10 Tips to Get 10K Instagram Followers Without Buying Them [A Business Guide]

10,000 Instagram followers. It's a common social media milestone that businesses work towards when building a brand. To some, reaching this tier demonstrates you have the potential to be a serious online influencer in your industry.

However, with influencer marketing on the rise, Instagram users sometimes purchase lists of potential followers in the hopes that they'll get at least a portion of these people to pay attention to their account. But particularly in a B2B business setting, buying a list can lead to poor quality traffic to your website -- along with unintended consequences like a higher bounce rate, less time spent on pages, and bad-fit leads.

It's a much safer (and more rewarding) route to grow your social following organically. Engagement with your brand will be much higher, members of your target audience will be sharing your content, and you'll have more opportunities to convert or nurture qualified leads that are actually interested in what you're selling.

Below are 10 simple tips for getting to 10k Instagram followers without buying your way there!

1. Experiment to find your voice.

If you’ve been posting on Instagram for a while and you’re not getting the social traction you're looking for, switch it up! Change the type of content that you’re posting, and strike a different tone in the captions. Then refer to the analytics, and see what content people are connecting with. You can also look at brands that you'd like to emulate on social media, and incorporate a few new ideas. Once you’ve identified the content and voice that resonates with your viewers the most, publish more posts like that!

PMG PRO TIP: Experiments are only worthwhile if you're taking the time to analyze what works and what doesn't. To that end, it may be effective to switch to a business account. Instagram for Business offers advantages that are not associated with your personal account such as deeper performance analytics, insights on your followers, and advertisting tools. 

2. Stay on brand. 

It's true that too much experimentation can disrupt the growth of your following. I’m personally guilty of going  "off-brand" every now and then. As an illustrator, there are times when I get bored creatively, so I do something different with my style for a short period of time... and I start to lose followers. Establishing a solid brand is about consistency. After following you for enough time, people come to expect something specific from you—something that they enjoy! While peppering in new types of content is important (as you might find a golden nugget in there), once you find your niche, don't deviate too far from it without a well-thought-out strategy.

3. Be active. 

Are you active on Instagram? Do you like other people’s photos, comment on them, and engage with their content regularly? This is a great way to start to get noticed, especially if those posts are closely followed by people in your target market. That said, if you are too active, you can actually look like a spammy bot to Instagram's algorithms, and they might ding you. There really are lots of obnoxious people out there who automate random comments to show up on influencer channels with URLs to their websites, etc. We even see that on the PMG blog and immediately delete them. So the key point here is to keep a frequent—but socially acceptable—level of interaction going.

4. Don’t follow for follow. 

It’s tempting, but don’t do it. If I see someone with 7,450 followers but they follow 7,500 people (thanks for commenter Andrew for pointing out the correct numbers here), that usually implies their content isn't actually high-quality—and they’re just trying to pad their follower count by clicking every follow button that they come across. Building an engaged audience does take time and patience. If you truly have a social media strategy for your B2B brand, following others for the sake of them following you back isn't going to bring you the results you want.

5. Be real and honest.

Things can begin to feel fake on Instagram. Is that person’s life really that perfect? Who has a kitchen that clean? Don’t be afraid to be authentic and create content that people can relate to. Highlighting the quirks of your business can win people over. While it's still going to be curated to a certain degree, posting user-generated content, third-party content, or even employee quotes will also shed light on what your brand values and prioritizes. Using the Instagram Stories tool is also a great way to showcase your company culture or your unique personality; if you're comfortable with video, give it a try!

PMG PRO TIP: Your Instagram Story should make sense with or without the user's audio turned on. A HubSpot survey reveals that only 29% of people who watch Instragram Stories say they "always" watch with the sound on. Using captions/subtitles is one way to ensure you communicate your message for either scenario!

6. Don’t brag too much.

So you've won an award. That’s great, and you should definitely post about it. Just avoid making accolades, certifications and reviews the only type of thing you post. Along similar lines, don't spend too much time talking about your product or service and why it's amazing. In fact, spend very little time doing that. People aren't following your Instagram account for solely promotional content. They want to see a side of you or your organization that makes you appear human. They want to be inspired creatively, and they want to laugh!

7. Publish timely content.

Staying on top of current events, industry news and pop culture is going to help you boost interactions with your account. Keep an eye out for what is up-and-coming or trending and how you can leverage it on your page. Is there a new meme that's going viral? See how you can personalize it to fit your brand or specialty. Did something happen in the media that impacts your industry? Write an article on your blog with your own spin and promote it on your social channels (including Instagram!) Capitalizing on current affairs and online trends can help get more eyeballs on your content, especially when you use appropriate hashtags.

8. Identify influencers and interact with them.

Find the top influencers in your respective area of expertise, and follow them. Keep an eye on what they’re posting and what people are saying in the captions. Then join in the conversation. The people following and interacting are most likely in your target audience as well, and if you respond to something they say, you might just get a new follower out of it! 

PMG PRO TIP: Still not sure where to start? Influencer marketing on Instagram should be viewed as part of a larger strategy that extends beyond social media. We recommend following an approach similar to these 4 steps that we have laid out for your business blog: How to Find Bloggers In Your Industry - And Interact With Them! 

9. Get a birds-eye view of your Instagram.

Take a step back and get a quick look at your Instagram as a whole (you know, the page that has all of the squares on it). What’s missing? Does it look cohesive? Make sure that all of your images look good and on-brand, that you have Instagram highlights set up, that all of your bio info is updated with hashtags and a current link to either your website or relevant content.

10. Cross-promote your Instagram on your other channels.

If you already have a decent following on another social platform, make sure those followers hear about your Instagram account, too! You should also drive people to your Instagram by promoting your channel on your website! A few ways to cross-promote include:

  • Embedding Instagram images from your page in your newsletter
  • Embedding Instagram images from your page in your blog posts
  • Adding a link to your Instagram in your email signature
  • Adding your Instagram handle to the bio of your other social media sites
  • Linking your Instagram to your Twitter and Facebook so that it posts on all three sites

There is surprisingly little fanfare when you hit the 10,000 follower mark, but by following these tips and keeping them top of mind, you’ll be on your way to authentic Instagram growth. If you want to learn more, check out our customer story—Wolfers Lighting on Instagram: A Howling Good Time—and find out how we started generating a sizable (and engaged!) organic IG following for one of our clients!

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Doug Orleski | Graphic Designer
About the Author
Doug Orleski, Graphic Designer

Doug Orleski has been a contributing Design Specialist since 2013. He’s an Adobe extraordinaire, with specialties in Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator. He’s a big picture thinker – no, seriously, he thinks in pictures, so when he’s not grappling with shifting to word-based work, he’s writing about techniques in streamlining design, customization techniques and optimal image selection.