Unless you have a successful brand with existing fans, it takes time to build up your list of Instagram followers. People use the service because they want to see quality content so you have to adjust your strategy accordingly. Focus on consistently uploading interesting and popular photos that draws in fans. As your list of followers grows, the likes and comments they leave will also make your photos more visible to others, which could lead to more followers.
Do Your Research
If people like what you post and they want to see more of your photos, they will follow you on Instagram. To grow your followers, post the kinds of photos that they want to see or they will lose interest. Use the Instagram explore feature to see what the most popular posts are and what the people with large numbers of followers are posting. Studying popular posts by others will give you an idea of what it is that people like to see and how to incorporate that into your own work.
Involve Your Friends
Unless you are already famous when you start out with Instagram, it can be hard to gain followers and exposure. People tend to follow Instagram accounts that already have many followers, so use the "Find Friends" feature for help. Instagram is able to scan your contact list and Facebook friends to show you who already uses the service. People that you already know and interact with on other services are more likely to follow you and can help you to grow your initial number of followers. You should also make your account public and use other social media services to promote your work to gain more exposure.
Enhance Your Photos
One of the features that made Instagram so popular is the selection of filters. Instead of just uploading ordinary shots, use one of the more popular filters to make your photos look more interesting. Third-party applications can also help you to enhance your snaps. Combining multiple snaps in a single frame can help you to tell a story without flooding the feeds of your followers. Don't forget that Instagram also allows you to post short video clips.
Use All Available Resources
Third-party services such as Statigram and Followgram (links in Resources) make it easy to manage your Instagram account from a Web interface. You can view detailed statistics about your account, such as your most popular posts, how many of your followers like your posts, how many of your followers comment on your posts, and even how many of your likes come from people who don't follow you. The information provided by these third-party services can show you which of your posts are the most engaging. You can then build on posts that do gain you followers and improve on those that don't.
Build a Buzz Around Your Posts
The optional geotagging feature allows you to tag your posts with the location of your snaps. Geotagging photos of popular local landmarks can get the attention of local Instagram users. Instagram is a social network, so don't forget to encourage interaction around your posts. Use your post caption to ask a relevant question that can lead to interesting discussions among those who view the post. In addition, post insightful comments yourself on posts by other users as this will foster goodwill and may cause them to follow you in return.