How to Gain More Followers on Instagram: Build an Instagram Following with 1 Simple Step

How to Grow Instagram Followers Organically

How to Grow Instagram Followers Organically

You read that right.

Now, I’m guessing you’re here because you have literally searched everywhere for an answer to your biggest Instagram question: how do you get real instagram followers!?

So far, the majority of what I’ve read when I look up this question is “be consistent,” “use hashtags,” or “show up authentically (but also cohesively).” Tell me I’m not the only one who is frustrated by these vague and pressure-inducing answers? How do I show up as myself when my life doesn’t look perfect and cohesive?! How consistent is too consistent? I don’t have time to be online all day! Ugh.

Instead of giving you a list of “15 Ways to Get Real Instagram Followers,” I’m going to give you a single action you can take right now.

Again, you read that right.

THIS is how to grow Instagram followers: Use Hashtags Differently.

THIS is how to grow Instagram followers: Use Hashtags Differently.

But wait, isn’t there only one way to use hashtags? Find your top hashtags and put a few on each post?


Instead of focusing on the hashtags on your posts, I want you to focus on the hashtags on your Ideal Customers posts. To be honest, I don’t even USE hashtags on my own posts anymore after discovering this secret. And my engagement hasn’t gone DOWN, it’s gone UP.

Am I going to drag this out into some long-winded blog post with literally NO real answers? NOPE. So let’s jump in (because I’m tired of that BS).

Full disclosure, the foundation of this idea comes from Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 strategy, but I have molded it to something that works better for me (feel free to do the same).

Step 1: Know your Ideal Customer.

Ugh, Carly, I’ve heard this a million times. I know, I know - hang with me. If you don’t know who your Ideal Customer is yet, it’s time to figure that out. Once you’re done, come back here and let’s get MOVING.

For those of you who already have your Ideal Customer named and known, I want you to think about what hashtags they’re using on their posts. It’s ok if you can only think of super basic ones right now that have over 1 million photos, just start somewhere. If your Ideal Customer is a woman in their mid-20s (like so many Ideal Customers these days), you can get started with hashtags like #thatsdarling, #theeverydayproject, or #photosinbetween. If they’re someone who loves travelling, start with #adventureisoutthere, #optoutside, or #thegreatoutdoors. Are they a freelancer? Use #bossbabe, #fempreneur, or #girlboss. If you already know more niche hashtags (i.e. less than 500,000 posts), then GREAT! Use those too. But literally all of them will help.

Step 2: Create a list of THEIR hashtags.

Start with about 30 hashtags (the max anyone is allowed to use in one post) that your Ideal Customer would likely be using, and put all of those into a Google Doc. It’s easiest to do this from a laptop, I’ve found. If you need help rounding up 30 hashtags, start with one or two and type them into your phone, then look at the list of “Related” hashtags that shows up at the top of the screen (this function only shows up on the mobile app).

It’s ok if this list isn’t perfect, because you’ll soon hone it down and expand it anyway.

Step 3: Begin authentically commenting on 4-5 posts on each hashtag.

Scan the hashtag feed for photos that look like your Ideal Customer would post them. If you don’t see any photos that feel relevant, delete the hashtag from your list and don’t worry about leaving any comments.

Also, when I say “leave authentic comments,” I mean...

  • Read the caption

  • Ruminate on it’s contents

  • Respond like you would in a real, face-to-face conversation.

Please, DO NOT leave comments that are like: “that’s so cute!” or “omg so cool!” Come on, would you deeply appreciate someone leaving that kind of comment on your post? No. Would that get your attention? No. Would you likely think it was some sort of automated comment? Absolutely. So be real.

Sometimes, my comments are a few sentences long. I don’t ever force length, but if it feels right and I did actually connect well with whatever they were saying, I take the time. If it feels somewhat slow moving, it’s because it is. But the “if you build it, they will come” mentality simply doesn’t work (has it ever?).

Additionally, don’t not comment on a post just because it already has a lot of comments or likes. Sometimes your comment will be the most thoughtful one, so not only will it grab the attention of the original poster, but it will grab the attention of their many followers!

Step 4: Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Continue moving through the list, commenting on posts that feel relevant to your Ideal Customer. Again, delete a hashtag from the list if it doesn’t actually feel like your Ideal Customer’s vibe. Don’t stress about “losing” hashtags, there’s literally millions to choose from.

Engaging authentically in this way can be time-consuming, so set aside at least 30 minutes to do this - daily, if possible. Some days you’ll get through a whole list of 30 (though this usually takes me about an hour), other days you’ll only get through 8 or 10.

BONUS STEP! Steal other people’s hashtag lists.

As you’re going along, you’re likely to see people who really, truly are your Ideal Customer. Or, they themselves maybe aren’t, but their hashtags have really good and relevant content to your Ideal Customer.

So what do you do? Copy their list and drop it into your Google Doc to use for future commenting.

Also, YOU JUST FOUND A REAL LIFE VERSION OF YOUR IDEAL CUSTOMER! GO YOU! Please follow them, and commit to continuing engaging authentically with them (I put them onto a ‘close friends’ list within the Instagram app so I can always stay up-to-date on their content).

Using Hashtags to grow your business.

Using Hashtags to grow your business.

How to Format Your Hashtag List

Using this method, I now have an 8-page document filled to the brim with hashtags, and it’s growing. Some are obviously going to be more effective than others, so I’ve started formatting the document so that I can keep track of my progress.

How do I do this?

  • Break your list into “days”: as you go along commenting for 30 minutes, break the list down into what hashtags you commented on for that day.

  • Track your follower count: before you get started each day, write out your current follower count and calculate the difference from the day before.

For example, my list is broken down under headings that look like (Day 6: +17 Followers at 378).

With your document organized like this, you can more easily see which hashtag groupings were the most effective and follow suit with future hashtags (or repeat the most effective lists!).

Related Posts

Magic Content Generator: How to Batch Create Content Across all your Digital Platforms

How to Make the Perfect Instagram Feed Layout for YOUR Brand

What is a Brand? (It’s WAY More Than You Think)

Wrapping Up

You’re likely searching for a solution to getting more instagram followers because you want your followers to eventually become paying customers, right? Or at least be invested in you or your business in some way? Right.

If that’s your “why,” then why on earth would you be grumpy about having to do some work to go and find them? They’re going to be paying you one day, so I think taking 30 minutes out of your day, each day, to engage authentically with them is… um… worth it. People are more likely to invest in someone if that someone has already invested in them. If you leave a really thoughtful comment, how much more likely is that person to read your comment, respond to it, check out who you are and what you do, and probably even follow you?

Using this method, I got 90 real followers in 7 days. Some of these people have quickly moved through what I call the “Yes Circle” Instagram Strategy (you can watch a video breakdown of this on my IGTV - available on the mobile app only), and have become Raving Fans of what I do.

If you want people to invest in you, you must invest in them first. So let’s get investing!

With love, Carly

Carly Bell