How to Get Instagram Followers Without Ads

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With over 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram is a marketing platform that no business can afford to ignore. However, simply creating an account is not enough – you need to build an engaged following to maximize your reach and impact.

While running Instagram ads can accelerate follower growth, there are also many organic tactics you can use to get more eyes on your brand without spending money on promotions.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore proven strategies to gain real Instagram followers without relying on ads.

Optimize Your Instagram Profile

The first step is making sure you have an attractive, professional-looking presence on Instagram. Your profile serves as your homepage on the platform – it needs to appeal to your target audience and inspire them to hit the follow button.

Choose a Recognizable Username

Your Instagram handle is one of the first things potential followers see, so pick something memorable and on-brand. Aim for your business name or a variation of it if available. Using relevant keywords in your username also helps with searchability.

Craft an Informative Bio

Your bio only allows 150 characters, but aims to use all of them wisely. Succinctly explain what you do and highlight your value proposition. Include a call-to-action inviting people to follow you for more content.

Select an Eye-Catching Profile Photo

Research shows accounts with a logo or branded profile photo get more engagement. Select a high-quality, well-designed image that captures your brand identity. Consistency with your profile aesthetic is also key.

Add a clickable link in your bio to drive traffic to your site. This allows followers to easily learn more about your products or services.

Use Relevant Hashtags

Incorporating a few descriptive hashtags in your bio helps people find your profile when searching those terms. Just be sure not to over-optimize.

Post Quality, Value-Driven Content

Consistency and quality are key when it comes to content creation. You need to consistently deliver content that resonates with your target audience.

Post Frequently

Posting once daily or a few times per week ensures you stay top of mind. Consistency also boosts your reach with the algorithm. Just avoid flooding followers‘ feeds.

Showcase High-Quality Photos/Videos

Engaging imagery and video that looks polished and professional will get more likes/comments. Invest in a good camera and editing tools.

Write Detailed, Interesting Captions

Well-written captions keep followers engaged. Share interesting facts/stats, tell stories, pose questions – go beyond just describing the visuals.

Aligning your content with current events, cultural moments and trends can help expand your reach to new audiences.

Maintain Brand Consistency

While experimenting with different content types, ensure your posts are on-brand. Maintain the same tone of voice, visual style, etc.

Leverage Instagram Insights

Analyze your metrics to see which types of posts, hashtags and filters perform best. Then optimize accordingly.

Utilize Relevant Hashtags

Hashtags help people outside your following discover your posts. Identify hashtags used by your audience and competitors and incorporate the most relevant.

Interact With Your Followers

Building relationships with your audience is key for organic growth. Regularly engage with your followers to foster loyalty.

Reply to Comments and DMs

Respond promptly when followers comment on your posts or send DMs. This personal touch means a lot.

Like and Comment on Followers‘ Posts

Take the time to scroll through your followers‘ feeds and interact with their content. Doing so can lead to reciprocal engagement.

Follow Relevant Accounts

Follow users who align with your brand, and some will likely follow you back. This exposes you to new audiences.

Avoid Spammy Engagement Tactics

While you want to engage consistently, avoid leaving generic comments like "Nice!" that come across as spam. Add value.

Highlight User-Generated Content

Repost customers posting photos of your products or brand with their permission. This builds community.

Share Stories and Go Live

Instagram Stories and Live Video present more ways to engage your followers in an authentic, raw way that feels different from your main feed.

Give Behind-the-Scenes Looks

Let followers feel like they know you better by showcasing your brand‘s culture, team or workspace through candid Stories.

Conduct Polls and Q&As

Asking followers questions and having them vote on content keeps them actively participating with your brand.

Go Live to Connect Directly

Host live announcements, demos, Q&As, etc. Followers love seeing the "real you" in an unfiltered way.

Post Frequently But Not Excessively

While you want to maintain visibility in Stories, beware of over-posting. A few engaging updates per day is a good goal.

Cross-Promote with Main Feed

Leverage your main feed posts to drive followers to check out your Stories and Lives for more content.

Collaborate With Relevant Influencers

Influencer marketing is huge on Instagram. Working with creators in your niche provides access to their engaged follower base.

Identify Nano and Micro-Influencers

Look for influencers with 5k-100k very targeted, highly engaged followers. Their audiences have major value.

Offer Free Products to Review

Gifting your product to influencers aligned with your brand can score organic shoutouts, reviews and visual promotions.

Sponsor influencer giveaways that encourage participants to follow you for extra entries. Great for follower growth.

Share User-Generated Content

Repost influencers showcasing your products and brand authentically. Don‘t forget photo credit.

Compensate Accordingly

Be prepared to pay influencers fair compensation for sponsored posts and content creation. Don‘t expect free promotions. Establish clear expectations upfront through an agreement.

Run Contests and Giveaways

Contests are a proven way to quickly amass new, engaged followers – especially when teaming up with influencers to help spread the word.

Offer Relevant Prizes

Give away products/services that will genuinely appeal to your target audience. Get creative.

Make Entry Requirements Clear

Specify how users can enter and any rules, like following your account or tagging friends.

Promote the Giveaway

Share the contest details across Instagram, Facebook, email, influencers and other channels to maximize entries.

Choose a Winner Transparently

Randomly select and announce the winner in a post/story. Being transparent builds trust.

Follow FTC Guidelines

Familiarize yourself with FTC rules around properly disclosing sponsored content and contests on social media.

Cross-Promote Your Instagram

Leverage your other marketing channels to drive traffic back to your Instagram profile and expand your reach.

Promote on Your Website

Add Instagram follow buttons/links, embed Instagram feeds and promote your account in website content.

Repurpose Content

Re-share your Instagram posts and Stories across other social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Collaborate on Co-Marketing

Partner with complementary but non-competing brands to co-promote blog posts, social media updates, email newsletters, etc. and cross-link.

Publically contribute articles to websites in your industry that allow guest posts. Include a strong call-to-action to follow you on Instagram.

Leverage Instagram Ads Minimally

While the focus is organic growth, low-budget Instagram ads can supplement your strategy once you build engagement.

Promote Standout Posts

Run inexpensive post promotions to get more eyes on your best performing organic content.

Retarget Website Visitors

Create custom audiences of website visitors and show them ads to join Instagram.

Develop Lookalike Audiences

Using customers, leverage lookalike audiences to find new people likely to be interested.

Test Small Budgets

Start with daily budgets as low as $5-10 per ad. Measure results and slowly scale up.

Track Performance and Continuously Optimize

Analyzing what content and tactics perform best for your brand is key for maximizing your Instagram presence.

Review Instagram Insights

Regularly check Impressions, Reach, Engagement Rates, etc. for your posts and Stories to see what resonates.

See What Your Competitors Are Doing

Stay on top of trends and high-performing tactics in your niche by monitoring competitors‘ accounts.

Experiment and Pivot Strategies

Don‘t be afraid to try new content formats, captions styles, etc. and switch up what isn‘t working.

Refine Hashtags

See which hashtags drive the most engagement and followers. Double down on those yielding the best results.

Engage During Peak Times

Check when your followers are most active and focus your efforts on engaging during those high-traffic periods.

Execute Consistently Over the Long-Term

Gaining Instagram followers organically takes time and commitment. But by sticking with these tactics, you will see results and engagement build.

Patience and persistence are key. Don‘t get discouraged if growth feels slow at first. Building a presence on Instagram requires playing the long game.

Focus on consistently providing value to your audience through captivating content and engagement. Deliver on your brand promise. Do this persistently and your organic following will continue to expand.


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.