With over 1 billion monthly users, an ultra-smart algorithm, and tons of clever and creative accounts, Instagram is a competitive place if you want to grow your account and boost your following.
Thankfully, we know exactly how to make your business stand out, show off your brand, and get more followers on Instagram — so you can work smarter, not harder.
We’re sharing 14 new ways to reach your target audiences and get more Instagram followers in 2021:
How to Get More Instagram Followers in 2021
Growing your Instagram account may not be as easy as it used to be. But there are some strategic tips and tricks you can try out.
In a nutshell, here’s how to get more Instagram followers:
- Use Instagram Reels
- Optimize your profile for search
- Create an IGTV Series
- Be more inclusive and diverse
- Work with micro-influencers
- Create authentic shareable content
- Promote Instagram content on other social platforms
- Write longer captions
- Experiment with Instagram Lives
- Create a viral Instagram challenge or game
- Introduce a branded hashtag
- Share memes that resonate with your audience
- Create a custom Instagram Stories filter
- Collab with awesome brands
Ready to jump into the details? We’re giving you the down-low on each of these strategic tips to growing your Instagram account and how you can start implementing them in 2021.
#1: Use Instagram Reels
If you’re not sharing to Instagram Reels in 2021, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity for your brand or business!
Reels, Instagram’s newest video feature taking center stage of the new main navigation bar, is a way to record up to 30-second video clips set to music on Instagram.
With Instagram choosing to put Instagram Reels at the forefront of Instagram, there is a significant push to have users browse and share Reels more often in 2021.
Reels can be found in their own separate tab on individual Instagram profiles (and also on the Instagram Explore page!).
Similar to TikTok videos, Instagram Reels have the chance to go seriously viral. Instead of users only seeing Reels from the accounts they follow, users will see Reels from all accounts. This is a major game-changer.
Sharing your Reel to both your feed and the Explore Page is an incredible way to increase your reach way beyond your followers — and possibly go viral doing so!
There are so many creative ways you can use Instagram Reels for your business! If you’re in need of some inspo to get started, check out 15 Reels ideas here.
And since Reels is a new feature, it’s a good idea to jump on the bandwagon now while competition is still low, especially since Instagram is giving extra prominence to Reels on users’ main feed and the Explore page.
Not sure where to start with Instagram Reels? Learn everything you need to know to create your very own first Instagram Reel in this handy step-by-step video:
#2: Optimize Your Profile for Search
Optimizing your profile for search is a majorly under-utilized Instagram hack for growing your following — and one you should definitely try out in2021!
With a recent announcement from Instagram, English-speaking users in 6 countries will be able to search Instagram using keywords. This is a huge game-changer on the app!
Previously, if users searched for at-home workouts, the hashtag or accounts with the words “at-home workout” in their username would populate. Now, posts that feature at-home workouts should show up in search, even if that hashtag isn’t in the post.
According to an Instagram spokesperson via The Verge, “the team considers “a number of factors,” including the “type of content, captions, when it was posted,” and more to surface relevant results. It also uses machine learning to “find the highest quality content that’s relevant to you.” For now, only grid posts will show up.”
Instagram notes that Keyword search is limited to general interest topics and keywords that are within Instagram’s community guidelines.
With this change, it’s still more important than ever to optimize your username and bio for search.
Instagram expert Elise Darma has taught thousands of creators, freelancers, and entrepreneurs how to grow their business on Instagram. Her favorite way to be found on Instagram search is by optimizing your username and name field!
And the best part? The words you include in your Name field and Instagram bio are actually searchable on Instagram — making it prime keyword real estate in your bio!
“Most people nail the Username, but the Name field trips them up. For your Name field, think about what your niche is, which industry you’re in, who you target, what solution you offer, etc. When in doubt, pop that term into the search bar on Instagram and see what appears,” says Elise.
Take advantage of your bio by changing your Name field to something relevant to your brand or business. It’s a great way to improve your chances of appearing in the top results if anyone searches for your target keywords.
“If lots of other profiles are using that term, this is a great sign – you don’t want to be using a search term that no one else is using,” Elise adds.
Ready to grow your following? We teamed up with Instagram expert Elise Darma to create a free Instagram workshop about how to get your first 1000 followers on Instagram:
#3: Create an IGTV Series
One of our top predictions for 2020 was that IGTV would become a vital part of Instagram — and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping anytime soon!
With COVID-19 lockdowns, more and more social media users are turning to Instagram for entertainment. And, thanks to the IGTV tab on profiles, it’s easy to align your Instagram audience with your IGTV content.
Creating an IGTV series is a creative way to connect with your community while also casting a wider net to reach new audiences.
If you haven’t created an IGTV channel yet, 2021 is a great time to get in the game. Think about what longer-form video your audience would be interested in and begin creating content around that!
Plus, video content tends to get more traction on your feed — more engagement and eyes on your videos could result in more followers.
Plan and schedule all of your Instagram posts in advance with Later! Choose weekly or monthly calendar views to see all of your scheduled content.
#4: Be More Inclusive and Diverse
Having an accessible, inclusive, and diverse Instagram account isn’t just the right thing to do, but it’s also a way to drive your engagement, follower count, and strengthen your community.
There are so many ways you can create a more accessible and inclusive Instagram account. You just have to start!
The first and easiest step you can take is to begin including subtitles to your Instagram video content.
85% of video on Facebook is watched without sound, so making your content digestible without audio is a no-brainer.
Not only are subtitles great for people who watch without sound, but they’re also essential for those with hearing difficulties too.
ICYMI: Instagram has rolled out automatic captions in 16 languages for IGTV. Learn more about that here.
2020 also saw a major shift with brands and influencers taking accountability for their lack of diversity in their marketing. And, in 2021, the importance of diversity is through the roof.
By choosing not to partner with more diverse content creators or show support for social causes, brands could seriously miss out on reaching a wider audience who could potentially support their brand and products.
In fact, 74% of consumers expect the brands they love to take a stand on important issues. In doing so, it helps humanize your brand, increase brand loyalty, and therefore increase your following!
Hear from 4 Black creatives on the importance of diversity in influencer marketing here.
#5: Work with Micro-influencers
If you’re looking to reach new audiences in 2021, working with micro-influencers is one of the best ways to go.
While blue checks and high follower counts might be tempting, those influencers may not be the best choice for your brand or business.
According to a recent study by Makerly, micro-influencers — between 10K and 100K followers — offer the best combo of engagement and reach.
We asked Later’s PR and Influencer Manager Chrissy Abram about the benefits of working with micro-influencers in 2021:
“Partnering with micro-influencers has the potential of tapping into a really engaged audience without having to fight for their attention.”
Since micro-influencers work on a smaller scale, they tend to have less sponsored posts and are known for a specific interest or niche.
“Think of micro-influencers as household names in your local community,” says Chrissy.
#6: Create Authentic Shareable Content
The power of authenticity on Instagram for growing your followers is massive — and we predict it will grow even more in 2021.
One of the best ways to reach a larger group of people is by creating authentic shareable content. On Instagram, shared content is one of the best ways to spread your message. Users can share feed posts on their Instagram Stories or through direct messages.
Whether it’s talking about the struggles of owning a business, or your step-by-step skincare routine, when you’re open with your audience, your followers sense it.
When you make your followers feel like friends, they may feel a natural pull to share your content with their own community of followers.
The Instagram algorithm tends to favor posts that get a lot of engagement, so when your posts are shared, it will bump the post up on peoples’ feeds. And if a post has enough engagement, it might even end up on the Explore Page. Hello new followers!
The simple act of sharing can go a long way for your brand or business — so it’s worth putting an effort into creating (authentic) shareable content.
TIP: Slot out time to be active on Instagram! On top of replying to comments and DMs, don’t forget about interacting with the accounts you follow and those that have similar audiences to yours. There’s a high chance their followers will check you out!
When you see a post you genuinely like, comment on it! Plus, your comment may be pinned, and easily seen by hundreds of potential new followers.
Engaging with other accounts also lets the Instagram algorithm know you have a “relationship” with them. This will help your account show up in related and suggested account suggestions.
ICYMI: Instagram released Instagram Guides — a new way for users to share and consume helpful recommendations and tips in an easy-to-digest format.
Instagram Guides are a great way to create shareable educational (and fun!) content with your followers in 2021.
The creative opportunities are endless. You can share Guides made up of products, places, or posts. You can share gift guides, travel guides, inspirations, tell stories, provide advice or guidance, and so much more.
Learn more about the new Instagram feature here.
#7: Promote Instagram Content on Other Platforms
If you’re looking for new ways to grow your Instagram following, cross-promoting your Instagram on other platforms could be the answer.
Moving into 2021, we predict TikTok and Pinterest will be two of the best ways to grow your Instagram following outside of Instagram.
With TikTok’s unique algorithm and Pinterest’s increasing referral traffic, many creators and brands have noticed an increase in their Instagram following since joining TikTok and Pinterest.
On TikTok, one of the first things you can do to ensure Instagram traffic is by connecting your Instagram account to your TikTok.
Other ways you can grow your followers? Make a TikTok showing what you offer on Instagram, tease Instagram content, and take advantage of your TikTok bio. Learn more ways you can convert your TikTok audience into Instagram followers here.
Similarly, claiming your Instagram account on Pinterest comes with a number of loaded benefits. By claiming your account and pinning your Instagram posts, you can drive more traffic and engagement to your Instagram content over a long period of time!
If TikTok and Pinterest aren’t in your marketing strategy, you can always direct people to your Instagram through your website, email newsletter, podcast, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube!
#8: Write Longer Captions
Long captions were big in 2020 and they aren’t going anywhere in 2021 — especially with the new Instagram keyword search.
Instagram used to be all about the visuals — a cohesive aesthetic, high-quality photography, and on-brand images were a must. But now, audiences are looking to learn more about you, your brand, and your mission.
In fact, according to influencer research by Fohr, the average caption length has more than doubled since 2016.
And in 2021, our feeds will be filled with an average caption length of 405 characters — which averages out to be 65-70 words!
Influencers were first to jump on this trend — sharing lengthy captions on their posts to give greater insight into their world or to share their insight on current events.
But brands are starting to take advantage of the trend too — especially when it comes to raising awareness for the causes they care about.
When you share more with your audience through your Instagram posts, you build a stronger and larger community.
And since Instagram is allowing users to search for specific keywords like “healthy recipes” and “gold jewelry” for example, including keywords in your longer captions may help you get more organic eyes on your content.
#9: Go Live on Instagram
Video is the future of Instagram — and Instagram Live may be one of the best ways to use video to drive engagement and followers in 2021.
Instagram Live is an entirely unedited video stream for your followers to tune in and engage with — meaning your audience can submit comments and questions in real-time.
A ton of brands have hopped on the Instagram Live train, especially with the shift of at-home work in 2020.
The content options are endless for Instagram Lives. You can host weekly shows, games and tournaments, online webinars, tutorials, and so much more. And now, you can even showcase your products to help drive sales.
ICYMI: Instagram released Instagram Live Shopping — a new way for brands and creators to sell products during an Instagram Live broadcast. This means accounts with access to Instagram Checkout can tag products from their Facebook Shop or catalog, and let their audience shop on the spot.
Ready to try out Instagram Live? Read our step-by-step guide for businesses here.
#10: Create a Viral Instagram Challenge or Game
From #FliptheSwitch to the #BathtubChallenge, 2020 was the year of social media challenges and games.
Influencers and brands have realized the power of viral Instagram challenges and games, especially for building brand awareness and growing your following.
Take Bailey Stanworth, PLAY Digital founder, for example. With inspiration from @hunterrae, Bailey kicked off the #BathtubChallenge where she encouraged her followers to dress up, take a selfie in the bathtub, and tag 3 friends.
Suddenly, her followers were posting and tagging friends, and the hashtag grew to over 2,000 posts!
Another way to increase your following? Be creative and host your very own Instagram game!
Bailey cultivated a second highly interactive Instagram moment with her PLAY Pong tournament — an online version of a beer pong tournament. The weekly event, which was hosted on Instagram Live, was in support of the COVID-19 relief fund.
“Initially, I thought it would just be a fun little way to give back while quarantining in our houses but it quickly became a viral event with up to 100,000 people tuning in to watch.”
Consider turning your Instagram game into a branded series that you commit to monthly, bi-weekly, or even weekly.
And with Later, you can spend more time engaging with your audience by scheduling your Instagram challenges and games in advance.
#11: Create a Branded Hashtag
Branded Instagram hashtags are a great way to help spread the word about your business, find user-generated content (UGC), build a community, and attract new followers.
A branded hashtag is a hashtag that is unique to your business. It can be as simple as your company name, tagline, or the name of one of your products, events, or campaigns.
According to a report from Visual Objects, one of the best ways to see engagement on your banded hashtag is by incentivizing your customer base.
For example, bridesmaid dress company Birdy Grey encourages their audience to use the hashtag #birdyinthewild to have a chance to be featured on their Instagram and website.
You can also encourage users to use your branded hashtag on their own posts for a chance to win a prize, as Later did with the hashtag LaterCon.
Plus, all posts using your branded hashtag also double as user-generated content (UGC). And, UGC can seriously help skyrocket your sales and build true brand loyalty.
Ready to start implementing UGC into your Instagram strategy? Later has you covered.
#12: Create Memes That Resonate With Your Audience
Brands have realized the power of clever Instagram memes, especially when it comes to building brand identity, driving product interest, and getting more followers.
In fact, memes have become one of the major methods of online communication, with a reported 55% of 13-35-year-olds sending them every single week.
Check out how @smartsweets creates branded pop culture memes to fill their Instagram feed:
While most of us will immediately recognize a meme when we see one, nailing down a definition is surprisingly difficult to do.
In the broadest sense possible, a meme is any piece of media that passes from person-to-person on the internet. They usually have some kind of cultural relevance, they’re often funny or clever, and they typically feature a combination of text and imagery (this can be a photo, a GIF, or even a video).
Take for example Later’s take on ultra-popular Netflix show Emily in Paris and encouraging followers to go out and vote.
Some brands like @girlboss and @hellosunshine have acquired millions of Instagram followers thanks to their witty and playful use of memes in their Instagram strategy.
There can still be challenges when it comes to meme-creation, like integrating memes into your profile without compromising your aesthetic. But there are ways to do it. Apps like Canva and Over have a number of templates that will make your meme-creation easier.
#13: Create a Custom IG Stories Filter
“Augmented Reality,” or AR for short, may seem like space-age jargon, but it’s kicking off in a BIG way on Instagram.
What started out as cute puppy ears or heart filters on Instagram Stories, has now evolved into a whole library of thousands of filters that level-up your stories content.
Apart from the content and AR creators on Instagram who have used Facebook’s Spark AR Studio to create camera-effect, color grading, and fun face-altering filters, we’ve spotted plenty of brands and influencers hopping on the trend too.
Christine Colling, Later’s Social Media Manager, explains how Later used AR filters to promote and increase Later’s brand awareness:
“For LaterCon, we created 2 AR filters and promoted them by asking our audience to use them in order to win some prizes. On the day of LaterCon, our AR filter received over 230,000 impressions and over 5600 captures – which exposed a lot of potential new followers to our brand.”
We’ve also seen other brands jump on this trend. With just a simple cloud background, @summerfridays have created a fun, highly usable, and on-brand filter for their followers. It’s even named after their best selling facemask, Jet Lag.
The number one benefit to having a custom Instagram Stories filter is that when someone uses your filter, their viewers can see who created it in the top left-hand corner of the screen.
From here, a viewer can tap on the filter name or the creator, and try it on for themselves.
It’s a creative and lighthearted way to get your filter in front of new eyes and increase your followers on Instagram.
Ready to take the AR leap? Watch Rik Lomas, CEO and Founder of SuperHi, walk you through creating your very first AR filter!
#14: Collaborate With Awesome Brands
The power of a collaboration or a co-marketing campaign for your business is huge — quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to grow your following.
Teaming up with like-minded businesses and brands will introduce your profile to a new and engaged audience.
So when an Instagram user discovers your profile through a co-marketing effort, they’re likely to hit that follow button if they have similar interests or are the right demographic for your brand.
Plus, co-marketing campaigns don’t have to be complicated or costly! What’s more important is who you partner with. You want to make sure that you have a mutually beneficial partnership that will benefit both of your audiences.
We chatted with Jess Ruhfus, founder of Collabosaurus, a marketing tool that connects brands for clever collaborations and partnership, for her insights on the trends.
“Brand-by-brand collaborations can be incredibly powerful,” says Jess.
“In our experience, a brand-by-brand partnership can double your organic reach without any monetary spend. And they’re up to 25x less expensive than digital advertising!”
Instagram Stories takeovers, giveaways, competitions, or content collaborations are all fantastic ways your business can reach new audiences quickly and cost-effectively.
Growing your Instagram account can often seem like a challenge, but if you follow the right techniques and strategies, you can definitely get more Instagram followers in 2021!
Remember it’s a combination of creative content, targeting the right audiences, and promoting your business in the right way. Try out some of these tips in 2021 and see how much your account can grow this year!
Ready to grow your Instagram following in 2021? Sign up for Later to plan, schedule, and post to Instagram.
Jessica is a creative problem solver and a content writer. Jessica is from Winnipeg, a city smack dab in the middle of Canada — but is currently living and working remotely in Paris, France. Follow along at @jessicaworb.