How to Get More of the Right Followers on Instagram & Build an Audience

How to Get More (of the Right) Followers on Instagram & Build an Audience |  “How do I get more followers on Instagram?”  It’s the question I hear most often from people wanting to grow their business with social media. Click through to read this post and learn the 3 things I’ve been doing to organically grow my audience with the right people, and get the same, if not more, likes and comments per post than people with 10k+ followers in my industry.

“How do I get more followers on Instagram?”  
It’s the question I hear most often from people wanting to grow their business with social media, and it’s one of the questions that also makes me shudder and cringe at the same time.

First, I want to say this:  the number of followers you have on Instagram is not directly correlated to the amount of engagement, likes, and comments you get on your posts.  Your number of followers also doesn’t determine conversions from Instagram - meaning the number of people who click on your link in your bio, either to your website, blog post, landing page, etc., and it definitely doesn’t mean more leads, clients, or sales for your business.

Not only that, but the number of followers doesn’t mean ANYTHING if it’s not the RIGHT kind of people.  You want to build a following of people who fit your audience, and could be potential clients or customers of yours.  Having 1,000 followers of competitors, others in your industry, and people who have no interest in really buying from you is just a waste of your time and energy.

In short, you want to build an audience of people who are really interested in what you have to say, the things you share, and what you offer.  Those are the people who are going to like, comment, follow, and tag their friends and colleagues to spread the word about you and your business!

These are the 3 things I’ve been doing to organically grow my audience with the right people, and get the same, if not more, likes and comments per post than people with 10k+ followers in my industry.

1.  Search Profiles of Competitors & Others in Your Industry or Niche

Take a look at which posts are similar to ones you’ve posted, or want to post, that are related to what you do.  For example, when I want to find people who would be interested in website tips, strategies, and design, I look at the profiles of graphic designers, other website designers, branding experts, and business influencers.  

Find the Right Posts

Then I look in their feeds and find posts that are related to website building,strategy, etc.  This is important, because they might post other things like quotes or pretty desk pictures, but those can attract people, likes, and comments from people who aren’t interested in improving their website.  


Find the Right People

Once I find the right kind of post, I take a look at the profiles of people who have liked and commented on it, and figure out if they’re someone who fits the profile of the kind of people I serve.  I do this over and over until I’ve found about 20 people that are all people I would want either as followers who would share, like, or comment on my posts, list subscribers who could may not be ready to buy from me but could benefit from what I talk about and the value I provide, or those that meet the criteria of potential clients or customers.  

I want to get a good feel of the entire spectrum of my potential audience, and don’t want to narrow things down too much to people I think could only be clients or customers.  I want to find people who will get value from me, learn, and grow with me too.  

2.  Find the Right Hashtags to Use

When I’ve found matches, I look at what hashtags they’re using fairly regularly that are related to what they do or their interests. I’m not interested in ones that apply to anyone, like #MotivationMonday or #happy.  That isn’t going to narrow things down when finding my audience!

So I take note of ones that I think others in their industry/niche or role/position would also be using.

The easiest way I found to go about this is to make a spreadsheet with these columns running across:

  1. Profile name/handle (@______)

  2. Name

  3. Business/industry/Niche

  4. Industry/Niche-specific hashtags

  5. Hashtags 50k to 500k

  6. Final Hashtags to Use

I repeat the process above for columns 1-4 until I’ve filled up 20 rows.  

So what’s with #5&6?

Here’s a tip I learned from Tyler McCall, who if you haven’t found on Instagram yet, you should go follow him!  He’s an expert at building an engaged Instagram Audience, and he’s also just really amazing and genuine. You’ll love him.  

Tyler recommends using hashtags that have between 50,000 to 500,000 posts, which makes so much sense.  When you use hashtags that have been used millions of times and are being used thousands of times a day, your post will get pushed down and lost in the discovery/search feed for that hashtag, and there’s a good chance people won’t find it if they’re searching for it.

Here’s an example using #smallbusiness.  You can see it’s been used more the 6 million times!!  With the way the search is set up, people will only see the top posts from the hashtag, or the most recent.  So if you were to use this one, it would quickly get pushed down past the point where most people would continue to look.

Instagram hashtag search results for '#smallbusiness'.

Next I start searching for the hashtags I found for #4, Industry-Specific Hashtags, and see which ones that are in that range and add them to column 5, “Hashtags with 50k to 500k.” 

Then, when I look up these hashtags, I make sure the people that use them are similar to what I’m looking to attract.  If all looks good, I add that hashtag to column 6, “Final Hashtags to Use.”  Then once I’ve repeated the process for all 20 rows, I have a list of hashtags to use in column 6 that I can put into my posts.  Just note that you can only use a maximum 30 hashtags per post.

Another quick tip:  if you know of a hashtag that relates well to your audience but it’s post count is way too high, like #smallbusiness, just do a quick search again and you’ll see a list of similar ones below it that you can research.  Below we can see #smallbusiness won’t work, but #smallbusinessowner, #smallbusinesses, #smallbusinesssaturday, #smallbusinesslove or #smallbusinessowners might since they’re in that golden range!

Instagram hashtag search for tags related to '#smallbusiness'. Searching for hashtags in the small business industry category from Katie Brimmer's profile.

3.  Like, Comment, & Follow

Here’s where I’ve been seeing a lot of action.  I’m going to be honest with you and let you know that this part of my strategy takes the longest to do.  

I spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour either once a day or once every other day going into the profiles of each person who liked or commented on my posts that day or since the last time I did this process.

I spend a few seconds looking at their feeds to see what they’re about, and go through a few photos, like 1 or 2 photos, or leave a comment if it strikes me to.  

Next I’ll go into each profile of each person who followed me that day or again, since the last time I did this, and repeat the process from above.  However instead of just liking something, I try to either like more than 1 photo and/or leave a comment on a photo.  I feel that since they gave me a follow, it’s more of a commitment to me than just a like on a photo, so I want to honor that and show them that their follow actually means something to me.  I want them to know that I appreciate it, and am taking the time to build a relationship with them. 

I really try to make sure that anyone who has followed me that day sees my name again and knows that I took the time to go back and engage with them.  Over time I start to get to know people and what they do.  I start to see their names coming through my notifications more consistently when they like my photos, and I start to remember their individual feeds and style.  It’s pretty cool because I start to understand my audience more and more, and in turn feel they’re getting to know me too.

Now, you might be wondering about the whole “Follow for Follow” thing.  Well, I think it’s crap.  I don’t follow everyone that follows me, and I only follow people that I genuinely like to follow.  When I go through people’s feeds like this, I might follow someone whose captions crack me up, or whose gorgeous photos I want to see more of.  

I think building an audience of people who are only interested in getting a follow back doesn’t serve you or your business.  Don’t feel pressured to follow everyone, just follow those that you enjoy and want to see come through your feed.

Lastly, using this 3-part strategy, my follower retention rate has skyrocketed.  Before I implemented this, I was up and down 10-20 followers a day.  Now I’m mostly gaining followers each day, only losing between 1-5 at most.  I love this strategy not only for the increased retention rate, but because it’s allowed me to build relationships with people in my audience and build an awesome community.

Don't forget to download your free Instagram Hashtag Spreadsheet so you can start attracting the right people and build your following!

Download the free Instagram Hashtag Spreadsheet to keep track of which hashtags your audience uses and which ones will help you build your following with the right people.

Katie Brimmer is a website designer and online marketer helping business owners, coaches, and entrepreneurs grow wildly successful businesses online.


Hey! I'm Katie. I help service-based business owners just like you create stunning websites & smart marketing strategies designed to help you stand out online so you can start turning visitors into paying clients and take your business to the next level.



Spill it.

I'd love to hear how you've grown your following on Instagram!
Let me know in the comments below, or if you have any questions, feel free to drop 'em there too.