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60 Instagram Users Helped Me Find The Best Way to Gain Followers

A Real Social Experiment: How to Gain Instagram Followers Organically

Instagram followers. Everybody wants more, but few understand how to obtain them organically.

Whether you’re a brand, business, individual, or blogger, using Instagram can be a really lucrative way to get yourself out there and attract like minded people.

With over 700 million users, Instagram has become the hub of social interaction.

Curious about organic growth, I wanted to see if there was a “formula” for attracting more followers, so I lined up a few volunteers to help me with a little Instagram experiment.

The Instagram Experiment

The experiment consisted of 60 Instagram users who were split up into groups of 10. Each group had a specific task that they were to complete for an entire week. The volunteers I chose per group had a wide range of existing followers – some accounts were just starting out, and others had thousands of fans already. I did my very best to make each group inclusive of all types of accounts so that the results wouldn’t be shifted.  They were asked to report their starting follower count and their final follower count once the week was complete.

Their tasks were as follows:

Group 1A
Asked to like 200-250 photos daily from a specific hashtag of their choosing. The hashtag was to correspond with the photos they posted.  They were asked to refrain from using any hashtags on their own photos for the course of the week.

Group 1B
Asked to like 200-250 photos daily from a specific hashtag of their choosing. The hashtag was to correspond with the photos they posted.  They were asked to refrain from using any hashtags on their own photos for the course of the week. The only difference here was that these accounts in the group all had more of a themed aesthetic than the previous. For example, some were entirely food accounts, others were hair or fashion exclusively.  I was curious to see if a themed account could gain more attention this way. 

Group 2
Asked to like 200-250 photos per day from followers of users who have accounts similar to theirs. They were also asked to only like the user’s most recent photo and to refrain from using any hashtags on their own photos for the week.

Group 3
Asked to like 200-250 photos per day from followers of users who have similar accounts to theirs. They were asked to like their THREE most recent photos (3 photos per user) and also asked to refrain from using hashtags on their own photos for the week.

Group 4
Asked to post a new photo every day for the week and use specifically THREE hashtags relevant to their photo. The hashtags they used were to have less than 1 million photos posted under it. They were asked to refrain from any mass liking or following for the week.

Group 5
Asked to post a new photo every day for the week and use specifically SIX hashtags relevant to their photo. The hashtags they used were to have less than 1 million photos posted under it. They were asked to refrain from any mass liking or following for the week.

The plan with this experiment was to see if liking photos and using hashtags actually worked for gaining followers, and if so, did it matter how many hashtags were used or if their “liking” was towards similar accounts?

The Results

Here are the results from that week-long experiment. The percentages represent the average increase of followers experienced by each group over the course of one week:

Tracking Instagram Followers

As it turned out, There was only a very slight difference between Group 1A and Group 1B, concluding that it didn’t matter whether or not the volunteer’s Instagram feed was themed or based around a niche.  These groups also saw the highest increase of followers. 

Group 2 saw an average follower increase of 9.6%, concluding that photos liked from hashtags were more effective than liking the most recent photo of a follower from a similar user/account.

Group 3 saw a slightly greater increase after liking the 3 most recent photos from followers of similar users, instead of just the one most recent.

Group 4 did not impress at all, being the lowest increase of the bunch, and Group 5 earned 2nd last place, concluding that hashtags added to your photos don’t gain as much attention as if you were to physically make yourself visible to others by liking their photos as well.

The Takeaway

The takeaway from this experiment was that it takes a bit of extra work to increase a social media following. There are no “quick fix” hashtags that will instantly boost your presence without putting in a little elbow grease of your own. Liking (and even commenting) on photos from other users creates much more of a connection than simply plastering hashtags on your photographs and waiting for others to find you.

I did also notice that the users who had more appealing photographs in their accounts gained the most fans over the course of the week, reiterating that making your Instagram profile a nice looking place does help in attracting new followers.

What You Can Do

While hashtags do help, I always recommend using ones that have less than 500,000 posts under them. Otherwise, the chances of your photo going unrecognized greatly increases as those hashtag results are constantly updating which results in your post getting pushed down every second.

If you want to grow your Instagram following organically, put in a little bit of time each day and explore the community. “Like” photos and comment on ones that you find appealing. The more you can get yourself noticed without being spammy, the greater your chances are of increasing your followers and attracting people who are actually interested in what you post.

Good luck! What did you take away from this experiment?

Thank you so much to all of the volunteers who shared their time for this experiment.

P.s. You can follow me here 😉

A Real Social Experiment: How to Gain Instagram Followers Organically


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Dana
I am a country loving Canadian with a mind that never sleeps. When I'm not running the Wonder Forest blog ship, you can find me creating artwork for phone cases and home decor, whilst managing the daily tasks of Dana Fox Creative. Visit me at the links below if you wanna be friends and follow along on Snapchat: wonderforest.

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  • Cyn

    Pretty much matches what I noticed experimenting with my account, I gain followers on the days I am taking the time to like pictures and interact with other users regardless of what hashtags I use.

  • This research looks interesting. However, I am curious about one particular aspect – unfollowers. How many of those new followers are real? I mean the majority of people are following accounts because they expect to others to follow them back. If it doesn’t happen, they just hit that “unfollow” button. Even if they get a new follower, after day or two they unfollow them. It seems that the more people talk about gaining followers on Instagram, the more spammy activities show up out there 🙂

    • I’m sure there would be some unfollowing happening, which is inevitable regardless of any method you use… but we found that most followers were ones who chose to like you based on the content you shared. This isn’t an “follow for follow” type deal which definitely would see many lost followers… instead, you’re simply liking photos which gives the other user a chance to discover you and follow you if they like what they see.

  • Lauren MacDermid

    This is an awesome post, really interesting!

  • I honestly wasn’t expecting these results, I will definitely be taking all of this into consideration in future.

    Lisa | Soho Stripes

  • Jolie Luu

    Woah! The result is mind blown. I really didn’t expect that.

    Jolie
    Joliecious.com

  • This was great! Thank you for taking the time to do the research. I’m just now start my own little business and I feel like Instagram would be a good social media platform to focus on. I got my first 25 followers fairly quickly, but it’s been stuck there for a while… I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to use hashtags with fewer posts, but that definitely makes sense.
    Time for me to start liking & following, rethinking my hashtags, and upping my photo game.

  • This was sooooo informative! I am definitely strategizing my hashtag game and being more active in networking!

    xo,

    Aïchatou Bella

    http://www.stilettosandstandards.com

  • Dana is was so amazing! I did not think that would be the case and I’m going to be way more mindful of going through hashtags and liking others instead of waiting for people to find me!

    Sarah | More Than Adored

  • Dana, this experiment was such a great idea! I always wondered if hashtags were so relevant as they all say, and apparently they’re not! At least not to the extent everyone seems to think! My question here is: is there any software that can do that liking for us under some specifications we choose? Thanks again! Awesome post! xoxo

    • There used to be, but Instagram shut them down. I don’t think they like automated bots at all. It’s best to just put the time in to grow organically 🙂

  • This is super informative! I like the suggestion of using hashtags with less than 500,000 posts, because that also cuts down on the “follow-for-follow” people 🙂

  • Paige Cassandra Flamm

    These are awesome tips and things I’m going to try out over the next few weeks!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  • This is a great experiment! I honestly thought those who posted everyday would have higher results. Great information to use when growing your following, especially as a new blogger! I will definitely be applying these findings. Thank you!

  • This is such a great experiment! I’ve always thought that posting every day and hashtags were the secret to getting a bigger following, which maybe it used to be before the algorithm changes. I will definitely be implementing some changes in how I approach my Instagram.

    Kristi Beth | Be Loverly

  • Amazing experiment. I have defiantly learned from this post and will take more time interacting and liking others posts. Using hashtags with less then 500,000 posts is a great tip too. Thank you

    Kayla
    https://purpleblossomslife.blogspot.ca

  • this is a really great experiment. While the sample size is quite small and I understand why that is, the data can prove to be viable. I will definitely give this a try and see for myself what happens. Thank you for sharing!

  • What a great detailed post about the experiment! Thanks for the information! xx

    Angeline x
    http://thegirlfromthenorth.com

  • Michelle Gil Santini

    It’s quite a very interesting experiment I should try that since I’ve been trying to gain followers organically.
    xo
    Michelle| http://www.brokebutflawless.com

  • The Queen Of Dreaming

    Very interesting!!

    https://justsem.wordpress.com/