If this is your year to build your brand and establish your business on Instagram, then you’ve come to the right place.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to thrive as a creator on Instagram, from launching your account and gaining followers, to diversifying your income.
Last time round we unpacked how to find and refine your niche, and today we’re moving on to the next step - growing your following.
This is the big question on most budding creators’ minds. How can they share their amazing, inspired content with as many people as possible?
Wherever you are in your journey, we’re here to support you. Let’s get started!
What’s the difference between a professional Instagrammer and someone who’s using the platform for fun? The answer probably won’t surprise you — it’s a large, engaged following, typically over 10k.
You need a sizable audience to market yourself, work with brands, or effectively monetize your Instagram account in any way. But growing one is no easy task, especially now that Instagram is more crowded and competitive than ever.
To grow your following, you’ll need to post great content. But, that’s not the whole story, because obviously, it’s usually people who are already following you who’ll see what you post.
That’s great, but it’s not going to result in new people finding you. To gain followers, you need to show your content to new people, entice them to follow you, then make sure they stick around!
Luckily, there’s plenty of ways to do that. The Instagram algorithm can show you to new people, your followers can share your content for you, and other creators can boost your reach.
Then, you’ll need to convert those new views into followers, and hang on to them by keeping them entertained, delighted, and engaged. In this guide, we’ll share plenty of strategies for all of the above.
Learn more about how Notch helps Instagram creators thrive
Remember that niche you worked so hard to develop? Here’s where it comes in handy.
When people visit your profile, they’re going to make a split-second decision about whether they’re interested in your content. You need to make your niche super-obvious, so that potential followers can’t miss what you’re offering.
Today, @ajunegiannakos (14.7k followers) posts about motherhood, conscious movement, and where they intersect. But when she started out as a yoga instructor, she paid careful attention to making sure her profile felt on-brand.
“When I first set out to grow my audience, I was focused on a very specific yoga instructor niche, and I ensured that everything on my profile reflected that,” she shares. “Then, when someone came to my profile, they would likely give me a follow since they already followed similar accounts.”
For example, if you post about quick, easy recipes, that should be the first thing someone notices when they visit your page. If what you’re all about is unclear, people will just click on by, and you’ll miss out on someone who could have been an active member of your community.
And how do you lead with your niche?
Think about what’s most visible on your profile. Then, make sure that high-impact content is clear, compelling, and on-brand. That includes:
This is your big chance to show off what you’re all about. Your name and bio are the only text a visitor will see without clicking on a particular post, so you need to make it sparkle.
We could write a whole article about polishing your profile, but here’s a few pointers:
A unified aesthetic gives your grid a distinctive look, so potential followers can take one glance and know what kind of visual content they’ll be getting.
Refining your image style and color palette is a journey, but no matter what, you should keep it consistent and true to you. It’s okay to experiment and evolve over time — that’s how you’ll become your best, most creative self!
But if you’re a beige-loving minimalist, don’t drop in some rainbow energy just because everyone else is. You’ll lose the followers who love you for you, and visitors to your profile won’t understand what they’re signing up for if they hit ‘follow.’
This is a powerful but often overlooked way to Reel new followers in (see what we did there?).
Make a highlight, complete with a fun cover image, for each type of content you post about, like outfits, Q+As, or cooking. Then, add some of your best work to each highlight — if it’s a feed post, it’s super easy to share it to Stories before hitting ‘save.’ This way, viewers can get a sampling of your content without scrolling down and actively exploring your feed.
Canadian nail artist @classyclaws (52.4K followers) is a perfect example of how to do your profile right. From her studio’s page, we immediately learn who she is, what she does, and how we can get in touch.
All her images (and emojis) are carefully curated to drive home her brand identity — bold, blingy, and very blue.
Optimizing your profile is great — but how will people end up there if they don’t follow you?
One way is for Instagram’s algorithm to do a little promotion for you, pushing your posts onto the almighty Explore page or as top-ranking content for hashtags. That’s why it’s so important to understand how and why Instagram decides to amplify certain types of content, and show it to new users.
The algorithm is a complex, shadowy, and ever-changing beast, but there are still some handy ways to give the algorithm what it wants, and get your content in front of new people.
Instagram’s algorithm prefers and boosts this type of content, partially as part of their strategy to compete with rising star TikTok. There’s even a separate Explore page dedicated entirely to Reels!
For wellness influencer @claudiacanu_com (10.9k followers), video has been a key part of her strategy. “Reels are what works best at the moment,” she explains. “And with that, the use of hashtags, to have the video shown to the niche you are targeting.”
“I tried pictures, IGTV videos, Canva designs, and Reels,” says @folasade_daini, a B2B marketer who posts about motherhood and Christian dating to her 11.2k followers. “Then, I noticed the analytics for each and tweaked accordingly. I used Reels a lot, and grew my account from by 10k in 4 months, reaching 1.2 million people.”
"I used Reels a lot, and grew my account by 10k in 4 months, reaching 1.2 million people” - @folasade_daini
Plenty of people think short-form video is the future of social. So if your audience likes it, this could be a good place to focus if you’re playing the long game.
Single image posts are so last year — research shows they’re the least engaging type of Instagram content. Instead, opt for Carousels, which allow users to swipe through multiple pictures, slide-show style.
Carousels are the most engaging type of content on Instagram, encouraging the viewer to swipe forward if they like what they see. They can also reappear in a user’s feed, showing a different picture every time. Sounds like way better value to us!
Hashtags are a tried and true strategy for a reason — they’re the main way people seek out topics they’re interested in on Instagram.
But don’t just throw #love on there and expect 1,000 new followers. There’s an art and a science to using hashtags well. Our top tips:
Of course, the algorithm can only do so much. At the end of the day, Instagram is just a place for people to connect over great content.
Those people, whether your followers or other creators, are a powerful way to share your content and reach new followers. Building relationships and community is everything — it’s more powerful than gaming the all-seeing eye of the algorithm any day!
When @ajunegiannakos started out on Instagram, connection was a crucial part of growing her following.
“I found similar creators in my space, and engaged with them and their followers,” she says. “I would also engage with new followers via DM and responding to comments. But the cliché advice is true: above all be authentic. Don’t try to imitate what someone else is doing, because then what’s the point. Have your own voice and approach.”
Here are a few of our favorite ways to share your content by connecting with others.
“I found similar creators in my space, and engaged with them and their followers” - @ajunegiannakos
Could you go live together? Stage a fun photoshoot? Launch a double-branded, limited edition product?
When you work with other like-minded creators, you’re exposed to a whole other audience of people who are already receptive to your niche. These mutually beneficial relationships help you both build bigger, stronger communities.
Bee Lalli of @classyclaws saw the power of collaboration in action when she was growing her own following. “Aligning with like-minded creators, with similar visions and goals, was a key strategy,” she shares.
“Aligning with like-minded creators, with similar visions and goals, was a key strategy” - @classyclaws
You should be adding relevant tags every time you post to Instagram. That can connect you to a place (via location tags), or to other brands and creators.
For example, by tagging the lipstick you used in your new #MOTD, you might find that Fenty or Anastasia Beverly Hills reposts you to their millions of followers! You could also try tagging another influencer who inspired the content, and mentioning why in the caption.
Tags are a way to link your post to other areas of Instagram — and that means more people finding it, more easily!
Your followers already love what you do. They have the potential to be your most dedicated ambassadors!
Try holding giveaways that incentivize your followers to share for a change to win. You can also focus on content that’s naturally relatable and shareable, like funny, topical memes and text posts.
There’s no reason your promotion efforts need to stay inside the Instagram app. If you’re serious about growing your account, why not share it everywhere?
Try linking your Instagram in your email signature, embedding a mini-feed of your posts into your website, and linking to your account on other social platforms (even ones you might not think of, like LinkedIn)!
Keeping your followers is just as important as gaining new ones. If you aren’t giving your audience a reason to stay, it doesn’t matter how many new ones you get — you won’t make progress, and your account will have no way to move forward.
A strong, connected community is the ultimate goal of sustainably growing an Instagram following. Building one is all about communicating consistently, and authentically, with your followers, and encouraging them to connect with each other.
Here are some ways to keep your audience entertained and engaged.
Post stories often, and take advantage of Instagram’s many features to make them interactive. Stories have a sense of immediacy and honesty compared to posts — users love how they feel real, genuine, and less staged.
For @folasade_daini, Stories were a key way to better understand her target audience. “I took the time to do research on the people I was trying to reach: single ladies and men,” she says. “I asked questions about their struggles using Story polls. Those posts made a lot of impact! I often got replies such as “this is me! I am going through this right now.”
This is your chance to share your real (but still Internet appropriate) self with your followers!
You should want every post to kick off a conversation. Ask questions in your captions, and reply to comments to keep the convo going. In stories, try using the ‘ask a question’ sticker, then share — and reply to — your favorite replies.
Going live means real-time interaction with your community. It’s as close to an IRL hangout as you can possibly get online.
“Before choosing the topic you’ll go live about, use your Stories to run a poll about possible options,” suggests @folasade_daini. “This way, you have a solid idea, backed by data, on what followers want you to talk about.”
“Another tip would be to go live with someone else who resonates with your target audience,” she shares. “Having a guest in your Live will spike interest more than if it's just you.”
Try an “ask me anything” style Q+A sesh, or going live as a more interactive alternative to video content like cooking or makeup tutorials.
Push yourself — you’re here to become the best creator you can possibly be. That’s the key not just to growing a following, but to succeeding on Instagram as a whole.
That means experimenting with what you post, paying attention to what your audience likes, and staying consistent.
A busy schedule of interesting content means you’ll appear regularly in your followers’ feeds, and in turn, they’re more likely to engage. This helps you reach more people, as Instagram is more likely to push popular, high-performing posts into top hashtag picks and Explore.
Post diverse types of content (like Reels and Stories), so you have a chance to reach users with different preferences and tastes. Analyze how all that performs, then tailor it to trends and patterns you see in audience behavior. You can also ask followers directly what they want to see.
If all this sounds challenging, it’s not just you! Producing this much video, image, and text content can be challenging, but a structured content calendar and plenty of pre-scheduled posts can help a lot.
In 2022, working as an Instagram creator is creative, exciting, and lucrative, but it’s also highly demanding and competitive. But if you know your niche, understand the platform, love your audience and connect with others, you’ll be well on your way to building a vibrant, engaged community that supports your Instagram goals.
“Be patient with yourself,” says @folasade_daini. “Growth takes time. I'd been sharing content for over 4 years before I understood what worked, but you don't have to take 4 years. Study Instagram, know your audience, tweak, and test. But above all, share quality and relatable content that people find truly useful. That’s what will always bring more people in the long run.”
“Growth takes time. I'd been sharing content for over 4 years before I understood what worked, but you don't have to take 4 years. Study Instagram, know your audience, tweak, and test" - @folasade_daini
Your loyal supporters will make all your Instagram dreams possible. But there’s so much more to being a creator than getting past 10k!
Stay tuned for the rest of our series about how to succeed as an Instagram Creator in 2022. Next, we’ll be talking about how to turn your content into a career by working with brands and earning from other income streams.
Learn more about how Notch helps Instagram creators thrive