With a reported 300 million users and 70 million photos shared each day, Instagram has become a key marketing and social engagement tool for businesses. It is also a great platform for testing out new business ideas.

To leverage Instagram as a marketing tool, some marketers have resorted to buying followers and using automated liking or commenting programs to increase their reach. Buying followers might make your page and product look popular. However, you will have no real insight as to who is actually interested in your brand or who will buy your products or services. What’s more, you risk getting banned by Instagram for violating its Terms of Service.

In this quick guide, I’ll show you how to gain real followers by walking you through the steps I used to grow my Instagram page @MakeupforMelaninGirls to 17,000+ in just two months.

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Here are some tips for engaging your target audience:

1. Upload Quality Photos

Instagram is a photo-sharing app after all, and people want to be inspired by the photos you share. Think of a colour scheme and/or theme for your photos.  White is a popular background colour and for good reason. It helps keep focus on your image and is less distracting. If your products are in fashion or beauty, consider showcasing your products with the flat-lay style.

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Flat lay photo on Instagram by Beauty Blogger @thatigbochick

2. Use Web Apps that make managing your account a breeze

Since Instagram is primarily an app for mobile phones, it can be tricky managing all your tasks on a small screen. Crowdfire is a social media management desktop & mobile app that grows your Instagram following by letting you copy followers of accounts in a similar niche as you. You can also see who follows or unfollows you. You can perform following and unfollowing tasks very quickly via desktop without violating Instagram’s terms of service. Crowdfire is free to use for one account but costs $9.99 per month for more than account.

Another great web app is Iconosquare, which allows you manage your Instagram page on the web (comment, like photos, view feed etc). And though its popular optimization feature (shows you the best time to interact with your followers) is now a paid feature, you can see several other statistics about your page, including most commented posts.makeupformelaningirls                        Crowdfire Homepage

3. Use hashtags relevant to your target audience

Most people are already aware that using hashtags attracts more likes and interest. However, using popular hashtags that are searched by your target audience is the difference between getting engaged followers and just getting likes. For example, if your brand focuses on African fashion, use Websta (an Instagram Web Viewer) to look up related tags in order of popularity.       makeupformelaningirls

Secondly, create a list of 30 hashtags and save it to any Notes app you use.

Looking up #Africanfashion not only helped me find other popular hashtags within that niche, but it also helped me find similar accounts. Using the Crowdfire app in step 2, can also be used to follow people on those similar accounts you just found. There is no guarantee that these people will follow you back, but if you are uploading quality and interesting photos relevant to your target audience, you increase your chances of them liking in your page.

When we looked up #Africanfashion, 260,000 posts is the highest number of uploads related to this niche. 

#Fashion also has a lot of visibility of Instagram, so adding it to your list of hashtags is a good strategy. The audience in your niche are those most likely to engage with your page.


Create your list of hashtags by combining very popular hashtags with those most related to your niche.


To create a list of hashtags for our #AfricanFashion example, Instagram has a limit of 30 hashtags so we can divide it into 15 popular #Africanfashion and 15 popular #fashion hashtags.

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4. Post at the Right Times and Days

Putting some thought into the days of the week and times of the week will also help  your follower base and visibility. Iconosquare’s popular Optimization feature displays a graph of the best times for you to post is now a paid feature, but don’t despair. I’ve got you covered.

Lunch time and 5 pm when people are getting off work are examples of optimal times to post. Keep in mind that these work better if your audience is in the same timezone as you.    

makeupformelaningirls                       A view of the Iconosquare Optimization section

5. Engage with your audience

Completing the steps above, should build a group of connected followers. Do not forget to have fun with your followers by liking and commenting on their photos, sending them messages if necessary, and answering their questions. Instagram is a social media page, so connect with your followers! They want to know that there are real people behind the brand and that you care about the same things they care about. Many people log onto Instagram to take a break or pass the time so make sure browsing your page is an enjoyable experience.

Finally, below are some extra tips below did not make the cut because they cost money. However, if you have the money, they are great tools to use to grow your follower base.

  • Host an Instagram contest or Promotion
  • Negotiate with an Instagram Influencer or personality for a promotional shout out of your product. (Caveat: Some Influencers are known to receive products but do not promote it. Research influencers before finalizing any payments.)
  • Pay a Popular shoutout page in your niche to promote your page (This could be risky as some of this pages buy followers. Browse their page to see if they have users that comment and engage with the page).
  •  Find a friend or hire someone with an aesthetic eye that will showcase your page in the best light

#Goodluck!

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