How To Get Followers On Instagram – Step By Step Guide To 21k Followers

Looking to get followers on Instagram? You’ve come to the right place…

Instagram is naturally a great place for brands of all shapes and sizes to gain exposure. However, growing an engaged and loyal audience on the app is no easy task. One of Hopper HQ‘s guest writers Johannes explains just how to get followers on Instagram in this detailed guide…

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If you’ve ended up clicking on this article, I’ll take a wild guess and assume that you care about growing your Instagram account. ‘How to get followers on Instagram?’ is a question on every marketer’s mind. 

Sadly, the majority of articles published on the topic are either too vague or too case-specific and mostly present a couple of low-impact and/or exhaustively time-consuming ideas.

In addition to that, these Instagram follower growth strategies need to be updated almost as often as Instagram updates its ranking algorithm – there’s a good chance that the tips shared in 2017 are long outdated, because well, Instagram has changed a lot in the past 6 years.

I [@gettinggrowth] have been doing Instagram Marketing for a couple of years now. During that time, I’ve tested ridiculous amounts of different methods for growing my and my clients’ accounts.

Through these experiences, I’ve compiled a set of universal and effective ways to get followers on Instagram. In my attempts to organize them somehow, I came up with this step-by-step guide to growing a follower base, more specifically: a road to 21k.

But before you get started with it, it’s time for a quick reality check: A silver bullet strategy that will suddenly bring you to the 1k, 10k or 21k mark, does not exist

When it comes to how to get followers on Instagram, timing is everything. Yes, there is a set of activities that you can do to increase your following. However, suddenly going full-speed with all of them isn’t going to result in anything remarkable, as the effectiveness of each action changes after reaching a certain follower milestone.

For instance, there’s no point in buying a shout-out to your account for 100 bucks from a big influencer while you have 10 followers. Yes, you might get some followers from that, but the price per follower would be unreasonably high. It would be much more effective when you’ve already established a strong identity and following on Instagram and are looking to speed up the snowball effect.

Alright, enough blabbering, let’s head over to the actual guide: How To Get Followers On Instagram

Step 1: Growing from 0 to 100 Instagram followers

Okay, so you now have a brand new account and need to build that initial momentum and get followers on Instagram. 

If you already have a business or a brand with a somewhat established community, then getting that initial following shouldn’t be that big of a challenge. Send out a newsletter to your existing customers, inviting them to follow you on Instagram.

Remember that when you want people to do something, you need to give them an incentive. In this case, a discount for your products to the first 100 followers could work just fine. 

If you have a large enough email list, you can split the offer so that the first 100 followers get 30% off, the next 100 get 20% off, and so on, to not discourage those who might have opened the email later, from following you. Before you send out the email though, make sure you already have a few engaging posts up to give an idea of your brand.

If you don’t have an existing customer/follower community, you can turn to your friends, family or colleagues, and ask them to follow you. This is one of my personal favorites, because you can get the initial follower base quite easily even without posting any content (however, I’d still suggest having at least one post there, to begin with), and if you’re one of those people with a large family and friend group, you might just hit that 100 followers quite quickly.

Also, if you have a brand website, you can capture any site visitors by adding an Instagram follow button, to be sure your audience knows where you find you on social! Of course, make sure that your website is well-optimized and built by a reliable website builder (for example, Ucraft or Wix).

After you’ve completed this initial step, it’s time to choose a strategy to get followers on Instagram and grow this base to at least 100 followers.

Strategy 1: “Something’s coming…”

This will be best if you have some kind of announcement coming soon — a new website, a product, a giveaway, etc.

Create an attractive profile picture and an engaging and witty bio – don’t be afraid to throw some emojis in there if that’s something that would resonate with your audience.

If you have a link to your homepage, email subscription page, or literally any other brand link that could potentially extend the relationship with your followers, definitely add that as well!

Even if you haven’t properly launched your site yet, it adds credibility to your brand — it shows your audience that you’re serious about your brand to have gone the extra mile and bought a domain. Ideally, you should have at least a “coming soon” page set up with a lead capture.

But don’t sweat it — your Instagram page doesn’t necessarily grow faster by having a link in your bio. At this point, it’s more of a nice-to-have to start moving towards monetizing your audience, which you can totally do in the later steps as well.

When writing an Instagram bio, make sure to be very clear on what your account is going to be about. If you’re planning to launch an eCommerce business, then say it. If you’re giving away free marketing advice, let them know. Maybe you’re launching a giveaway for the first 100 followers? They should know about it. Give people an incentive to follow you, even if you don’t have anything up at the moment.

If you want to take it one step further (and you always should), publish at least one post that looks beautiful and conveys your brand message. This will help you to get followers on Instagram, as it lets potential followers know what you’re about, what kind of posts can they expect from you, and gets them excited about your upcoming brand!

For ‘Help a Marketer’, I created this:

Brand picture ☑️ Brand description ☑️ Incentive ☑️Website ☑️

Unfortunately, just having your account set up won’t help you get followers on Instagram. Search for accounts that are in your niche or in a niche similar to yours, and already have a substantial following (I wouldn’t go higher than accounts with 10k+ followers though). Once you have identified these accounts, start following at least 10 of them, and make sure to follow about 50 of their followers as well.

If you want to go the extra mile (and again, you should), you can check out the accounts of those 50 followers before you follow them, to make sure they actually fit your target audience.

Here’s the important bit — make sure to interact with the accounts that you follow on a regular basis! Like their latest posts, leave comments on them, respond to their Instagram Stories and/or just write them a direct message where you introduce yourself in one sentence and mention that you’ve started a new account and you would be honoured to see them among your first followers who’ll get [insert the incentive you wrote about in your bio]. 

The personal approach of the direct message in combination with regular engagement is a great tactic to get followers on Instagram – especially if you haven’t chosen an account that’s too big and will actually see your message. You should be doing all this in the later phases as well, but it’s especially crucial when you’re still a new account.

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Strategy 2: “A rising star”

If, on the other hand, you don’t really have anything big coming up or if you’re interested in developing a personal brand (models, photographers, speakers etc), then go for this one.

Everything we discussed in Strategy 1 is still useful. You should work on your bio description, explain who you are and what your account is about, reach out to other accounts in your niche and engage with their followers.

The major difference here is that you need to build your feed up BEFORE you do the outreach. Remember, you won’t be driving people to your upcoming offer to get followers on Instagram — you will be driving them to your posts.

Here’s the big question:

How many posts should you have published before you start serious Instagram outreach? In my opinion, at least 9-12 posts would be a good starting point.

This means when someone lands on your profile there is sufficient content to portray you and/or your brand. Keep in mind that your posts should complement each other to create a cohesive grid and feed aesthetic.

Having a nice layout for your images really matters. Yes, each individual image works for driving engagement from your existing Instagram followers who see the posts in their feed.

However, the overall grid look is one of the most important things (if not the most important) in helping you get followers on Instagram. It shows that you take your brand seriously, and lets them know that they can expect similar quality content consistently.

If you’re stuck deciding on a style for your feed, check out this article for inspiration ✨

Accounts that use consistent colour palettes and go the extra mile planning their feed will get followers on Instagram more quickly than those who don’t!

If you decide to go with 12 initial posts, I’d suggest posting them within 2-3 days at least. It depends on how often you’re planning to post in the future, but I personally think that having all 12 posts published in one day doesn’t seem organic at all. (This, however, is just my personal preference, and if you’re super anxious to start, then knock yourself out and post all of them immediately).

In every post, include a lot (30 per post) of different hashtags to make your initial posts more discoverable to potential followers. It’s important to show good engagement in your posts right from the start.

I suggest choosing both hashtags that have very few post shares (maybe like 1k-20k), as well as very popular ones (10mil+). Chances are that you’ll start getting Instagram followers from this activity alone! The most important thing to remember is that your hashtags are relevant to the content of your post. For more hashtag tips, check out:

💡 The All-In-One Guide To Instagram Hashtags 💡


  • Create an attractive bio with an incentive to follow — an offer, the posts themselves, or both
  • Engage with people and brands that might be interested in your content on a regular basis
  • Work on your first posts to develop your own style/layout
  • Research more and less popular hashtags, pick out as many relevant ones as you can, and use them on your posts.

Moving on…

Grow Your Audience With #Hashtags

Discover better hashtags to reach the more people, grow your follower count and get more engagement on your posts.

Step 2: Growing to 1,000 Instagram followers

Once you have that initial traction, the following strategy will really give you an extra boost to get followers on Instagram. Here’s what you do:

  1. Identify some of the bigger accounts(50k+ followers) that are similar to yours or are in the same industry with the same target audience you’re trying to reach. 
  2. Check if their followers are real (some great tools for that: Fameaudit, SocialAuditPro)
  3. If the majority of their followers are real, open up their follower list and start following these accounts (I personally suggest following accounts that have a real human in the profile picture, instead of a logo)
  4. Start checking who’s not following you back and unfollow these accounts. There are plenty of apps for both Android and iOS for this exact purpose — just give it a search.

Ideally, at least 20% of the people that you started following, should follow you back. The more followers you have, the ‘healthier’ your follower-to-following ratio is, the more attractive your feed looks, and the higher the follow-back percentage is going to be.

People are more inclined to follow back Instagram accounts that:

  • Look real
  • Have more followers than the account is following
  • Have a lot of followers*
  • Have a nicely designed feed of posts

In addition to the follow/unfollow strategy, you should start interacting with these bigger accounts (as long as they’re not direct competitors). 

Firstly, turn on post notifications for these accounts. Every time they post something, be the first to like and leave a comment. There’s already too many “This is so true”, “That’s dope man”,“Awesome post” type of comments out there because of engagement bots. They have become very easy to spot and most Instagram users know that they are not genuine: 

Generic comments like this are often from accounts using a follower or engagement bot, and therefore don’t count as genuine engagement

So try to write something related to the caption or the post — the more human you are, the better! Although AI writing assistants like Jasper AI are all the rage now, It is better to ask specific questions or add your own opinion. This will prove to other Instagram users in your community that you are genuinely interested.

To reach 1000 followers, I would suggest combining the follow/unfollow strategy together with the strategies covered in the previous step!

Secondly, when you start reaching the 1000 follower mark, it’s a good idea to start thinking about scheduling your Instagram posts. This will give you more time to create content, engage with your audience, and continue to get followers on Instagram. 

Scheduling and managing your Instagram content with Hopper HQ means you can post straight from your desktop, visually plan your Instagram feed, and save loads of time!

Photos, videos, carousel posts, captions, first comments can all be scheduled in advance so you never need to rush for last minute posts again.

Sign up for a free 14 day trial today to test it out — you won’t want to go back to doing things manually.


  1. Identify the key accounts that are similar to yours and follow them
  2. Turn on post notifications for these accounts
  3. Leave a comment as soon as they post
  4. Follow their real followers

Step 3: Growing to 5,000 Instagram followers

Now that you have a good foundation for growth, it’s time to accelerate even faster. I’m not saying you should stop doing what you have been doing previously. I think those methods are great even if you have passed the 20,000-follower mark. However, adding other methods from this point forward might give the same if not better results with less effort.

To run ads on Instagram, you need to switch to a professional account. If you don’t have it yet (or if you don’t know whether you have it or not), there’s a very easy way to activate it:

  1. Go to your profile and click the settings button on the top right (three horizontal lines)
  2. Then, select the option “Settings and privacy”
  3. Under “For professionals” select “Account type and tools”
  4. Select the option “Switch to professional account”
  5. Follow the instructions to set up a business profile (FYI – you will need a Facebook page that you are an admin of).

You can promote your existing posts, or link your account to Facebook and create an ad from the Facebook Ads Manager panel. Try different targeting options, and see which one gets followers on Instagram the quickest or increases engagement (depends on the post and goal).

I would suggest making short video ads and choosing Instagram Stories as the ad placement. This is still a relatively underused placement, which probably yields in better bang-for-the-buck ratio than the regular feed posts would.

If you need any help with running the ads, hire a freelancer or heck, even shoot me a message on Instagram, and I’ll give you a quick intro!

Establish Relationships with Influencers

Finally, if you have established relationships with Instagram influencers, don’t forget about them…

Influencers are real people too! If you want to approach an influencer about working together, be genuinely interested in what’s going on in their lives. If you’re not on the shy side, record a short video of yourself as a conversation starter, and send it to them as a direct message. You’ll definitely stand out from other accounts who they might be having conversations with.

Collaborating with influencers in your niche can provide a significant boost to your follower count. By leveraging their established credibility and expansive reach, you can tap into a ready-made audience that shares interests similar to your own. Whether it’s through shoutouts, takeovers, or joint content creation, influencers bring authenticity and relatability to your profile, attracting like-minded users and ultimately fostering organic growth. This can serve as a strategic pathway to expanding your online presence and fostering a vibrant community around your content.

The world of influencers is a little daunting if you’re still building your brand and trying to get followers on Instagram, so check out this Simple Guide To Instagram Influencer Marketing to learn all you need to know.


  1. Join and use engagement groups
  2. Run ads to drive traffic to your profile and posts
  3. Build quality relationships with influencers
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Step 4: Growing to 10,000 Instagram followers

Hitting the 10,000 follower mark on Instagram is magical ✨

That number is so big that it doesn’t fit in the dedicated space, so it’s shortened to 10k.

Additionally, you get the huge perk of being able to add links to your Instagram Stories. This opens up an amazing opportunity to start monetizing your Instagram account. Here’s one article on how you can go about doing it with e-mail: How to Monetize Instagram.

Keep doing everything you have been doing so far to get followers on Instagram. Of course, if something seems like it’s not giving any returns, then stop doing it and focus on things that have the most impact! You should revisit your Instagram marketing strategy at every stage of this guide to make sure you’re staying on track! 

Now, since you have a quite nice follower base, you should think of ways to have them help you with promotion:

Tag a friend

One of the best ways to get people to promote your content is by simply asking them to tag their friends. This can actually be done with any post you make. It works well with emotionally powerful content — quotes, funny and/or inspiring videos, posts about animals etc. In your post caption, you can include something like “Tag a friend”, “Tag someone who inspires you”, “Tag someone who should be doing this” and so on.

The content needs to be really good though. That’s the key here. If it’s not emotionally moving, it’s not likely people will tag others! 

Example of the ‘tag a friend’ caption

Host a giveaway

Offer a prize that your followers can’t refuse! It can be books, gadgets, hats, shirts, Amazon gift cards, a product you sell, etc. I’m not gonna go into great detail about this, so here’s an article on how to run an Instagram contest, in case you’re interested. 

Run a giveaway contest to help get followers on Instagram.

Step 5: Growing to 21,000 Instagram followers and beyond

As with previous milestones, everything we covered before can surely be used to grow your account and help you get followers on Instagram.

However, I want to give my final suggestions that I have seen give good returns, especially when you have grown your account to over 10k followers.

As I said, having your account Instagram follower number over 10k is magical. It builds credibility and you’re definitely not another random account out there anymore.

That being said, you should start thinking about creating a voice outside of Instagram. Having more than 10k followers opens up opportunities for monetization, and you should take advantage of them and focus on building your whole online presence rather than just an Instagram account.

I mean sure you can do that, but it really comes down to your end game.

Start thinking of your Instagram as a business. What problem are you solving? What value are you delivering? What do your followers “get” from your posts?

When you have identified these things, search where your potential audience hangs out and start delivering value.

Here are some ideas on what to do:

  • Answer relevant YouTube comments
  • Help people in relevant Reddit subreddits 
  • Answer relevant Quora questions
  • Talk with people on relevant Facebook groups
  • Post content on relevant forums
  • Write articles for blogs that your audience might follow 

These are just some examples of how you could be driving traffic to your profile and working to get followers on Instagram. Like Warren Buffet said, “Never depend on a single income stream”. So why should you only depend on the Instagram ranking algorithm to get followers on Instagram?

Now, this might seem like a lot of work at first. But once you’ve got the hang of it, it becomes relatively easy. Alternatively, you can outsource most of these things. Before you get back to watching Taylor Swift’s latest music video, let me just give you one last method – shoutouts.

You can agree on different ways to make the shoutouts. For example, they can be as regular posts, video post shoutouts, or shoutouts in Stories.

Shoutout post example
Here’s an example of a shoutout post

There’s a reason I haven’t mentioned them yet. In my own experience, getting shoutouts when your account is still small, can be expensive and quite useless.

Sure you can do S4S (shoutout for shoutout) with someone who has similar content and is of similar size even when you both have just 100 followers. But in my opinion, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start promoting other accounts while your own account is still in the early stage. I feel that it’s a little off-putting to your followers.

However, if you’ve built a close relationship with someone and their content resonates with you, it will feel more organic for your followers as well. Otherwise, 10k would be a good starting point for getting into shoutouts.

You can try to arrange some sort of agreement, but most of the time, you will have to pay for shoutouts. Talk to different accounts to get an idea of how much they are worth. A shoutout from an account with 100k followers might cost you around $50. Also, the amount of new followers you will receive from a shoutout depends on your content, bio, follower count, followers-to-following ratio, etc. (see Step 2).  


  1. Establish an online presence outside of Instagram to continuously drive traffic to your account.
  2. Collaborate with other Instagram accounts for shoutouts.

To conclude

That is how to get followers on Instagram! According to statista, Instagram now has over 1 billion monthly active users. This is massive social proof that they have managed to establish a platform that people really love.

As a result, it’s attracting an increasing number of brands, businesses and freelancers that want to grow their presence and use Instagram as a channel to drive more sales. Despite this making it harder than ever to stand out, I’m confident that with the help of this guide + your own creativity, you’ll be ahead of the game in no time!

A lot of marketers will probably disagree with me on this, but I’ve recently noticed that posting more content doesn’t necessarily make your account grow faster. Engaging with other Instagrammers does.

In the beginning, I used to post twice a day every day. One week, I posted only 2 times or so, but was very active on the platform, leaving comments and likes all over the place, reaching out to users that I would like to collaborate with in the future, and so on.

The result?

My engagement stayed more or less the same, but I was gaining more daily followers than ever before.

The moral of the story is that if you’re on a tight schedule, don’t stress so much about posting more content. Post a few times a week, but make these posts absolutely awesome. Use high-quality images/videos and write longer captions that are engaging and helpful!

To make the process of content creation less overwhelming during an already busy week, space out a couple of hours at least once a week to prepare a ton of scheduled Instagram content ahead of time. This little “hack” has helped me stay sane like nothing else, and the quality of my content hasn’t had to suffer because of my hectic schedule either.

I hope this has been a useful read, and has given you some new and more actionable ideas on how to get followers on Instagram. If you have any questions at any point or want to share your successes, you can always shoot me a direct message (@gettinggrowth).

Good luck, and have fun!

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Johannes Kanter

Guest Author: Johannes Kanter

Johannes helps small businesses with their online marketing challenges and writes about Instagram marketing for his blog

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