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5 Ways to Grow Your Instagram Following and Build Community

Authors: Ross Simmonds Ross Simmonds
Posted Under: Social Media
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5 Ways to Grow Your Instagram Following and Build Community

What’s the secret to building a thriving community on Instagram?

It’s not exactly an easy question to answer. But I’m sure you follow an account that has thousands, if not millions, of followers who are engaged and interacting with every post the account shares. But how did they do it? Do they know something about Instagram marketing that you don’t?

Well, they probably do.

A lot of people don’t realize the work and thinking that goes on behind the scenes of these major accounts. They don’t realize the work that goes into building a following of more than 50,000 people and engagement on every post.

Luckily, I’ve helped, worked with, and built accounts just like this. And today, I’m going to show you some of my favorite strategies for creating an engaged and growing community on Instagram using some advanced tricks of the trade.

But first, if you’re new to Instagram, this deck might be helpful:

1. Use Emotion to Make Your Content Reach More People

I know: You’ve read 100 blog posts about the power of emotion in content marketing. But what I’m talking about is not just the idea of making people feel good or get angry. I’m talking about taking that emotion and using it to spread your message.

Studies have shown us that we share content for five main reasons:

  • To bring valuable & entertaining content to others
  • To define ourselves to others
  • To grow and nurture existing relationships
  • To feel better about ourselves
  • To get the word out about something we believe in


Once we recognize these as the five forces driving people to share, we can utilize them to create Instagram content more likely to be shared and passed along. Here’s a couple ways to do exactly that.

2. Tell People to Double Tap If XYZ

You know that people connect with content that makes them feel better about themselves, so create content that will allow them to do that. A post like the one below connects with people who are ambitious and living an interesting life:


Double tapping on this image makes you feel inspired to live life to the fullest and not just sit back, pay your bills, and die.

Here’s another example from Birchbox:

✨PJs all day✨ Double tap if you think a lazy Sunday sounds amazing… ?✌️ (?:@birchboxfr)

A photo posted by Birchbox UK (@birchboxuk) on


Brilliant right?! The same approach can be used regardless of your industry & account: 

  • Cleaning Company: “Double tap if you hate cleaning on the weekends.”
  • Marketing Company: “Double tap if you think drones are the next big thing.”
  • Local Restaurant: “Double tap if you think you could eat this jumbo meal.”


3. Tell People to Tag Someone Who XYZ

This is a tactic that gives you a chance to gain new followers in an interesting way. We know that people want to grow and nurture relationships, and we also know that people want to bring value or entertainment to others. So how do we leverage that? We create posts that inspire people to do exactly that.

Marie Curie In this post from General Electric, we see a quote from Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist who conducted pioneering research on radioactivity in the 1800s and early 1900s. Because Marie had such a powerful legacy, and GE recognized it with this post, people started tagging their friends so they too could see the quote and learn about Marie.

It goes back to the reason we share: to deliver value to others.

And then there’s the approach built on helping others build and nurture relationships. The @Yoga Instagram account leverages this insight by writing, “Tag someone you love,” or, “Tag someone who inspires you daily,” at the end of their captions. You can see how they get creative with this tactic in the post below: 

4. Grow Using Hashtags and Tags Without Looking Spammy

#We #All #Know #Someone #Who #Posts #Like #This Don’t be that guy. There are a few things you need to know about hashtags and tagging on Instagram. The first is to understand that hashtags can be one of the best ways to grow an Instagram following quickly but also one of the fastest ways to make your current followers hate you. First, let’s discuss the importance of relevance.

Don’t Use Irrelevant Hashtags for Your Posts

Imagine you’re forty pages deep into a fiction novel that has you hanging onto every word. You feel deeply connected to the characters and are itching to find out what happens next. To your surprise, when you flip the page, you’re met with a recipe for apple pie. How would you feel? Confused? Upset? Shocked? That’s exactly how people feel when brands start using hashtags that have no relevance to the content they’re creating. Don’t use hashtags if you’re not sharing content similar to the rest of the stream. If you do, don’t be surprised if you have a handful of people commenting negatively or even reporting your content.

Comment On Your Own Posts With the Hashtags

My other trick of trade regarding hashtags is quite straightforward. Instead of using hashtags in the caption of your posts, press share, and then comment with those hashtags. This way, they’re not the first thing someone sees when your content hits their feed. Hashtags placed in the comments stills give your content the chance to be found and distributed without looking spammy. Plus, as more people engage, the comment with your hashtags will eventually be hidden.

Hashtags and Tags Drive Recommendations and Discovery

One of the best things about Instagram is its discover and follow recommendation feature. Discover-Explore

On the left, you can see the “Discover” page for Instagram, which is the default when you click search. On this page, Instagram makes recommendations surrounding posts that their algorithm believes you would be interested in seeing. The recommendations are based on your likes, your followers’ likes, likes from the pages you follow, plus things like the hashtags you use and accounts you mention.

If you’re using a handful of hashtags that are very relevant, Instagram will start sharing your content to others who they deem interested in those topics.

A similar algorithm is used for the “Follow Recommendations,” found in the frame on the right. If you have similar followers to another page, engage and interact with that profile, and use similar hashtags, it’s likely that Instagram will recommend you to that account’s followers. You can see this happening in the example above with the Oregon Ducks, Nike, and Sportscenter.

5. Establish Relationships With Influencers to Grow Quickly

The “Shout Out” is one of the most powerful tactics on Instagram. A shout out is when one Instagram account promotes another to their following by saying something like, “Shout out to @HustleGrindCo.”  Here’s an example of this in action:

Foundr Magazine has more than 450k followers, so the shout out Hustle & Grind is a big win. It’s an opportunity to have the Hustle & Grind brand placed in front of their followers and ultimately drive a handful back over to our account.

You open up these opportunities by having a quality product and building a relationship with the person behind these accounts. From there, you can start to establish a relationship in which you share content from one another on a regular basis.

Brands are leveraging this tactic on the regular without people even knowing what’s going on behind the scenes. Instagram celebrities and models are being paid anywhere from $250 to $50,000 per post. My favorite types of shout outs are those that happen organically, but sometimes, you have to put down the capital to really drive reach.

When I first started using Instagram, the process of building relationships with influencers was all about one-to-one interaction. Today, companies like Dash Hudson exist to help make the process of hiring Instagram influencers easier and more manageable.

Bonus: Drive Users to Your Website With a Call to Action

If you’re looking to drive traffic to your site, adding a link to your caption is pretty much pointless. Instagram doesn’t allow users to include clickable links in the caption, but I still see people do it. I’ve tested this approach over and over again, and the results conclude that the best approach is to take a different approach.

Instead of including the link in your caption, include it in your bio, and tell people to click the link in your bio to learn more. See it in action in this post:

If someone really wants this Thanksgiving recipe, they’ll visit that bio and visit their website to learn more.

For more tips on cultivating a thriving Instagram community, take a look at this Slidedeck, How to Generate Your First 20,000 Followers on Instagram.

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