How To Gain Instagram Followers Without Hashtags

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When Instagram first came out, it seemed like everyone was throwing #tbt and #fashion on all of their posts. But Mention, a social media and web marketing tool, analyzed 115 million Instagram accounts in 2018 and found that one-third of Instagram posts don't use any captions. We get it — not everyone likes piling on the hashtags. They're one of the main ways people build a following on the social media platform, but believe it or not, you can still gain Instagram followers without using hashtags.

Susan B. Zimmerman, a business coach who teaches Instagram marketing strategies, tells Bustle that because Instagram has a billion active users a month, it can be difficult to get your post noticed even with hashtags. If you choose a hashtag that's popular, more people are likely to search for it, but if everyone is using the same hashtags, that means the pictures at the top are always being shuffled. For example, #ootd on Instagram has more than 289 million posts. And this number is increasing all the time.

"The hashtag hubs with over a million posts move quickly and the likelihood of getting seen is more difficult," Zimmerman says. On the other hand, if you use a unique hashtag, you might have fewer posts to compete with, but probably less of a chance of being searched and noticed.

So, if you're over relying totally on hashtags, here are seven ways you can get Instagram followers without them:

1. Tag Your Location

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In the same way that people use hashtags to check out similar posts, people use Instagram's Location tags or "Geotags" to do the same thing. I know that every time I'm about to travel somewhere, I check Geotags to see the pictures people post from that place. And I always end up following some new people because of it. If you're someone who's often out and about in popular places, tagging your location can make your post appear under the location's tagged picture list, ensuring that other people looking at the place can come across your post and potentially follow you. Remember to be careful though! It can be dangerous to allow strangers on the internet to know exactly where you are, so a safer option might be only posting after you've already left the location.

2. Interact With Other Posts

Commenting on other posts can show users that you're open and welcoming. "The gold is in the comment thread," Zimmerman says. Whether you're just gifting compliments or initiating a small conversation, you're sure to get attention and gain a couple of followers.

3. Post Share-Worthy & Engaging Stories

While it's most often just the followers you already have that check out your Stories, you can still use them to gain followers. If someone posts something interesting enough on their Story, I'll screenshot it (with their permission and username still in it) and share it on my own Story. Whether it's a quote, a beautiful sunset, or your fresh new manicure, if you post things that other people are fascinated by, odds are that they'll want to share it too. And then this means that your account is getting exposure to a whole different set of followers. Zimmerman also suggests using Engagement Stickers on your story to gauge who's interacting with your posts. These stickers let you make polls, ask your followers questions, or have them ask you things.

4. Post Often

Tailwind, an online visual marketing tool, studied 100,000 Instagram profiles in 2017 and found a positive correlation between accounts that posted often and the number of followers that they had. In fact, they determined through the experiment that it might be a good idea to post up to six times a week.

5. Comment On Posts On The Explore Page

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Instagram's Explore Tab is full of exciting and popular posts and people to follow. While getting your post on the Explore Page might be a little difficult, you can still get your name out there by commenting on other people's posts. Posts on the Explore Page usually get a lot of traction, so having your name there could potentially bring you some new followers. Plus, it's always nice to spread some love to other people's posts!

6. Host A Contest

Jenn Herman, social media strategist and author of Instagram for Business for Dummies, tells Bustle that one of the best ways you can gain an Instagram following is by hosting a contest or giveaway. She said it's also a good idea to align the prize with things your account represents or a business you might have.

For example, if you're an aspiring makeup artist, you can do a giveaway for makeup brushes or a palette. You can have contestants tag one or more friends so that your account can gain exposure through that. And then when you announce a winner, you'll have gained a really dedicated follower and they'll have gained a fun prize! Plus, Herman says, "You get leverage into their audience and they get leverage into your audience so it's mutually beneficial."

7. Write Longer Captions

OK, we know. No one is logging onto Instagram to read paragraphs. But Mark Schaefer, a social media marketing expert and author of Marketing Rebellion says that there might be something to posting longer-than-average captions. "The average number of characters written on an Instagram post has doubled since 2016," he tells Bustle. "Why? Influencers know it's important to let their fans in on the story. What's going on in that photo? What does it reveal about me?" Schaefer says that brands are realizing the importance of this trend now, too. "Great branding is about establishing an emotional connection to your audience, so why not amplify that message by letting your words tell the story too?" he says.

If you're still a diehard fan of hashtags, don't let this stop you. Hashtag on. But if you're looking for new ways to gain followers without having blocks of hashtags underneath all of your pictures, you might want to try out one of these tips.

Sources interviewed:

Jenn Herman, social media strategist, author of 'Instagram for Business for Dummies'

Mark Schaefer, social media marketing expert, author of 'Marketing Rebellion'

Susan B. Zimmerman, Business Coach who teaches Instagram marketing strategies