5 Ways You Can Grow Your Instagram Account Without Ads

5 Ways You Can Grow Your Instagram Account Without Ads David Shiffman Blogger Extraordinaire Simply Measured

Instagram drives massive traffic to brands and online stores alike. With over 500 million monthly users and sky-high engagement rates, your business can’t afford to not utilize this platform.

2016 Instagram Strategy Kit

But, where do you start?

If you want to grow your account organically before investing money in Instagram’s ad platform, this post is for you. Below are five ways to grow your account and get your business in front of targeted followers.

1. Reach Out to Existing Platforms

If you’re just getting started with Instagram, your profile probably looks pretty bare. But, if you’re already active on other social media platforms, then you can use these audiences you’ve already built to generate initial traction.

Plus, you have the added benefit of knowing that these people already like the thingsyou do and the kind of content you release. Create regular posts announcing your Instagram account on your other active social profiles.

There’s also a feature on Instagram that allows you to follow people from your Facebook friends list — you just have to link the two accounts. To do this, navigate to your settings, then click Facebook friends. You can then follow automatically, or select influencers manually.

The number of followers you receive from this method will depend upon the audience size of your other networks. Still, it’s a great way to get a base level of followers for you account.

2. Find Content That Works

Once you’ve tapped the potential of your other social media networks, it’s time to create a strategy that’s wholly dedicated to this platform. The best way to craft an appealing strategy is to base your efforts on what is already working.

Spending some time researching what’s already working in your niche. Which accounts get the highest levels of engagement? Which images get shared the most? No need to reinvent the wheel.

Instagram Competitive
The Simply Measured Instagram Competitive Analysis can help you see what’s working for other brands in your niche and/or competitive brands.

Find out what’s already working and what style of content your ideal follower enjoys, and then create content that’s similar.

For your business to stand out on Instagram, you need to decide what kind of visual narrative you want to tell. Is your focus going to be sharing inspirational quotes and lifestyle images related to your brand?

True love is an ice coffee that is cold and strong. (via @biancaxunise)

A photo posted by hellogiggles (@hellogiggles) on

Are you going to focus on customer stories and show behind-the-scenes images of your brand?

I enjoyed being able to hang out in the warm-up area before Climbing Snail so I could watch the athletes prepare. Any time the @crossfitgames present a new challenge, a multitude of strategies show up. In this case, competitors weren't allowed to use the @roguefitness Snail before the event, so they had to figure out how to warm up for the giant drum filled with sand. @tasiapercevecz used band sprints and claimed 14th in the event. 📷 @crossfit204 #CrossFit #CrossFitGames #crossfitphotojournal #reebok #sonya6300

A photo posted by CrossFit Photo Journal (@crossfitphotojournal) on

Stay in line with followers’ expectations, while still showcasing what makes your content unique.

3. Post the Right Way

Once you have an understanding of what you’re actually going to post, it’s helpful to post images the right way, so that they get the most traction possible. There are three main ways to do this.

  • Use hashtags

Hashtags are like keywords you can use to tag your posts with.

The s'more the merrier! Celebrate #NationalSmoresDay the Mickey way with @disneyfamily.

A photo posted by Disney (@disney) on

However, you don’t just want to use any old keywords. Instead, use a tool like Tags for Likes to find the most popular hashtags in your niche. To get even more targeted, run an analysis like the Simply Measured Twitter Activity Report to find out which hashtags people are using around your brand handle and owned hashtags on Twitter. Then, experiment with using these hashtags on Instagram.

Twitter Activity ReportInstead of having hashtags clutter up your posts, you can even enter your hashtags as the first comment after your post.

  • Tag other accounts

Posts that tag other accounts receive much higher engagement levels. Tag other accounts that are featured in your photos, and even mention them in the caption.

Thursday's SCORE 👌🏽 @fppacificnw in #crosscitytop // link in bio to shop!

A photo posted by freepeople (@freepeople) on

Especially with larger accounts, you can encourage users to tag their friends in the post to increase its overall reach.

  • Post at the right times

Your audience will be more active at different times of the day. To increase the effectiveness of each post, make sure to post at the right times. You can use a tool like Simply Measured, which will analyze your posts to see when is the best time of day to post.

Time of Day
This chart comes from the Simply Measured Twitter Account Report.

Remember, you can’t post just once a week and hope that your account will continue to grow. The more you post, the faster your account will grow.

4. Increase Engagement with Contests

One great way to create a lot of buzz around your account is to create a contest or giveaway. In order for people to enter the contest, make it so they are required to follow you, Like a photo, leave a comment, tag a friend, or even share the post on another social network.

Giveaway! One million copies of THE OTHER WES MOORE have been read, loved, borrowed, and reread since it was published in 2010. Like and tag a friend below for a chance to win a copy of this New York Times bestselling true story of two boys born in the same neighborhood in the same town with the same name, and their starkly different fates. (Giveaway ends in 24 hours, one winner, US only). #bookstagram #igreads #giveaway #freebooks #TheOtherWesMoore #WesMoore

A photo posted by Random House (@randomhouse) on

This will encourage people to interact with your account and even share the contest with their own followers. This will help your account reach even more people, and have people paying more attention to what you offer, as they’ll be looking out for another giveaway.

5. Follow Me, Follow You

One of the best ways to grow your account is to use the “follow for follow” strategy. Some people think this is spammy, but it’s no less invasive that using paid advertising. The crux of the strategy is as follows:

You’ll find accounts that are similar to what you want yours to be, although not direct competitors. Then you’ll follow the people following these accounts. After a while, you can go through and unfollow certain people using a tool like Crowdfire.

You’ll notice that not every one, but a small portion of those people, will follow you back and become engaged with your work.

Over time, you’ll build up enough traction with your account and the things you’re posting to not need to do this anymore — but it can be an effective way to grow your account in the beginning.

Remember, when it comes to Instagram accounts, massive followings can seem impressive, but even more important than numbers are the quality of your followers. Do they share, Like, and comment on your posts? Do they actually enjoy having you show up in their feed? Are they actually converting into potential customers?

Keep these questions in mind as you grow your account.

Now, over to you. What are your favorite tips for growing your Instagram account? Please share in the comments below.

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David Shiffman

David Shiffman

David Shiffman is Co-Founder and Brand Elevator at Brandamos, a social media agency. A creative strategist with over 10 years of experience developing marketing strategies and guiding business development. Shiffman has worked with companies such as Paramount Pictures, CK Mondavi and Flex Seal. His internet marketing strategies and execution have resulted in millions of dollars in revenue for clients and his personal experience gives an advantage in elevating brands both offline and online.