How I grew my Instagram account to over 26,000 followers.

Follow me on Instagram @michaelcarbone8

I don't want to burst your bubble right from the start but I just want to make sure you understand one thing before you go ahead and read this blog post: if you're hoping that this article holds the secret recipe to growing a massive overnight audience on Instagram...I'm sorry to tell you that that's just not how it works. 

Now that we got that out of the way, I want to tell you exactly how I built my Instagram audience from having just a couple hundred followers (mostly friends and family) to hitting the 5-figure mark - and beyond. 

There's a method to the madness and it's actually not the most glamorous thing in the world. Sorry to disappoint you, again.

It takes time, effort, and patience...but it works.

Instead of hoping that our accounts go viral, we're going to put in the world and make sure we get the results we want. Guaranteed. 

Since I started taking Instagram seriously, I was able to scale my account from less than 1,000 friends-and-family type followers, to over 26,000 targeted followers from all over the world. 

Join me in this behind the scenes look at what I do every day on Instagram that allows my fan base to keep growing. Once you learn these steps and apply them daily, you'll always be greeted by new followers every time you log in to you Instagram account. 

How to make some waves with your
content strategy:

Instagram is a very visual platform and "worthiness" is deemed mainly on the quality of your images. I guess it makes sense since the main source of interaction between you and your audience is through photography. And although there is a caption (which we'll touch on later) that allows you to speak to your audience - who even reads these days? 

Isn't that why we're on Instagram to begin with? 

I don't want to waste time talking about image quality because it goes without saying that you should have a certain level of quality in your pictures (i.e. no blurry pics, etc) so instead, I want to focus on content strategy. 

Have a theme: if you take a look at my account, it's pretty obvious that my theme is: travel and lifestyle. I actually started using Instagram as a way to document my travels in 2015 and noticed that people really took a liking to my pictures. So, I give them exactly what they want: travel and lifestyle pictures. 

I allow them to live vicariously through my Instagram posts.

If you stop to think about what Instagram accounts you're following right now, many of them probably have a lot to do with your current interests. If you're into fitness, you're probably following a ton of fitness or nutrition pages. If you're into cats, well, I don't even want to know what your feed looks like.

And, the reason why you followed them (or even found them in the first place) is because you were looking for something in that niche, and they communicated it to you in an obvious and consistent way. You know that every time they post, it's going to be a picture relating to a topic that you want to see. 

So, make sure you're posting consistent content on a consistent basis so you're audience knows exactly what to expect from you. Not only will this grab their attention and provide value to their life, but it will also allow them to find you and give them a solid  reason to hit that elusive "Follow" button. 

(This obviously applies to businesses as well. Know your audience, or the one you want to attract, and post images they want to see and can relate to.)

Beyond filters and photos: 


Once you have your content strategy and you're posting valuable and consistent content, you're ready to get to the strategic side of Instagram. And, although your visuals are what help you build your audience, your account bio and your photo captions are really what make Instagram so powerful...especially for business owners. This is how you leverage the size of your audience to get exactly what you want.

Let's start with you account bio since it's the most prime piece of real-estate imaginable. Why? Well, this is the first place a new visitor goes to learn more about you. So, you need to use it to turn that new visitor who just discovered you, into a fan for life. Here's how: 

1) Be super clear about who you are and what you do:

Instagram is a very noisy and crowded environment so you need to stand out. And, there's no better way of standing out than by being extremely clear about what your page is about and who it's for. You don't have to do anything obnoxious or flashy. Just be super specific so a new visitor is able to feel these the 3 basic elements behind a well branded page:

1) Discovery: "Oh, this is interesting"  to

2) Interest: "Oh, I see what this page is about" to

3) Resonance: "Oh, he's talking to me!". 

Boom, followed!

2) Advertise here!

Why is the cost of advertising so high in popular locations like Times Square? Well, if everyone who goes to NYC goes to that specific location, it means there a lot of value in displaying your brand, product, or offer there because it would be exposed to millions of people...effortlessly. 

So, please don't let your bio go to waste! Since every new follower goes to your bio to find out more about you, make sure your promoting your business (or whatever you have to offer) in your bio by putting a link there. If you don't do this, you're missing out on a massive amount of traffic.

3) Captions are for CTAs, not for fluff. 

Luckily, our captions appear below our our viewer has no choice but to scroll past them to get to the next picture. Give them a Call To Action that promotes engagement, social sharing, or opt-ins.

People need to be told what to do. So simply writing: "Double tap if your agree"  or "Tag a friend who'd relate" allows them to take a desired action. By simply asking them to do it, they will be infinitely more likely to actually do it. This is even more important and valuable if you have a an offer linked in your bio...just saying "Click the link in my bio" and sending them directly to that offer can really increase traffic to your website or build your email list. (I consistently get over 100 new email opt-ins every time I promote something this way.)

Climb your way to the top of a
massive audience.

My content strategy is in place, I'm posting consistently...and my bio is perfect. How do I get more followers?! 

Let's start with the obvious: hashtags. 

Every time you post a photo, you want to include relevant hashtags right below your photo caption. Instagram makes this very easy nowadays because as you search for one keyword, they suggest other similar an common keywords you could use.

Write them down in your "Notes" app and save them so you could copy/paste them in your photos later. And, make sure you include your hashtags in the same text box as the photo caption (you can go back and remove them later) because Instagram only allows your hashtags to appear at the top of the search list from the second your photo is published. So, if you post your picture and then go into the comments box and start typing in your hashtags, you've already wasted precious "discovery" seconds and this could already mean that your picture will appear so far down the search list, that no one will ever find it. 

Again, make sure you're using relevant hashtags that your target audience would be searching for. You want to appear in the places where your audience is hanging out on Instagram. They are looking for you, it's up to you to  make sure they can find you!

Once you added hashtags to your photos and people are finding you on autopilot, go out into the trenches and interact with your target audience. 

Remember I told you that it wasn't so glamorous?! Well, this is part of the grind. 

Think about what happens when someone likes your picture, comments on it, or even follows you. What do you do? Naturally, you click on their profile and go see who this person is! So, this is exactly why you need to be social on Instagram. The more you interact with the right audience, the more people will see your name show up in their newsfeed, and the more people will be clicking back to see who you are.

Ultimately, if you did a good job at interacting with the right people, posting good quality content, and having a very clear and specific bio that makes them feel like they belong, you will have given them all the reason they need to follow you. Especially now that they feel noticed, loved, and appreciated by you, due to your social interaction. 

I literally built my account from 1,000 to 15,000 by doing this. Yes, it was a lot of work, but it was totally worth it. 

Collaborate to scale. 

Outside of the everyday Instagram grind that you'll be doing, you'll want to start keeping an eye out for similar accounts that have a growing fan-base, based on the same target audience that you have.

Do you ever wonder why every song these days seem to have a featured artist. Like, Jay-Z featuring Kanye, you want to partner with similar accounts and promote each other to your audiences. This is called Shout-Out For Shout-Out (S4S). It's an easy and very cost-effective way to get in front of your ideal audience  and get a bunch of new followers really quickly. 

Now, don't expect to do a S4S with an account that has 100k followers when you only have 1k. Look for accounts with a similar sized audience and agree on a collaboration that's mutually beneficial. 

Depending on whether you have a marketing budget or not, you can even consider paid posts. This could help you scale much, much, faster, because a paid post allows you to reach a massive audience without needing to have a massive following first. 

Instead of only being able to collaborate through S4S with similar sized accounts, which could take a while to see significant follow-back results at first, you can start collaborating with accounts of 100k or even 1M followers, by paying for a sponsored post. You can usually find these accounts pretty easily and then just email them or send them a private message to inquire about their advertising opportunities and prices. 

I haven't dabbled with paid posts yet, and I've still managed to build an account of over 25,000 followers. But, it's definitely a good quick way to grow your fan-base, especially if you can see a positive ROI on the ad expense.

Final thoughts:

I hope you enjoyed this post and actually apply what you learned on a daily basis so that it becomes part of your everyday social media routine. If you take it seriously and put it in the work on a consistent basis, there's no reason why your account won't hit the 5-figure mark and beyond.

Massive audiences aren't reserved for the elite. Everyone is able to build a global audience of loyal followers if they do the things I've outlined in this post effectively. Share your story or brand message, socialize, connect, and collaborate.

Remember, it's not glamorous, but it works.  Stick to the grind, because if you do, it will work for you too.




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