5 real ways to get Instagram followers without being in the follow jail

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

I’ve had people come and ask me, “Joyce, how can I grow my Instagram followers?”


Unlike Facebook, where I can still manage to use targeted ads to help you out, Instagram as a very different way of growth.


Wondering why your beautiful photos aren’t being seen?


⬇️ Hear the full episode or read the full script below. ⬇️


Before we even jump into the algorithm part, If I were to say Facebook is like a shopping mall, Instagram, on the other hand, is more like an underground concert. What I have found is that fame matters more in the prior, and reputation matters more in the latter. What that means is, being loud and being everywhere works on Facebook. But on Instagram, you need to be known for something:

  • Who are you, really?

  • Who are your group of acquaintances?

  • What do you stand for?

  • Why should people care about you?

  • What should people remember you by, and is that obvious through your Instagram bio and feed?

A lot of people, whether they be brands or individuals, often jump into Instagram with a bunch of nice photos and believe it will get them somewhere. The reality is millions of other people are doing the exact same thing. Under such a rapid and saturated pool, this is not the right tactic at all.


Before you even start taking any photos, you should be asking yourself, how do you want people to remember you? And, just like a long-tail keyword, it shouldn’t be just “a fashionable female”, but, “an aged x young mother who loves baking with her daughter and dressing up in affordable but classy clothing whenever she can.”

This is not just about branding, you’ll soon find out that this identity is key in helping you tackle each of the instagram algorithm coming your way.



i) The ranking of your posts are decided on how much Instagram think people will care about it

Joyce Tsang Content Marketing on getting Instagram followers

People care about fashion yes. People care about baking yes. But the amount of content in just one of those categories will easily flood out your content. The trick here is to find that niche, the mothers who also care about baking, which is family time, and dressing up, which is styling. This not only helps guide you on the content that you should create, including both visual and copy, but it also allows you to create an edge.


A suggestion on the top of my head would be a piece of content sharing with others how to dress cute for a bake sale occasion with your daughter. Matched with the right hashtags, and engaged with the right group of people, which you can organically do by liking and following those who relates to your identity, raises the reach of your post, and its quality should result in a better engagement rate. In turn, this shows Instagram that people are interested in your content. Matched with consistent uploads of such quality and unique content, your posts have a much higher chance of ranking higher.



ii) You need to be acquittances of your new potential follower’s friends

Joyce Tsang Content Marketing on getting Instagram followers

This is no different from the real world offline. If you wish to meet this girl in the other department, unless you’re a super confident fella, or just very lucky and had that one in a million chance of being in the same elevator as her, and managed to strike up a perfect conversation, the most logical way to get to know her is to know someone who already knows her first.


This is the same on Instagram.


One of their algorithms is that they will prefer to show the user a post by an account if they are considered friends of the user. So if you’re a brand, this means you need to be in your target audience’s circle first in order to get anywhere organically. An easy way would be to acquire your target audiences’ engagement through promoting an existing Instagram post first. This doesn’t mean they will follow you, because the best the promotion can to is get people to land on your profile, but that means there is a chance they will like your posts, or search for you on Instagram after the first introduction, and that is a hint which Instagram will pick up as the user being interested in your content. Of course, then you will have to make sure you have amazing content in order for them to stick around.



iii) I can’t stress this enough, but you can’t ghost your accounts!

Joyce Tsang Content Marketing on getting Instagram followers

I’ve just mentioned this with my client as well, if Facebook is your wife, Instagram is your mistress. You can’t assume what your wife likes, your mistress also does. Though there are things which may overlap, such as a big bling bling diamond ring, you need to feed the two with different content in order to keep them going. And most importantly, you can’t just feed them once a month and then 3 times a day and expect them to be stable, and not be angry at you. Instagram, just like Facebook, needs to be consistently updated. And once you break that routine, your organic reach is going to drop, because you have nothing to prove to Instagram that you’re worth being seen.



iv) Use your account like a human being

Joyce Tsang Content Marketing on getting Instagram followers

Again, the whole social media marketing thing is all about inbound marketing. This means you are using content to attract people to you, instead of outbound or traditional marketing, where you’re just giving the public information in a one-way communication style. This means you actually have to use your account.


Apart from uploading content and posting stories, you need to follow those who share your interest, like and comment on posts which are relevant, and follow hashtags that keeps you updated on trends related to your identity. Also, using your account means to use the tools given to you. Try out IGTV, implement polls and quizzes and stickers on your IG stories, write your bio properly and include a link for more, organize your highlights and make your account obviously you.

You might ask, what good does this do? Well, by doing so, you have just checked off 3 of the indicators Instagram has for good content. Your updates are frequent, you show up on IG stories and IGTV and any engagement you get there is added to your post engagements, and you are authentic. Authenticity earns you likability and genuine engagement, which are literally the two driving principles for Instagram’s algorithm.



v) You can’t grow your following by just being online

Joyce Tsang Content Marketing on getting Instagram followers

The four previous points illustrates how you can get your content to rank higher and show up more on people’s feed. However, in order for them to follow you, that requires more, and I have found that the easiest is not just online. I can guarantee you, whether it be a brand or a key opinion leader, what gets them the most new followers apart from viral material and media coverage, is when they are meeting people offline. Or at least, talking to people individually online. Yes, it takes a lot of time, but you need to show your face.


A great example I can share with you is how I’ve started my @joycetsangcontentmarketing instagram account with 0 followers and 0 posts. I’ve been in touch with several dozens of influencers at my previous job, but it was just through private messaging on the platform. I told them I started this new account and would like to stay in touch with them. Over night, I gained 30 followers with no posts. Of course, they wanted to see if I would get them new collaboration opportunities, considering I’m in the digital marketing industry. However, my identity is also super defined. I’m a newly wed, full-time freelance Hong Kong content marketer with two dogs. I post content about marriage, self empowerment, content marketing, and dogs. All my followers, though there’s not a lot right now, relates to one or more of these topics. They didn’t have to follow me, they could have just sent me an inbox message and left me as a record there.


At the end of the day, it’s getting harder and harder to be visible on Instagram with no strategy. There’s so much to consider, so much work to be done, so many thoughts to digest. But the key take away here is you need to produce quality content, and by that, I mean content that is authentically you and relatable to your target audience.


If you wish to learn tips and tricks on content marketing, keep yourself posted for my next podcast episode, or visit me at joycetsangcontentmarketing.com, where I have written explanations of different online strategies, blog posts, and uploaded free downloadables for you to try and kickstart your own content.


Until then, I am Joyce Tsang, a content marketer here for entrepreneurs.



Still struggle to grow your following? Perhaps this can help.


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