the growth hacking edition

How to get real followers
for Instagram in 2019

Written by Alexz Miller
Vector Smart Object
Instagram Followers

With 25 million business profiles on Instagram, we’re living in a time where it is not enough to simply have a social media presence to get real followers on Instagram. You have to attract the right kind of Instagram users to gain that crucial social proof to help your brand stand out.

Whether we like to admit it or not, you could have the best product in the world, but if you only have a few followers on Instagram people will immediately begin to discredit it.

At the same time, your competitor could have a mediocre product, but be driving more sales than you because of the social validation they’ve gotten from their followers on Instagram.

Don’t worry, we get it 💪

Growing your account can feel like a tedious and time-consuming task. But with 60% of users finding products via Instagram, your brand simply CANNOT afford to ignore Instagram as a marketing channel. You need to attract the right Instagram users that are going to convert into more likes, comments, clicks, and most importantly, fans of your brand.

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Today, we’re breaking down the 7 crucial categories you need to focus on to simplify using Instagram for business and get real followers on Instagram in 2019. Here’s what we’ll cover:

1. Optimizing Your Instagram Bio

Instagram Followers Instagram Followers
Instagram Followers

First impressions are everything. When it comes to Instagram, impressions are made in two-tenths of a second. To grow your Instagram organically and gain the right kind of followers, your potential followers need to know exactly who you are, what you do, and why they should care.

"People only care about what you can do for them, so use this to your advantage with your Instagram Profile. Do not use this precious space to make a laundry list of random things about yourself. This is valuable real estate. As soon as someone lands on your profile, they should be able to know immediately what it is you do and what problem you solve.” -Roxanne Ray, @roxanneraylive

Your Instagram bio is the first thing people see when they land on your page, so make sure your bio section captures your visitors’ attention from the get-go. Do this right and you'll be ahead of 95% of brands out there on IG.

Here’s what you’ll want to include in your Instagram bio:

Instagram Followers

Headline & Keyword

Clearly state your brand name and then add a keyword that describes who you are. Adding a particular niche, job title, or interest to your headline helps your users get to know you and understand what you do.

@Planoly uses the keywords “Planner for Insta” to clearly showcase their scheduler tool and drive traffic from anyone that might be searching for their type of service via the Instagram app.

Instagram Followers The headline is also searchable, so make sure you choose a keyword that your followers would associate with your page to increase organic traffic.

Body section

The body section is the bulk of your Instagram bio and should contain the majority of your description. Keep it clean and organized with a bullet point format, while clearly describing who you are in your brand’s voice.

About you

First, include a condensed version of your mission statement or company slogan to let people know what you’re all about. Remember, you’re limited to 150 characters here, so be short & precise.

You can also add anything that gives your page some personality - like your location or a branded hashtag. (Don’t forget to throw in some 🔥🤩🌹)

Instagram Followers

Call to action 📢

Most importantly, include a call-to-action statement that entices your followers to click on the URL provided. Adding phrases like “Click below for 10% off” or “Check out our new arrivals” can help convert your followers into real customers.

Instagram Followers

Entice the click

Try adding some emojis like @Puravidabraceltets to really catch the eye of your followers and drive them to your link!

Social proof

Be sure to include a line that gives your page credibility. This can be a feature in a publication, a certification you’ve achieved, or a social cause your brand gives back to.

The body section of @Sugarbearhair’s bio clearly states exactly what their product is, while speaking to their audience and showing social proof.

Instagram Followers
Instagram Followers


This is the only section you have to place a link on Instagram, so use it wisely. Typically, you’ll want to provide a direct link to your website, blog, or specific landing page that coordinates with your call-to-action.

Instagram Followers If you can’t decide which link to use, try Linktree to cleanly list multiple, clickable links right in your Insta bio!

Want more web traffic from your Instagram?

Kicksta connects you with real Instagram users to help boost engagement and traffic naturally.

Instagram Followers

2. Creating Quality Instagram Content

Instagram Followers Instagram Followers
Instagram Followers

With now over one billion users, Instagram is THE visual platform. Every post you share on Instagram should be high-quality and complement your brand image. Never sacrifice quality for quantity (just save those for Instagram stories 😉).

Nowadays however, it isn’t as simple as posting an “Insta-worthy” photo. Because new potential followers are going to get their first impression of your brand from your Instagram’s aesthetic, the quality of your individual posts have to reflect throughout your entire grid consistently.

To get real followers on Instagram, keep these two key concepts in mind:

Signature style

First and foremost, your brand should be the focus of your page. Whether you are a business or an influencer, you’ll want to make sure that each and every image you post reflects the purpose of your page. Even one random image can ruin a grid.

Once you pinpoint your focus, take your page to the next level by centralizing around a theme with at least one consistent element that links all of your photos together.

Instagram Followers

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Apply the same filter to all of your photos for a quick and easy way to create flow and cohesion. We love the apps A Color Story and VSCO.

Color scheme

Find a distinct color scheme that works for you and sprinkle it in throughout your grid.

Is your brand bright and colorful? Minimalistic with lots of negative space? Outdoorsy with beautiful sceneries? Pick a style and consistently stick to it in every post.

Instagram Followers

"It’s all about the aesthetic, and if you can't afford to purchase Lightroom settings like the pro you can use the much cheaper and easier alternative VSCO cam app in order to make your feed coherent. You can really see a difference when someone is using their own filter! Don't forget that lighter images, in general, get a lot more likes so always bump up the brightness!" -Yasmine Akermark, @sharehive

Variety of content

With Instagram, you want to create a sense of community and lifestyle around your brand so that new followers can easily identify and picture themselves using what you have to offer. No one wants to look at a product catalog, so be sure to mix it up with both lifestyle and product photos!

Instagram Followers

Creating Your Content

Variety is KEY! You’ll want to create different types of photos like detail shots, flatlays, and lifestyle images to keep each post feeling new and exciting. Any opportunity you get to show your product on a model or in action, take it!

Adding to Your Mix

Once you have gathered all of your own original content, enhance your grid by cycling in stock photos, relatable quotes, and user-generated content. These can be a lifesaver for making your content last much longer, especially if you have a non-visual brand or service.

Instagram Followers

Organizing Your Grid

Ensure that all of your high-quality images will look #flawless together on your feed by using a scheduling app like Planoly or Later. These apps give you a preview of how all your photos will look before you post them! Mix and match until you get a well-balanced grid.

Instagram Followers

Instagram Followers

60 / 40 rule

At least 60% of your grid should include your product or service directly. The other 40% can be lifestyle shots, stock images, or quotes that all speak to your community.

@originalgrain built their community of “the travel seaking gentleman” by complimenting their product shots with scenic stock images and user generated content.

Instagram Followers

"One of the challenges with Instagram as a marketing tactic is the lack of clickable links in captions. Driving traffic from instagram is a challenge, especially if you haven't crossed the threshold to have swipe-to-click in your IG Stories. One way to get around this is to use a tool like Linktree that allows you to have multiple links in your bio, so you can drive your followers to several locations at once. Set up your multi-link and be strategic about the few links you include there so you can make Instagram more of a traffic source for you and your business!" -Melanie Deziel , @meldeziel

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3. Crafting Instagram Captions

Instagram Followers Instagram Followers
Instagram Followers

The money is made in the captions.

Your Instagram captions should enhance your post by giving more context, value, and insight into what is happening beyond the image. Let your audience get to know your brand on a higher level.

Rather than describing what is in the picture, try telling the story behind it, why is it you do what you do, or news regarding your brand.

"Once you make an effort to put the 'personal' back in personal brand, you will experience an incredible increase in engagement with your followers. No one wants more noise, but everyone craves more connection." -Amy Vandeputte,@fastforwardamy

Instagram Followers

Brand Personality

Show some personality behind those captions! The more your brand’s voice shines through, the easier it will be for your followers to connect with your post.


Include some type of call-to-action to entice users to comment and get the conversation started! Comments are weighed heavily in the new Instagram algorithm, so the more comments the better.

Try asking a question or having users tag a friend to get even more traffic and engagement back to your page.

@Toneitup has the right idea! They speak to their fitness community in a laid-back, yet personal tone and ask users to tag a friend to join their workout.

Instagram Followers

4. How to Hashtag on Instagram

Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without.

The best way to expand your reach on Instagram: HASHTAGS. We know hashtag research can seem a little daunting, but stick to these easy steps and you’ll have a perfect set of hashtags in no time!


Think of words your customers would use to describe your product or service. Since they are the ones that will be searching these hashtags, it is important to get into the mind of your audience.

Is there a certain community you are trying to tap into?

Using hashtags like #brooklynlife or #mommystyle are great niche specific hashtags that will link you directly to your ideal target audience.

Instagram Followers If you’re really stuck, check out what your direct competitors are using to generate some ideas.

Generate Lists

To get hashtags ideas quickly, use our hashtag generator to automatically find hashtags that are commonly used together


The biggest mistake with hashtags is using ones that have way too much or far too little traffic. You’ll want to find hashtags that have about 4K-800K posts associated with them to get the optimal amount of exposure.

The more specific a hashtag is to your industry the better. You want the hashtags to be big enough that people are actually searching for it, but not so big that your post will be lost in the clutter.

Instagram Followers

Keep in mind that users can now follow a hashtags, similar to following a brand’s Instagram account, making hashtags even more essential to get real followers on Instagram.

Instagram Followers

Store & Save

Once you start compiling your qualified hashtags, break them up into 5-7 sets of about 10-20 niche specific tags. Store them in the note section of your phone for easy access and be sure to switch them out every so often.


When it comes time to post, copy and paste your list of hashtags into the first comment of your image. This helps to keep your post looking clean while still tagging the picture and getting you more exposure. Although we recommend around 10-20, you can include up to 30 hashtags per post, so add a few more hashtags specific to this image and hit share. And that’s it! Easy enough, right?

"Hashtag strategy is key to growing your Instagram account. You're allowed 30 per post, so use 10 that are relevant to the post topic, 10 that are for the people you are targeting with the post, and 10 for the location of the post or the brands relevant to the post. Making every hashtag count and never repeating the same 30 will help to get your account in front of new IG users on a regular basis." -Katie Hornor, @katiehornor

Instagram Followers

5. Using Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are quickly becoming one of the best marketing tools for brands. From behind the scenes check-ins to exclusive sales, you can use this feature to build brand identity and connect in real-time with updates beyond the scope of your IG Grid.

"Utilising IG stories is a game changer right now. Not just because it is a great way to promote content on your newsfeed or website but also because it has the most reach...for now!" -Andrew Davis

Instagram Followers


Just like your Instagram grid, your IG stories should be cohesive with your brand imagery and voice, but with a “live view” feel. This is your chance to be sporadic and authentic with your followers. Since stories only stay up on your page for 24-hours, you have a little more wiggle room to play around with.


Using the Stickers Feature, tag your story at a certain location or include a relevant hashtag. This allows your story to pop up on the corresponding explore page, giving you another opportunity to increase your story’s reach!

@Socialstatic interacts with their followers by utilizing the question feature and maximizes exposure using the location sticker. Win-win!

"Behind the scenes videos are a fantastic way to get your fans excited about what you're creating. These don't have to be polished or perfect - don't be afraid to show the messy parts. People love feeling like they're part of the process - and they'll feel more invested in you and your creations." -Michelle Martello, @minimadesigns


Instagram Highlights are collections of Stories that give new potential followers an idea of what your page is all about. Rather than disappearing after 24-hours, Highlights are saved right under your bio and act as a more interactive “about you” description.

The possibilities for Instagram Highlights are truly endless, but some commonly used categories include: how it works, new products, and behind-the-scenes.

Instagram Followers

"The number 1 way to protect your business is to treat people well and build relationships."-Nathan Hirsch, >@freeeup_

Take it up a level by adding matching covers to all of your Instagram Highlights to ensure your page stays organized and on brand!

Instagram Followers Not much of a designer? Go to and pay $5 for a professional designer to get your Instagram Highlights looking fresh.
Instagram Followers

6. Instagram Giveaways

Instagram FollowersInstagram Followers

Instagram accounts that hold contests can achieve 70% faster follower growth compared to those that don’t hold contests.

Hosting an Instagram contest is a tried and true method to not only reward your loyal followers, but also gain exposure and get new real followers on Instagram.

There is a lot of planning that goes into running a successful Instagram giveaway. You’ll want to consider things like budget, picking the right incentive, and most importantly the goal of your Instagram contest.

If your goal is to grow your following with an Instagram giveaway, these are the four best entry methods.


These contests require your followers to comment on your contest photo. Then, winners are chosen from the pool of commenters.

To increase exposure, have the requirement be to tag a friend (or two) in their comment. Voila: double the Instagram exposure. You can even go as far as counting each tag as an entry, further incentivizing your followers to tag more friends for a better chance to win.


For this type of contest, consider collaborating with another complimentary brand (or group of brands) in your niche. Contest participants can enter by following all of the accounts involved in the giveaway.

Because your page will be exposed to the followers of the brands you are collaborating with, you’ll want to make sure you pick a brand that has your ideal target audience. This will help ensure that these new followers will have a genuine connection to your page and stick around long after your contest is over.

Instagram Followers
Instagram Followers Double up on a couple of tactics like @nenaandco to maximize engagement.

Post to win

Participants re-post a picture that you provide or share their own original content showcasing your brand to their feed. By sharing these pictures, your fans are grabbing the attention of their own followers to give you a mini-shoutout.

This gives your followers a chance to get creative and gives you lots of free user-generated content.

However, you’ll want to make sure you already receive high engagement on your page to confirm there is enough brand loyalty to ensure participation.

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Instagram Followers
Instagram Followers

Remember this? In 2017, Sunny Clothing Co hosted a post-to-win contest where users had to repost this now infamous red bikini picture to receive a free swimsuit. Soon enough, everyone's feed was flooded with this picture, which exponentially increased their brand awareness.

Unfortunately, the brand received far more entries than expected and did not have enough inventory to handle the high volume of participants.

Take Away: Post-to-win giveaways can do tremendous things for your brand awareness, but make sure you have the right requirements and are prepared to live up to your promise.


Similar to post-to-win, participants post their own image or an image you provide on their feed, but also include a certain branded hashtag.

While this can be the toughest type of giveaway to pull off, if the hashtag trends, the exposure can be pretty substantial. You’ll want to make sure you pick a unique hashtag specific to your contest, ideally centralized around your contest theme.

Tracking the success of your giveaway is almost as important as the giveaway itself. Save yourself some time and get clear insights from Gleam’s Instagram contest tool that simplifies the entry process and make tracking participant an breeze.

Instagram Followers

7. Instagram Influencer Marketing

More than 90% of marketers who use an influencer marketing strategy today believe it’s effective for increasing customer engagement.

Here’s our go-to-guide for how to find influencers:

Set your budget

Determine your budget and what level influencer you want to target. A general rate is $1,000 per 100,000 followers, but can vary depending on industry. If you have a lower budget, you may consider going after a micro-influencer who may have a bit of a smaller following, but who’s audience is very niche specific and value said influencer’s opinion highly.

Instagram Followers

Define your niche

Figure out who has a voice in the community. When in doubt, a simple Google search of the top Instagram accounts in your field can be a great place to start. Platforms like Famebit and Tribe Group help you discover and connect with influencers by interest or category.

Qualify your list

Once you have your list of prospective influencers, make sure they are going to be a good fit. Note how many followers they have, their average likes & comments, and what social platforms they are on to pick the best influencer to collaborate with.

"With so many influencers now looking for product, experiences AND payment for the posts, it can very quickly drain your budget. My tip is to leverage off something they are ALREADY working on. For instance if you represent a swimwear company, find an influencer who also reps a sunscreen company or vice versa. They NEED your product to help promote the other product and it becomes a natural crossover and usually without the bigger budget. Also, make sure you're really familiar with the influencers audience. Big numbers don't equate to big sales for you unless the audience is the right fit!" -Emily Taffel

Build your community

Engage with their content so they are familiar with your name. Once a bit of a relationship is established, reach out with a genuine message that states why you both would work well together.

Don't be afraid to test multiple forms of outreach such as direct messages or cold emails. The key is to clearly explain what a partnership with your brand would look like and how it can be mutually beneficial to you and the influencer.

Instagram Followers

And that’s it! Seven easy steps to optimize your business’ Instagram account for growth. Implement even just a few of these tips and you’ll be well on your way to getting more real followers on Instagram and becoming an Instagram marketing expert.

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Want to get more real followers for your Instagram?

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