'll go into detail on hashtag strategy in another post soon. Now let’s get SPECIFIC.
 

1. Photography

What make a "fantastic" photo? 

First there are the obvious factors. It cannot be out of focus, poorly lit, grainy, taken with a low-res camera or an old phone that has a shitty camera. No exceptions.

Then there are the not-so-obvious. What is the picture of? Is it interesting? Does it tell a story? Does it explain something? Does it make you want to go where that photo was taken? Does it make you admire the person who posted it? Is it influential or informative? Does it make you want to try a new product? If the answer to all of those is NO, don't post it.

Are you asking yourself, how the heck am I supposed to get these fantastic photos? There are a few ways to go about this. I'm not a photographer and I am not the type of person who wants to constantly ask my friends or boyfriend to take pictures of me, so I use our in-house photographer to do staged brand photoshoots on the regular. (If you're wondering what I mean by staged brand photoshoots, I'm referring to literally every photograph on this website.) If you are in San Diego, Orange County or LA, we can help you with this! Click here to request a quote.

Pro Tip: Put yourself in your photos! I listened to this fantastic podcast recently by Jenna Kutcher aka the Goal Digger. Her advice is to put yourself in your photos. I highly agree with this strategy and recommend that you listen to that podcast for more information on how to do this, and why it works. However, I recognize that it doesn’t work for all businesses or blogs. If you own a restaurant you are better off posting images of the venue, food, friendly staff and happy customers enjoying the experience. 

 

2. Captions

Now that we’ve gone over photography, let’s talk about captions. Remember earlier when I talked about authenticity? This is your chance to connect with your audience on a deeper level than the photos can. (Although ideally they will work together in the same way diet and exercise are more effective when done simultaneously.) The captions are your chance to be vulnerable. Your chance to be honest. To be informative. To be funny. To sell a product or a service. It all depends on your goals and what works for you.

Be vulnerable. The days of keeping negative things in your life or your weaknesses swept under a rug are over in the millennial generation. Nothing is off limits anymore. The people who I admire the most on social media talk about REAL SHIT. Sure, there are fun posts about beauty products and cute outfits, but they are intertwined with authentic, genuine, and occasionally heavy stuff. Like what? Like struggling with weight or body image. Like miscarriages. Suicide of a family member. Detoxing from prescription drugs. Listen—I’m not saying you have to tell everyone your deepest darkest secrets. Do what YOU ARE comfortable with. But don’t try to pretend you are perfect. Perfect is fake and it’s really boring. 

Share your secrets. A book I love called Steal Like An Artist (just $10 in my Amazon Store!) talks about how everyone loves Oprah because she shares all her secrets. I love that advice in general (hence this blog post) and I think it very much applies to Instagram. For example, if I’m looking for a hair stylist, and I find a profile with a lot of pretty pictures... ok that’s nice. But when I find a stylist who goes into specific details, such as "I used this brand of dye in this color and I mixed it with this other dye in this exact color…" that person is giving away their secrets and I am more likely to trust them—and ultimately give them my business. 
 

3. Consistency

This is the challenging part for me. As a general rule of thumb, posting once per day is recommended. Some people I know do 2x a day. If you have enough content for that, good for you! More than that is obnoxious. I can't tell you how many times I have started following an account, and then immediately unfollowed because they clogged up my whole feed by posting a ton of times in one day. Ew!

I'm old school, so I do my posts manually rather than scheduling with an app. I am curious what apps you are using to post automatically. Leave your tips in the comments please!

Lastly, you never want to post in the moment. Plan your content ahead of time. Spend one day each week (for me it's Fridays) planning a week's worth of content. Use an app (or InDesign) to lay out your grid and make sure things are flowing well.
 

Conclusion

If you’re asking yourself, “If you’re such an expert at this, why do you only have 2500 followers?” GREAT QUESTION. The reason is simple. I’m not being consistent. (It’s the same reason I don’t have six pack abs.) I’m not making it a priority RIGHT NOW. I’m actually taking a break from Instagram at the moment to focus on some stuff that is more important this month. Primarily getting client work done despite the heat wave in San Diego and having no AC, finding a new apartment, and hitting spin class more often so I feel better.

If you want to see an example of someone who started at 1000 followers at this beginning of this year and is KILLING it, go follow my best friend, Kasey @GlowskincareLA 

Also, for more Instagram inspiration, I highly recommend following:

@TheSkinnyConfidential and @JennaKutcher

If you're interested in more ways to be successful on Instagram, I recommend another blog post I wrote called How to Brand Your Instagram. I hope you found this informative and interesting. Happy posting, fam! 

x, gretchen

 
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I'm Gretchen Kamp.

I'm a graphic designer turned business owner who lives in yoga pants and is fueled by pizza and red wine. I am a soon-to-be fiancé to a handsome nerd, and a mom to a goofy snaggle-tooth rescue pup. I love traveling the world and teaching other female entrepreneurs everything I've learned in the last three years of full-time self-employment. When I'm not in my design studio, you can find me at Cyclebar or galavanting in San Diego with my semi-insane girlfriends.



Follow me on Instagram!
@gretchenkampandco