How to Get Instagram Followers


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 secret sauce. If you want to gain a following on Instagram, you have to:

  1. Post high quality, original images (or videos)

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

  3. Do it consistently

It’s really that simple. If you're thinking... 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. Now let’s get SPECIFIC.

1. Photography

What make a high quality image?

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 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. 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, painful stuff. I’m not saying you have to tell everyone your deepest darkest secrets. Share 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 content ahead of time. Spend one day each week (for me it's Fridays) planning a week's worth of content. Use an app to lay out your grid and make sure things are flowing well.

That’s it, happy posting, fam! 

x, gretchen


Hey! I’m Gretchen.

I'm a bi-coastal graphic designer turned branding specialist who lives in yoga pants and is fueled by pizza and red wine. I will use any excuse to travel and I LOVE teaching other female entrepreneurs everything I've learned about branding and digital marketing in the last four years of full-time self-employment. When I'm not in my design studio, you can find me cooking, sipping on red wine, listening to jazz, and spending quality time with family & friends.

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