Instagram is an image-based social network that can either make or break your brand. It allows users to tweak photos with interesting image filters and share them. At least, that’s how it started. With over 1 billion monthly active users, people are now motivated to share with a wider audience.

But how can you increase the following on your Instagram account? First, you need to understand what makes Instagram special. In a lot of ways, it is like Twitter. Yet, the focus is solely on pictures and they make it very difficult to use the platform without a mobile device. This means that >90% of users will interact with your profile via the mobile app.

What is Instagram for?

Before you even start your Instagram account, you need to consider what Instagram is generally used for: to inspire or entertain. The most popular Instagram accounts are either really funny, highly engaging, or inspirational — or all three!

This mobile focus changes your content choices. On Twitter, you can post content that invites further reading. Offering more information by linking to a news article or a research paper. Instagram lends itself to content that must be consumed instantly. This is why links do not work in photo descriptions. All the information is to be found within the image and caption, not a doorway to deeper information.

With this in mind, here are five useful tips on how to get followers on Instagram without following:

1. Post frequently.

This may sound obvious. But, most Instagrammers are not posting enough. This is a key reason why many of them have problems building their follower count. They need to post more frequently to the people following them. Many Instagram users check their account many times per day. If you want them to notice your content then you need to have a busy profile.

Once content becomes old, it is less likely to be found. People generally do not search for images via hashtags. That kind of behavior is more common on Pinterest. This means that recent posts consistently garner more attention than older content. This is why regular posting is so important for the growth of your account.

Tuesday and Thursday evenings seem to be the optimal times to post. But, if you have the content, you should be posting every evening and morning. This way you will catch people starting their day and coming home from work. Inspirational content works best in the morning and entertaining content in the evening.

2. Use your website as a gateway.

Your website can become a powerful tool for increasing the number of people following you on Instagram. A simple way to do this is to add a “Follow me on Instagram” button to your site header, footer, and about me page.

In fact, you don’t need to limit yourself to your website. You can also place follow buttons and links wherever you have an online presence:

  • Email signature
  • Facebook page
  • Forum profile
  • Guest post author bio
  • Twitter bio

It can take some time for this to pay off. But, over time you will accumulate paths all over the internet. These paths will lead back to your Instagram account increasing your follower count.

3. Target your efforts. Use the FLC (follow, like, comment) loop.

This is the most effective and most misunderstood way to build your Instagram following. Gaining followers with this strategy is not going to work overnight. It requires some effort on your part. You will need to spend time engaging with other people on Instagram. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Make a list of Instagram users that have similar interests to you. You can use hashtags to ensure relevance. Or, you could check out the followers of a major influencer in your space.
  2. Scan the list of relevant followers. Follow eight targeted accounts that match the demographics of the people you would like to follow you. Don’t follow everyone that follows you! Make sure each of these people has at least 500 followers and a complete bio. This is a good sign that they are active on the platform. Remember, you are not following reciprocally. You need to follow accounts that are going to give you great material to curate. Never play the follow-back game.
  3. Take a look at four of the eight profiles, check their posts and find three photos of each user that you like. Then double tap to show your appreciation.
  4. Take the other four profiles you’ve followed. Look at their content and find at least one post that is comment-worthy. When you find it, post an original comment. Don’t post something generic such as “cool post!” This only works when your comment actually adds value, otherwise you will look like a bot.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 up to three times per day, preferably in the evening. Make sure you use hashtags to ensure you target relevant accounts. This is the FLC loop. Each loop should take you no more than five minutes, so this tip will only take 15 minutes of your time each evening.

The hidden benefit of this targeted FLC loop is that you generate tons of goodwill with other Instagram users. People will naturally reciprocate. And they will reciprocate with likes and comments instead of simply following. This means you will gain free exposure to their audiences.

4. Mention high-profile influencers.

This is like the FLC loop, but instead, you interact with big influencers. You should have a list of prominent influencers that are relevant to your audience. You should judge relevancy on how often they use hashtags related to your niche. Sometimes you will have a post that is somehow relevant to this person’s brand. When this happens, mention them in your photo caption using their @username.

This is another approach that is often misused. If you do this in a way that doesn’t make logical sense, then it will look spammy and you will turn people off. The same goes for leaving comments on high profile accounts. Make sure you have something genuine to say. Quality is far more important than frequency here.

5. Run a contest.

This is a more involved method of growing a following. First, ensure you have the foundation necessary to be successful. Wait until you have at least 1,000 Instagram followers. Once you hit this threshold, you may start running social contests. But, do not overdo it. I would recommend a contest every 3-4 months. You want it to remain an exciting event.

Here are the steps you need to take to host a successful contest:

  1. The prize: Select an enticing prize that is relevant to your brand. If you are really stuck for something creative, start with gift cards. But as you get to know your audience better, you should think of prizes that will be exciting to them.
  2. Easy rules: State the rules of the contest in a post. The contest should involve people taking a certain action. The most effective is asking people to upload certain photos. Be sure to specify a unique hashtag to represent the contest.
  3. Contest hashtag: Monitor your contest hashtag. Choosing a truly unique hashtag is very important. Some people use generic hashtags like #SummerCompetition. If you do this, you may find it difficult to work out which posts are related to your competition.
  4. Winner: Announce a winner. Send the winner a direct message. Also, make a public post announcing the winner.

Repeat this process 3-4 times a year and each time you will notice a significant boost to your following.

This basic process is very simple. As you become proficient with basic competitions, you can try different variations:

  • Ask people to like, share, or comment to enter the contest
  • Ask people to vote for their preferred prize
  • Ask people to tag a friend

These are just some examples. As you spend more time on Instagram you will find unique ways to increase your following by engaging your current audience.

Example of a contest hashtag.

A Recap: How do I get more IG followers?

  • The more you post, the more people will follow you. Recent content is favored over older content.
  • Attract real followers by asking people to follow you on your website. And everywhere else you have an online presence.
  • The FLC loop is the most effective way to build a fanatical following. This builds goodwill with users similar to your ideal follower.
  • You can also increase your following by occasionally highlighting influential people within your niche in the captions of your photos.
  • Run exciting free competitions with meaningful prizes. This makes your Instagram account a source of positive feelings, helping you to gain followers.

Read more: Do I Follow Back? 3 Rules for Following Back on Instagram