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Although many comment sections would indicate the opposite, Instagram engagement is not shameless self-promotion under your competitor’s posts.

Has anyone ever actually clicked on the profile because of a “Check out my channel fam!” comment? Effective Instagram engagement comes from taking the time to contribute to your online community.

Leaving thoughtful comments, asking engaging questions, and direct messaging influential community members are three simple ways to do this. Below are 15 more:

Take time out of every day to interact with random people’s accounts within your channel’s niche: make yourself known and familiar throughout your community. Neil Patel found that for every 100 likes, he received roughly 6 followers. If you’re strapped for time, you can use tools like AiGrow to organically automate the process.

Interact with existing followers: there’s no point in gaining followers if you lose them within a week. Keep your followers around by building relationships with them – asking for feedback, for example)

Avoid drama: it’s very easy for your content to be taken out of context on Instagram. Smart, thoughtful responses to drama or controversy limit the potential for people to use your words or content in damaging ways in the future.

Or… Get involved with drama: if the Floyd Mayweathears or Connor McGregors of the world are any indication, there are few better ways to garner attention and potential Instagram followers than through drama and controversy. Though be warned – the kind of attention you get may not always be positive.

Develop a foundation of content (5-10 posts) before you begin seriously engaging with the community: you don’t want to convince someone to make the effort to check out your channel only to find out you don’t have any content to show. An empty profile isn’t attracting to a potential new follower.

Comment, like, and follow people who are interacting with your competitor’s channels and posts: it makes sense that if people are already interested in a niche, as indicated by their interaction with a competitor, and your channel provides similar content, these people are more likely to interact (and hopefully follow) your channel as well.

Leave smart comments: writing something more than a spammy “Nice pic!” that conveys genuine interest in somebody’s post is more likely to make the owner of that post check out your channel. People in the community may also see this genuine comment and explore your channel, as well.

Hold contests where people have to like, follow, comment or tag someone to enter: if you are a company or any sort of brand, holding contests are a very effective way to quickly gain engaged followers. A simple contest may be to offer a giveaway (free product, shoutout, etc.) to a random new follower gained in the last month.

Promote your Instagram on other platforms: if you have established audiences on other platforms (email lists, other social media platforms, website forums, etc.), these people are essentially already following you. Alert them to the presence of your Instagram and bring them over.

Use influencers to mention or tag your product/channel: if you can afford it, offer product discounts, free samples, and/or paid contracts to larger channels in exchange for tags and mentions.

Tag people when relevant: tagging people in your posts increases the brand visibility by making your content show up in the feeds of the people you tag.

Reshare your followers’ images, particularly ones where they’ve mentioned your channel/your product: sharing user-generated content encourages people to share photos of your content in hopes of you exposing their own channel to your audience, especially if their channel is smaller. Also conveys to visitors to your channel that you are established within your community, which makes it easier for them to trust that your channel is worth following)

Follow all of your friends on Instagram: it might seem a little hacky, but those who know you personally are more likely to be supportive and at least give you a follow.

Use paid Instagram/Facebook advertising: it costs you, but you are much more likely to draw the exact type of followers you want to your channel. Target by key demographic information: gender, age, and location. As people begin to roll in, you can understand who your audience really is, where they’re coming from, and what they like content-wise. You can then adjust accordingly.

Make your profile public (at least at the beginning): if you’re a smaller channel, potential new Instagram followers are less likely to make the effort to follow you just to see your content. At least wait until you have established yourself as an influential figure in the community before making your channel private.

Have a method of Instagram engagement not explored above? Please share in the comments below!

This article is one piece of our more comprehensive guide 62 Proven Ways to Grow Your Instagram Followers in 2018. In addition to using Instagram engagement, the article also explains how to effectively use hashtags, captions, geotags, as well as quality content to grow your following.