When I started my blog, one of my first goals was to get 1000 free followers on Instagram in my niche so that I could start reaching out to brands. 1000 is not a magical number, but I’ve rarely seen anyone get brand collaborations with less. I’m going to show you exactly how I went from 160 to over 1000 followers in one month using two follow for follow methods. You can copy what I did, as I think it’s a really effective way to quickly get 1000 free followers on Instagram!
My Instagram account before starting this
- I had 160 followers…for months.
- Popular accounts would add me and dump me daily.
- I had no idea what I was doing!
- My target audience was moms with babies and young kids.
- My pics all had a different filter rather than the same one for all.
- I didn’t use a preview app to see how my pics would look in my feed before posting.
I’m sharing this to show you that you can still use this method even without having the perfect feed. (Although from here on if you want to work with brands, then work on taking nicer photos!)
This is not a sustainable way to grow due to my follow for follow strategy which targets people who are also wanting get 1000 followers on Instagram (or more). However you will get the base you need to start working with brands for free product, which was my goal.
I passed the 1,500 Instagram followers mark and gained about 50 followers a day in my niche doing this. Also, don’t do this if you just plan to unfollow. It won’t work then. Once you gain the follower number you want, then you will need a new strategy to grow true fans, not just other want-to-be-influencers.
Related Post: My blog traffic increase: 0-11K pageviews in one month
Follow for follow loops in your niche
A quick way to find people in your niche who are looking to do this is to search around for hashtags. Do not search generic hashtags like #followforfollow…that will get you a ton of weirdo accounts who don’t like what you post and you won’t like what they post.
Look around for ones specific to what you post about. A few examples I’ve seen in the motherhood niche are:
You basically scroll through till you see a photo that says something obvious like ” mom follow train”, click it, and follow the instructions. I’m sure there are similar ones for other areas in influence.
I actually didn’t know about follow for follow hashtags (in the motherhood niche) at the time of doing this, but I wish I did then! Then 100% of accounts I followed would have followed back instead of about 50%.
If you can get to 1000 this way alone, then disregard the rest of this post! However, I want to show you what I did that also worked even before learning about follow trains.
Action Plan Phase 1, Finding Instagram accounts who will follow you back
Note: I wanted people in my niche who would be interested in my photos, not random people. Here’s what I did:
- I found accounts through hashtags with a similar style and number of followers to mine. Next, I looked at who followed them and start clicking on those profiles!
- Then I’d click through as many of those accounts as I had time for, looking specifically if they follow equal to or more than the number that follows them.
- I ONLY looked at the number of people who followed them compared to the number they were following. What I was looking for was people in my niche who would follow me back. I barely even glanced at their photos.
- If they followed more people than followed them, I clicked “follow”. Each day I did this to about 100 accounts and about half followed back. This increased as my photos got better.
- You can follow me on Instagram here. I’m not doing follow for follow anymore but you can stay up to date on new blog posts and lots of freebie giveaways that way!
Why you need to look at their follow and following numbers
At this point, I would only follow someone who followed equal to or more people than followed them. Then, they would be more likely to essentially do a follow for follow. And this worked about 50% of the time!
To be honest, I barely even looked at their photos and sometimes didn’t at all. I didn’t care if they had followed 200 and had 200 followers or if they followed 5,000 and had 5,000 followers.
How to find followers who engage and comment on photos
Another great way I found people in my niche who actually comment on photos (aka the perfect follower) was to click on an account similar in size and quality to mine and see who comments on their photos.
I’d click on every profile that left a comment and follow them if they had equal to or more people they followed than were following them.
The tricky thing is that there are these things all over the place called comment pods where bloggers exchange comments to puff up engagement for brands (often through a Facebook group), so the comments may not always be “voluntary”.
It’s hard to know, which is why you should at least check their follow/following numbers.
Phase 2, Unfollowing Instagram accounts who don’t follow back
I started doing this around 500 followers
Unfollow all those not following back with an Instagram unfollow app. There are some free apps but these are always changing and some make you pay a few bucks for the unfollow feature.
I currently use Follow Track with a little pink and orange colored icon, and it’s free and works well. You never have to leave the app and can unfollow a ton at once. Don’t do more than 50 in an hour or Instagram may flag you and freeze your account for a day.
It made my follow to following ratio about 1:1.
Unfollow in batches about once a week, so not to accidentally follow, unfollow, and refollow the same person right away. People did that to me and it was soooo annoying. That’s just asking to get blocked.
Related: How to pitch brands for FREE product + 7 email pitches that landed me collabs
Should you follow Instagram accounts that follow you first?
- I followed back feeds if their numbers seemed like they wouldn’t just unfollow me. Hint: not those who have 20,000 followers and follow 300.
- Know that some influencers follow you not because they like your pics, or plan to keep you around even if you follow back. It’s their method of getting exposure, and most will dump you (be sure of it if they have thousands of followers and only follow 100). I find that annoying, so I only follow back if I truly like their feed and wouldn’t mind getting dumped ;-).
Related Post: How I started working with brands on Instagram with 1,000 followers and a new blog
How and why to hashtag every photo
- Hashtag all your photos
- Write down lists others use in your niche.
- Copy and paste from notes on your phone to save time. Make several lists based on the types of photos you post. For example a baby photo would have different hashtags than a photo of my husband and I on our anniversary.
- Stick them in a comment rather than the description so it looks better. Or, put them in the description but below the fold by typing a period and then enter a bunch of times.
Comment and like photos
If you like a pic, go like 3 more on the same account and comment. They will see your picture and name 3 times in their notifications.
To be honest, people who get tons of likes, say 100 or more per photo, don’t look at everyone who has liked their photo. However, commenting AND liking people’s pics makes you stand out in their notifications.
Tag accounts that do features
I didn’t do this at first but this can be huge! Essentially if you can get another account with thousands of followers to post your photo on their Insta then you get free exposure to a lot of new people. (By tagging a brand or a hashtag that features other people’s pics, you give them permission to repost your photo and give you credit).
It can be tricky to find feature accounts to tag so just search what similar accounts are using for hashtags and you will find some.
Join or start an Instagram “pod”
This is a group of 10 or so similar accounts that share one photo or so a day on a private message thread, and everyone in the pod has to like and comment on each photo (so around 10/day). This increases engagement, making Insta like you more and share your photos with more people.
If you want to start one, then you will have to message 20+ people who are influencers asking them if they would like to be part of a comment pod (where everyone is required to comment on each person’s photo, max usually 1/day). Some pods also just swap likes. It’s up to you.
Study other Instagram Accounts
While you are growing, study other Instagram accounts. What makes people want to follow others accounts with lots of followers? Um…their beautiful photos and useful information! And, not just one photo, but how they ALL looked together in a feed. I noticed the best feeds were:
- Good quality, never blurry.
- The same filter used always.
- A theme of some sort (aka, motherhood, travel, beauty, ect). And within a theme, the best pages also had a color scheme. Like pops of pink every few pictures. Or lots of natural browns and greens. Or super white backgrounds. Each picture in the feeds looked good with the others.
Do a little bit every day to get 1000 free followers on Instagram!
I’m stoked that this has really helped my Instagram grow and allowed me to start working with brands because I had an audience. And, I could do it in small increments of time!
You cannot unfollow these influencers though (big or small), or they will unfollow you. Eventually, people will follow you just because they love your content. But for now getting the base 1,000 will be mostly people who want followers too.
You can actually only follow 7,500 people total so this method is not sustainable. It’s mostly just a sure way to jumpstart your followers. Once you are ready to start trying your hand at working with brands check out this post!
Monday 25th of January 2021
These are great tips! I am so glad I found your blog post. As a newbie to Instagram and business, this is going to help me tremendously. Thanks again
Monday 13th of July 2020
Hey, i followed the same and starting seeing the positive results in just one day. Thanks a lot
Thursday 2nd of January 2020
Great advise. just started using your method and gain 7 followers already. how do I customers my pictures to get natural browns or green background? Your information will help me.
Thursday 2nd of January 2020
To get a feed with a cohesive color theme, you will need to purchase a photo filter and apply it to each photo before uploading it to Instagram. You can google photo filters to buy, search on Etsy, or find a feed you like on Instagram and send them a DM asking them if they would be willing to share what filter they use.
Tuesday 6th of March 2018
I fell into the trap of following back tons of users who ended up dumping me right away, so this has been super helpful! Definitely going to be more selective in who I follow now! :)
Thursday 8th of March 2018
Hi Tanya, Bummer that happened to you. It's such a dumb way that people try and get followers in my opinion. Good luck and keep on taking quality photos, that will go a long way!
Tuesday 17th of October 2017
Love these tips! Thanks for including truly helpful information. So many other posts just say the same couple of things over and over but no real advice. I’m going to start your suggestions now!
Friday 27th of October 2017
I'm SO glad this helped you! Ya, I think so many posts just say, "engage a ton", or similar nonspecific info so hope this helps you grow!