How to Grow Your Instagram Account in 2021

Here is what you need to know as we transition to the next year

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Instagram is still lucrative moving to 2021 and beyond. Currently, there are multi-million dollar businesses solely built on Instagram. In recent years, official businesses are jumping on the Instagram train and you shouldn’t be left behind either.

Based on your purpose and goals, there are three types of Instagram accounts.

  • Personal accounts — i.e Jason Stone, Zulie Rane, etc.
  • Brand accounts — i.e Apple, Samsung, Natgeo, etc.
  • Theme pages — i.e Cats pages, wine pages, workout pages, etc.

If you are reading this right now, there is a high chance you want to grow at least one of the three types of accounts above. Here is the good news, 12 months of 2021 at the least can get you to 100k followers. This is regardless of whether you start with 0 followers or a couple of hundreds of followers.

Let us now dive straight into it.

Follow for Follow, Will This Work?

Follow for Follow is not recommended. Instagram actually cracked down on it towards the end of 2018 and all of a sudden the hype on Instagram bots ended.

There is a very specific exception though. Follow for Follow can be helpful if your account has less than 3000 followers. This is a known and proven way to rack up your first 3000 followers fast. Alternative methods include buying shoutouts or promoting your post via Instagram ads. To do it all organic you’ve got no option apart from using Follow for Follow to hit your first 3000 followers milestone.

Why 3000 followers?

Once you hit 3000 followers, this is the point where Instagram starts promoting your content organically. In other terms, once you hit 3000 followers your Instagram account starts growing organically. So Follow for Follow is no longer needed.

At that milestone, you can either slow down Follow for Follow or quit it completely.

Follow for Follow caveats

Before implementing it, below are the caveats.

  • It should be done manually, don’t use bots. Using bots can flag your account.
  • For a new account, Instagram lets you follow 300 to 400 people a day before getting an action block. This is to give you a starting boost into the platform.
  • For mature accounts, the limits get reduced to 100 to 200 people per day. These numbers are not fixed. They are safe zones, you can of course go past these limits. The only downside is that your account can be limited to following only 150 people per day.

Let us now look at how to grow each type of account.

Growing Personal Accounts

Personal accounts come in all forms and shapes. What is similar though is that they are mostly anchored towards personality and lifestyle.

New accounts/accounts with less than 3k followers

Depending on whether you have time or not. There are two main ways to reach 3000 followers fast.

  1. Organic method (If you have time) — Follow For Follow. It might take about an hour or 2 hours a day for a maximum period of about 7 weeks.
  2. Paid methods (If you don’t have time) — Instagram paid promotions and buying shoutouts. Once you set it up, that’s it. You can literally get to 3000 followers in a matter of hours if you got the budget.

Organic method (Follow for Follow Strategy)

  1. Head over to where you think your ideal followers' hangout. This can be a person you admire Instagram account, a theme page, or a specific hashtag.
  2. Look for the most recent post, posted within hours not days. Check all the persons that have liked the post or commented. Follow these people.
  3. Finally, make sure you engage with the content. Like the post and leave a thoughtful comment if possible.

Once you start following others, you will definitely be followed back. A good follow back conversion rate is anything over 20%. If you receive a follow back conversion rate of over 20%, everything is going on well. This is very easy to achieve.

Let’s say for some reason your follow back conversion rate is below 20%. Consider working on your profile to make it more attractive. Attractive enough to give someone a reason to follow you. This might mean improving your bio, profile picture, username, or the first nine posts someone sees once they land on your profile.

Paid methods (Instagram paid promotions and shoutouts)

Paid methods are the best if you don’t have time. They are mainly two: Instagram paid promotions and buying shoutouts.

Instagram paid promotion are pretty much straight forward. Moreover, they guide you through the process.

When buying shoutouts there are two things you need to watch out for.

  • Fake accounts with fake followers.
  • The engagement rate of the account you are buying a shoutout from.

Fake accounts are scam zones. You may end up receiving a hand full of traffic or no traffic at all. A good way to identify fake accounts is by using SocialBlade.

Socialblade breaks down the metrics of an Instagram account making it easier for you to identify a fake account. It presents you with a graph of how the account has grown over time and how many followers it’s been gaining each day.

To identify a fake account, look for any unusual spikes in the growth of the account. Check how many followers they gain in a day organically and see if there is any particular day they had an unusual number of followers gained. Also, check how they not gaining or how they are losing followers.

The best way to buy shoutouts though is by contacting those personalities or pages that you already admire, like, or engage with yourself.

The most important metric to look at when buying shoutouts is the engagement rate. The higher the engagement the better. More engagement means more people will follow you.

Accounts with over 3k followers

If you’ve reached this milestone, congratulations!

The strategy going forward is to grow organically. There are three ways to gain followers organically.

  • Hitting explore
  • Networking — Exchanging shoutouts
  • Leaving your 0.02 cents — Engaging to build a community that cares. This in turn increases your engagement rate. Engagement is very important when it comes to monetizing your following.

Let us look at each of these in detail.

Hitting explore

This is the main and ultimate way to grow organically. If you execute this strategy properly you can gain up to 500 followers in a day on an account with less than 10,000 followers.

The strategy is simple. For every post, your aim should be hitting the explore. Once you hit explore, your post gets exposure to non-followers. What then happens is those who like your content end up following you.

Your 3000+ followers play a role to determine whether your content hits explore. If they overwhelmingly like your content and engage with it, the Instagram algorithm will pick the content and your post will be on explore.

So, what does this narrow down to? It narrows down to creating epic content. Content that resonates with your followers or makes them feel something. In short, content that makes them engage. As the wise phrase goes, “Content is King”.

For each post that performs really well and hits explore. Consider adding a follow CTA to that post. A follow CTA can help increase the number of people who follow you after your post has been exposed to non-followers.

If you can make it a practice to hit explore multi times a week, your Instagram account will grow tremendously.

Networking — Exchanging Shoutouts (Accounts with over 10k followers)

Once your accounts reach 10k followers, this is a good spot to start networking with other Instagram accounts with the same following. This is also is where you start receiving Dm’s for collaborations and paid promotions. I don’t recommend rushing into paid promotions, take your time to think it out.

So, how do you network? There are two ways to do this.

  • Exchanging likes and comments with accounts with a similar following.
  • Exchanging shoutouts.

Exchanging engagement with accounts with a similar following increases your Instagram account authority. Higher authority means better algorithm favor. Exchanging engagement gives each account exposure. Followers also tend to sip through the two accounts and both account owners benefit.

Exchanging shoutouts on the hand works like paid promotions only that the value you get is not in currency but growth. The two accounts exchanging shoutouts benefit from each other, it’s like sharing followers.

Before agreeing to a shoutout exchange, make sure the other account is legit. Just like paid promotions, giving a lot of shoutouts can negatively impact your account. Do it in a controlled manner, that is if exchanging shoutouts is appropriate for you.

To network with Instagram accounts with a similar following, simply find those accounts then send a Dm. You can enquire about exchanging a shoutout. You can also enquire about engagement exchange pods for accounts with your following.

Heads Up! You can also find a plethora of engagement pods and groups via Google search and Facebook search. Most of these groups tend to send spam or have small accounts whose engagement exchange won’t give you any authority. Stay away from them. If you have to be in a community, let it be a healthy community with Instagram accounts at the same level as you are.

Leaving your 0.02 cents

This is basically engaging with the community around you and giving value where necessary.

For every piece of engagement, consider it your 0.02 cents you’ve left behind that you will collect later. Engaging with others increases your own personal engagement and creates a community around you that cares.

There no rules here, leaving your 0.02 cents should be a fun process. It should give your journey more meaning and purpose. The only caveat is you should only engage in recent content.

Section sum up

Hitting explore is the main and ultimate organic way to grow your Instagram account with over 3k followers. Networking and leaving your $0.02 is totally optional. Networking works best if you have over 10k followers and it’s not a must.

If you got the budget and creating content to hit explore is a bit of a challenge. You can tremendously grow your Instagram account by buying shoutouts and promoting your post via Instagram ads.

Growing Brand Accounts

Let us start by defining what is the purpose of a brand account. The main purpose of a brand account is to portray the brand image. Depending on the type of business. The main purpose of a brand account can also be to generate sales online. So how do you grow this type of accounts?

Accounts with less than 3k followers/New accounts

As for any Instagram account, you need to start strong and grow fast. Follow for Follow here is not recommended as it may negatively portray your brand. Moreover, if you are starting a brand account you must have a budget of some kind.

To reach your first 3000 followers you need to leverage paid methods of growth. The main two are buying shoutouts and Instagram ads.

When buying shoutouts the CTA should be a follow to your account. With a good budget, buying shoutouts from massive accounts with high engagement can get you over 3000 followers within hours.

A controlled and leaner approach is better. This again depends on how fast you want to grow per your growth goals.

Instagram ads on the other hand give your content exposure to non-followers. In that those who like your content end up following you. It’s also recommended to add a follow CTA in your promoted posts. A follow CTA increases the number of people who end up following you. Lots of engagement can also get your post on the explore giving you additional exposure to non-followers.

If you lack the funds or you want to be totally frugal. Feel free to use Follow for Follow until you reach 3k followers.

3K followers to 100k followers

Here you combine both organic methods and paid methods. This can be achieved by:

  • Posting epic content to hit explore — Organic growth.
  • Using shoutouts to accelerate the process of gaining followers — Paid method. (Accelerated growth)
  • Promoting post via Instagram ads for more exposure to gain additional followers — Paid method. (Accelerated growth)

The process of buying shoutouts for a brand account is almost similar to a personal account (refer to the previous section). This is because the most important metric to look at is engagement.

There is an exception though if the primary purpose of your brand is to generate sales online rather than portraying the brand image. The most important factor to look at is the relatedness or appropriateness of the account you are buying a shoutout from to your product or products. High relatedness guarantees more sales. (This is a million-dollar tip)

Brands can use paid methods until they reach a level they are comfortable with. They can then rely on organic growth going forward. This is actually a good approach to launch a brand on Instagram fast.

Example: A startup can combine both paid and organic methods to grow until they reach 100k followers. From there, quit paid methods and rely on organic growth going forward.

Growing Theme Pages

A theme page focuses on one topic i.e entrepreneurship, motivation, memes, dogs, etc.

Advantages of growing theme pages

  • It’s easier to grow theme pages.
  • Most really on content curation. You don’t have to create content, you curate content and credit the original owner.
  • Since content is curated. You get access to content that you already know will perform well. So you can literally hit explore with every single post and gain lots of followers easily.
  • Reposting a viral post and crediting the original owner takes very little time. (Few minutes)

Disadvantages of growing theme pages

  • There is no personal relationship between the theme page and the followers. So the engagement doesn’t translate to dollars. This means the following is of lower quality.
  • They lack originality since all content is curated. The community often doesn’t care.

A mix of a brand and a theme page can help tackle these issues. Adding some personality to a theme page and creating some original epic content can help to build a community that cares.

Accounts with less than 3k followers

Often, people growing themes pages have time and most don’t have the budget to go the paid route. So, Follow for Follow works here. The strategy is already explained.

From 3k followers to 1M+ followers

With theme pages hitting explore is not much of a problem and only takes about 10 minutes to repost content that is already proven. This is an advantage that is unique to growing a theme page.

Exchanging shoutouts doesn’t hurt. If your main focus is tremendous growth, exchanging shoutouts can be handy. It’s not a must though. Similarly, exchanging engagement with accounts with a similar following can be handy it’s not necessary as well.

Finding proven content to hit explore

Find accounts that focus on what you focus on that have less than 250k followers.

Pick the top 5% of the post with the highest engagement. These are the post that had definitely hit explore. Use the free repost app that is available on both IOS and Android to post on your theme page. You can similarly download content and post it manually. Always remember to credit the original owners.

Why accounts with less than 250K followers

This type of content hasn’t had massive exposure comparing with content posted by accounts with over 250k followers. What that means is that there is a chance a huge chunk of your followers hasn’t come across it, hence they are likely to engage with it more.

Another reason is that huge accounts get good engagement regardless of the content they post. So finding good content with some viral potential is a little bit hard.

What you need to watch out for

Failing to credit the original owner can land you into problems. You can be reported for copyright violation or be required to pay heavy fines. For some content, crediting the original owner is not enough. You need to have a license before reposting the content or using it.

Once you are hit with 3 copyright violations, Instagram terminates your account. Watch out for that trap. Three copyright violations is a low bar, imagine the total number of posts on an account with over 10k followers. Stay woke on this and scrutinize content before reposting.

If you have doubts, Dm the original owner and ask if you can repost the content and credit them. Most of the time they happily say yes.


I bet by now you know how to grow an Instagram account going into 2021. This is whether it’s a personal account or a theme page. Despite this, you need more than knowledge to succeed on Instagram. The next thing that you need is to remain consistent.

Consistency is what will make you succeed on Instagram

If you implement everything that is discussed here and only do it for 2 months and quit. You will only end up with a little over 3k followers on your account and that’s just about it.

On the better side, if you can remain consistent for the next 8 months till august next year. You will have a whopping 60k followers at the very least. And probably have a business that is run on Instagram.

I write. My life purpose is to help others and positively impact the world.

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