How to Increase Your Instagram Followers Without Spending a Dime

Updated on February 10, 2018
Karen Hellier profile image

Karen Hellier is a freelance writer and eBay entrepreneur. She lives happily in the mountains of North Georgia with her husband and her dog.

I am a freelance writer and blogger who used to use mostly Facebook and Pinterest for marketing my freelance writing. But somehow in August of 2017, I stumbled upon an article about using Instagram for marketing. I knew I had an Instagram account, but I am embarrassed to admit now that I didn't really know much about Instagram, and how it worked.

If you are using Instagram to show pictures of your cute puppy or your kids, you probably don't care about how many followers you have. But if you are using Instagram for business, read on!

I logged into my Instagram account and was surprised to see that I had 61 followers. That seemed pretty amazing to me since I wasn't following anyone myself and never posted even one photo on Instagram. In the steps below, I will tell you how I went from 61 followers to 771 followers in five months.

After doing some more research I knew I just had to get started using Instagram to market my freelance writing, and because I enjoy taking photos, I thought it would be fun. And I was right. I am now hooked on Instagram and post photos daily.

Below are the steps I took to increase my Instagram followers from 61 on August 15th, 2017 to 771 on February 1st, 2018.

Create a Name That Says it All

When you create a name for yourself on Instagram, you want one that will give other Instagram members a hint about who you are and what you do, or what your brand is. Don't worry, if you started with one name, Instagram allows you to change it.

Are you a stay-at-home mom with a business? Say it in your Instagram name. Here are some examples:

  • workathomesue (if your name is Sue of course)
  • iworkfromhome
  • samsmomworksfromhome
  • workathomefan
  • workathomeavon (if you sell Avon)

There are a lot of eBay and Posh sellers on eBay so here are some names that would tell others that:

  • ebaysellertammy (if your name is Tammy)
  • poshsellerpatty (if your name is Patty)
  • isellonebay
  • poshprincess
  • princeofebay

And you can use hyphens also:

  • thrifting_for_ebay
  • king_of_ebay

Maybe you are into saving money with coupons and you have a blog about it.

  • coupon_queen_jenny
  • couponbargains
  • saving-with-coupons
  • king_of_coupons

Are you someone who fixes computers?

  • computerking
  • computerfix
  • robertrepairscomputers
  • computer_repair_geek

I think you get the drift. When Instagram suggests people for you to follow, you want to be able to figure out what they are all about quickly. If you just see a name, you may not want to take the time to figure out what they are all about. And you want others to be able to figure out what you are all about quickly too.

So you may be wondering what my Instagram name is? Before I started learning more about Instagram, I just used my first and last name. But then as I learned more about Instagram, I realized I needed something that let others know what I am all about very quickly. I have a website which is all about saving money but I also go to thrift stores and sell on eBay. So my name incorporates saving money: kouponkaren_thrifts_and_saves. That seems to work for me because the word thrift brings others who like thrift stores and of course the "saves" is self-explanatory and often brings people who like to save money with coupons.

Every Tuesday I go thrift store shopping for items to resell on eBay. I always go to Dunkin Donuts and post a picture of my coffee and the free donut I get with my AARP card.
Every Tuesday I go thrift store shopping for items to resell on eBay. I always go to Dunkin Donuts and post a picture of my coffee and the free donut I get with my AARP card. | Source

Post Interesting Photos

Instagram is all about photos. It is different than Facebook where you may post a photo and a description to go along with it, or brag about your child. If you are using Instagram for marketing, you want to get people interested in what your business has to offer.

I use Instagram to promote my blog and to share information on selling on eBay. So I was just posting a photo of my eBay items, and once in awhile, about something I wrote about on my blog. But when I was looking at other people on Instagram that I thought might be fun to follow, I realized I had no interest in following people who ONLY posted pictures of the items they had in their online eBay or Posh store. I found them boring and too promotional. I found myself wanting to follow people who although they sell on eBay, have a life outside of eBay and included pictures of their life.

The ones that added a picture of themselves modeling something from their store were okay, but I really liked the ones that included cute pictures of their kids or pet, or somewhere fun they had traveled to. And I love nature so if they included a picture of a beautiful place they had visited, that got my interest as well.

So I started also posting other things besides mostly items in my eBay store, and it worked well. People started commenting on how nice my profile page is! And I am pretty sure that brought in some more followers.

People respond well to pet pictures so I used a caption for this one about how my eBay assistant was taking a break!
People respond well to pet pictures so I used a caption for this one about how my eBay assistant was taking a break! | Source
Here's a photo of items I got for free at CVS on Black Friday. I wrote a blog post about it and told people they could go to the link in my bio to read about how I got it all free.
Here's a photo of items I got for free at CVS on Black Friday. I wrote a blog post about it and told people they could go to the link in my bio to read about how I got it all free. | Source
Here's a photo I took 2 weeks before Christmas during a snowstorm. I stated I was taking a break from listing items on eBay and having a hot cocoa and enjoying the snow. It got a lot of likes.
Here's a photo I took 2 weeks before Christmas during a snowstorm. I stated I was taking a break from listing items on eBay and having a hot cocoa and enjoying the snow. It got a lot of likes. | Source

Post Regularly

Originally I was just posting to Instagram once a day or maybe every other day. But then I read that Instagram users should post regularly. I had been following some Instagram users that were posting photo after photo, and it became really annoying to me to look at Instagram every morning and find ten photos posted by the same person, and they were all ads of things on sale in some store somewhere. Many of those stores were not even in my area. So I decided not to post so often that I annoy people.

I post now three times per day whenever possible. I usually post something in the morning right when I wake up. Then in the middle of the day, around lunchtime so people who are checking Instagram during their lunch hour can see it, and then always at night between 6:00 pm and 7:30 during the week as I heard that this is a great time to post since people are out of work and have probably finished dinner by then.

I also post around 11 am or noon on the weekends to catch the people who are getting up late and having a cup of coffee. Then once in the afternoon and once again around dinnertime.

People love food so I used this photo from my free breakfast at IHOP and posted about how I was eating for free all day, and to go to my blog to find out how! I posted this in the morning when others would also be eating breakfast.
People love food so I used this photo from my free breakfast at IHOP and posted about how I was eating for free all day, and to go to my blog to find out how! I posted this in the morning when others would also be eating breakfast. | Source

Be Active on Instagram and Show the Love

When I first started posting more photos on Instagram, I noticed one or two people would actually leave comments regularly on my Instagram photos. That seemed so nice. I wanted to return the favor so I would go to their Instagram photos and find a few that I would leave comments on. Leaving comments takes more time than just showing the love and clicking on that heart under photos. But it makes Instagram feel more like a small community, and we can all learn a lot from each other.

Sometimes I will ask someone a question if I see they live in my state. I met one person this way who also sells on eBay and she lives in the same town as I do! Small world! We have made plans to go thrift store shopping together to purchase stuff to sell on eBay.

I have also started following some people that leave comments on my Instagram photos because I enjoy what they said and it made me want to follow them also.

So always click on that heart to show the love if there's a photo you like, but adding a little more love through a comment can grow your Instagram followers also.

Use Hashtags

Hashtags will get you more Instagram followers. I once heard that we aren't supposed to use too many hashtags with our photos, but I have found the more I leave, the more followers it brings me. And I use different hashtags for different photos. By being varied, I can attract more people to my account.

So when I post a photo of an eBay item I sold or new items I bought to sell on eBay, I will use the following hashtags:

  • #ebay
  • #ebayseller
  • #ebayentrepreneur
  • #entrepreneur
  • #workathome
  • #reseller
  • #thrifter
  • #bargainshopper

And when I post photos about saving money, such as an item I got for free from a store like a can of Progresso soup at CVS with a coupon, I will leave hashtags like the following:

  • #bargainshopper
  • #bargains
  • #savingmoney
  • #freebie
  • #coupons
  • #couponlady
  • #cvs
  • #ifitsfreeitsforme
  • #freesoup
  • #progressofreebie

Allow Others to See Your Profile Page

Under your profile area there is a box you can check off that says,"Similar Account Suggestions" and next to it there is a description that says, "Include your account when recommending similar accounts people might want to follow."

Make sure to check that box off because Instagram will then automatically suggest you as someone other Instagrammers might want to follow if they have similar interests to yours. That's a great way to have others follow you: by making your profile page on Instagram visible to them. This is especially important if you are on Instagram to promote your business or blog.

Follow More People

Honestly, one of the best ways I have learned to get more followers on Instagram is to follow more people myself. Whenever I take the time to do a search of Instagrammers I would like to follow, and start following them, I see my followers increase by leaps and bounds.

Now I am picky and don't just follow anyone. There are a number of ways to find people to follow on Instagram.

Across the top of your Instagram profile page, there is a blank for you to fill in a word and search for other Instagram members who have similar interests and posts that match that word. If you enter the word food, you will get a lot of people who enjoy food, eating and creating it. If you enter the word dog you will; see a bunch of suggestions for people who either like dogs or have the word dog as part of their Instagram name.

The other way to find people to follow is to go to the top of your Instagram profile page and you will see 3 icons. The one on the left is a circle with a small design in it. The middle one is a heart, and the one on the right looks like a person. If you click on the circle on the left, Instagram will give you a list of people on Instagram accounts similar to yours. That's a good way to also find Instagrammers to follow that you know you will probably have similar likes.

Take an Online Class About Instagram

Some of these tips I have learned on my own. I have read a lot of articles about how to gain more followers on Instagram, and took an online class which lasted about 1 hour. The tips I learned from that class were invaluable and I wanted to pass on that information about the class to you. I am definitely not getting anything out of this referral. But I am passing on great information to help all of you.

The class I took was free and taught by Hillary Rushford. I honestly have NO idea how I found her, but I am grateful that I did. Her class is interesting and chock full of great ideas on how to grow your Instagram following. Of course, to sign up for her class, you must give your email address, which means you will get emails from her periodically. But honestly, the information in her Instagram class is so helpful that it's totally worth the emails, and you can unsubscribe from them whenever you want.

Instagram Poll

Do You Use Instagram to Market Your Business?

See results

What Do You Think of Instagram?

As I said above, I wanted to use Instagram to market my writing. I am happy to announce that Instagram has brought more subscribers to my blog!

Feel free to leave a comment or question below about your experience with Instagram. If you enjoy taking pictures with your phone, you are sure to enjoy it. And I hope this article helps you gain more customers through Instagram.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Karen Hellier

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      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        2 months ago from Chicago Area

        I had launched an Instagram account when they launched in 2010. Then, because my business is so non-visual, I let it go until--ack!--last fall. I resurrected that old account and am still working on it. But have gotten some pretty good traction so far.

        I just started following you on Instagram (my account is heidithorne). See you in Instagram-land!

      • vocalcoach profile image

        Audrey Hunt 

        3 months ago from Idyllwild Ca.

        I tried to join Instagram quite a while ago but became frustrated in the process. I guess I have an account because I get an email every so often. At any rate, I'm glad you wrote this hub and thanks for this information.

      • sangre profile image

        Sp Greaney 

        7 months ago from Ireland

        I never though of using instagram that way. I'll have to get on that asap. Thanks for the tip.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        7 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

        Thanks for sharing your tips, Karen. The one that I think I'm going to follow first is to change my Instagram user name. Your description of why we should do this makes a lot of sense to me.

      • K S Lane profile image

        K S Lane 

        7 months ago from Melbourne, Australia

        My username is unitingwriting. I'm happy to follow you, too!

      • Karen Hellier profile imageAUTHOR

        Karen Hellier 

        7 months ago from Georgia

        K S Lane,

        I do think you will be happy with the class. I was amazed at how much I learned from her in such a short time. I would be happy to follow you as a fellow writer. Are you listed under your name?

      • K S Lane profile image

        K S Lane 

        7 months ago from Melbourne, Australia

        Thanks for the great tips! I don't use my Instagram account to market a business, per se, but I do use it to connect with others in the writing community and promote my own work. I'm about 50 shy of 1000 followers (it's taken me about a year, so I'm impressed with your five month progress!), so I've been looking for something to give me an extra little push so I can finally reach my milestone! I think I'll check out that Instagram class for some extra hints.

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