Are you getting new followers on Instagram? More importantly, are you getting the right kind of new followers?
In this article, you’ll learn how to attract the right followers on Instagram without buying any extra software or apps.
Why Having the Right Instagram Followers Matters
Some brands focus on growth no matter what. They don’t care if their Instagram followers are spam accounts, follow-for-follow schemes, or even straight-up bots.
The #followforfollow tag on Instagram has millions of posts but it’s useless in terms of attracting the right kind of followers. That kind of following will never translate into sales. As social media authority Tori Tait puts it, you want to be “purposeful, not popular.”
Creating the right audience on Instagram can make a big difference to your social media strategy. Not only are these followers more likely to become customers but they’ll also attract more of the audience you want.
Here’s how to start attracting the right Instagram followers for your business.
#1: Create Data-Rich Follower Personas for Instagram
The first step is to define the kind of followers you’re looking for. Think about these factors:
- Demographics. What age is your target customer? Gender? Are you focusing on local people or sending products around the world?
- Spending power. Some brands sell essentials. Some sell “treats”—things we don’t need but want and can easily afford. Still other brands sell big-ticket aspirational products. What’s your ideal customer looking for?
- Values and interests. How does your ideal customer spend their weekends? What causes do they support? For example, if you sell plastic-free bamboo toothbrushes, your customer base is likely to be interested in nature and sustainability.
- Activity. Consider your potential followers’ actual behavior on social media. Do they enjoy competitions? Will they share user-generated content or recommend you to their friends? Do they just want easy shopping services? You’ll need this information to tailor your Instagram profile and content.
However, there’s an important caveat here. You can’t build a persona based on what you think you know about your followers. If you rely on your own assumptions, you risk creating a follower persona that’s just a big heap of prejudices. This is a common mistake in marketing strategies. Think of all those buyer personas with cutesy names like “Geeky Gary” and “Stay-at-Home Sarah.” Sure, they’re catchy but they’re also reductive and stereotypical.
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Instead, aim to create Instagram follower personas that are grounded in reality. Here are some ways to get that information:
- Use Instagram Insights to learn more about your followers’ demographics and times of higher activity. The Audience tab in Instagram Insights gives you information about the gender, location, and age range of your followers.
- Take a random sample of followers and scroll through the pages they follow. Note their interests, content style, and posting frequency. Make sure you pick personal accounts rather than business pages that follow you.
- Compare your findings so far with any information you have about paying customers. Is there any overlap? Are there any customer types that aren’t represented in your Instagram following?
- Speak to customer-facing colleagues about the people they meet every day. What’s your biggest category of customers? Which customer type spends the most money?
Be prepared for some surprises. You might find you have a core group of Instagram followers you’ve completely overlooked. And, if you’re doing this right, you should definitely come up with more than one follower persona.
Once you have a few follower personas to work with, you can start building an Instagram strategy around them. However, make sure to review those personas regularly—at least once a year.
#2: Leverage Your Instagram Followers’ Interests to Increase Targeting Organic Reach
Next, it’s time to focus on the values and interests you identified for your Instagram followers. There are several ways to use this information:
- Create an Instagram post style and content that appeal to your followers.
- Partner with brands that appeal to your followers. For example, a local restaurant might attract new followers by teaming up with the local cinema on a special offer.
- Use Instagram hashtags that your audience interacts with.
As you already know, hashtags are an important part of visibility on Instagram for both posts and Stories. People use hashtags to search for pages and content, find communities, and inject new content into their home feed.
Instagram offers you the option to follow hashtags in your main feed, which makes it easier to reach new followers through specific hashtags.
But you still need to be judicious in how you use Instagram hashtags to expand your reach. It’s often best to avoid the most popular tags—chances are, your content will just get lost in the noise.
If you can identify highly specific, niche hashtags that match your followers’ use, you’ll see much more impact. For example, hashtags that include a specific location will reach a more targeted audience. A quick search of key terms on Instagram will help you find more niche hashtags, as well as give you an idea of how popular they are.
There is another reason you need to know your followers’ interests: The latest version of the Instagram algorithm shows people posts based on their activity, including the types of accounts they interact with. If you can figure out which accounts and content types work for your audience, you can tailor your posts so the algorithm recommends you to the right people. This isn’t an exact science but it can have a big impact on your visibility.
#3: Align Your Instagram Content Strategy With Your Followers’ Interests
Once you’ve acquired some new Instagram followers, you need to create content that appeals to them. That content will also help attract even more new followers.
But, as we’ve seen, you may well have more than one follower persona. So you need to create content that appeals to all of the different aspects of your audience—without losing sight of your central brand identity.
One way to do this is to focus on different channels for different follower personas. The Sephora Instagram account is a great example of how to do this.
Sephora is a major high street cosmetics retailer. They’ve been on Instagram since 2012 and have built up over 20 million followers. That success is partly due to how they use different types of Instagram posts to reach different people.
The posts in their main feed focus on their most popular products such as skincare, foundation, and eye makeup. They feature a diverse range of ages and faces and mix in some educational posts too.
But when they recently launched a new line of perfumes called Do Not Drink, they wanted to reach a different follower profile: younger followers who might be less familiar with the product and use Instagram differently. This type of follower was more likely to focus on Stories and Reels than feed posts.
Sephora’s solution was to work with creators to make new AR lenses related to the line of perfumes. They saw a strong increase in ad recall and purchase intent (which is the ultimate goal of social media marketing, after all). They’ve successfully used this strategy for several other campaigns, too.
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While your budget might not be quite as large as Sephora’s, you can still think creatively about how to reach your chosen audience. Ask yourself these questions:
- What format do your followers usually post? Do they focus on photos or videos, live streams, or feed posts?
- What type of post are they most likely to interact with? Maybe your feed posts are met with silence but your stories get lots of likes and reactions.
- What style do they prefer? Do your ideal followers enjoy edited, aspirational images or the raw reality of lo-fi video content?
- What do they want from your content? Education, inspiration, entertainment, a starting point for discussion?
Let’s say you want to boost sales of a recipe book by posting on Instagram. You notice that your followers respond best to short, sequential stories, and posts that aren’t edited. They follow lots of accounts that offer cooking and crafting tips. Based on these insights, your targeted content should be short, casual cooking videos posted as stories and without high-production values.
Here’s an example of a lo-fi recipe video on Instagram. It’s quick to produce and relatable for busy followers.
#4: Build Rapport and Connections via Complementary and Competitor Profiles
Just like hashtags, finding and following the right kind of Instagram profiles can also help you reach your target audience. What’s more, these profiles can become a valuable source of inspiration and partnerships.
Start by looking for:
- Local companies. If location matters to your brand—for example, if you have a brick-and-mortar location or your customers cluster in a certain area—it’s worth following businesses near you. They don’t need to be relevant to your industry or customer demographics; the most important thing is to build local links.
- Industry competitors. Yes, you should follow your rivals. And not just because it’s a good idea to keep an eye on their social strategy. You already know you have the same target customer, so why not follow your competitors and encourage the Instagram algorithm to recommend you to their followers?
- Adjacent brands. If you sell Wellington boots, you should follow brands that sell raincoats. If you run yoga classes, follow brands that make yoga mats. Think about your followers’ needs and interests, and go where they lead.
Pro Tip: Searching for a keyword on Instagram brings up a list of suggested accounts, including information about how many followers you share.
Instagram even tells you which profiles are already popular with your followers. Following these brands will give you useful information and strengthen your position with the Instagram algorithm. However, you can be even more proactive.
If one of these pages posts something that seems especially relevant to your followers, look through the list of likes and comments. Follow all of the people who might be interested in your brand. However, I recommend only doing this for public profiles. If someone has set their profile to private, they may not appreciate being nudged by a brand like this.
Follow “Suggested For You” Recommendations Strategically
Every time you follow a new account, Instagram serves up a carousel of recommended accounts. It’s easy to get into the habit of tapping to dismiss this but that would be a mistake. This is one of the most useful tools Instagram offers to attract the right type of followers.
First of all, these suggestions make it easy to do the tactics recommended in this article: Evaluate your followers’ interests and follow competitors and relevant brands. Second, the more you embed yourself in the network of pages and profiles around your ideal followers, the more likely Instagram is to recommend you.
Make a point of scrolling through that carousel of recommended pages every time you see it. You’ll be surprised by how quickly it helps you build a targeted audience.
When you tap through to an account suggested by Instagram and follow it, you’ll immediately be served another carousel of relevant accounts.
#5: Partner With Micro-Influencers on Instagram
Following influencers, learning from their content, and building relationships with them can also help you find your audience.
However, just like with hashtags, you’re often better off avoiding the really big names. Not only are they expensive but also their audiences are so large that it’s difficult to sift out the kind of followers you want. Instead, try looking for micro-influencers who are relevant to your location, vertical, or customer demographic.
Which of these accounts is more useful to a small business: the global account with 2 million followers or the account with a strong local identity and a few hundred followers?
You don’t necessarily have to think about gifting products or discount codes. Your goal is to create a connection with the influencing account: follow them, like their posts, and respond to their stories and questions. This will make you more visible to the influencer and their followers—in other words, your target audience.
This tactic might sound basic but it works. Almost everyone on social media is looking for a response. So being responsive will make you stand out from the vast majority of brands.
#6: Adjust Your Publication Schedule as Your Followers’ Activity Changes
The Instagram algorithm prioritizes new content. That means two things for your Instagram strategy:
- Your account will benefit when you post frequently, at least once a day.
- You can increase your post reach by making sure that your posts are new just as your followers are opening the app.
Different people use Instagram at different times of day. Working parents with young children are most active on the app between 6PM and 9PM because that’s when they finally get a break. Entrepreneurs with terrifyingly efficient schedules often claim they check their socials first thing in the morning and then ignore them for the rest of the day.
By scheduling your posts for the right time, you can encourage the Instagram algorithm to show them to your followers promptly. Even if the difference in engagement seems small, try focusing your posts on the most active time and see if the effect grows.
You can find out which days and hours your followers are most active through Instagram Insights. However, bear in mind that this information may change over time as you attract more of the right followers. Check in regularly to see if your optimal post time has shifted.
Pro Tip: Throw in the occasional post that’s totally off-schedule. This shakes things up and sometimes reveals a valuable posting time you haven’t tried before.
Attracting the right followers on Instagram comes down to three key points:
- Learn about your followers and imitate their interests.
- Create content that appeals to your ideal followers.
- Be responsive to followers and suggestions from the Instagram algorithm.
Remember that your strategy to attract the right followers on Instagram can change over time. You might identify new follower personas, explore new content formats, or try different posting schedules. And you’ll also need a strategy to nurture the quality followers you’ve acquired.
Building an audience of ideal followers will take time and effort; however, you’ll reap the benefits of increased reach, engagement, and even sales.