How To Increase Instagram Followers

How we gained over 30K followers in less than 5 months

We want to start off by saying we are not Instagram experts. We are still learning and there’s still a lot more we need to work on. We are constantly asking others for advice and feedback and definitely have not fully implemented everything we’ve learned yet. That being said, we gained over 30K followers in less than 5 months and keep getting asked, “how?!” To answer everyone who keeps asking, we thought we’d do a post on how to increase Instagram followers. Some of this is tested or learned from others and some is just our personal opinion from what we prefer as an audience and what we’ve found in growing our account. We hope you will find something useful here to help facilitate your own Instagram growth.

1. Pick a topic you are passionate about!

The biggest piece of advice anyone will give you is to be niche specific. There is huge value in that as your IG algorithm is based completely on your engagement within your niche, but that’s not the way we chose to go. Instead, we decided to go with what we are passionate about and that’s everyday life adventures. That combines a whole ton of niches such as travel, food, couples/love, etc. It has made things tougher for us and our growth could’ve been better sticking more closely to a niche, but we decided it’s more important to us to do what we love.

There’s definitely a business side of all this, but for us, we didn’t want to do this if it wasn’t going to be fun. If you’re not passionate about the topic you are Instgramming about, it’s going to be tough for it to continue to be fun and to invest tons of time into it.

2. Make sure your handle clearly represents who you are

What better way to wrap up a full day of exploring than with sunset kisses in the garden? 🌹😘 📷: @behindtheglassphotos

A photo posted by Adventurers • Bassam & Lena (@happilyeveradventures) on

Your handle (Instagram name) is others first impression of you. They should be able to walk away from that first impression knowing a bit of who you are- and hopefully wanting more! We never pay much attention to handles that are just someone’s name. To us, that looks like a personal account and we are not motivated to check our their feed. Here are a few opportunities you miss out on not having your “thing” in your handle:

  • People searching for a niche won’t find you
  • When you follow others they will rarely check out your feed
  • When you like photos others will rarely check out your feed
  • You might find you get unfollowed often

3. Post what you love

We are huge advocates of posting the photos you truly love! It’s been interesting to see which photos did well for us and which photos didn’t. This was our most liked post:

Q: Why were the two pumpkins so close? 🎃 A: Because they had deep roots! 🎃 {yes we are dorks, but admit it, you smiled didn't you? 😂}

A photo posted by Adventurers • Bassam & Lena (@happilyeveradventures) on

We almost didn’t post it because we thought it was nothing special, but loved it so much we decided to go for it anyway. Your feed is a representation of YOU. Post what you love and others with similar tastes will follow. We know that sometimes what we post is not for everyone and might even seem boring to some people. But it spoke to us and so we post it anyway.

4. Post consistently and frequently

I will always lean my heart as close to your soul… as I can {Hafez} 👫🌄 @alaskadenali

A photo posted by Adventurers • Bassam & Lena (@happilyeveradventures) on

The best way to establish a presence is to be present. For others to remember you in a sea of other Instagrammers you need to be unique, but more importantly, there! We’ve followed many accounts that we loved but then lost interest when we noticed they didn’t post regularly. Strive to be a daily part of your audience’s life. Some followers will be looking forward to your posts everyday and will be disappointed when you don’t post. Satisfy those followers!

In addition, posting daily helps keep you present in IG to get new followers! Each time you post is an opportunity to use hashtags and be found by others searching those hashtags. We’ve also noticed that if we go more than a day without posting, our next post gets less engagement. We don’t know for sure, but we wonder if it’s because posting less frequently affects your IG algorithm.

When we first started out we posted 3 times a day to build up our content. We noticed people didn’t want to follow us before we seemed established. Once we had a decent amount of content, we dropped down to 2 times a day and we are now at 1 time a day with 1x off per week. Each time we post, we gain about 50 followers. Posting 2 times a day really helped build our follower base!

If you do decide to post more than once a day, be careful to space them out at least 3-4 hours. You don’t want to seem like you are spamming your audience and you want them to have just enough to look forward to more, not be satisfied all at once. That being said, with the new algorithm (IG feeds are not chronological) you can’t be sure that your audience won’t see them all back-to-back, but focus on what you can control.

5. Use a combination of small and large hashtags

She reminded me of the sea; the way she came dancing toward you, wild and beautiful {Glenda Millard} 🌊💙💃🏻

A photo posted by Adventurers • Bassam & Lena (@happilyeveradventures) on

Each type of hashtag has a different benefit to you. Large ones help you get a bunch of likes when you first post, but then don’t have much long-term benefit because so many people are using them that your post gets lost. Small ones won’t reach a crazy number of people, but you are more likely to be able to get into the “top 9” of the hashtag and that can lead to longer exposure. Just using one type won’t be very beneficial, but using a combination helps you get the most bang for your hashtag buck. Finally, you can also use “repost” hashtags. Look for repost accounts in your niche. Most of them have a specific hashtag. Using these may help you get reposted, but also, it’s likely others are searching that hashtag as well.

As far as how many to use, we say use the max you can! We know some people think this looks spammy, but we think that maximizing any opportunity to get your name out there is a good thing. We typically put 30 in the first comment and then go back and add another 15-20 to our caption. Note: if you put the hashtags in the caption FIRST, it takes away from how many you can put in the first comment. Somehow, putting it in the first comment doesn’t affect you being able to add more to the caption. #IGWorkarounds

6. Maximize every opportunity to get your post seen

This means we almost always tag the location in our posts and tag relevant other accounts in the post. Every opportunity you can create for others to see your post is an opportunity for more followers! That being said, please post the real location and tag only relevant accounts. We’ve seen a trend lately of posting “trending locations” even if that wasn’t where the photo was located. Yes, this will get you seen by more people, but it’s also so not genuine. What kind of follower base can you expect to have when you are lying to your followers? That’s just our opinion, but definitely do what works for you!

7. Engage as much as you possibly can

Leave meaningful comments as often and as much as you can! We find people to engage with by searching hashtags we use, searching locations we’ve been to, and targeting people who comment on other accounts in our niche. Engaging with other IGers/bloggers and personal accounts are both beneficial but for different reasons.

Fellow IGers & Bloggers: We’ve found that some of the best IG relationships we’ve established have started from us leaving a few meaningful comments on that person’s feed. Other IGers and bloggers are going to be a huge support for you! While they aren’t your target audience, they are the ones who get how important engagement is. They will be your biggest cheerleaders and engage on your posts as much as you engage on theirs. Plus, it’s so nice to establish IG/blogger relationships. These are the people who “get” what you’re going through and will be there for you in terms of feedback, questions, and support. Try to stick to accounts that are in your niche, but we have a few that are not in-niche just because we love their accounts so much.

Personal accounts: These are your target audience! These are the people who are using IG for enjoyment purposes and not to build their own pages. You need and want to have a huge following of these people! Keep in mind though, personal accounts tend to not engage very frequently with accounts outside of their friends and family. They tend to “view” and “support” quietly, so you may never even know how much someone is obsessed with your page. Commenting and liking a personal account is like putting out an advertisement. You’re saying, “look at me! I’m here! Check me out!” Often a few likes and a comment are enough to get someone curious to check our your feed (especially if you have an appealing handle). If they like what they see, they will follow you. Yay!

8. Respond to all comments!

Home sweet home. 🏡 As much as we love traveling, there's no place like home! Time to enjoy every day life adventures and plan our next few trips! We have exciting big trips coming up in 2017, but are also planning a few long weekend escapes in the meantime. Any suggestions? Looking for places that are not *too* cold and short drive or flight from Los Angeles. ✈️ . . . . #findyourspot #adventurecouple #lifewelltraveled #theprettycities #livecolorfully #postcardsfromtheworld #athomeintheworld #holdthemoments #foreveronvacation #tasteintravel #keepitwild #amazingplacestovisit #comeawaywithme #letsgetaway #bloggerslife #travelcouple #mybeautifullife #abmtravelbug #inspiredbyyou #travelawesome #adventurevisuals #weliveweexplore #permissiontoplay #justpassingthrough #travel #wanderlust

A photo posted by Adventurers • Bassam & Lena (@happilyeveradventures) on

First of all, we just find it rude when people don’t respond, especially when asked a specific question. If someone took time from their day to engage with you, the polite thing to do is to engage back. We’ve noticed that when IGers don’t respond to their comments, they stop getting them!

Also, a comment is a comment in IG’s eyes. It doesn’t matter if it came from you or someone else. Responding to your comments increases your engagement rate and your popularity to get into the “top 9” of a hashtag. Win-win! (Note: the comments you get in the first 15 minutes, 1 hour, and 2 hours are what help you get into the “top 9” of  hashtag!)

If you really want to go above and beyond, if someone leaves you a comment, go and leave a comment on their feed as well. It will keep that person coming back to your feed and help you establish a relationship and connection.

Some tips to make responding to comments easier:

  • When responding on your phone, if you hold down on the person’s handle, it’ll populate so you don’t have to type it in
  • Apps like Iconosquare let you respond from a desktop and help you keep track of which one’s you haven’t answered (we haven’t tried this, but have heard great things)
  • We try to set aside 30 minutes to an hour after we post to respond to comments as we come in. Before we go to bed at night or while watching TV, we take 15-30 minutes to finish up the rest
  • Please do not do automated comments! We know responding to comments can be a pain sometimes, but automated comments are so obvious, so impersonal, and can be really awkward sometimes. This is the one area where going the old-fashioned way really is the best

Tips for extra engagement:

  • If someone leaves kind of a generic comment, we will follow up with a question. Sometimes that’ll get a conversation going
  • We respond to all comments, including emojis, even if it’s just with an emoji haha
  • When we have a Call-To-Action (like a question) on or post we get better engagement, especially when asking for feedback or ideas

9. Figure out when to post

We are still trying to figure out our best posting time. Our audience is spread across the world and so we try to find a time that will work for everyone. Usually this means earlier in the morning or evening time. Once you are able to figure out who and where your audience is, you can figure out your best posting time. For example, if your audience are people with office jobs, usually mid morning, lunch time, and after work are good posting times. If your audience are moms, you want to avoid pick up and drop off times. Experiment with different times until you find what works best for you. If you switch to a business account on IG, you can also get some good analytics on when your audience is most active on IG.

10. Advertise via the F/UF method

Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn't hear the music {Friedrich Nietzsche} 💃🏻🎶

A photo posted by Adventurers • Bassam & Lena (@happilyeveradventures) on

Oh boy, this is a controversial one and yes we are going to go there. We hope you read through the whole thing before making a judgment call and we also hope instead of passing judgment, you will see it a business strategy- one that’s for you or not for you, but not something to get upset about.

F/UF means following someone and then later unfollowing them. It’s a hugely popular strategy and also very controversial. We were very against this strategy at first and felt hurt anytime anyone did it to us. However, once we learned more about the theory behind this strategy, we changed our minds. Also, there are many different ways to do this, which we will go over.

Your IG is a business right? If not, then this strategy is not for you. But if it is, how would you get your name out there in the real world? Probably with some form of advertising right? Ads, fliers, business cards, etc. Dropping your name and who you are out there for people to see in case they are interested in what you offer. Would anyone ever get mad at you for dropping a flier but not taking theirs? Or giving a business card, but not calling them? Or walking into their store, then walking out without buying anything? No, because this is acceptable and typical behavior. What is the alternative on IG? Sure, you can convert your account to a business account and pay to boost your posts, but research has found that most people don’t really look at those because people are so used to ignoring things that are blatantly “ads”. So you’ve just spent all this money and gotten nowhere. For us, F/UF is a way of getting our name out there. It’s like giving someone a business card and saying, “check me out”, it is not a long-term contract that says we have to be friends forever.

Since we’ve understood this theory, we have stopped getting upset when we get unfollowed. Our page wasn’t right for that person and they have no obligation to keep following us. We unfollow them back and wait for people who our posts resonate with.

Some people say you cannot build real engagement or connections by doing F/UF. We respectfully disagree. Building engagement and connections are really important to us and we spend a lot of time engaging with others and building connections with others in our niche. The reality is though, at a certain point your following will grow so much that you won’t be able to have a connection with or follow every single person who follows you. That’s why this is a business or a brand and not a personal account. If you were a storefront, would you be able to be involved in every single person’s life who walked into your store?

So, how do you decide who to follow? You need to try to find people who you think will be interested in what you are offering. Those are usually not other IGers or bloggers. When we follow IGers and bloggers, we follow them with the intention not to unfollow (but we will give more detail on unfollowing soon). Usually it’s people who are following others in your niche. A good strategy is to go through and follow the followers of an account similar to yours. Also, think about what other types of accounts your target audience might follow? For example, since we are a couple and often do date ideas and more romantic type posts, we might find interested audience from engagement or wedding accounts. Think outside the box and think of what accounts that person might follow.

There are a few different ways to do the unfollow portion at varying levels of intensity. We chose to take a slightly less intense approach but there is no right or wrong.

  • Unfollow everyone, whether they follow you back or not
  • Unfollow everyone, but niche accounts, other accounts you love, accounts highly engaged with you
  • Only unfollow those who do not engage with your account (The app “followers” helps you track this)
  • Only unfollow those who unfollow you
  • Don’t unfollow anyone

Keep in mind, you can only follow a max of 7,500 accounts. At some point, you’re going to have to do some unfollowing or not follow everyone who follows you. Also, the nature of being an influencer is that brands you may want to work with will not consider you as influential if your following number is too high.

11. Don’t worry about getting unfollowed

We get about 100-200 unfollows a day. Initially, every single unfollow upset us. What we’ve learned is that you can’t please everyone and your account won’t be appealing to everyone. if someone unfollows you it’s actually a positive thing because you won’t have someone hanging on who won’t engage and bring down your engagement rate. Be you, do what you want, post what you like. Not everyone will like it, but those that do like it are exactly the audience you are looking for. Persist, continue, and that audience will grow!

12. Join IG groups on Facebook

We learned the MOST by joining Instagram communities on Facebook. One of our favorites is: Instagram Posse. We learned so much there and met so many supportive people. They also have guides you can purchase to learn Instagram’s algorithm. We did not share any information from the guides since they are copyrighted.

We hope you found something useful to help you grow your Instagram account! Please let us know if you have any questions! If we have the answers, we would love to help! Also, let us know if you have any tips for us!

PS. Shameless plug here, but are you following us on Instagram?

Want to hire us to do this for you? Check out our services.

how-we-gained-over-30k-instagram-followers-in-under-5-months

16 Comments

  1. Lena and Bassam, amazing post, I loved reading it every bit of it, you guys have an incredible brand and the most I love about it is the engagement, you really do take the time to engage! (I was totally grinning when it says it’s rude when someone doesn’t reply to the comment, so so true!) We are new to the whole Instagram thing so this is a huge inspiration for us.. thanks!

    • Thank you for your comment, Meg! We are so happy to hear that the post was useful for you and that you enjoy our brand! We do our best to always respond to our comments, but of course, sometimes life gets in the way! You always leave such meaningful comments that it’s easy to respond! Thank you for your support!

  2. Thanks a ton for the helpful hints! I didn’t know that little trick with hashtags, and I also joined Instagram posse for some extra help!

    I’m usually not a fan on f/uf but you did make some good points! I think the problem for me is when bloggers are constantly following/unfollowing you, and to me that gets annoying and unprofessional! But I do get that it can be an easy way to give your “business card” to others!

    I’ll be thinking of these tips in posts to follow! *fingers crosses* 🙂

    • Hi Alex, thank you for your comment! I’m so happy to hear you found the post useful and hopefully you will find Instagram Posse as useful as we did! I totally get you with the repeated f/uf. I have definitely responded to people before saying, “we don’t mind if you unfollow us, but that was like the 15th time…” and no joke, we’ve had someone do it 15 times!! We absolutely love your blog and Instagram feed. Looking forward to seeing all your growth!

  3. Wow guys. 5 months!? True success story and we’ve part of it and we’ve used your tips that has helped he grow too. Great post guys.

    • Hi Shayan, thank you for your sweet comment! We are far from being a success story but we are working hard and have been loving every step of journey. We really appreciate your support. Supportive bloggers like you make the journey so much more fun and make it possible!

  4. Thanks guys, this is SUPER helpful!! We didn’t know about that little hashtag trick 🙂 You also made a great argument about the F/UF technique. We have also been pretty against it sounds like a sound business strategy that we might be willing to try. Thanks again for sharing! So glad all your hard work is paying off, you definitely deserve it 🙂

    • Hi guys! Thank you so much for your comment! We are so happy to hear that you found our tips useful! We are definitely still learning, but we always like to share what we know! Let us know if the hashtag trick works for you!

  5. Great article and I will definitely start to apply several of the tips you mentioned here. I went searching initially because it seems that once I updated my app this past month, my “likes” have almost disappeared- now I have a measly 140 followers, nothing compared to you guys, but I was just wondering if you were aware of any changes this past month or so that would have caused this? I was consistently getting 30 likes (that was really good for me!) and after updating my app, it’s like 1-3. Crazy! Appreciate any insights!

    • Hi Jamie, thank you for reaching out! I’m glad you found the article helpful. We’ve been experiencing the same drop in engagement as you have. We used to easily get 1,500+ likes on a post and now we are struggling to get to 1000. In the last two days, we didn’t even get there. We’ve heard this from many people and there seems to be a change in the algorithm. The best advice we’ve heard it to engage as much as possible with your followers and within the hashtags you use so that your posts will show up in the newsfeed. We just started upping our engagement efforts today so I’ll let you know if we notice a difference.

      As far as dropping to 1-3 likes, I feel like something fishy is going on. Are you using hash tags? If so, did you check to see if your posts are showing up in the hashtag? I’m wondering if your hashtags stopped working.

      Please let us know if we can help answer any other questions!

      • Thank you for the additional advice- I do use hashtags but I never realized they could “stop working” hahah I’m still pretty new to Instagram and still learning all the nuances. There isn’t anything “restricted” or “private” in my settings so I wonder what more I could do! I will definitely begin responding to comments and posting at least twice or 3 times daily to see if that helps the situation! I will say that recently I started using more hashtags- like instead of 6 or so, using more like 10 or 12. Wondering if using more hashtags is inadvertently negatively affecting my posts… thank you again for the dialogue- I appreciate all your wisdom!

  6. Hey guys!! Such a well written article, thanks so much for sharing your tips! Being away in Europe for so long, we really were so disconnected from social media strategies and we knew we were missing out on optimizing our influence. We were still manually typing out the account names when trying to reply to a comment! So again, thank you for taking the time to share your tips, you’re helping us cram for all the social media we’ve missed out on! xx

    • Hi Brittany! So happy to hear this article was helpful for you! You have such a beautiful account and we love following your adventures. Although, I just realized we aren’t following you, sorry, that’s corrected now! It’s so hard to keep up with everything while traveling, but you’ve done a wonderful job! We look forward to seeing how your blog and IG develops now that you’re home!

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