15 Ways to Get More (Real!) Instagram Followers in 2021


Instagram quickly outgrew its first impression as a fun app for kids and has become a serious content marketing, selling, networking and audience building tool for individuals and brands. It’s one of the most popular social networking sites on the planet, with over 200 million active monthly members sharing 60 million images and 1.6 billion likes per day.

Just how awesome is it? Engagement rates for brands on most social networks are less than 0.1%, but Instagram blows them all away. The average Instagram engagement rate for brands in a 2014 Forrester study was an epic 58 times higher than on Facebook.

instagram vs facebook engagement

You can’t argue with numbers like that. But that’s just average. And as I advocate across all manners of online marketing, you don’t want to be average! It’s not a dream or a goal.

Sure, 58 times greater engagement than Facebook sounds great, but you can do so much better than that on Instagram. Whether you’re a big brand or maybe just wondering how to become Instagram famous, I don’t want you to strive for average; I want you to reach for the stars and become an Instagram unicorn. A digital unicorn is that magical, rare creature that outperforms all others by orders of magnitude.

And you’re going to accomplish this by working these eleven amazing Instagram hacks into your social strategy. Check out these attention-getting ideas for your Instagram captions, hashtags, profile, and more, and see what to post on Instagram to get more followers and way more visibility and engagement too.

1. Create a branded hashtag

A dedicated, custom, or branded hashtag allows you to essentially create a collection of your best content. When a potential follower finds you via another highly targeted tag, they’ll be more likely to follow after seeing your top posts.

You may also consider creating a branded tag for each of your Instagram marketing campaigns. In some cases, this is a better option because it often sounds less promotional than using something more specific to your business such as your company name. In turn, campaign hashtags are often used by followers, which then captures the attention of their connections. If they have the same interests, they too may start following you.

2. Cross-promote your dedicated hashtag. 

That’s nice that you created a #joesgarage hashtag for your company, but who knows to use it to share content about you? Make sure it’s in your profile, but take the game offline and have it printed on your receipts, in print ads, on signage in your store and at relevant events.

11 hacks to become Instagram famous Project Runway billboard

If you’re on radio and TV, direct people to use your hashtag. Integrate online and offline campaigns by ensuring it’s listed on your other social profiles, on your website, and in your email blasts. Don’t just hope people will find it.

3. Use industry-specific hashtags

You want followers who are interested in what you do an offer. Primarily using terms not specific to your industry would result in gaining very few followers. That being the case, you must use hashtags in your posts that your target audience would be browsing specifically.

The more specific you are, the more interested the people you attract and the higher the chances they’ll become followers. Additionally, using more precise tags will cut down on the number of competitors vying for the follows of the same people you’re targeting. As a result, your accounts will be easier to find and thus, easier to follow.

4. Don’t be boring.

When it comes to Instagram caption ideas, you need to look beyond the one-word, obvious hashtags. Sure, you want to use those, too, but mix it up and use hashtags to tell part of your story. Be funny, ironic, or outrageous–just don’t be BORING. Collaborative workspace company WeWork is great at this, and they include a fun mix of Instagram content, too.

11 hacks to become Instagram famous WeWork hashtag examples

5. Use event-related hashtags

Event-related hashtags involve events taking place in your industry such as annual conventions, seminars, and workshops.

They could also be well-known events in your local area, country, or the world that are on the minds of the masses at a given time. These are often best suited for your more lighthearted, casual posts. For example, did you snap a pic of your team watching the World Cup during lunch? Post it…and don’t forget to include #worldcup! While this might not gain you a lot of followers since it’s such a general and popular term, it can boost awareness of your business, which will support your efforts to gain followers.

6.  Participate in massively popular conversations. 

For every post, use a mix of topically relevant hashtags such as #woodworking for a carpentry company, for example, as well as trending, super-popular hashtags wherever you can.

11 hacks to become Instagram famous woodworking hashtag

The really specific hashtags are like long-tail keywords in that they show more intent and help you find the right people, but the universally trending hashtags are good for getting your business in front of more people in general. These include:
#tbt or #throwbackthursday (or any of these 100+ hashtags for every day of the week)
#wbw or #waybackwednesday
#photooftheday or #picoftheday or #bestoftheday
#summer (or any of the seasons)
or even plain old #fun get you in front of more people in general.

Just remember that popular hashtags should not make up the bulk of your strategy. They attract a more general audience, bbut they do have their rightful place in your social media marketing success, as they can increase your exposure and generate engagement, possibly endearing new followers to you. When it comes to specific vs general hashtags, you need both to achieve growth on a network as big and noisy as Instagram.

7.  Make the most of your bio URL. 

It’s prime real estate on your Instagram profile… do you really want your bio to only link to your website homepage, now and forever? Yawn. Change it up at least bi-weekly and use that clickable link in your bio to drive traffic to your newest or most popular content.

8.  Get descriptive with your captions. 

A picture is worth a thousand words, but you can’t skip the words entirely. National Geographic is fantastic at using storytelling alongside their Instagram photos to generate engagement and sharing. While traditional media brands have dropped like flies, NatGeo has thrived across digital and become one of the top brands on Instagram, with over 50 million followers.


Like the other Instagram hacks I’ve included here, this is something you’ll want to commit to working into your strategy over time, so don’t worry if it feels weird at first. Your writing will improve as you find your brand’s Instagram voice.

9.  Go all in on influencer marketing. 

Visit the profiles of each person you’ve identified as an influencer in your space (AKA a person who influences the people you want to get in front of) and “Turn On Post Notifications” to be notified every time they share new content. You can then interact with them regularly and become one of their favorite people or brands.

instagram marketing ideas

10.  Remove unwanted tagged photos of you from your profile. 

If you only want to feature the best user-generated content about you or your brand on your Instagram profile, you can. Now, you can’t remove the tagged photos from the site entirely, by choosing “Edit Tags,” selecting the ones you want to remove and choosing “Hide from Profile” (you may need to confirm). It does the trick.

11.  Approve photo tags before the content shows on your profile. 

Speaking of giving you greater control over which tagged photos appear on your profile, you can change your Instagram setting so tagged photos won’t show unless you approve them first. You’ll find this under “Options,” “Photos of You,” and “Add Manually.”

11 hacks to become Instagram famous add photo manually

I’m trying to think of a reason why any company would NOT want to do this… Nope. I’ve got nothing. You should absolutely set this up to avoid potentially embarrassing situations.

12.  Develop your own Instagram style.

It’s human nature to want to fit in, but on Instagram, you want to stand out. Indian beverage brand Frooti has developed such a unique visual content style, it’s instantly recognizable every time a user sees a Frooti post in their newsfeed. Check it out:


13.  Get local. 

See what’s going on in a specific area (say, your neighborhood, a city you’re targeting in ads, or even an event in a certain location) by going to the search page and choosing the Places tab. Then, type in the name of the place to see all geotagged posts for that location.


Check out more big trends in local social marketing here.

14.  Remember your calls to action! 

Instagram, like other social networks, is a conversation, not a broadcasting platform. What action do you want people to take on your post? If you don’t know that, start over and figure it out. Staples is great at generating engagement by letting people know exactly what they expect them to do with their posts (bonus points if you make it sound fun). Often, that call to action cleverly gets people to share or virally spread Staples’ content.

15. Avoid these hashtags at all costs.

Your goal is to gain engaged followers with the potential to become customers. There are some commonly used hashtags that can get you lots of followers….but not the kind you want or need. It’s vital that you know what they are so you can avoid them and grow a following that’s actually worth having. Some of these, which we’ll call the hashtags of desperation, are:

#follow4follow (#f4f)

You should never, ever use these (or their equally-terrible counterparts for likes, shares, and comments). Yes, you might get a few followers this way but you’ll be scraping the bottom of the barrel as far as quality goes. And there’s really no need to do that! As we’ve already discussed, there are plenty of other and better hashtags to get followers on social media.

How to Get More Followers on Instagram [Summary]

To get more followers on Instagram do the following things:

  1. Create a custom or dedicated hashtag that includes your business name or a catchy phrase.
  2. Promote your dedicated hashtag on your other social profiles, on your website, and your email blast.
  3. Use industry-specific hashtags to ensure you gain a relevant following
  4. Get creative with your hashtags. Be funny, ironic, or outrageous – but never boring!
  5. Use event hashtags at seminars, conferences, annual events, and even local events.
  6. Watch topically relevant and trending hashtags. Join these conversations to get in front of more people.
  7. Use your bio link to drive traffic to your newest or most popular content.
  8. Write descriptive captions. Storytelling will help generate engagement and sharing.
  9. Interact with top influencers in your space and try to become one of their favorite people or brands.
  10. Don’t want a tagged photo of you or your brand on your profile? Edit Tags to hide images from your profile.
  11. Adjust your settings so any potentially embarrassing tagged photos won’t show without your approval.
  12. Develop your own unique, recognizable visual style. Figure out how you want to stand out and make it so!
  13. Visit the Places tab to see what’s happening locally – your neighborhood, a city you’re targeting in ads, or an event in a certain location.
  14. Use a call to action to tell people what you want them to do with your posts. Find clever ways to get people to share your content.
  15. Avoid the hashtags of desperation (#follow4follow, #follow, #followme, #followback). Just don’t do it.

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