how to grow your instagram organically in 2021

With roughly 1 billion active users on the platform, growing organically on Instagram is not an easy task in 2022, but these 15 tips will help you on your journey.

Let’s get to business and learn how to beat the mighty algorithm!

15 tips on how to grow your Instagram organically

#01. Post Reels

Reels are the new kid around the block and Instagram is pushing this feature hard at the moment since they want to catch up with Tik Tok in the short-format video department.

For this reason, reels are the best way to gain Instagram followers organically right now, so you should use this to your advantage.

Instagram Reels

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You can see reels:

  • in your feed, from people you follow
  • in their own section, right in the middle of Instagram’s bottom menu bar (where the Post button used to be)
  • at the top of most hashtags
  • on a user’s profile
  • on Explore page

Basically, reels got premier estate on the app. And since Instagram really wants you to use the feature, you have higher chances of your videos being shown to more people than your posts normally do, which in turn translates into Instagram growth.

#02. Engage with others

Since Instagram is a social media app, its algorithm likes it when people engage with others on the app. So try to spend a bit of time as often as possible engaging with your followers, liking and posting meaningful comments for content you really enjoy. At the end of the day, that’s what Instagram is all about.

It’s especially important to engage with people immediately after you post because the algorithm will decide whether to push your content to more accounts, based on how high was your post’s initial engagement.

#03. Improve your Instagram bio

Instagram bio

Names can be searched on Instagram, so when someone is trying to find accounts that focus on the same subjects as you, be it travel, social marketing, or lifestyle, you want to be found as well. For that to happen, you should add your niche near your name, in your Instagram bio.

Let’s take my account, @andoreia as an example: its main focus is travel (travel photography, tips, accommodation, etc), sprinkled with my other interests and my life. So I added Travel | Lifestyle near my name. Now, if someone was searching for travel-related accounts on Instagram, I would turn up in the results.

#04. Use as many Instagram features as you can

At the moment, on Instagram, you can post stories, photo and video in-feed content, reels, guides, and photo carousels. You can also do lives.

The algorithm likes it when you use all or most of the app’s features, so try to post using a mix of these.

#05. Post when your followers are active

If you have a Creator or a Business account, Instagram gives you access to some analytics called Insights: here you can check the time frames when your followers are most active on the platform.

Now, these are not always 100% correct, so I’d suggest doing your own testing by posting at different times of the day. However, they’re a good starting point.

how to grow on Instagram

#06. Be consistent

Instagram likes consistency, so try to post accordingly. A good posting schedule would be a post every day or every other day, about 4-5 reels a week, and a few stories each day.

If that’s too much for you or your niche, then spread it out a bit more, but don’t ghost out for a long period of time at a time, because more often than not, it will cost you a significant drop in engagement. Been there, done that, so take my word.

#07. Use photo carousels more often

Instagram’s main goal is to keep people as much as possible on the app. So it will naturally favor creators whose content achieves this.

Photo carousels are a great way of keeping people’s attention focused more on your post since they’ll scroll to see all the images you’ve added. This in turn translates into a higher engagement which ultimately means more exposure from the algorithm. Carousels are also a great way of telling a story slide by slide.

I gotta admit, I’m lacking in this department. And this is simply because I kinda hate how that little white icon that Instagram adds to your carousels, looks in the feed grid:)).

instagram carousel post
Carousel post

#08. Mix and rotate your hashtags

At the moment, there’s a lot of talking about hashtags and whether should we only use 3 to 5 as to not ‘confuse’ the algorithm (like Instagram recommended) or all 30. The best advice I can give you is to test it yourself!

For my account, I feel like when I used fewer hashtags my engagement dropped a bit, so for the time being, I think I’ll stick with about 20-25 hashtags or more. 

However, regardless of how many you use, I recommend mixing and rotating them. Aka don’t keep one or two sets in your phone’s notes and paste that again and again on all your posts. You risk being marked as spam by the algorithm. Also, try to include a mix of sizes: use small, medium, and bigger hashtags.

I use an app called HishHash for my hashtags. It allows me to randomly select a number of hashtags from one or more categories created and populated by me. It’s pretty handy since I don’t have the patience to add hashtags manually every time I post.

I’d suggest you also check my best apps for Instagram blog post, where I list other useful apps for creating content on the platform.

#09. Write engaging captions

Post captions that:

  • help your followers (ex. offer tips in your niche)
  • share a story (it can be funny, educational, etc)
  • spark a conversation

Remember to include CTAs (Call to action) in your text as often as you can; you can ask a question specific to the post or you can even include the general “Follow for more”.

Posting engaging captions helps your posts reach a larger audience since we already know that the more people interact and spend time on our posts, the more the algorithm pushes them to other users.

But aside from posting engaging captions, also make sure to include some keywords if possible. And if you are adding your hashtags in the first comment because it gives the post a cleaner look, stop doing this and revert back to adding them inside the caption. Or at the very least, put the most important ones in the caption.

The reason is simple: Instagram is working on its search capabilities, and you don’t want to miss on this new way you can be found on the platform.

grow your Instagram account organically

#10. Use the right ratio for your Instagram posts

Try to post your Instagram photos in a 4:5 format. The reason behind this is that images in a 4:5 ratio take the most screen space on phones, which draws more attention to the actual photo.

As for reels, their ratio format is 9:16, but they also appear in a 1:1 ratio on your grid and in a 4:5 ratio on your feed. While you can add a cover photo to make sure the reels look good and fit your grid, things are a bit trickier with the in-feed ratio aspect.

The best advice I can give you is to try and have your video subject as centered as possible and to avoid placing writing at the bottom and at the top of your reel. You only have a split second to caption someone’s attention before they scroll on and having a reel weirdly cropped by the 4:5 feed format (ex: head cut off, writing half showing) is not the way to do it.

#11. Use an app to plan your Instagram feed

If you’ve admired those perfectly color-coordinated feeds, well this is their no. 1 secret: they use an app to preview how well their future posts will match their current feed.

Now, I’m not saying that this is a must-do, I don’t do it all the time either, but I do try to mix and match my pictures whenever possible because I find it aesthetically pleasing.

There are several apps that you can use to preview your feed: Plann, Planoly, Unum are just a few.

How do these work?! You first need to connect your Insta to one of these apps. Then the app pulls all your past posts from your Instagram account. When you want to publish a new photo, you first upload it to the preview app to see how it would look in your feed and if it matches your previous posts. You can also shuffle the new pictures around until you’re satisfied with how they look next to each other.

I use Plann (the free version) simply because I like the interface. You can also use it to store your captions if you like to batch your posts. The paid version allows you to schedule your content as well, if that’s something you want – Plann is one of the apps authorized by Instagram for automatic posting.

#12. Use presets and filters to keep your feed cohesive

The second secret for getting your photos to match your feed is to use presets or filters. Try to find a few that you really like and look good together and use those for all your photos.

There are a lot of apps that you can use for this purpose, but my top recommendations are Lightroom and VSCO.

Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Lightroom is one of the most popular photo editing tools in the world, used by amateurs and professionals alike. VSCO is more catered to Instagram users, its features might remind you of the app itself, just that the VSCO filters are a LOT better than Instagram’s.

Lightroom is honestly a game-changer! It does have a lot of features and might make you feel overwhelmed, but I think it’s worth trying to learn what each of its settings does. You don’t need to be a pro to use it. 

The mobile app is free with some paid options, while the desktop and the cloud ones are subscription-only. I used the paid version (LE: I have now upgraded to a Lightroom plan that includes both the cloud and the mobile app + 1T of cloud storage) of the mobile app because I love the “Geometry” function (it basically straightens the photo), but you can do most of your editing on the free version as well.

In Lightroom, you can either import presets or design your own. These are basically sets of settings that you can apply to your photo with a single tap/click of a button. Good candidates for presets are those settings that you noticed yourself fiddle with almost every time you edit a photo.

There are tons of options out there for LR presets, both paid and free, if you don’t want to go through the trouble of creating your own. If you are using the mobile app, make sure you get presets specifically created for it (the ones for the desktop software have a different extension and won’t work).

I offer a FREE preset for Lightroom Mobile here: LR preset. It’s designed to be used as a base during your editing, speeding the process. You can then further tweak the settings to add your own personal touch to the photo.

VSCO

VSCO is more straightforward. It has a basic set of photo editing settings and a lot of filters: some free, some paid. You can subscribe to a monthly plan to unlock all the filters the app has to offer or you can opt to buy filter packs (one time only purchase).

I like the fact that you can adjust the intensity of a filter similar to how you can do it on Instagram.

#13. Check if the hashtags you add to your posts are actually active

What I mean by that is that sometimes a once-popular hashtag stops being used and barely gets any new content. You would want to stay clear from it as well if that’s the case.

You can check if a hashtag is active by searching for it and taping ‘Recent posts’. If you find a lot of posts, then the answer is yes.

Also, make sure you don’t use banned hashtags since those can really hurt your reach. You can check if a particular hashtag is banned or not by searching for it in the app. If it’s really banned you will receive a message informing you why. Read more about banned hashtags on Instagram here.

how to grow your Instagram

#14. Post engaging Instagram stories

What I mean by this is to make use of various story features like polls, question stickers, quizzes, etc to engage with your followers. You can even ask their opinion on what content they’d like to see from you which is a win-win situation for both of you. 

Engaging with your followers through stories doesn’t contribute directly to your organic Instagram growth, but it’s extremely important for your relationship with your current followers: you get to know them and vice versa.

In order to get as many viewers as possible, try to spread your stories throughout the day. This way you’ll minimize the risk of people skipping to the next user’s story or simply exiting. You’ll also ensure keeping a top position in your followers’ story feed.

#15. Use the “Add location” option for all your posts

If you tap on a location, you will see that it will take you to a map and underneath it, there are posts taken in that place (both top and recent).

Basically, this is another way for your content to be found and by not using this feature, you’d be missing out on it. So make sure to add a location to every one of your posts (now you can do it for reels too).


But leaving all tips aside, the most important thing is to have fun! Enjoy the content you produce, enjoy the beautiful, creative images and videos you see on the app and enjoy the connections you make.

And don’t let some numbers like follower count influence what you create!

Happy posting~

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