A Complete Guide To Instagram Growth With No Money In 2021

My 2019 complete guide to Instagram growth with no money is still my most read article here on the blog, on Medium, everywhere! It just blew up and has been read by tens of thousands. But we’re in 2021 now and, unfortunately, some of the ideas in that article are not working anymore. Or working poorly. This is why I’m presenting you with this new and improved guide!

Instagram in 69 words

I first want to start with the most important aspect of all. Sure, you know what Instagram is but… do you?! Did you know that Instagram is a place for promoting yourself, your brand, service or products? It’s not just a place where you spend hours scrolling and hearting pics? It’s an actual tool you can use 10% for fun and 90% for making money? Now we’re getting somewhere…

Instagram for business

For this particular guide, I’ll use my overall experience and some Internet knowledge to specifically address the “Instagram for business” matter, and how you can grow your profile to attract more people into buying your stuff. This is because I’ve parted ways with my “just post for the heck of it” game on this platform. And it has earned me clients, and therefore money!

Go figure…

How to start with Instagram

If you’re new to Instagram, it’s a harsh place to be right now. The competition between accounts from every single domain you can think of is fierce. People are spending hours, days on end trying to figure out their next post, Story, and whatnot. If you’re just starting out, the best thing you can do is to just post regularly, without thinking about followers, reach, or strategy.

Instagram in 2021

In this day and age, you need a greatly defined strategy for your Instagram, if you want your profile, and therefore business to grow because of it. Instagram in 2021 is very different from what it was back in 2019 when the “mass follow-unfollow” and interacting with new accounts would usually get you some new followers. Now, it simply doesn’t work like that anymore. Why?

Because the “market” is overflowing with accounts of all sorts, shapes and sizes. And because of it, it’s not just you who’s thought about following people and then unfollowing them a week later. And regular users, get this, caught up with these accounts and are simply not following them back. Regardless if it’s a tech profile, a fitness model, or a social media guru.

Growing your Instagram profile in 2021

So how do you actually grow, or keep growing your Instagram in 2021, with all of these new algorithm changes and past techniques that are now useless? It’s a combo of consistency, engagement, posting Stories, advertising your Instagram, and creation. It’s hard work, to say the least, to get in front of your own followers. Let alone bring in new ones. So, here goes nothing!

Instagram in 2021 #1: Consistency over anything

The most important feature of any decent Instagram account in 2021 is posting in a consistent manner. Being all over the place with your posting schedule will do you no good. In fact, when you decide on when to post, if you don’t stick to your schedule, somehow the algorithm will notice. And then turn your own content away from your followers. Consistency is key.

For my 2021 Instagram posting, I decided to go for a weekly posting schedule. Once a week, every Wednesday morning, between 10 and 12, I post my weekly post. This accomplishes two things at once, both very important for the mechanics of how Instagram works right now:

-Consistency: I know that I don’t have to beat myself over the head with when to post, or if I should post on Monday night, or Thursday afternoon, or anything of that sort. I just know that I’ll post on Wednesday before lunch and that gives me enough time to prepare my posts.

-Only top content allowed: Because I’m only allowing myself to post once a week, I have complete freedom but also the responsibility to pick my very best possible post for any given time. I can’t go for good, or mediocre. I have to be on top of my game, and Instagram likes that.

Instagram in 2021 #2: Engagement

One of the most beneficial things you can do for your Instagram growth in 2021 is to engage with other accounts such as yours. I set myself up for at least 10 comments every single day, on people who’re into travel and content creation. And at least 100 likes on small to medium accounts of my sorts. I don’t go for the big dogs because the engagement there is different.

The most important thing when it comes to engagement is sincerity, and then quality. You want to be honest with the person you’re engaging with. Tell them how you feel about their stuff, how you enjoyed their Stories, or how you’re not okay with something they’ve said, or posted. Engage, truly engage, and make it a quality comment or Story response. They’ll follow shortly!

Instagram in 2021 #3: Mass follow

Yes, Instagram is not the place to do mass follow and unfollow anymore. But for some reason, if you do it occasionally, this technique that was on a rampage just 2-3 years ago still works! I’d recommend going for the mass follow-unfollow technique once every other week. You just follow up to 100 people, wait for 2 hours, and then do it again over the course of the entire day. 

Repeat for three days, and then at the end of the week, unfollow the people that haven’t followed you back. You can keep track of who’s followed you back or not with one of the Unfollowers app. They work quite well on both iOS and Android devices. So yes, mass follow/unfollow still works. But only moderately. And if you target your followings to your niche.

Instagram in 2021 #4: Stories

Without a doubt that Instagram Stories are as valuable, if not more valuable than actual posts in 2021. It’s really hard to get to grow your followers with Stories, as these are hard to get in front of other people without paid ads, but it’s an incredible way to keep those followers of yours close. For me, I found that more than 20% of my followers see my Stories regularly. That’s a lot!freelance writer books amazon

Instagram Stories should follow at least three rules when it comes to being effective and reaching as many followers and other people as possible:

 

-Useful – Every single Story that you publish should be useful in a way to your followers. A photo with your running trail is useless if you’re not throwing in some info on the route. The same goes with your lunch photos, share some details on the flavours, the location, and the price. Be useful!

-Original – Don’t share posts from Instagram as Stories. Nobody is going to be seeing them, especially if you’re posting once a day! If you’re posting once a week then yes, you’ll most likely reach more people. But besides that, be 100% original with every single story that you post.

-Niched – Keep your Stories tied to your niche. For me, as a work from anywhere content creator and traveller, I use writing advice, freelancing tips, travel and working from home content for my stories… and not much else. I keep my Stories within my niche because it’s why people have followed me in the first place. They want to see those pieces from me, not much else.

Instagram in 2021 #5: Put it everywhere

Chances are, if you’re on Instagram for business, you’re not just on Instagram for business. You’re also posting on your blog, taking care of your website, handing out business cards and maybe some good old flyers, and updating other social media accounts. List your Instagram everywhere, putting a big, bold button on your site or blog, on other social networks, and so on.

Instagram in 2021 #6: Create, don’t just post photos

Anyone can snap a photo and post it on Instagram. At its core, this is what Instagram was intended for. But things have changed, right? Now Instagram is about reach, followers, and surely, advertising your ideas, business and products. Because of this, creativity stands out from the millions of mundane photos and Stories you can see on the platform every single day.

Creativity is not just about adding filters to your photos. It’s also about adding the right description and hashtags. It’s about taking a regular, boring Story, such as a print screen with your latest blog post, and turning it into something a little bit more exciting. More visually pleasing, and different. For example, this was my last Friday’s Story versus what it could’ve been without me putting in 15 minutes of Canva work to make it better.

The same goes for regular posts. This particular image got almost 200 likes and tons of interactions because I told my followers a story, I didn’t just post a photo with “Oh, here’s an arch from this city in Romania, huzza!” and then left them at that. Photos are great for telling stories, but words are also great at completing them! Use both the image and description to give your followers a complete experience.

Instagram in 2021 #7: Give them a reason to follow you

Finally, the question that breaks the bank: Why should anyone follow you? What makes you different? What is that piece of info that you have, and can share with the world, that will turn regular users into avid followers? If you can answer this question right, you’ll naturally grow your Instagram in 2021, and beyond. It’s the hardest question though, so don’t treat it lightly.

Most common Instagram mistakes of 2021

They say people are able to learn faster from mistakes than advice. Which is somewhat true. This is why I decided to give you the alternative, the mistakes part of the Instagram posting and growing in 2021. If you’re tired of advice on what to do, these following “what not to do” ideas are right up your alley. This is what you should avoid doing on your Instagram in 2021.

-Posting and then forgetting about it

Just posting on your Instagram won’t do it. You probably are just doing that, posting and then forgetting about your post. While people like, comment, or even save your posts. When this happens, interact with these people. Show them that you’ve seen their effort to engage, and respond to it. Like a few of their posts. Comment back, even with just a few words. Anything! 

-Believing you’re the centre of the universe

One incredibly frustrating and generally accepted idea is that your Instagram profile is the centre of the universe. Most profiles are so self-centred, they simply blast out advice or knowledge, and then turn it into the absolute truth. Instagram is a social network still, and because of this, you should centre your profile on the community, not around yourself. Community over self-centred posting.

-Shoving things in people’s faces

It’s completely fine to promote your services and products on Instagram. We all do it in 2021 regardless of how big or small our following is. But being pushy with it? Don’t. Instead of doing 100% advertising, try a 50/50 approach. Sell stuff on Mondays, and then post about your last trip somewhere on Thursdays. Shoving things in people’s faces will drive them away eventually.

-Spamming comments and asking for follow

Remember how engagement is key in 2021 for Instagram growth? Many people take this lightly and turn it into spamming comments, and asking others for a follow. It’s the worst thing you can do. “Nice photo, maybe follow my account?” is a BIG no-no! Engage by saying “I find your profile inspiring, especially this photo from X destination”. Show people interest in their work.

-Posting crappy quality photos

This is 2021, and so putting whatever photos you’ve got at hand on your Instagram will not do the trick. There are still tons of low-quality photos being posted on the platform on a daily basis. The least you can do is to frame your photos right and use a decent camera (which most phones have) to take the shot. Then use Snapseed for some editing, and you’re done.

All right, there you have it, the complete Instagram guide for growth in 2021! This has turned into some sort of personal tradition, for me to write one of these every year. And I do enjoy writing these, despite the constant struggle to get it right as Instagram is always changing. I hope you found my ideas inspiring and helpful. Let me know your secret to Instagram, okay?

Hei, just a quick thing before you leave:

First, nice of you to read thus far, it means that you’ve enjoyed my writing!

I’m not here to ask you for any likes, shares, or comments, although that would be cool of you! Instead, I’m offering you a chance to have an even better piece, sort of like this one, but better, written for you by a content creator. That would be me! Check out my ServicesPortfolio and Testimonials pages for details. And then shoot me an email at the address you’ll find on the Contact page.

If you’re a freelancer like me and are confused about learning how to make money online, especially through writing but also programming, design, or social media management, you can buy my book. It’s called “From 0 To $2543 A Month With A Crappy Laptop – The Freelancing Course From A Self-Made Content Creator Boss” and you can find it on Amazon at 50% off!

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Gabriel Iosa

Foreword

Hi,

I’m happy for you being here! I enjoy blogging as much as I did 10 years ago, at the start of my writing journey. If you want me to write something for you, hit the Services page. You can find some snippets of my previous work on the Portfolio page, as well as what my clients have said about my work on the Testimonials page. Hit the About page for some more info on myself and my passions, and when you’re ready, send me an email at the address you’ll find on the Contact page.

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