Instagram Tips

7 Authentic Strategies To Grow Your Instagram Community

If you came here to learn tips and tricks to “beat the algorithm” or how to grow your Instagram account over night, you’re in the wrong place. I hate to break it to ya girlfriend, but Instagram has changed so much that it’s time to start changing how you use it and your social media strategy in general. I want to share 7 actionable and authentic strategies that you can use to “grow” your Instagram in a way that isn’t measurable by numbers, but by impact and community.

These are things I’ve personally started implementing that have boosted my engagement like crazy, while my follower count continues to goes up, then down. If you’ve grown frustrated and are at your wit’s end, keep reading to learn a new approach that will grow your Instagram by embracing the algorithm, forgetting about the numbers, and focusing on building a community.

How To Grow Instagram Community


Before we get started…#RealTalk

This post was inspired by a string of tweets I read Monday morning which led me to write this long-winded Instagram post, which led me to write an entire blog post that I present to you today. Whenever I read about people’s struggles with Instagram and how crappy it makes them feel about their blog and themselves in general, I just want to give them a hug, help them get through it, and then give them tips to take action and fight it.

So many of you left amazing comments on that post that made me truly feel connected to you. After drafting this post up, I got the idea to feature some of your comments that inspired me to write this. So I’m super excited to share some accounts with you throughout this post and I encourage you to check them out!

This comment from @ischarliel really made my day!! (Charlie also has amazing photos BTW so definitely worth a follow) I love that we can support each other and remember we’re in this together.


I’ve changed my perspective on Instagram and what it takes to “grow.” I worked SO hard to grow my account to 6,000 followers and then I was stuck there for literally 6 months. I’d gain, then lose. Then gain, then lose. It was a cycle that lasted what seemed like an eternity. I couldn’t understand why people kept unfollowing me or how to gain more followers that actually stuck around.

how to organically grow your Instagram

It was in May when I got to the point that Instagram took me over the edge. I posted a photo that got HORRIBLE engagement and then I realized that I was shadowbanned. I let my emotions (and hormones) get the best of me and spent the entire day sulking. I deleted the photo and felt not only fed up with IG, but lost with my blog and myself.

That entire ordeal led me to rebrand my blog and that is why I shifted my content to focus entirely on helping bloggers and creating a community around In Search of Sheila. And damn, I’m happy and inspired af every day. Much of this community has been built on social media–Instagram and Twitter to be specific. I want to use this blog post to share authentic strategies that I have used and I think would help you if you’ve hit a wall and don’t know what to do in terms of growth.

Social media is fast paced and as bloggers, we need to keep up. Click To Tweet

My first bit of advice is: don’t give up. That’s lame. Take this low point as a sign it’s time to change something in your strategy. Social media is fast paced and as bloggers, we need to keep up. I’ve learned to embrace the ups and downs of Instagram because it’s forced me to think outside the box and become more creative and inclusive with my content. And that’s how I’m able to continually grow my In Search of Squad every day.

So with that said, I want to share some authentic strategies to grow your Instagram community!!!

1. Be Patient + Forget the Numbers

First of all, you need to get this idea of “instant gratification” out of your head. Our culture has become so obsessed with getting what we want and getting it RIGHT NOW that it’s not even something we bat an eyelash at anymore. To put it simply: we’ve lost our patience.


True, organic growth takes time. There are many bloggers out there who have found success by taking the authentic approach. Yes, it might have taken them longer to get where they are today, but they have a loyal, genuine audience. They don’t let their number of followers define their worth or “success.” They focus on helping and inspiring their followers and that’s what keeps them going. I LOVED how so many of you told me you don’t focus on your follower count.


@mskerih (BTW I met Keri last weekend!!!)

@toyoufroma (who inspired this all.)


Then there are successful bloggers out there who have bought their entire following, comments, and likes. I mean, did you read this article? Mediakix created two fake Instagram accounts, bought their entire followings, and scored PAID sponsorships with legit brands. So fascinating and disheartening at the same time.

Focus on growing your Instagram authentically and remind yourself why you created it in the… Click To Tweet

What I’m trying to say is that you need to focus on growing your Instagram authentically and don’t let the frustrations of slow growth keep you from the real reason you hop on to post every day.

Maybe you love sharing your photography and writing like @brightboldlife or you like helping other people who are going through something similar to you. Don’t let other accounts make you feel discouraged by how quickly they’re growing, because it’s honestly not genuine. Keep putting your best work out there like @bitesizednichole and remember that it will be worth it in the end.

2. Adapt To the Algorithm

I think why so many of us are so frustrated with Instagram is because the algorithm change hit us out of nowhere and we’re still trying to use the same strategies to grow our accounts: post nice photos, throw in some hashtags, and that’s it. Face it: we don’t like change, especially when it comes to social media. We already have a million other things to do, so why do we have to spend hours on Instagram trying to figure out new ways to grow?

When it comes to blogging and social media, the game is changing every single day. Click To Tweet

Because when it comes to blogging and social media, the game is changing every single day. There is no solid way to get a certain amount of followers by the end of the week or a certain amount of likes and comments on your new post. And even if we do discover something that seems to work for us, it’ll probably change in the weeks to come.

Okay, love this comment and insight from @@huesofdelahaye !!

My advice is to change your approach to Instagram and embrace the algorithm. Instead of getting bent out of shape that you can’t keep up with the changes, adapt to them. Instagram knew what they were doing when they created this new algorithm. It’s meant to focus on the users and what THEY want to see. These are your followers, so you really need to step it up and dive deep into figuring them out.

Change your approach to Instagram and embrace the algorithm. Click To Tweet

What are their interests? What inspires them? What compels them to engage with and follow an account? These are questions you need to start asking yourself and spend some time mapping out how you plan to answer them through your content.


Authentic ways to grow Instagram


3. Only Follow Accounts You Genuinely Like

I don’t need to talk about the follow/unfollow technique that has become a wide spread disease in the blogging community, do I? Summer of Coffee With Summer wrote a great post on why it’s something that needs to be stopped ASAP so I highly suggest you go read that post here.

Basically, this whole follow/unfollow trend is a “growth strategy” people are using by following a bunch of people with the expectation that they will follow back, only to unfollow them later. While we’re all dealing with this crap, I’m sure we’re all a little guilty of doing it ourselves. There is *however* definitely a point of “sleaziness” (as Summer likes to call it) where it is just completely fake. Please don’t ever reach this point if you strive to build your blog with authenticity. It will only hurt you.

What you should do is follow accounts that you actually like (what a concept, right?!) My best tip to stand out and speed up this process is to literally go find your potential followers. You can’t just sit back and wait for people to come to you and instantly feel that *spark.* You need to be proactive and seek out accounts that align with your values and interests, are in a similar niche to you, or are your target readers. Only follow accounts you genuinely want to build relationships with and don’t unfollow them if they don’t follow you back. Just don’t.

Only follow accounts that you genuinely want to build relationships with. Click To Tweet

When I rebranded this is the exact way I grew my audience. I put myself out there and followed people I genuinely wanted to connect with. Most of the time they caught my vibe and we became friends. The best way to do this is to search for relevant hashtags and stalk the follower list of users similar to you.

*Pro-tip: Pay attention to if you have any mutual followers on the accounts you find. Whenever someone follows me and I see that we are in a “similar circle” I will usually follow them back!

I LOVE @laurennatalia29’s mindset and approach to IG.

Remember that it’s okay to unfollow accounts ONLY if you didn’t follow them with the intention of expecting a follow back. That’s just not authentic girl friend.

4. Be Genuine + Engaging

If I had to tell you the #1 strategy that has really helped me grow my account in the past month, it’s that I started to take more time to leave thoughtful comments on other people’s accounts. I engage with the intention of sparking a conversation. Or I want to show them that I really connected with their caption or image and would love to become Instagram friends.

I owe a lot of this to enrolling in Helene Sula’s Instagram For Success course. I’m not even halfway through the lessons yet and I started to see results almost immediately after implementing what I learned.


It’s also important to create posts with meaning behind them that compel users to comment on your account.

This post was the first one I really started to see results from the strategies I learned in Instagram For Success.

My caption was super relatable and I asked an engaging question: do you prefer to be in front of or behind the camera?

Since it’s Instagram, everyone has an experience with taking photos or having their photo taken. I noticed that whenever I talk about this subject in my posts, I get pretty good engagement.

I also posted this at around 4 pm, which was honestly an experiment on my end and it turned out to be an optimal time to post. I try to use my Instagram analytics and post when my followers are on the most.


My biggest tip is to strive to build a community that encourages your followers to share their stories, struggles, and input. We all want to be included in life, ESPECIALLY on Instagram. Make us feel included! Remember that there is someone out there in this world that is being impacted by your post, whether they let you know or not, and that is truly powerful.

@apronstringsandstickyfingers really hit the nail on the head with this insightful comment.

Strive to build a community that encourages your followers to share their stories, struggles,… Click To Tweet

5. Create a Community Hashtag

What better way to grow a community than with a hashtag? Hashtags are still a strategy I use and recommend to get your content noticed. I’m always experimenting and finding new ones to try out. This is a great way to connect with like-minded people around a specific topic or movement. I love finding new accounts by browsing smaller community hashtags because I know we all share something in common.

Here are some of my favorites that I use on my own photos:

#photosinbetween #blogpassionproject #caffeinateandconquer #bloggersgetsocial #mycoffeism #WanderlistCollective #meandmyeverydayvibes #risingtidesociety #sheislight #communityovercompetition #thegramgang #coffeeisfromthelord #gritandvirtue #shareyourheart

I also have a huge hashtag library of over 350 hashtags to help your posts get noticed that you download and start using on your posts today. You can grab it below!

Trying to get noticed on Instagram?!


Grab my FREE ultimate library of hashtags jam-packed with over 350 hashtags for ANY blogging niche to stand out online + grow your Instagram!

Powered by ConvertKit



I also started the #insearchofjoy hashtag that is meant for anyone that wants to share what brings them joy in life! Please feel free to use it 🙂

When brainstorming your hashtag, create something that encompasses your blog and mission. If you’re a fashion blogger, start a hashtag that is meant to connect fashionistas and offer the chance to be featured on your account. If you blog about a certain topic such as gardening or simple living, create a hashtag that would bring together other bloggers who write about those topics too.

In terms of using hashtags in general to grow your account, you have the opportunity to get featured on the Top Posts section which will help your post stand out more and attract followers. I did a whole post on using Instagram Top Posts to boost your engagement and followers, which you can read here.

6. Story Time

I loooove creating my own Instagram stories and watching yours! Honestly, it gives your followers a more personal view into your life and is a great way to boost your engagement and relationships. Plus it’s a fun way to get a little creative and experimental since you don’t have to worry about it being curated like your theme.

My biggest tip when it comes to using stories is to just have fun with it and don’t take it too seriously. Don’t worry about your shots or video not being “good enough.” We want to see that raw part of your life that isn’t curated.

I also LOVE it when bloggers talk to the camera. It makes me super connected with you, which means that it’s good for your engagement. If you have doubts or are shy, just do it! It’ll take some practice and getting used to, but we aren’t here to judge ya girl.

It’s also a great way to promote your blog posts with behind the scenes content, sneak peaks, and announcements when it goes live. Have fun and get creative!

7. Instagram Live

Video is quickly becoming a great way to increase your engagement and stand out on Instagram. Live video is something I always wanted to do, but was a bit scared because I didn’t know if anyone would watch haha. I eventually got over my fear and just went for it!

If you read this post, then you know that I was enrolled in Summer Camp, a program created by Katherine of Slightly Savvy to learn how to work with brands as a blogger. First of all, I have to say that Camp EXCEEDED my expectations and I learned a lot of great stuff that I immediately started implementing that very week.

Day 1 of Camp was How To Use Instagram as a Non-BS Influencer and Katherine spilled some great tips about the benefits of using Instagram live. Instagram’s algorithm rewards accounts that utilize video, so going live is a great way to push yourself to the front of everyone’s story feed for up to 24 hours!

Katherine also gave me some personalized tips on how to use live plus how to actually get people to show up and her advice really helped me. Last week’s stream was a total success and I left knowing I helped people and felt more connected with my followers. Now I’m planning to incorporate IG lives more into my social media strategy 🙂

Speaking of Instagram Live…

I’d like to invite you to another Instagram live tonight at 6:30 pm EST!! It is meant to be an open-discussion to vent and connect with other bloggers who are all on the same wave-length when it comes to trying to grow their accounts. We’ll be talking about fake followers, the new “pay to play” approach, questionable loop giveaways, follow/unfollowers, low engagement, the stress of keeping up with the algorithm, and anything else that comes up!


I’ll also be sharing my personal struggles + tips to stay motivated, inspired, and how to beat feelings of comparison, discouragement, and not feeling good enough. There will be a Q&A at the end to ask me any burning questions you might have. Click here to make sure you’re following me. Can’t wait to see ya there!!

Soooo how do you feel about Instagram right now? Do you think it’s time to start switching up your strategy? Do you already use any of these that I shared? Leave your thoughts below + make sure to share the image below on Pinterest to help others 🙂

How To Organically Grow Instagram Community



Related Posts

Why Bloggers Should Create Community Not Competition
My Favorite Hashtags To Get Noticed and Grow Your Instagram
How To Boost Your Instagram Engagement With Instagram Top Posts
Summer Camp For Bloggers: Learn How To Work With Brands and Make Money

Trying to get noticed on Instagram?!


Grab my FREE ultimate library of hashtags jam-packed with over 350 hashtags for ANY blogging niche to stand out online + grow your Instagram!

Powered by ConvertKit

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  • YASSSSS *round of applause*!!! This was so good, Sheila. I really needed this. Instagram is such a discourager to me somedays and it can really get to me. I really need to start doing IG lives, but I have no idea what to talk about & I’m super awkward haha. I do need to come up with a plan there! Awesome post!

    • awww thank you Summer!! I’m glad this post could help you. I know a lot of us are just so frustrated that I felt like it was time to post something about it! And I think you would be great on stories, I’d love to help you brainstorm some content ideas 🙂

  • I’ve been engaging from Day 1 on Instagram back in the Fall 2016 and it doesn’t matter. The strategies and everything else are lost on this social media and it’s frustrating. Your LIVE shot tonight is bad timing for me and can’t be there. Hope everyone who does show up enjoys…

    • I’d love to help you! Feel free to reach out to me at I’d be happy to give your Instagram a look and try to give some personalized tips.

      • Thank you, Sheila, I’m @seizeadaisy

        Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  • Another thorough and informative post, babe! You’re so right! There’s no point in battling the instagram algorithm (bc we all know it sucks). Being genuine and building a community is really great advice for anyone who is trying to organically grow. Loved this post sososo much <3

    Enclothed Cognition

    • aw thanks girlie! It’s all about having a positive mindset. You attract what you think and feel! 🙂

  • AmsT

    Can I just say I’m beyond excited to have been mentioned in this post 😁, but also that you not only took the time to bring the positivity to twitter and Instagram but also wrote a whole post giving your tips and advice. I’m so happy and really appreacite this post.

    Thank you Sheila for helping me remember that I can build so much more with the people that already follow me and others will come if they want. To not focus on the numbers but the interactions! 💕

    • yassss girl!! Thanks for giving me the idea to write this 🙂 I’m here to help and lift you up if you need it! Stick to producing quality content and engaging with others and you’ll make it through this journey.

  • Jennifer

    I definitely agree that the numbers can be discouraging but staying true to yourself is definitely the best tip! I learned so much and thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Numbers, numbers, numbers…always hated them! Haha 🙂

  • My big issue right now is that I’m too focused on numbers. I know that and yet I can’t seem to stop myself from obsessing. It seems like nothing I do works; I try to post questions in each of my captions, but get very little interaction. I post thoughtful comments on other people’s pictures, but rarely seem to get comments in return. Despite my slight obsession with numbers, I definitely do want to make genuine connections and friendships, so I’m being myself, being authentic, and not acting different or trying to pretend I’m someone I’m not, but…I’m still stuck and it’s frustrating. I’ll keep pushing through though! Looking forward to your live chat tonight.

    • Hey girl! I know it can be really hard to stop focusing on numbers on Instagram, trust me I’ve been there! I also can understand how hard it is to give and give and give engagement and get nothing in return. My suggestion is to rethink your Instagram goals, purpose, and your ideal follower and how you can implement your message or story into your photos, captions, and comments in order to spark connections with people.

  • I’ve creeped on your Insta Live every single time and I notice every time you get more and more viewers! Especially when I see bloggers with 20k Insta followers struggle to get even 3 people to watch their Live. So you are 100% doing something right to stand out!

    Also why is this post so amazing and in-depth and why did I read it twice ?? Seriously, this was really bomb and I love how you featured the people who inspired this. It’s little touches like that that make bloggers stand out and keep their readers coming back.


    • Thanks for your support girl and always giving me great + actionable tips (especially for IG stories!)

  • I really like your positive approach to the algorithm. All of us have been complaining about it non-stop but I love that you are encouraging us to rise to the challenge! It makes such a difference when you focus on community and connecting with others instead of trying to build a following.

    • I hate all kinds of people who complain! Okay, I complain sometimes, but it’s in good spirit! People who constantly complain about the algorithm need to take their frustrations and channel it into a new strategy or approach!

  • This was such a great post Sheila! Thanks so much for these tips. I’ve found that really thinking about my captions and posting questions that can start up a conversation has been one of the best ways for me to gain engagement and I love chatting with like minded people in the comments! I’ve been going through Helene’s Instagram course too and finding it very helpful, but at the same time I’ve had to be really mindful just to make sure I don’t get so focused on the number. I have a pretty small following and it’s crazy seeing the numbers go from 435 one day back down to 420 the next.
    Anyway, thanks again! Xx


    • Thanks Lauren! If we can approach Instagram as a place for conversation, rather than increasing our numbers, maybe we’d have a better attitude about it! I think the other part of IG that’s frustrating is the format of it. I get so overwhelmed when I have to scroll through my feed. I think if it was laid out in a grid format it’d be easier to find eye-catching images and engage with them.

  • This is such a helpful guide girl! I totally agree with you about adapting to the algorithm – things have changed, and the algorithm is constantly changing, so we need to change our strategies along with it as well!

    • YES! The power of social media is that it’s always changing, just like humans are always changing!

  • this is such a great tip and great sharing!
    instagram @grace_njio

  • Sepideh

    Ok, I first have to start by saying….. your first screenshot of your phone and the instagram post (under the 4th bullet point about engagement)… you took that at 6:47 AM. Giiiirllllll, I’m not even awake at that time! HAHAHAH Props to you! (Yes, you may laugh at me for noticing that…)
    A great blogpost. I have to admit that I was getting discouraged with Instagram lately. I feel like I spend so much time curating, thinking of captions, figuring out what hashtags to use and then spending SO much time commenting on other posts…and the results are barely visible.
    BUT! Your blogpost gave me some inspiration to get back out there and continue working on it. I think that when I receive genuine comments on my posts, it’s a nice reminder of why I’m in this and I just to constantly remember NOT TO COMPARE (which is so dang hard…)

    • Hahaha when I read this (17 days ago whoops) I had to lol and when I took the screen shot in the morning when I was wrapping this post up I thought about if someone would notice the time stamp…

      But I hope this post is still giving you some inspo/motivation to keep on going with IG, even though it’s a constant struggle!

  • I am so happy that I found your blog! So easy to read, and SO HELPFUL! I am just starting with blogging and building my little baby following, but have already noticed others guilty of those bad habits. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and inspiration!!!

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