5 simple hacks for growing an Instagram account for free

You don’t need big budgets and huge teams to grow an Instagram account, you can do it all yourself and best of all – you can do it for free.

I’m Rachel, founder of Our Remedy CBD, a eco focused brand for period problems, and I’m currently growing my Instagram account. As Our Remedy is a CBD product I can’t do sponsored Instagram adverts so I’ve had to get creative with growing my Instagram. With a limited budget, which is the case for most start-ups, here’s how I’ve gained over 2000 followers and growing my Instagram in a very short period of time.

Time for growing your Instagram.

1. Send 10 DMs a day

How many direct messages do you receive on your personal Instagram from business in a week? Personally, I don’t get any. Because hardly anyone is doing this.

Every day I send 10 direct messages and use a different strategy each time. You would be amazed by the response you can get from this.

What types of direct messages can you send?

1 – Thanks and welcome

Send a simple ‘thank you and welcome to the account, let me know if you have any questions’ direct message

2 – Current offer or promotion

If you’re running a current offer or promotion let people know. It’s a little like a mini email campaign, just much less over done. Let potential followers know you have an offer that might interest them.

3 – Offer advice / help

I love to say ‘Hey, got any questions? My DMs are open if you do!’ This lets people know you are there but is not pushy in any way. I often get replies saying thank you to this one, it shows you care and want to help

‘Why only 10 a day? I could do 100!’

You don’t want Instagram to flag you as spam. Sending 10 is totally reasonable, you wouldn’t get a ‘bot’ to do that. You don’t want to get your instagram account ‘black listed’ – that’s tough to get out of.

A useful tip with this one…

You can only DM people with Instagrams open to the public. A great way to find these people is to search by location. I pick places I think my customers would go, like a cocktail bar in London, and I know I’ll only find accounts that are open and therefore I can direct message. This is a huge time saver, as you won’t waste your time clicking on people just to find out they are private and you can’t slide into their DMs.

2. Actually get social on social media

Keep a list of hashtags relevant to your type of customer, I have around 20. Each day pick I 3 or 4 to search and see what new images have been posted with that hashtag alongside it. Like that picture, and leave a comment underneath but here’s the important part…

Make sure that comment is relevant to that picture and makes your brand look like it’s a credible part of that conversation. BUT don’t try and sell anything.

The great thing about leaving comments on pictures that you know are relevant to your customer, is that the comment stays there and creates this kind of affinity between your target customer and your brand. We do business with people we like, right? Well we follow them too.

3. Add (invisible) hashtags to your stories | GENIUS TIP

When posting to the grid it is important to add hashtags but everyone knows what you’re doing when you add 20 hashtags after a caption – it can feel a bit spammy. Imagine if you could make them invisible.

Well, on Instagram stories there is a hack that allows you to do just that.

Upload your image, add your text, your GIF, button or poll and make it look as pretty as you want. Then drop in your 20 or so hashtags (relevant to your industry) use the eyedropper tool to grab colour from somewhere on the image where you have the most space and this makes that text the same colour as the background.

Make your hashtags as small as you can and place them over the space where you got the colour from and they will disappear into the background.

And there you have it… your pretty image won’t be ruined, you won’t look ‘salesy’ or ‘spammy’ but your story will still be able to be found when someone searches one of your hashtags.

4. Find, follow and follow some more…

Follow accounts your target customer would follow, and start following their followers. Go to accounts that your target customer would follow. For example for Our Remedy CBD my target customer would be a female with period problems into natural healing methods and sustainable products. So I would find people that follow accounts based around yoga, vegan food, crystals, endometriosis or sustainable living.

Follow them, double tap their pictures if their account is open, or just give them a follow if they’re private. If they’re interested in what you’ve got to say they will follow you back. Be sure to unfollow accounts you don’t communicate much with, as you can’t follow over 7,500 accounts on Instagram no matter what size your following. To do this use the ‘least interacted with’ feature when you click on who you’re following to unfollow people.

5, Make your grid amazing | DON’T BE DULL

Simple really, even if you put all of the above work in you won’t get a follow if your grid doesn’t offer someone something for them. You need to have a variety of images present on the grid that you think your customer would like.

I go for quotes, ‘insta’ cool style pictures, product images and big informative titles and keep the top 9 squares varied, in case someone doesn’t scroll any further down to see what you’re all about. Chances are, they won’t.

I do this by alternating what I post and keep to a guideline. Check this out:

My top 9 from top left to bottom right goes; person, quote, cool graphic, informative headline, product image, review, person, quote, product image. I keep to this so the first 9 images are always showing variety.

Research shows that 1 in 4 people do not scroll below ‘the fold’ (basically where they land)

“Heatmap service provider ClickTale analyzed almost 100.000 pageviews. The result: people used the scrollbar on 76% of the pages, with 22% being scrolled all the way to the bottom regardless of the length of the page. That said, it’s clear that page top is still your most valuable screen estate.”

– Unfolding the Fold and ClickTale

I also know my target audience would appreciate a ‘pretty’ looking Instagram account. I make sure to keep to the same colours and theme, that reflect my brand. You should be doing the same.

And that’s it! 5 simple hacks for growing an Instagram account for free! It can be a little time consuming but totally worth it as you will build up an audience that is engaged with your brand.

Rachel Mason is founder of Our Remedy, a CBD for women brand, as well as being a graphic designer. She’s founded quite a few start-ups over the years, including The Skinny Kitchen… see more of her work here: or contact on IG: @ourremedycbd