How to get more real Instagram followers legally

A photo posted by Skai Chan πŸ‡ΈπŸ‡¬ πŸ“· photographer (@skaichanphotography) on

I started my photography Instagram account late in early 2016. It was around the period of time when Instagram finally implemented the feature of multiple accounts login.

Late means disadvantage

The problem of starting an Instagram account "late" is that many Instagram users have already reached a huge number of followers. It is a cruel fact that users with big accounts are very much less likely to follow new accounts that are small (number of followers). To make things worse, they are likely being flooded with notifications that they may not even know your existence when you try to interact with them by following, like-ing or commenting on their posts. Even if they have taken notice of you, they may be too lazy or busy to click into your account to even judge the quality of your posts. Lastly, if you have started your Instagram account late, many friends have probably given up on Instagram.

Instagram users go hiatus

We have to face the fact that Instagram users will eventually give up their accounts when they get bored. One of the biggest problems is that the users are not getting enough response (LIKEs and comments). Therefore, your posts will eventually receive less interaction as more of your followers no longer log in. This is why you have to get new followers in order to at least sustain the amount of interactions.

Increase the number of followers

Most people want to increase the number of Instagram followers because nobody wants to be "talking to the wall" and it is great to be seemed as popular - it is the trend. Nowadays, popular Instagram users may also receive sponsorship. Of course, some Instagram users really wish to keep their posts private to friends.

My battle

Despite starting "late", I'm able to increase the number of my followers to 17,000 within nine months without using any bot or buying any fake follower. There are many types of marketing tactic for Instagram, which may apply to other social media network as well. I'm going to list some of the legal ways to increase your Instagram follower count.

How to increase real Instagram followers legally

  1. Complete your profile
    Upload a profile photograph and add in your introduction. If you wish to target Instagram users in your region, you can indicate your location/country as well. Instagram users prefer to interact with real users and they are less likely to follow and interact with you if they do not know much about you.
  2. Quality contents
    Content is king, to certain extend. To be clear cut, if your contents are good (beautiful or interesting photographs), you are likely to attract more followers after they see your posts, given that they can really get to see and that you have similar or larger number of followers. Besides, Google, Facebook, Instagram and other websites are constantly improving the ranking of contents as countless contents are flooding all the platforms every moment. They are likely going to create more algorithms to determine the "visibility" of your account and posts in near future.

    If you read through my words properly, having good quality contents does not guarantee you to have a steep rise in the number of followers. Unfortunately, Instagram is social media and a large number of users will only follow popular accounts. Besides, most people do not know how to differentiate between excellent and good quality photographs. I have seen a few photographers' Instagram accounts with lovely work but they are likely to have started their accounts late. I'm sure they will slowly pick up over time when more people who really appreciate their work start following them.
  3. Caption your post
    Write and describe your post. Some Instagram users are only interested in looking at photographs but there are also many users who want to know at least a little about it. It always pays to put in more effort. Nevertheless, at this point of time, Instagram does not have a feature for users to upload new posts through web browser and it can be frustrating for users like me who prefer to type using real keyboard.
  4. Ask question in your post
    By asking question, you may get your followers to interact more with you. This will help you make you look more interesting or popular, or both. However, if your friends are very passive, you may not get the result you want - do not give up. Of course, if you are a celebrity or hot girl, it is a breeze as many strangers will start interacting with you no matter what.
  5. Include words like "like" and "follow" in your post
    If you include action words like "like" and "follow", it will increase the chance of the Instagram user following the action. It is psychology at work.
  6. Post photographs with face
    Instagram users tend to prefer photographs that include faces, therefore, increasing the number of interaction. I personally tend to LIKE mainly posts that include my friends' faces.
  7. Post provocative photographs
    Unfortunately, hot and sexy photographs attract more viewers and reactions (follow, LIKE, comments). It depends on your target audience though because it may also irritate some followers who are more "close-minded". This is why you can see that nowadays there are many young female instagrammers who will upload photographs showing their bare back (naked).
  8. Do not flood with multiple posts
    Instagram, at this point of time (year 2016), does not have "album" feature like Facebook. In Facebook, you can upload 10 or 100 similar photographs in a single album but in Instagram, you cannot. Therefore, if you are going to upload 10 photographs in Instagram, all of them are going to appear in your followers' newsfeed as individual posts and that can really annoy them.

    I used to have a friend (unfortunately, my buddy's good friend) who would upload many bad quality photographs at one time and that was really a pain in my ass as I was an user who would always want to "clear" my friends' posts in my personal Instagram account's newsfeed. I would have unfollowed him immediately if I did not have to get to see him often. I advised him not to post too many of them within the same day, or at least use collage to put similar photographs together, but he refused to listen to my advice. At the same time, he grumbled about followers unfollowing him and his strategy was to try to gain new followers to replace the lost number. I did not keep in touch with him and I was very sure his account was not going to become popular for the good reason if he did not kick away his bad habit and stubbornness.
  9. Post on specific day and time
    It can be funny but there are days that can attract more likes and followers simply because more users are online. There are also days that fewer people will post new photographs, so that your photographs can be viewed by more people. There are, however, no foolproof day and timing. Generally, most users will be scrolling through their Instagram newsfeed when they are on the way - to work/school and back to home. If your target audience are students, they are probably in either morning or afternoon sessions. As for working adults, most of their working timings are from 8am to 5pm or 9am to 6pm.

    What you can do is to test it out and note the best days and timing to post your photographs. However, do take note that public and school holidays do make a difference.
  10. Hashtag your posts
    At this point of time (year 2016), Instagram allows only maximum of 30 hashtags. It is good enough to stop spammers but it also irritates real users who cannot decide between, for instance, #singaporephotographer or #photographersingapore. Hashtags are free and they are very useful bridges to link you and other Instagram users together.

    Some of the most popular Instagram hashtags are:
    #love #instagood #photooftheday #tbt #cute #beautiful #me #followme #happy #follow #fashion #selfie #picoftheday #like4like #girl #tagsforlikes #instadaily #friends #summer #fun #smile #igers #instalike #likeforlike #repost #food #instamood #follow4follow #art #style

    For some of these popular Instagram hashtags, #like4like and #likeforlike are hashtags that offer to trade LIKEs with other users. It means if a user were to LIKE your post, you will help him/her to LIKE a post back. #follow4follow (or #followforfollow) means trading for following.

    Just a side note: obviously not many people will return the favour for they are just behaving like bots; besides, one can really get busy doing it. For instance, if you receive 10 LIKEs for a post after using the hashtag "#like4like", you may click through the list of users to return them the favour by LIKE-ing one of their posts; however, if you receive 50 LIKEs, you will probably be too busy to return the favour, unless you have endless time. Another issue is that you are likely using more than just one hashtag and you do not know who are the users who click LIKE on your post due to "#like4like".

    You are likely to gain extra LIKEs for your new posts and even new followers if you were to use these hashtags. However, I will prefer to use related hashtags rather than these popular ones. Firstly, I'm a freelance photographer and I have my specific target audience - I want to attract Instagram users who are truly interested in my niche, in order to get more interactions in future, and not general users (of course, they can be helpful too). Secondly, all the new Instagram users and bots are using these hashtags, and your post will likely be pushed further down when someone searches Instagram using the hashtags. Lastly, using these cheesy popular hashtags may put your image down and this is one reason some famous people do not even use hashtags in their posts - they can afford not to.
  11. Hashtag without mistake or changes
    Do not add over 30 hashtags in your post's description because Instagram will automatically remove the entire description without warning (year 2016) and then push the post (without description) to live. You have to either retype the entire description again, or delete the photograph and repost it (will be troublesome if you have shared the post to other social media sites). Instagram may also mistake you as a spambot and penalize your post - I cannot confirm it 100% but I have miscounted the number of hashtags a few times and retyped them into the description, ending up with much lower LIKEs somehow.

    Changing of hashtags after posting may affect your post's visibility as well. Nevertheless, after you update the hashtags, there are already new posts from others that are using the hashtags. Instagram lists the posts inside the search result of tags in order of the time of the post, not the time you add the hashtag, from most recent to older ones. There is also a limit of posts that will be shown in the search result and thus older posts will be removed.
  12. Tag others - collaboration or "spam"
    At this point of time (year 2016), Instagram allows only a maximum of 20 tags of other users. Similar to hashtags, tagging other users are free as well. Once you tag another user, the post will appear in his/her tagged "photos of xxx" list. When other users visit the person's tagged list, they may see your post and react (LIKE, comment or follow you).

    There are different types of Instagram users you can tag. Firstly, if the user appears inside your post, obviously you can tag him/her. Lastly, you can "spam" other popular accounts, especially those Instagram accounts that are meant to repost photographs. They are likely more than happy if you were to tag them since you are directing your followers and viewers to them. Of course, your post must be related and not look like spam. To play safe, always look at their "photos of xxx" list first to study if they allow others to tag them, else, they may even block you.
  13. Mention others
    Mentioning other Instagram users (@username) may be less effective since their viewers cannot see it. However, it may get them to interact with you as well. Another flaw is when the Instagram user changes his/her username, unlike tagging, Instagram does not change the mentioned username automatically.
  14. Shoutout - collaboration
    Tagging and mentioning other are a form of collaboration. To some Instagram users, doing any of these may mean that you allow them to repost your photographs.

    Another form of collaboration is to arrange with another Instagram user directly to post a new post specifically to advertise/shoutout for each other.

    For me, as a professional photographer, I can always collaborate with models for shoot so that they will upload my work on their accounts and advertise for me.
  15. Shoutout - paid
    There are popular Instagram users who are willing to post a shoutout for you at a price.
  16. Announce on other social media
    Many people start using Facebook earlier than Instagram. There are also many other social media networks like Twitter, Google+, Tagged, Ask.FM, OkCupid, Bigo, which you can advertise to get your followers/friends from there to follow your Instagram account. Of course, there are too new social media platforms emerging every now and then, diversifying the traffic (internet users) and thus, there is a limit to the power of the advertisement.

    This is why popular people like celebrities and hot babes can get a good head start. Once they announce their new Instagram accounts on other social media platforms, their fans/admirers/stalkers will follow them.
  17. Follow popular Instagram users
    As mentioned, having quality contents (posts) alone cannot guarantee you to gain many followers for the start. You need to have many followers in order to gain more followers because most Instagram users will follow only popular accounts. Right here, I'm teaching you to follow popular Instagram users too.

    The benefit is, for a very slim chance, that popular Instagram user may follow you back or reward you with a LIKE or comment on your post(s). Of course, the more popular (more followers) the Instagram user is, the less likely you will be benefited; obviously popular Instagram users do not have the time to entertain everyone.

    However, there is a hidden benefit - other users/bots of the same niche with the popular Instagram account may be targeting it. Therefore, they may scan through the follower list of the popular account and interact with the followers, including you.
  18. Interact with other Instagram users
    Follow, LIKE and comment on their posts. You need to grab their attention to know your existence. If you have good contents, they may follow you or interact with you on your posts. If you interact a lot with them, it will increase the chance of them showing gratitude to you. They will want you to continue to help them with the interaction to spice up their Instagram accounts.
  19. Organise competition
    You can organise a competition and make Instagram users follow you, LIKE the announcement post, tag a few of their friends or even repost it in order to participate in the competition. Of course, you have to have a prize (items or services) to offer.
  20. Pay Instagram
    Lastly, you can pay Instagram to place your advertisement (a post) in other users' newsfeeds. Of course, you have to have an interesting post in order to gain more followers. Unfortunately, as Instagram starts to monetize like Facebook, we are going to see more advertisements and probably in more creative ways.

To buy followers or not?

Some people tend to go for the quick way of buying Instagram followers and these followers are usually fake Instagram users. It costs less than SGD $10 to get a few thousands of them. There are, however, two big problems of getting fake followers. Firstly, they do not LIKE or comment on your posts and thus, may look obvious that you have bought followers. Lastly, these fake followers are very likely fake accounts that Instagram may remove them sooner or later, and thus you can see your follower count dropping over time. When your followers reduce, it may give people an impression that your account is boring that many "people" are "rejecting" you.

During early October 2016, I was observing a photographer's Instagram account. He seemed to own better photography equipment than me and was taking up freelance jobs for clubs, which was very likely to be low paying ones. He got to know many hot young girls, including DJs, through the club and thus able to get many models for TFCD shoot. At that point of time, his work was never impressive - of course, he would improve over time with the number of practices if he could see beyond the compliments of people who were more into looking at his hot models. His follower count was stuck at near a thousand and the latest followers were girls he had worked with. Out of a sudden, his follower count increased from 1,024 to over 2,000 over a couple of days. I laughed instantly when I saw the increment and checked his followers to confirm that most of them were obviously fake accounts. Upon realising he had started buying followers, I stopped researching on his account since it could no longer give accurate information. A week later, his follower had increased to near 2,500 but I was not sure if the additional of bots had stopped earlier or was still continuing gradually.

On a side note, when you buy bots, the seller is likely going to use a dripping method to spread the new followers over a few days instead of making them follow you at one go, so that Instagram will not notice it too easily.



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