How to Build a Huge Following on Instagram in 3 Comprehensive Steps

The number one questions I receive when talking about Instagram is “How do I build a huge following like you?” and I usually laugh and reply “I honestly have no idea.” Though this is true in some sense, there must something attracting these people to follow me by the masses. Whether that be by liking, commenting or even reaching out to collaborate it’s still a bit of a mystery to me. Beginning today I am going to break down the various ways to use Instagram for business but first I want to give you all 3 comprehensive steps to building a huge following.

People might say finding a consistent style or niche in the photography world might be the way to capture peoples attention and to get recognized the most, though this is not true in my case. I have over 70,000 followers on Instagram and my feed is filled with everything from portraits to architecture and everything in between, it’s simply a diary of my life in photos. I honestly have no idea how I’ve captured so many peoples attention over the last couple years but it’s what keeps me motivated to post every single day to the social platform and continue pushing my photography while using nothing more than my iPhone. Below is a bit of the story behind my growth and how you can follow in my footsteps.

1. Engage with the Community

I can’t stress enough how important the Instagram community is and how grateful I am for it essentially launching my photography career and my overall interest in photography to something even greater. Just a few years ago I had no idea how to use a camera or what all the buttons did on the back of my Canon 60D I had just purchased. With a few tips from friends and various articles on Fstoppers, I was able to hone my skills online. It wasn’t until late 2012 that I took my first paid gig as a photographer and the rest was history, been grinding it out ever since. Instagram plays a huge role as it was a simple platform I was able to really push my skills daily and post to a group of supportive friends and peers that saw my work publicly.

Pro Tip:

Below are a few simple tips that I used early on that helped build a small community around my person account and the local scene in Indianapolis. Simply follow a user, like one or more of their photos and then comment. That basic tactic brought my name to their news feed while also creating relationships with people from my own community and across the world.

  • Follow a user
  • Like a photo
  • Comment on a photo
  • 2. Knowing When to Post (Statistics)

    Tracking statistics is the second biggest thing I receive questions about when consulting a client with an Instagram account. They always want to know how much data they can extract from the social platform while working together. As an experiment I used a small instameet at a local museum where we were given behind-the-scenes access to the full hidden museum collections and then tracked the data. The meetup brought on 10 photographers who generated 80 photos, thousands of likes and hundreds of comments. This meetup generated a couple hundred followers to the brands account giving me plenty of push to come back again with another pitch. Using a control is a great way to test your own ideas and also add up the stats on your own to bring to the next client when bidding for a job.

    Another big stat was my posting schedule which never really mattered to me starting out but over time I was always intrigued by the idea that people in China could see my photos so quickly. Researching other time zones I was able to hone in a time frame of posts that best fit reaching folks on the west coast as well as in Australia.

    Pro Tip:

    In the chart below which is from one of my go to statistic tracking sites for Instagram you can see when you post and engage with your audience while also seeing when they engage back. It’s a simple chart and one of the best ways to find times of day for posting to reach the largest audience. As you can see I like to post between 8 and 10 AM as to reach my own community locally as well as hitting that early morning risers on the west coast.

    3. Bring on the Collaboration (Including Paid Gigs)
    About 2 years ago I began to see big cities host things called instameets or photo walks with various people on Instagram that shared the same interest as I did. As mentioned before, my first sponsored meetup was with the museum that I used as a control. Soon after hosting my first open instameet, which you can find at #circlecitysesh01, I saw the passion and motivation in more people here in my own city just like I had starting out. Since then a few others along with myself have hosted a free meetup every single month through the app and also created our own group account @igersindy which is a basic feature account where we find and repost the best shots from our own hashtag we created #igersindy.

    I then began to reach out to a handful of companies here locally like museums and hotels to gage interest in hosting an instameet or to have their hotel be photographed and featured on my account, which at the time only had about 2,000 followers. Not small but big enough for a brand to see the value in good photography and a medium to share and get more exposure. Over time I was able to build relationships with these companies and even bring in some paid gigs at some of the most expensive locations in the city. The real value for myself here was when when getting my work featured on their Instagram accounts with a mention back to my page. This simple collaboration with brands help my work be seen by other brands in the same network extending the work I did with them to even more people.

    In the end, you never know where your next photography gig is going to come from and I can’t recommend Instagram enough to photographers whether just starting out or full time.