How to Get Your First 10,000 Followers on Instagram without Spending a Cent

/ marketing / 6 min read
Emma Norris

10,000 followers: it’s a major milestone for most people and brands on Instagram. Not only is it your first foray into a 5-figure following count, but it’s when you finally get that coveted ‘swipe up’ feature. No more trying to get people to click your ‘link in bio’ — you can direct them to wherever you want to go with just a swipe of a button!

However, the road to 10K isn’t always easy. It can often feel like a slow crawl as you watch that follower count go up and down seemingly every day. It’s no wonder that some brands resort to tactics like buying followers or using following bots in an attempt to speed up the process. Unfortunately, this isn’t an effective or sustainable strategy.  Not only is there no guarantee it will actually work, but it often means the followers you’re gaining aren’t actually interested in your content. Plus, it can make your brand look tacky or inauthentic.

The good news is, it is possible to gain 10,000 followers without throwing your hard-earned cash or credibility down the drain. Not only will you save yourself some time and energy, but you’ll also be gaining authentic followers who actually want to see your content!

Here, the team behind the social media scheduling app Plann share the strategies for hitting 10K the right way without spending a cent.

1. Follow & Engage Strategically

In order to build your following, it’s important to get the right eyes on your content. One of the best ways to do that is to engage with them first. Now, this doesn’t mean bulk following thousands and thousands of accounts at random.

The key word here is ‘strategic.’ Seek out accounts that are likely to actually enjoy your content — such as people who already follow similar accounts to you, or who are in your industry — and shower them with virtual attention. That means following them, liking and commenting on their photos and even sending them a DM to let them know how much you enjoy their content.

So, how do you actually go about finding the right accounts to engage with? Your ‘discover’ feed can be a great place to start. Another great way is to find brands that are similar to yours, and check out who’s following them and engaging with their content. Chances are, they might like your content, too!

You can also search for relevant hashtags within your industry or niche, and engage with the people using those. A good rule of thumb is to spend half an hour engaging with accounts before you post, and half an hour afterwards. Always remember, don’t post and ghost!

2. Use Targeted Hashtags

Hashtags are an incredibly useful tool for expanding your reach. That is, the amount of people who see — and will potentially follow — your content.

That said, not all hashtags are created equal! It’s important to use hashtags that your target audience are actually searching for.

You always want to make sure you’re striking the right balance of hashtag popularity. You don’t want to use too many hashtags that are so popular that they get swallowed up into the abyss, or so specific that nobody would ever search for it.

Generally, a good ratio is around 30% big, popular hashtags (think, more than 10,000 results) like #instagood and #picoftheday, and 70% smaller, niche hashtags (less than 10,000 results) within your industry.

You should also mix up your hashtags in each post, so you’re not using the same ones every time. It’s believed that the Instagram algorithm doesn’t favourably on using the same hashtags over and over again. So, consider using a tool like Plann that will allow you to save smaller groups of hashtags that you can easily pick and choose from when posting.

3. Collaborate With Other Users

The road to 10,000 followers doesn’t have to be a lonely one. Chances are, there are other social media users in your network or industry that have similar goals to you. So, why not join forces with them? After all, we’re always stronger together than we are solo.

There are many other great ways you can collaborate with other users on Instagram. If you have someone you genuinely admire, why not show them some virtual love with a shoutout on your feed or stories? Instagram’s new ‘share small business’ sticker feature makes it easier than ever to do.  Chances are, they’ll share your post with their own audience, or even give you a shoutout back.

You could also team up to do an Instagram live (for example, a mini webinar on a topic you’re both knowledgeable about), as this would be streamed to both of your audiences.

Another popular strategy that has helped many Instagram users fast track the path to 10K is loop giveaways. This is where you team up with other users to give away a prize, and each post it on your Instagram accounts. For example, if you’re service based-businesses, you could each give away a package.

If you’re a product-based business, you could each supply a prize to create a mega gift pack. In order to enter, people must follow all of the accounts. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you may lose some followers once the winner has been announced, as not all will be generally interested in your content.

4. Use Stories & Videos

If you’re only posting on your feed, you’re putting all your eggs in one basket and likely missing valuable opportunities to get your content seen. Supplementing your strategy with stories and videos will help you get your content in front of a much larger audience.

With over 500 million accounts using stories per day, successful Instagram users know the importance of showing up there each and every day. Think of your feed as your portfolio where you post your best content, but your stories as a testing ground where you can post on-the-fly, imperfect content and see what works for your account. You can also share your feed posts to your stories by clicking the little arrow button, to help amplify your content.

Then, there’s video. These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find an account with over 10,000 followers that doesn’t incorporate this medium into their Instagram strategy in some way. Video helps your content to stand out amongst a feed of static images. Plus, it’s a great way to give people a glimpse at the real person behind the brand (you!) and build a stronger connection with potential followers.

Not only do videos get around 38% more engagement than photos, but they keep users on your content for longer — which means they’re more likely to stick around and follow you.

There’s now a plethora of different ways you can incorporate video into your Instagram strategy. You could post snappy, 60-second videos onto your feed or stories, stream Instagram lives on your stories or even create longer form videos up to 10 minutes on IGTV.

The key is to experiment and see what type of video content performs best for you and your brand, and that you can easily fit into your lifestyle and schedule. It needs to be sustainable! Not sure how? There's plenty of free graphic design tools that make it easy to make engaging visual content.

5. Post Consistently

We know this one isn’t a particularly fun or ground-breaking strategy. But, often what separates those people who break through the 10,000 follower barrier and those that don’t is consistency.

Whether you can manage to post multiple times per day, or a couple of times per week, the key is to get into a  rhythm with it and do it consistently long-term. You can free up time and make the process simpler by using an automation tool like Zapier.  

It’s also important to have a consistent engagement schedule. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to just bulk-follow people in dribs and drabs. Having a target in mind as to how many accounts you’re going to engage with each day or week will help make sure you’re moving forward.

At the end of the day, there’s no magic bullet for quickly reaching 10,000 followers. But by following the strategies in this article consistently, you’ll put yourself on the front foot to some serious growth. And the good news is, once you get over the initial 10K hump, it tends to be a lot quicker to jump up in thousands — so you’ll be on the track to 20K, 50K and beyond!

Used by over two million people, Plann offers Instagram scheduling and Facebook auto posting to help you turn your brand story into a global powerhouse, get discovered and make sales. Available on Desktop, iOS & Android.

About the author
Emma Norris

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