Hacking Instagram: How to Gain Your First 10k Followers

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Growing your Instagram following is frustrating, confusing, difficult, and time-consuming.

Have you felt this way at some point in your Instagram journey? You are most definitely NOT alone. We work with women every single day who are struggling with their Instagram growth and there’s nothing better than seeing someone just kind of click with our advice and have that “ah-ha” moment about what they were doing on Instagram and what they could be doing differently.

In this blog post, I am going to share 16 Instagram hacks that have worked for both my accounts and client accounts. Maybe not all 20 will resonate with you, but I’m hoping that you’ll find some new suggestions and strategies for growing your own Instagram accounts!


Optimize Your Profile

Okay first thing’s first, you need to optimize your profile. You want to set a solid foundation to grow your account on. If you don’t have an optimized username, bio, profile photo, etc. then it will be much harder to attract your ideal audience.

YOUR USERNAME

You want to avoid making your Instagram username look like an AIM screen name. The more simple and straightforward your username is, the better. If your ideal username is already taken, try to think of some creative ways to avoid adding numbers to the end. You can always add a period (like @girlcrush.collective) or an underscore, but try to avoid using more than one within your username.

YOUR PROFILE PHOTO

The main point of your profile photo is to make it easily recognizable. If you are running an Instagram account for a brand, use a clear brand logo. If it’s a personal account, use a photo of yourself (this also creates relatability). Use a close-up photo of yourself - full-body photos are hard to identify in the tiny little profile photo.

YOUR BIO

Your bio is a little place with a lot of importance. This is your opportunity to tell your potential followers what to expect from your account. Don’t leave people confused about your Instagram


Research your competitors

You can learn a lot from your competitors. They have been targeting the same audience as you, so it’s a great way to see what has been working and what has not. It’s also a place to find your target audience, as they are likely already liking and commenting on your competitors accounts.

HOW TO FIND YOUR COMPETITORS

One way to find your competitors is by looking at other accounts that have been using your niche hashtags. We’ll talk more about hashtags later in this post. Check out the top posts for your niche hashtags and look at the accounts that are posting them.

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Partner up with other similar accounts

At Girlcrush Collective, we’re all about community over competition. Find some other Instagrammers with similar audiences as your own and promote each other! You can shout each other out in your Instagram stories or re-post some of their content on your own feeds.

HOW TO FIND ACCOUNTS TO CROSS-PROMOTE WITH

Our Facebook group for Girlcrush Collective is a great place to find other accounts to engage with! We have Follow Friday threads every week where you can connect with other users. Additionally, you could post in the group requesting to collaborate with other, similar accounts and we’re sure you’ll find some ladies who would love to promote with you!

Join the Facebook group here. ✩


Post often

When you are trying to grow your account quickly, you need to be posting frequently. The more you are posting, the more exposure you will have and the further your reach will go. While you’re focusing on Instagram growth, we recommend posting AT LEAST once a day. As many as 3 posts per day will be even more beneficial for your reach.


Plan ahead

Posting multiple times a day, every day, can be stressful. A way to reduce this stress and save time is by planning your content ahead of time. There are tons of great Instagram schedulers to use to plan your posts. We use (and highly recommend) Planoly, which allows you to visually plan your feed! You can see exactly how your feed will look once you post them, and it even auto-posts for you, making it even easier to post multiple times each day without having to be glued to your phone.

Learn more about Planoly in our App Spotlight blog post!

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Engagement pods

Engagement pods are a great way to boost your engagement, which will

Hashtag strategy (small and large combo)


Engage with others

Engaging with other accounts is a very important part of growing your own account. By commenting on other users’ posts, you’re putting your account out there to be seen by other users who engage with that photo. You’re also connecting in a more personal way with accounts which will make them more likely to follow you and engage with your content as well.

We recommend at least 30 minutes of engagement per day, whether you do that all at once or in smaller increments is up to you! Our favorite strategy for engaging with other accounts is Gary Vee’s $1.80 strategy. Learn more about his strategy here.


Run an instagram giveaway

Running a giveaway on Instagram can be a very great way to grow your following. Notice that I used the word “can” . . . if you don’t run a giveaway properly, you could gain lots of followers that are not your ideal audience and they will unfollow you as soon as you announce the winner. Or they will continue following you but will never engage with your content.

A good way to ensure that you will gain targeted followers is by giving away something specific that you know your audience will like. When I started Girlcrush Collective, I made the mistake of participating in a giveaway with an iPhone as the prize. While I did gain a good amount of followers, they were almost all non-english speaking men. This did not benefit my account at all, and over a year later I am still trying to weed out some of those followers as it is altering my statistics and engagement rate.

However, when I do giveaways for our Girlcrush Presets, we know that we are gaining followers that are specifically interested in Instagram, photo editing, etc. Make your prize very niche specific and you’ll have a great


Create re-postable content

If you post amazing content, it is going to be reposted. Having your content reposted is an amazing way to get your content in front of your target audience! Now, on Instagram stories, it is super easy for people to share your Instagram posts straight to their stories. When they do this, their followers can click through their story and will be taken directly to your post!

One type of content that is very commonly reposted is quote posts! Making cute graphics and posting them to your feed is a great way to get some potential reposts. Bonus points if you have your branding and logo somewhere on the post!

Note: make sure that if someone reposts your content, that they credit you. This is proper Instagram etiquette, you don’t want to let other users get away with taking your content without letting their followers know where it came from!


Geotagging

Geotagging your posts is always a good idea, it’s essentially the same as adding a hashtag in that people can view posts in specific locations. Geotagging your posts is when you add a location to your Instagram posts. This is especially beneficial if you are looking for local followers, but even if you are not targeting a specific location, it will expand your reach.

According to Social Report, posts with geotags receive 79% more engagement than posts without geotags! Don’t miss out on that boost of engagement - always add a location to your posts. You can even geotag your Instagram stories to get extra eyes on your account!


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Tag other accounts in your posts

Tag relevant accounts in your Instagram posts! This will add your posts to the tagged section on their profiles, which will get you some exposure to their audience that looks through those posts.

This is also a good way to get those accounts to like your posts! For @girlcrush.collective, we always like every post that we are tagged in. Having large, popular Instagram accounts liking your posts tells Instagram that it’s a great post and it will help get your post on the explore page!


Know your audience

Take some time to determine your ideal audience. It helps to think of one specific person that you are targeting, and gear your content towards that user. You will never please everyone, so it’s better to get hyper-focused on one niche rather than trying to connect with every use. Niching down also helps you when it comes to being specific with hashtags.


Respond to comments asap

The faster you get engagement on your posts, the better! Instagram will recognize it as a popular post and it will be shown to more users. As our favorite Instagram guru, Jenna Kutcher says, “don’t post and ghost!” Meaning, don’t just post and throw your phone across the room. Stick around for 30 minutes or so after you post so you can immediately respond to any comments! Creating a conversation within your caption and comments is a great way to boost your engagement.

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Pay attention to your analytics

Posting to Instagram without paying attention to your statistics and analytics is like trying to bake a cake in the dark. Don’t just guess if you’re doing things correctly, keep up with your statistics so you know exactly what is working for you!

Know what time your followers are most active, which posts perform the best, which hashtags are working and which are not bringing any engagement, etc. This will all help you to post content that you know your target audience is going to be interested in!

Instagram business accounts allow you to see your analytics, but if you’re looking for something more robust, we love Iconosquare. Check out our App Spotlight blog post about the app!


Boost your posts

Okay, I know that promoting posts can feel scary, but it’s so easy and so beneficial! Even just boosting your posts for $5 can expand your reach by thousands! This also ensures that your post will be seen by the right people.

Note: you must have an Instagram business account to promote posts!


Cross promote in other platforms

You have an audience that loves you, even if it’s not a large audience. Cross-promote your accounts amongst all of your social media platforms! If someone loves you on Pinterest, they’ll probably love you on Instagram. If people love receiving weekly email newsletters from you, they’ll love seeing daily Instagram posts from you.

Make sure to drop your Instagram link everywhere. And when you start, be sure to tell your friends and family - they’ll likely be your biggest supporters at the start, and any support is beneficial!


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