Blogging is pretty much out at the moment.
If you want to get rid of your thoughts quickly and easily, share beautiful pictures, earn money online, or entertain people, go to Instagram today. There you can reach thousands of people in a short time and all without much effort and completely free of charge.
Instagram has long ceased to be an insider tip and now has over 1 billion monthly users.
The consequence of this:
It becomes challenging to gain interested followers who also interact with your content.
You may have registered with Insta a short time ago (or a little longer) and were initially full of motivation and zest for action.
But at some point, the disillusionment came:
Your follower numbers are stagnating. Your posts only reach a fraction of the actual subscribers. You may even lose followers instead of gaining new ones. Is it frustrating?
Believe me: I know this feeling!
The good news:
I played guinea pigs for you and tried many different strategies to get more Instagram followers.
Some are more effective than others, some are more sustainable, and some don’t work for everyone. In my guide, I will show you all the strategies I got from 0 to over 50,000 followers (!) On Instagram with my profile.
I describe in detail how each strategy works and what results I have achieved with it.
By the way, I almost lost my account because it was hacked. Because I really should have kept my hands off some strategies.
So buckle up and read on before you make the same mistakes as me!
1. Buy Instagram followers
I will tell you briefly and painlessly.
Buying Instagram followers are a dumb idea. No matter how tempting it may seem.
Your follower numbers will grow in the short term. However, it can be that you permanently damage your account, and in the end, you no longer grow organically (and even lose followers).
It is also possible that buying subscribers can damage your image or run into legal problems.
I explain in detail why this is so in my article, 4 Reasons Why Buying Instagram Followers ruins your account.
Read it and then try it with strategies that will also bring you something in the long term.
2. Place advertisements
You can also buy followers legally. Then it’s even real users who are interested in your content (if you get it right!).
Here you simply get more reach for your money and try to get interested users to your profile. At best, they’ll like your content and subscribe to you.
That’s quite expensive. If the ads are wrong, you’ll pay well over per follower. My lowest value was around 15 cents.
2.1 Correctly advertise on Instagram
You can either place ads on Instagram using the Facebook Ads Manager or directly in the app using the Apply Post button under the respective picture.
For you to use this function, however, you must have a company account, and your profile must be linked to a Facebook page.
Unlike Facebook, you can’t create campaigns for Instagram that have the direct goal of getting more subscribers. You can only advertise individual images, which then thaw in the feed of people who have not yet followed you.
As a goal, you can choose to get more visitors to your profile, get more visitors to your website, or get more direct messages.
To get more followers, choose your profile as your target. Next, you should specify a target group. Insta suggests a target group here, which is named automatically. Suitable accounts are selected based on your existing followers. The ad is displayed in the feed: But you also have the option of creating a target group yourself and thus determining who the ad should be displayed to. Unfortunately, unlike those in the Facebook Ads Manager, the possibilities are very limited. If you are familiar with this, you can define everything there much more precisely.
I’m not a friend of the ad manager, so I often use the Instagram function. After a little trial and error, I found ad formats that are doing so well and that I’m happy with.
When you have determined your target audience, you will then come to a screen to determine the budget and the duration. You should keep in mind that ads should run for at least 3 days (better a little longer), as Insta first determines the relevance for different groups of people:
The more time passes, the better the results will be as long as your target group is exhausted (i.e., all interested parties have received the ad).
With the budget, you will also achieve better results faster if you set this a little higher. Of course, very few of us can just spend some dollars on advertising. But if you place ads, you should plan to increase budget for it (more is always possible, of course).
I usually run ads for 7 to 10 days. If an ad has achieved particularly good results in this run, I increase the budget a day and usually let it run a few days longer.
When you have also set your budget and duration, you come to the final screen. On that, you can recheck everything and submit your ad in the last step (this will send the ad for review).
If your ad follows Instagram and Facebook’s rules, it will be activated in a few hours.
2.2 What Can You Achieve With Instagram Ads?
The advantage of Instagram ads is that you can reach real users. If you promote posts that perfectly match your profile, you will get new followers interested in your content.
The problem, of course, is that this variant is quite expensive. For everyone who already has collaborations with companies, there is an excellent way to place ads and thus gain followers without having to pay for them yourself.
If you are negotiating an advertising budget for cooperation, you can use this to place an ad. For such an ad to work well and to get new followers, the ad should, of course, fit well into the profile and provide the user with added value – but that’s clear, right?
2.3 The right ad format is crucial!
Those who place advertisements will soon notice:
How well the ad performs will depends mostly on the format. I have tested a lot of pictures and videos myself and gained some interesting insights:
Insight # 1: Videos are better than photos
My videos have often produced better results than my pictures. I’m not exactly sure why, but I suspect it’s because videos are generally less advertised on Instagram than photos.
The stop-motion video I liked best showed how you could make clay yourself:
In the end, the video was saved over 4,000 times, and I gained 867 followers: 8 followers were gained organically, which I have already withdrawn. Initially, I tested the ad, but the value was deleted after changing (hence the difference between the photo and the text’s values).
Insight # 2: Images need to attract attention
Apply for a nice family photo? Or the kid with the umbrella? I say: not really.
When you run ads, you should keep two things in mind: users have no emotional connection to you yet, and your advertised posts are not shown at the beginning of the feed, but somewhere in the middle between all the images of accounts to which the user has subscribed.
Above all, you have to achieve one thing with your image:
The user even perceives it. How do you do it best?
- Deviating: Use shapes, colors, motifs that you would otherwise not see in pictures on Instagram.
- Stand out: Use the effect of signal colors in or on your picture. Something that stands out is more likely to grab the user’s attention.
- Long texts: Even if Instagram itself warns that pictures with a lot less text are shown, I have made the experience that such pictures can still be very successful.
For a while, I just posted graphics that I made for Pinterest on Instagram. I advertised one of them and reached 27,320 people and gained 305 new followers (28 organic subscribers).
The ideal thing about it, of course, is that I also advertised a blog post here. Although I pay more per follower than for the ad with the clay, the followers gained have significantly more interest in my blog posts that do not contain DIY (which is currently the most considerable part).
Insight # 3: The advertised content must suit you
If you want to gain new followers for your Instagram account, one thing is particularly important: the advertised content must match the rest of your profile.
That doesn’t mean that they have to be the same color or that you have to use the same preset everywhere, but that it goes thematically in the same direction. If you write about Easter bunnies but then advertise a picture of Santa Clauses, no matter how great it does – it won’t do much for your existing account.
2.4 How expensive is it to gain followers with Instagram ads?
As mentioned briefly above: The price per new follower varies from ad to ad. In addition, you tend to follow profiles that already have a lot of followers. That’s why:
If you start paying around 20 to 30 cents per new follower, that’s a good value. But you can see that it quickly becomes really expensive.
This quickly raises the question of whether it could not be cheaper. And yes, it works. With viral content, for example:
3. Create viral content
Viral content is hailed as the holy grail of Instagram posts right now.
The promise is to create viral posts, and you will automatically grow. But is that true?
3.1 What is viral content?
Viral posts are posts that organically reach a large number of people. There are no exact numbers for this. But one usually only speaks of a viral post when it has gone significantly more users than followed.
Viral posts are characterized by the fact that they reach many users and accordingly generate a lot of engagement.
Viral posts can often be recognized by others by the number of likes and comments, although posts that an outsider does not recognize are viral. This is the case if, for example, the post was simply saved particularly often. Since this value is not publicly available, we cannot recognize such viral posts from the outside.
Yes, I tried it too. And would like to show you some of my numbers at this point:
These numbers come from my Instagram stats, and they don’t include any ads. So that’s all purely organic reach and interaction. What do you see there? My best post was viewed over 30,000 times. My account had around 6,000 subscribers at the time.
The other successful posts were also made around this time (I worked intensively on viral posts on Instagram for a while, which was when these posts were made).
It is also interesting that interaction and impressions are not related linearly. Even an image has a lot of impressions but does not even appear in the list sorted by interaction. (Well, which one is it? 😀).
3.2 How do you create viral content?
I’ve spent a lot of time doing these things and can now at least give you a few clues about how a viral post should (currently) be structured.
Of course, it varies a bit from niche to niche, but some things just concern the algorithm, and it is always the same.
My 5 rules for high-reach posts:
Rule # 1: Design the image so that users will look at it longer
The longer your picture is viewed, the more people it will be shown to. Even without people, they are even interacting with the content!
The picture with the brain of a pregnant woman had a pretty bad interaction rate, but was still played out super often.
Users looked at it for a long time because it contained text. Incidentally, this is also the reason why pictures with letterboards are more popular than those without them.
Graphics that only consist of text, on the other hand, have the disadvantage that many people simply scroll over them. With the letterboard, you can consistently integrate text into “everyday photos”, which are more likely to be viewed by users. You don’t necessarily need text to increase the length of stay. You can also create surprising, startling images or need to be looked at closely to understand them. Particularly beautiful pictures are viewed comparatively longer.
Rule # 2: Get users to interact
Critical posts that address topics that are easy to discuss and that may even be a little provocative tend to be better received and shown to more people.
If your post addresses a topic that moves your readers, you often don’t even need to ask a question at the end. Without question, your readers will feel the need to express their opinion.
Rule # 3: Reach your users emotionally
Topics that move your users emotionally are more popular.
This is nothing new, is it? You generally have two options:
- You address a topic that affects and moves the user personally (this topic does not necessarily have to be relevant to you personally).
- You bring up a topic that affects you emotionally.
Category 2 usually includes very private topics such as
- Falling in love
- Hospital stays
Not everyone likes to share these topics with their community. But, when you do this, you usually get a lot of reactions.
Rule # 4: ask the right questions
I know everyone is being told to close with a question at the end of the post. And that’s why Insta romps empty phrases and pseudo questions like sand on the sea:
- And how are you today?
- Do you love the sun as much as I do?
- Do you prefer milk chocolate or gummy bears?
No pig is interested in answer to such questions.
I generally only try to ask questions whose answers interest me (and yes, I admit it, I have already used such standard questions, and I wasn’t happy with them).
So that these questions are answered, it is essential to ask them precisely. Try to ask your question so that the user knows exactly what you want to know and ideally so that the problem can be answered in one sentence.
I once had a post on the question of whether parents “I love you.” or “I love you.” say to their children. The problem was accordingly: “What do you say to your child / your children?”
Rule # 5: Answer comments
I answer every comment or at least leave a heart for the writer. I know some people think it’s just a matter of increasing the number of comments. For me, however, it’s primarily about appreciation for the writer.
3.3 Disadvantages of viral posts
If you want to create viral posts, you need one thing above all:
A lot of time.
You can’t just snap a picture, post it, and hope it goes viral. You need a plan, and you need to ask yourself questions like:
- Which content is particularly well-received in your community?
- What do other influencers in your niche think?
- What generates a lot of feedback?
- What generates a lot of feedback?
In all honesty, that was too much for me (besides the blog, my main medium). It took me at least an hour for my viral posts, but mostly three to four hours.
Not counting the time I was awake in bed, and a thousand ideas went through my head. Since we only have 3 hours a day to work (after that, the child is no longer looked after, and anyone who has ever tried to work next to an active two-year-old knows that this is impossible 😉).
If you have the time and can keep up with this workload in the long term, you can grow very well and become known in the long term.
3.4 Should I copy viral content from others?
In the context of viral content, the accusation of copying is often raised. And yes, you sometimes see posts that are very, very similar. It is also clear what works for A probably also works for B in the same niche.
I think it’s okay to take inspiration from others. In my opinion, you mustn’t copy, copy completely and still bring in your style (your own experiences, your ideas, your own opinion, etc.).
Ultimately, nobody here on the web will reinvent the wheel, but it only gets exciting when we bring something new and unique to existing ideas!
3.5 Can't I just promote viral content?
Who now thinks, “Ha! I just create viral content and then make sure that it reaches even more people by promoting it! ”: I’ve tried that too.
And the interesting thing:
Content that went viral on me did pretty badly as ads. There I paid an average of more than 20 cents per new subscriber.
3.6 More followers through viral content?
So we learned that you could reach a lot of people with viral content. Much more important to us is the question:
How do I get more followers on Instagram?
So now butter with the fish: How many followers do you gain with viral content?
My experience: not as many as one would assume because of the content alone. My most successful viral picture brought me, 67 new followers, organically.
However, this number increases with each new viral image. In addition, viral content is shared more often by others, which means you can quickly get a few hundred new followers at once.
Of course, it is also relevant here how “pretty” your feed looks at first glance. To be honest, mine is somewhat mixed up and colorful, which are not the ideal conditions. So if you have a constant feed, you can undoubtedly achieve even better values than me.
On the screenshot, you can also see that there isn’t a straightforward linear relationship here either: Images that reach more people don’t necessarily bring you more subscribers than others.
4. Working with other bloggers and influencers
Even if you sometimes have the feeling that bloggers would instead work against each other than with each other:
They do exist:
Bloggers who sit down with others, share knowledge (even without ulterior motives) and support each other.
Once you’ve found them, there are a few ways to grow and benefit from one another:
You present a different profile on your channel with a shout-out and ask your followers to follow this profile. The more you reveal about the other profile, the more pictures you show, and the more convincingly you promote the other profile to your followers, the more effective a shout-out is.
Theoretically, organically, it should run so that you attract attention to others with your profile and present your profile to themselves. This can be a single post or your entire profile.
But the reality looks different:
Larger profiles hardly do anything anymore (I had some shout-outs, but always from profiles with less than 1,000 followers). Or they only do it if you know each other personally.
Among “influencers” who use it in a targeted manner, it often works so that profiles come together that have roughly the same number of followers.
You then agree on introducing the other profile (in the story or in the feed) and post at around the same time (so that the other person doesn’t back down after you’ve already introduced him).
What’s the point of a shout-out?
A shout-out is always good, of course, as it is usually free. But if in the past thousands got from one profile to the other through a single shout-out, such values are hardly achieved today.
How many followers you get through a shout-out depends not only on the number of subscribers of the other but also on how strongly they interact with the different profiles (or active subscribers). On average, you can expect 3 to 6 percent to follow the call and subscribe.
For accounts that overlap very much in terms of content, this value can be higher, if the other has a lot of dead followers or the profiles do not match, and lower.
However, a simple screenshot of the other profile with the link to the name is almost ineffective. Here you can expect a rate of less than one percent.
4.2 Joint projects
Joint projects are an excellent opportunity to grow together without overwhelming your followers with advertising for other profiles.
For example, if you publish something on a certain topic simultaneously and link to the other (you can find a different idea/perspective at XYZ) or even take photos together and then share them on both accounts.
Sweepstakes are also an often used option on Instagram to benefit from others. To do this, two or more accounts come together and raffle something among their followers. One of the conditions for participation is that you have to follow all profiles.
The whole thing is worthwhile in the long term. You should only organize such competitions with profiles in your own “niche”. The price should also be best matched to the niche and not attract too many people who have nothing to do with the actual topic.
If you keep these points in mind, you can grow with competitions:
I won almost 800 new followers in one day through a competition with my friend.
4.4 Offline meetings
If you want to get big on Instagram quickly, you can do it more easily if you know the “right” people. In this case, the “right ones” are large profiles that are well networked with one another.
Offline events such as blogger events, press events, or “influencer meetings” such as #digitalwirdreal. On the other hand, at blogger events, you will meet less successful Instagrammers, but rather bloggers for whom Instagram is a secondary channel.
How do I get an invitation? If you would like to attend such events, you should already have a few followers.
You are usually invited to press events when you have around 10,000 followers (sometimes the limit is a little lower).
On the other hand, you only come to influencer meetings if you somehow know the organizers or friends them or if they notice you. Sometimes you can just write to people, present your profile and ask.
If you think now that you will never get there yourself: There is also the possibility that blogger’s friends who are friends may ask whether they can bring another guest with them for invitations. In our circle of friends, we often ask around if someone wants to come with us or if they would like to take a place that they would refuse.
4.5 Where can you find your “blogger buddies”?
In my experience, you don’t meet them at large events, but more by chance when you write to someone privately. Or at smaller events where there are no 1000 sponsors and big goodie bags, but where bloggers simply meet, who have fun talking and networking.
“The higher the proportion of sponsorship at the event, the more bloggers perceive themselves as competition. The more it is about sharing knowledge, the more likely it is as a community.”
Another way you can grow on Instagram is through bots.
Bots are computer programs that carry out specific actions automatically. In the case of Instagram bots, they like other pictures on behalf of your profile, leave comments, or follow and unfollow other users.
5.1 Like bots
Like bots are the bots that are likely to attract the least attention but are also the ones that bring the least benefit.
They like pictures on certain hashtags or from certain users for you. Hoping that people will see that you liked their picture, go to your profile and follow you.
5.2 Comment bots
Comment bots work much better than like bots, but they can also cause very embarrassing situations. Here the bot posts comment on your behalf under pictures on certain hashtags or from certain users. Comments are much more noticeable than likes, so the probability is much higher that someone else will notice you and follow you.
If you’ve ever wondered where comments like “I like your video!”, “Great photo, love” or “I wish you a nice day!” Come from, then you have the answer here!
The problem is that bots neither look at the images nor evaluate the text. If you use the bot “You are a great family.” can write, it can be quite uncomfortable if the picture is about a miscarriage. This is exactly why bot users’ comments are so generic and meaningless.
5.3 Follow / Unfollow Bots
You will be most successful with a bot if you follow these other profiles and later automatically unfollow the profiles again.
This means that profiles that follow 1,000 and then suddenly 5,000 profiles are very likely to use a bot for this.
The underlying assumption is that people are more likely to follow you back if you follow them first. And it works. A lot of ordinary users haven’t yet realized that it’s just a lousy trick.
But this is also changing now:
More and more users are installing apps that track who unfollowed you and when, and then press the unfollow button (and many also block directly).
So this is not recommended as a strategy to get more followers.
5.4 is a bot worth it?
I also used a bot for a while. Because I didn’t feel comfortable with the comments and didn’t want to follow/unfollow in this style, I just let the bot set hearts.
About 30 new followers in a month. Oh well. My ads are more successful there.
As I said, it would probably work much better with the other methods. But that was too stupid for me. After a month, I stopped the experiment because it was too unsafe for me. But I know some profiles that gain a few hundred followers a month through follow/unfollow bots.
5.7 The big risk with the bots
In order for a bot to run, it needs your access data. He logs into your account in your name and can theoretically do anything there.
“Since Instagram prohibits the use of bots, no one there will help you if you lose your account due to a bot.”
It would also be critical if the provider were hacked, and then the access data was stolen from there. Then any stranger can log into your account and do whatever they want with it …
In addition, Instagram takes massive action against such fraud and likes to block accounts that show suspicious activity. With bots, you can set very precisely how many interactions are carried out per day and per hour and whoever wants too much in too short a time is putting his entire account at risk.
Oh yes, I wrote above that I almost lost my account.
In the summer of 2018, my account was hacked. The username, email address and password were changed and I could no longer access them:
Unfortunately, I cannot say exactly how it came about and who it was. Instagram has not released any information about it either.
In the following, I checked where my access data was stored and that included two apps (cleaner for IG and an app for tracking followers) and the page with the bot.
Of course, I then removed all connections and changed my password, but I’ll tell you: I lost almost 1,000 followers and couldn’t access my account for over a week. That was not a nice situation, and in the future, I will be very, very careful about entering my access data anywhere.
6. Manual interaction
Of course, you can also do what a bot does yourself manually.
Nobody gets your access data, and you have full control.
But of course, the whole thing also eats up a lot of time. In general, however, it is recommended that you are regularly active with your account, as Instagram also evaluates and saves such actions.
Here, too, you can, of course, decide whether you just distribute hearts, write comments or follow accounts to draw their attention to you.
When I got started with Instagram, I tried following many accounts for a while to get my subscribers bigger. Because distributing hearts hardly brings anything.Writing comments also has little effect and takes a long time to write something meaningful.
So I looked for accounts that do follow/unfollow themselves and look at their subscribers, and subscribe to those that probably fit my profile.
I went up to 1,000 subscribers, but then I noticed that I find it terrible:
My home page became ugly, and I deleted accounts again. At this point, however, the vicious circle starts:
“The more accounts you unfollow yourself, the more unfollow you. You are desperate, do not want to slip into the red and start subscribing again”
At some point, I looked for a new and more sustainable method and switched to viral content first and then to ads. I felt a lot more comfortable with it. Nevertheless, it is a way of gaining new followers on Instagram that many still use today (although again, nobody openly admits it). You can even see this today on Socialblade or by simply watching how the numbers of a particular account develop.
7. Follow trains
You have probably seen them before:
Posts in which some profiles come together and ask all other profiles to follow.
The whole thing is often combined with the request to leave a certain smiley in the comments if you follow the profile. The other would end up looking at all the profiles that left this smiley and follow those who would like.
The aim of such campaigns is, of course, to gain followers. In all honesty: The fact that you would follow the other profiles back, in the end, is in 99% of the cases just window dressing. And yes, at this point, too, I have to plead guilty that I tried it.
Together with 8 other profiles, I took part in such an action. We had around 20,000 subscribers (i.e., all participating profiles added together, whereby it is likely that some follow not only A but also B and are therefore included twice).
It brought me: 15 new followers.
Well, well. Also, I followed almost everyone who followed me back because I felt guilty.
In any case, I find these actions too intrusive for the profit. And somehow, it just doesn’t seem honest when you write that you might follow back, but everyone knows that 99% of the time, that won’t happen.
8. Other options that I have not tried myself
Of course, there are other ways to grow on Instagram. I haven’t tried the following strategies myself because I either didn’t feel like it or didn’t have the time (in some cases, both).
Nevertheless, for the sake of completeness, I wanted to mention them here:
8.1 Follow loops
Follow loops are likely to be even worse than follow trains. At the beginning, you don’t even know how many profiles you will follow in the end because each one only tells you the next station:
A sends you to B, B sends you to C, and C to D. In the end, you end up with Z, and your list of subscriptions has grown frighteningly.
So that people even do something like that, the whole thing is linked to a competition: You only have the chance to win something if you follow everyone out of the loop.
Challenges can also be a very social and fair method of growing yourself. You specify a topic for each day and ask your followers to post on this topic to link the account.
It works particularly well if you do it together with others and provides the readers and participants with some form of added value.
Gaining followers on Instagram sometimes seems impossible – but it isn’t. I know some profiles that are continually growing organically. Usually, these are profiles with a clear line, a narrow niche, and very consistent.
None of these points apply to me. I cover a lot of topics, like to try things out, and post every day and only three times a month. It is the case that I lose followers if I do not post regularly, like, for example, now that we are in Thailand and I post very, very little. Sure, that bothers me sometimes, but I know I could change it in the end. I know what to change. I just don’t.
For me, my blog remains my # 1 medium, and that’s where my focus is. My goal was to get 10,000 followers on Instagram because I get the swipe-up function (you can post clickable links in the story). Since we don’t do any sponsored posts on Faminino, it has nothing to do with getting better deals that way.
Yes, it has become harder to grow on Insta. You need a plan. Creativity. Perseverance. It is not impossible.
Do you know any other ways you can grow on Instagram, or have you gained experience with one or the other method?
Here you can find answers to frequently asked questions about Instagram followers:
10.1 How many followers do I need for the swipe-up function?
The swipe-up function is available to you from 10,000 followers.
10.2 How is organic follower growth possible on Instagram?
- Mentions of other Instagrammers in stories or posts
- Cross-media promotion (e.g., sharing your Instagram posts on Facebook)
- Showing your posts for certain hashtags
- Your posts will appear in the Explore Feed
10.3 How do I recognize fake followers?
Fake followers are quite easy to spot because they
- Often do not have a profile picture.
- Only have 1 to 3 pictures in the feed.
- Have a gibberish username like @thayuuuuu or @ zoo 32413
- Follow a lot of accounts, but have hardly any followers
- themselves (often the rate is 30: 1 or even higher)
However, if you pay a little more, you can still get better “quality”:
These are accounts that belong to “real” users (at least that’s what the providers promise):
These can be recognized by the fact that …
- They are often men from the Arab world
- They have a profile picture.
- They even post something now and then.
- They subscribed to thousands of channels yourself. The rate of subscribers to subscribe is a little better than the cheap version. Sometimes such profiles even have a surprising number of their subscribers.
10.4 What is the interaction rate?
With the interaction rate (also called an engagement rate), you can determine how well your posts are received and how active your followers are.
As the number of followers, it is an important characteristic for companies looking for cooperation partners.
There are several ways to calculate the engagement rate for a post, such as:
Engagement per post (likes + comments) / total number of your followers * 100 = engagement rate (in percent)
10.5 What are ghost followers?
Ghost followers are Instagram profiles that follow you but do not interact with your content (story and posts). The more ghost followers you have, the lower your interaction rate.
Such inactive followers can have various reasons:
- These are fake profiles (bought followers)
- Users have stopped using Instagram
- Your content is no longer relevant to your followers
- The profiles belong to the “Voyeur” type. That is, they only look at (without taking action themselves)