Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How I Grew My Instagram Following by 2K in 2 Months (Without Following & Unfollowing)

So, we’ve all been there… a big Instagrammer/blogger follows you, you get really excited and follow them back, only to have them unfollow you the next day.  


These days most of the Instagram accounts with huge followings are getting their followers by playing one game:  they follow a bunch of unsuspecting smaller accounts, they wait a few days to give the people a chance to follow them back, and then they unfollow them.  This grows their following very quickly, but keeps the number of people who they follow very low.

I have no problem with people who do this… I mean, it works so you can’t really blame them, but I personally just can’t bring myself to do it because I feel like I’m duping people.  Plus I know that it drives me nuts when people do this to me, so I would feel like a hypocrite using a method that annoys me. 

Therefore, I set out to try to grow my following organically this year and you know what?  It’s working!  I have had oodles of requests to share what I have been doing, so I’m going to share my method in great detail today.  Before I go any further, a few disclaimers:

First of all, I’m going to go ahead and warn you that you’re going to get completely sick of two words from reading this post – follow and unfollow - they are used a ton, so just brace yourselves and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Second, if you’re not super familiar with Instagram, you may find this post a bit weird and you might just think I’m crazy for taking so much time to gather all of this information to analyze.  Well, just for your info, Instagram is pretty much all politics these days and it’s nearly impossible to grow your following without having some kind of strategy and playing certain games.  The only way to really blow up quickly is to have some kind of post go viral within a short amount of time – and we’re talking viral like where news and entertainment outlets pick you up – HuffPo, GMA, Ellen – that type of viral.  This has never happened to me, thus I have to work hard to grow my following.

Third, why am I even trying to grow my following?  Because more followers = more blog traffic.  More followers and blog traffic = more opportunities to work with companies.  More opportunities to work with companies = income for me for just doing what I love the most.  And more income for me = the potential to possibly turn this thing into a business so I might eventually be able to work from home doing what I love while getting to spend more quality time with my babies.  Enough said.

Finally, settle in because this is going to be lengthy.  I now consider myself to be somewhat of an Instagram expert, so you are about to get a boatload of information.

With those things in mind, let’s get started!  Here is what I have been doing these last two months that organically increased my following by 2k in just 2 months.

O N E – Spruce Up Your Profile Name

The first and easiest thing I did was to update my profile name.  You want your name to stand out.  That way it catches the attention of others as they are scrolling through lists of followers.  That will make them more inclined to click on your name and check out your profile.  My name was originally “Lindsay@Lindsay’s Sweet World.”  I changed the “Lindsay” in lower case letters to “LINDSAY” in all caps, and instead of using the “@” I removed it and added the green herb emoji.  The emoji is more eye catching, and it is also more pleasing to the eye than the “@.”  The next time you’re scrolling through someone’s list of followers, let me know which ones catch your attention… it’s the names with the emojis in them isn’t it? 

T W O – Revamp Your Bio

The second thing that I did was to revamp my bio.  You only get a split second to impress someone when they look at your profile, so you have to make sure that it looks good.  Therefore, your bio should be pleasing to the eye as well as informative.  Or catchy.  I opted for a few colorful emojis to grab attention, and I briefly described myself in three words as well as described the type of content people will see if they follow me.  I also added my email address to make it easy for people to contact me for collaborations, and then I added a little reminder that my photos are my property.  I’m hard core about that and you can never be too careful these days.  

T H R E E – Update Your Profile Picture

Again, you want something eye catching or pleasing to the eye.  A lot of bloggers these days are using pictures of them up against hot pink mural walls or something similar to that because they are bright and help them stand out to potential followers.  I am currently using a picture of myself that I took for my second blogiversary because I love that top and necklace combo so much.  If I had a hot pink wall in town you bet I’d be using a picture in front of that instead.  ;o)  One of these days, I need to take a head shot in front of the one mural wall that we do have in town!

F O U R – Be Mindful of the Content You Post

Look at all of the big Instagrammers’ feeds.  They’re gorgeous… bright, professional looking photos and beautiful content.  When you click on their profile you want to follow them because everything they post is just so darn pretty.  While I would love for my feed to look like that, I just don’t have the time to devote to it, and I honestly don’t want my feed to be too perfect like that.  I love posting about real life as it’s lived instead of posting on a schedule.  Some bloggers take it to the extreme scheduling all of their posts in advance according to how their feed should look, and they have overall themes or color schemes for their feeds.  For example, some bloggers stick to only neutral colors, some bloggers only stick to black and white, some bloggers stick to food, some bloggers stick to pictures of their kiddos... stuff like that.  

While I’m not taking it to that extreme, I have started being more mindful of the photos that I post.  Before, I would post whatever would come to mind… a grainy picture of my salad at lunch, a not so great blurry picture of the kids.  Now I’m trying to be more careful to choose pictures that are bright and clear and meaningful, and I save everything else for InstaStories.  I just LOVE those things!  I never liked Snapchat, but man, do I love me some InstaStories. 

Since I don’t have a specific niche, I do not have an overall theme.  Since I love viewing things as they are in real life, I do not have a color scheme like neutrals or black and white.  Instead, my feed is full of bright colors.  I like to post pictures of things how they look if you are seeing them in real life – bright and vivid… like they are right in front of you.  I post about my family, about my life, and about things that I come across that I think are beautiful – a pretty flower, a gorgeous sky, a box of donuts.  Hehe.

To assist me with my “vision” for my feed, I downloaded the free app UNUM.  It pulls up your current Instagram feed and allows you to upload pictures from your camera roll and move them around so you can how they will look in your feed before you actually post them.  This helps me keep my feed looking nice while also allowing me to post in real time about real life stuff.  A lot of y’all might think it sounds crazy to do this and it probably sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not.  And I’ve noticed that since I’ve been mindful of what my feed looks like, a lot more followers stick around instead of eventually unfollowing me.  As a matter of fact, two of my blogging idols started following me in recent weeks and they’re actually engaging so I don’t think they followed me just to unfollow me.  I mean, I was already following them anyway!  Haha.

F I V E – Be More Creative With Captions

I have found that photos get way more engagement when I tell a more in depth story behind the picture.  I used to post captions that were short and sweet – “Happy Monday!” or “Too cool for school.” or something like that, but I noticed that when I started elaborating more, people were more drawn to liking and commenting.  The stronger the story, the more attention the photo gets.  The more attention a photo gets, the more potential it has for attracting new followers.

S I X – Be Authentic

I have always considered myself to be authentic as I post in real time, I do not use schedulers to schedule my posts, and I only post the things that I truly love and that are important to me.  So just be you.  There’s only one you!  You don’t want a bunch of people following you if you’re trying to be someone you’re not.  Right?

S E V E N – Engage With Other Accounts That You Follow

Like and comment as much as you can with all of the people who you follow.  It’s beneficial for both of you – they get the engagement on their photos that they want, and you get exposure.  Win win.

E I G H T – Engage With Those Who Follow You

When someone comments on your photo, respond or like it to let them know that you’re really there.  You’re not just auto running your Instagram account using a scheduling system.  This also shows your followers that you care, which makes them more likely to stick around.  This is something that I could definitely improve on as I don’t respond to every comment that comes my way.  But due to the fact that I have a hubs and two kids to take care of, I work at a full time corporate job, I have a household to run, and I also have a blog to run, that just doesn’t always happen.  Most days I wish I could just clone myself because there is truly not enough time in the day.

N I N E – Join Support Groups

Have you ever heard of a “Like Pod” or a “Comment Pod?”  I hadn’t until just a few weeks ago!  These are basically private message groups of five to ten Instagrammers/bloggers who support each other by liking or commenting on each other’s photos.  I am currently in two “Like Pods” and two “Comment Pods.”  They are all small groups of ladies who I already follow and know, and every time I post a picture to Instagram, I shoot a message to each pod, and the ladies in the pods like and comment on it at their leisure.  This is basically just a way to boost your numbers for each post and get more exposure since most pictures tend to get lost in the Instagram algorithm these days.  Plus we have good times chatting with each other in our group messages, too!

T E N – Utilize Trade for Trade

Have a favorite Instagram buddy?  Why not trade shout-outs to get more exposure?  You mention her in your feed, she mentions you in her feed.  Voila, exposure for both of you!

Some people have even gone so far to come up with “Follow Friday” and “Mom Crush Monday.”  You can team up with a group of ladies, make a collage photo of all of the ladies participating, and then tag them in your photo.  Everyone posts at the same time, and BOOM, exposure from multiple accounts all at once!

E L E V E N – Participate in Chat Loops

I am friends with several ladies who host chat loops each week.  It is basically a way to get to know fellow Instagrammers.  There are typically several ladies in a chat loop.  Each lady posts the same picture for the chat loop at the same time and they ask a question just to get conversation started.  Followers are invited to answer questions in the chat loops, follow all of the ladies in the chat loops, with the possibility to get invited to co-host the next week’s loop.  I have joined a couple of these during the last couple of months and the followers were definitely rolling in during the chat.

T W E L V E – Host or Co-host Giveaways

I have found these to be the most effective for getting new followers because people will do anything to get free stuff!  There are a couple of different ways to host giveaways. 

First of all, you can do “Loop Giveaways” directly on Instagram where you team up with other Instagrammers to give away prizes on Instagram.  Everyone posts a picture of the giveaway at the same time, and then all of the people who want to enter the giveaway have to follow everyone in the loop.  This drums up lots of new followers.

Second, you can host a giveaway on your blog by using Rafflecopter.  The rafflecopter gives you the ability to ask people to follow you on all social media platforms and this counts as their entry.  One of the blog giveaways I did several months ago helped me gain 200+ followers on Bloglovin’, 100+ followers on Facebook, and several hundred followers on Instagram. 

T H I R T E E N – Use Hashtags

Ah, the hashtag.  It can be incredibly annoying to some, but boy, do I love them!  Using effective hashtags can get your photos lots of attention which can also translate to more followers.  Instagram lets you use up to 30 hashtags per picture and I pretty much use 30 on every picture.  The popular hashtags are always changing, so you can Google ideas for hashtags to keep up with the times.  One thing to note – a lot of people do not want to see hashtags cluttering your caption, so you can put them in the comments section of your own picture to hide them.

F O U R T E E N – Always Follow Big Instagrammers Back When They Follow You

When a big Instagrammer/blogger (typically 10k+ followers) follows you ALWAYS FOLLOW BACK.  I repeat, always follow back.  Now, I know you’re probably shaking your head because you know that these people are the ones who are only following you to get your follow and then they are just going to unfollow you a day later.  Well, did you know that you actually benefit from following them back?  When you follow a person on Instagram, your name gets put at the top of the list of their followers.  That means tons of exposure for you because all of the other people who are browsing other people’s followers lists and finding people to follow will see your name at the top of the list.  (This is also why it was important to spruce up your profile name!!!!) 

Plus in the off chance that one of the big bloggers really wants to connect with you… well, you don’t want to miss out on that!  They might really actually like your feed!  There are several who have been following me for several weeks/months now and they have really been engaging so I know they’re in it for the relationship, not just for my follow.  Shocking, I know.  Plus, if a big blogger follows me and then unfollows me, I just unfollow them back and I don’t feel bad about it.  There’s no point in trying to start a relationship with someone if they don’t want one with you.  There are a few (I won’t give names) who have followed/unfollowed me a bazillion times.  And every single time I follow/unfollow them back because I usually get lots of new followers out of it myself. 

Which brings me to… you will probably want to download an app to track your followers.  I use “Followers” and I love it.

F I F T E E N – Don’t Be Afraid to Try to Connect With the Big Instagrammers Yourself

If I see an Instagram account whose feed I admire, I will follow them.  This again gives my account exposure because this puts my name in their list of followers for people to browse, and then I also get inspiration from their feeds.  And maybe, just maybe they’ll follow back if they like your feed, too!

S I X T E E N – Stalk Your Fellow Instagrammers’ Followers

Just kidding, that just sounds creepy.  But seriously, what I’m referring to is this: find several Instagrammers/bloggers in your niche with large followings (I typically look at people with 10K or more).  Start at the top of their followers list and work your way down liking some of their pictures.  I typically try to “like” three pictures on each profile and then move on to the next.  This basically just gets their attention as your “likes” show up in their notifications, and then they will hopefully check out your profile, like what they see, and follow you.  And if you really want to get their attention you can also comment on a couple of their pictures. 

A few things to note about this method:  First, I typically only do this with accounts who have 500 followers or less.  That way they actually see you in their notifications.  There’s no point in liking pictures for people with large followings because chances are they won’t even see your notifications since they get so many each day.  Second, the people who tend to follow me the most as a result from the likes are mommies, people who post about fashion, and clothing boutiques, so it’s good to use this method only with people who you think will enjoy your feed.  Finally, I only use this method for accounts that look “normal.”  I obviously don’t like or comment on pictures for accounts for people who look creepy… you don’t want to attract their attention! 

And that is it!

To Summarize:

1.    Spruce up your profile to make a good first impression – this includes your picture, name, and bio.
2.    Post beautiful, eye-pleasing content.  Nobody wants to see blurry photos of what you had for lunch or the scrape on your child’s knee.
3.    Post engaging captions.
4.    Be yourself!!!!
5.    Engage, engage, engage.  This goes for accounts you follow as well as with accounts who follow you.  Comment on photos and respond to comments.
6.    Team up – join like and comment pods, and utilize Follow Fridays and Mom Crush Mondays.
7.    Participate in chat loops.
8.    Giveaways – enough said!
9.    Hashtags – you may hate them, but boy do they give you lots of exposure!  Do it!
10. ALWAYS FOLLOW BIG INSTAGRAMMERS WHEN THEY FOLLOW YOU.  ALWAYS.  WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT.  And download a Followers app so you can unfollow them if they do end up unfollowing you.
11. Follow big Instagram accounts that inspire you.
12. Stalk fellow Instagrammers’ followers – like and comment on their pictures to get their attention.

Well, that’s about it, y’all!  That’s what I’ve been doing these last couple of months and it’s been working!  One thing to note before I go – I still always ALWAYS block any followers who look creepy or give me a weird feeling.  I have literally blocked hundreds of people just in the last two months.  It’s just not worth it to me to have followers if they could potentially be creeps.

So what are some methods that you use?  Am I forgetting anything?

And now it's time for the Tuesday Talk Link Up!

Hosted by:

Stephanie at Wife Mommy Me | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram
Becky at BYBMG | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram
Lindsay at Lindsay's Sweet World | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram
Sarah at Sarah E. Frazer | Pinterest | Facebook | Instagram

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Lindsay's Sweet World


  1. I was wondering how you knew when people unfollowed you! This was very informative! Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is a really great post Lindsey. Saving this one. And love being REAL followers and supporters of each other on Instagram. I'm also not a fan of the follow/unfollow! #aintnobodygottimeforthat

    1. Thanks so much, Julie! I'm glad that it has been helpful to you!

  3. I'm with Emily and always wondered the same thing. Ha ha! Thanks for sharing your tips.

  4. What great info!! Thank you so much for sharing! I'm going to get those apps you mentioned now!
    Do you use an app to watermark your pictures?

  5. So I have been blogging for over 2 years and have yet to set up an Insta. I have a large twitter and bloglovin following but it seems like so much work but it's on my list to set up if I want to grow so I am definitely saving these tips. I also follow legit people back on Twitter, the unfollow game is just so mean spirited and selfish I think. I put so much tie into my blog and I just don't want to take more time looking at a screen and pressure to put up a great photo but I know in the long run it will be worth it. Plus, who doesn't love to look at pictures!!

    1. You should totally set up an Insta for your blog! I personally like Insta the best and it drives more traffic than FB and Twitter combined.

    2. I want an Andrea Nine insta account to follow, too! I agree with Lindsay- it does a lot more for blogging than FB.

  6. haha I'm with Emily and everyone else wondering how you knew when people unfollowed you! I just downloaded that app and I'll be playing around with it!
    Sarah at MeetTheShaneyfelts

  7. I'd never heard of a chat loop or a follower app. Behind the times! Thanks so much for this, I'm making a few little changes right now. :)

  8. Such awesome tips girl!! I'm going to put some to use for sure!

  9. Such great tips. I love IG and use it for photo books more than anything else but I think I may put some of your tips to use and see what happens.

  10. Holy crap these are awesome tips. im def gonna do some of them :)

  11. SO much info here and a lot of good info too. My biggest frustration with IG is the creepers and the engagement. My likes per photo took a HUGE hit a few months back and that was super frustrating, I still haven't been able to overcome it. So, I switched to a business profile and found out that most of my followers just aren't seeing my stuff. And my engagement for the ones that do is pretty decent. I wish I had more time to spend on IG but it is SO hard. I also here you on the cohesive feed stuff. I would LOVE to have a gorgeous feed, but that is just not who I am. I want to be able to post any photo and not worry that t clashes with my feed.

  12. This was awesome, girl! Thanks for sharing your tips with all of us!

  13. Great tips!! You have really seen some great growth!

  14. So many amazing and helpful tips, Lindsay! I have a huge love/hate relationship with Instagram. I've been Instagramming for a couple of years and I'm stuck...I've tried it ALL girl --- except the follow/unfollow method. That irks me so I don't want to try it. I'm so glad you have found a system that has worked for you. Until then...I will continue to look for something that works for me.
    xo, Lily
    Beauty With Lily

  15. Thank you for writing this. I have already incorporated a bunch of these things today. I need to take a new headshot though, but I did use one with more colors instead of a black and white one. And I even edited my IG post from this morning with a bigger story to it.

  16. So much information! Thank you for sharing! I feel like I need to read this post several more times to really soak it all in! I love following along with your instagram!!

  17. Great tips Linds! Congrats on growing your follow so quickly too. That's awesome, and I'm proud of you!

  18. Great tips! I went to a session in February and you touched on many of the same things. Congrats on growing your following!

  19. I absolutely despise the follow/unfollow apps and let's be honest-you can always tell when a blogger buys followers. People do not jump over 6K in one month without something monumental happening in their lives. Everything I do on Instagram is authentic. My growth may be slower than some, but it's steady. And engaging with followers truly is the best method!

    1. I am the same...the only reason I use the follow/unfollow app, like Lindsay, is to track who unfollows me. Otherwise I don't really care.

    2. Amen, Stef!! And I just saw this post... I don't know how I missed it before!

  20. Wow this was super helpful! I had no idea about the following bigger accounts and it puts you on their list...going to try some of these methods out. Starting with my profile and name! :)

  21. You're so good about responding to people- I really appreciate that. Jenny at Our Busy Little Life taught me how to not be a no-reply blogger, and I'm working on being a better 'grammer!

  22. Thanks so much for compiling all this info! I go back and forth with Instagram. For the most part, I have neglected it simply because I had no strategy. I'm going to use some of your suggestions to help me really get going with it. Thanks!

  23. Great post, Lindsay! I'm doing a lot of these too and have seen some growth as well. I didn't think about following the big accounts because I always had the attitude that it wasn't worth it. Maybe I need to re-think that. Thanks for sharing :) Beautifully Candid

  24. I'm so grateful you posted this! I've been doing a couple of these things, and I have noticed an improvement, but I will definitely utilize the rest of your tips, too!!

  25. SO MANY great tips!! I've got to put them to good use ASAP. Thanks for taking the time to share all these details.

  26. Those are all great tips! I just jumped on the Instagram wagon a couple months ago so I'm a newbie. Now I have an idea of how to gain followers and make my Instagram more appealing. The whole follow/unfollow idea irks me.

    1. Good luck, Terra! It can be frustrating at times, but don't give up!

  27. I was waiting for this post! I have tried a few of these ideas. I tried following people in my niche but most didn't follow back. Hashtags help individual pictures get likes for sure, but I'm still stuck on the amount of followers I have not moving. I follow back people in my niche but if they unfollow me I unfollow them back! Have to return that favor, lol!

  28. I so appreciated this post. Glad to find your blog... & now headed to your IG account :) I just love the blog world to find new people!

  29. Great post girl! I just can't with the follow to unfollow method. I know it works from some people but something about it just feels so wrong to me. Somehow it elicits the same reaction I have to people buying followers. I'd much rather have a few loyal followers than thousands of people that I've tricked into following me.


    1. Yes!! 100%! I remember being BAFFLED when I found out that people buy followers. That's just crazy to me.

  30. This is on the of the best articles I have ever read on Instagram growth!!!! And how did I not realize you were a UGA bulldog too. I have been following you for a while.


    1. Thank you so much, Cristy! That means so much! And yes, we are HUGE GA fans! My grandfather graduated from there so it's in my blood! My hubs and cousin also graduated from there and I have another cousin there now! Go DAWGS!

  31. Wow Lindsay that was a very informative read. I am going to pin this so that when I finally get my act together I can use all your great and common sense strategies to grow. Thanks for this great post.

  32. These are such great tips gurlie, thank you so much! What really grinds my gears are the people who got big because they bought their followers, and I have so much admiration for those who grow organically becuase it's not easy. But it's authentic, and honestly those are my favorite accounts to follow <3
    Green Fashionista

  33. OMG thank you SO MUCH for this <3 you're one of my favorite bloggers ever and I feel so confident taking your advice!

  34. Lindsay, I look forward to following you. I have learned soooo much from this post! Thank you from a brand new blogger who has a long way to go but is moving forward. My blog is danisfundestinations.com My name is Danielle Malacara and am excited about applying your new info.!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comments! Good luck to you!

  35. Awesome post! Thank you so much for the tips. There are the “general” ways to grow your Instagram that I read, but your post gave me some fresh ideas to really focus on! Good luck girl!

  36. Instagram stories allows you to post a photo or video onto Instagram that will only be viewable for 24 hours, after which it will disappear altogether

  37. Hello,
    Thank you this was very informative. Do you know of any pods you would recommend for travel or moms. I'd love to join some :)

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you found it informative. I'm actually not in any pods right now, but I would recommend starting your own with some of your fellow friends in the same niche, or asking around in any blogging Facebook groups that you might be in to see if anyone has any active pods that you can join!

  38. Great advice! thanks for sharing!! I like your posts, come visit my blog too fashionbeautybykare.com

  39. Great tips and advice! Thank you! I do have a question. How do you go about joining chat loops and conversation pods?

    1. Back when I was using chat loops and conversation pods, I would get together with fellow blogger friends for those. I am also in several blogger groups on Facebook, so that's always a good way to meet other bloggers in your niche and organize pods that way. :o)

  40. Thank you for sharing this
    Please visit my blog when you have a chance

  41. Some Really valid points! Taking notes and will try out on my Instagram page!
    Thank you!

  42. Thank you for this! I stumbled across this on Pinterest. I downloaded the UNUM app, and I want to try that. It never know what to think when Instagrammers with giant followings follow me. Now I’ll pay more attention.

  43. I actually read this from start to finish!! Lots and lots of great information and stuff I didn't know. Like the whole name in big letters and toss in a Emoji. I plan on doing that once I'm done writing this. Thanks for making this and sharing this information. I will follow you also here in a few. I'd love to be added to the like, comment groups. I'm in a few now but I really need to utilize them more often all the ladies in there are really nice too. Anyways, thanks again for making this and sharing the information. I hope this information helps me get past way past the 4k mark because I've been stuck right there or a little bit below or above 4k FOREVER it seems. So fingers crossed for me to gain some followers with this great information. Last thing do you ever participate in the follow loops? Is that the same thing your talking about? Where you follow a loop instagram page and follow everyone they follow and then they follow you after you do what's instructed? It helped me a lot but I've been slacking on them so I haven't gained many followers lately. Mainly just Amazon freebie followers who never engage much. Lol 😅 talk to ya later!! Thanks again for the great post.


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