8 Unconventional Ways to Grow Your Instagram Following

Instagram is predicted to add 26.9 million users in the U.S. by 2020. That’s far more than Facebook, Twitter or any other social platform tracked. The social network is also enjoying a higher adoption among young adults as well as growing mobile ad revenues. The platform is living its golden age.

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If you are looking for ideas to grow your Instagram account and leverage the platform, don’t waste your time following in the footsteps of those who succeeded. Hack your own way with these eight little-known ways how to pump life into an Instagram account.

1. Don’t use banned hashtags.

Yes, Instagram is actively censoring and blocking a huge list of hashtags. The list of banned hashtags is dynamic, so new “unsavory” search terms get added all the time. What is most interesting, however, is that even the most innocent-looking hashtags, like #petite or #singlelife, can be banned. That’s because quite a few pornographic or otherwise unacceptable images have seeped into hashtag streams and the team behind Instagram is working hard to clean the platform.

How can you be sure your engagement rates aren’t dropping as a result of banned hashtags? The easiest way to spot a banned hashtag is to search for it on Instagram and check whether it’s shown in both the “Top” and “Recent” categories. If the hashtag is temporarily suspended or blocked, Instagram will only display a few top posts and remove all recent posts.

Related: 10 Instagram Accounts Every Entrepreneur Should Follow

2. Always use a location sticker for your stories to gain local exposure.

This new feature gives Instagram users an opportunity to quickly check what’s going on in the chosen location. It is particularly handy for gaining exposure and capturing the imagination of users who are looking for ideas or inspiration. It has become second nature now to browse Instagram images of travel destinations, hotels, restaurants and events as part of the research phase. If you want your Story to be seen by anyone who’s searching for your location or is in the area, be sure to add location tags to your Stories.

3. Use less popular hashtags for a chance to make into the “Top” section.

It can be very tempting to pepper your image descriptions with the most popular hashtags that are, in fact, just simple words, such as #summer, #love, #dog and so on. It’s true that these hashtags have millions of posts, but they won’t do much for your account’s growth in the long run. What you need are community-oriented, specific hashtags that will drive more engagement and help you build a brand. INK361 is a free tool you can use to find less popular hashtags. Simply search for a term and choose a hashtag to see the search volume. If your account is small, don’t target hashtags bigger than 50,000 in search volume.

Related: 4 Tips to Turn Social Media Content Creation Into a Full-Time Career

4. Test and play with your bio.

You have 160 characters to charm your potential new followers. Yeah, no pressure. The importance of this element cannot be overstated; if you succeed and manage to tell people what you do, who you are and what drives you in a compelling and personal way, you’ll be picking up new followers every day. Play around with your bio copy to find what clicks with your audience.

5. Choose your Instagram name (not username) wisely.

Don’t use your name (unless you’re famous), but rather pick a keyword or keywords that people will be searching for. That’s why my name on my account is Travel Lifestyle Entrepreneur, which is easy to change and test while my username @tomaslaurinavicius stays the same.

Related: Interact With Customers Through Instagram Stories and Live Videos

6. Consider joining or creating a pod.

Instagram pods are the pro Instagrammer’s answer to the removal of chronological posts. To beat the algorithm, bloggers, businesses and passionate Instagrammers that have similar audiences are creating private groups of 10-15 people (otherwise known as pods). The goal of Instagram pods is to increase engagement and get new followers by getting exposure to the right audience. Once someone in the pod publishes a new post, he or she shares it with the group via a direct message and asks all the other members to like it and comment on it. The genuine comments give the post more weight and generate more engagement. In the end, everyone wins.

7. Use tags that will get you featured on collective accounts.

Research the right tags or use branded hashtags, such as #SonyRXmoments, to get featured on curated accounts like @sonyrxmoments. The key is to find smaller, active and relevant communities to feature your photos. Always submit your work only!

Related: 4 Tips to Leverage the Power of Instagram to Grow Your Email List

8. Organize an exciting giveaway.

A giveaway is an excellent way to grow your mailing list, get new followers, increase community engagement, raise brand awareness or connect with local businesses and like-minded people. Before you start working on a giveaway idea, though, make sure you pick one goal and stick to it! Like with every promotional campaign, the success of a giveaway depends on how thorough your plan is. For a contest to run smoothly, you need to consider things like finding the right theme and hashtags, deciding on an attractive prize, monitoring participant entries, promoting the contest and finally, picking out the winner. Giving away great stuff for free has never let anyone down.

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