4 Steps to Organically Growing Your Instagram Account From 0 to 1000 Followers in 90 Days

At 9am on my first day as a Digital Marketing Intern with Storyware, I nervously logged onto Zoom for our team meeting. I was under the impression that I would be entering the company through a gradual onboarding process. In my mind, an “intern” was responsible for helping out with some miscellaneous office tasks while learning a few cool skills in the process. Not even two minutes into the meeting, I was handed a significant project that I would soon have complete control over.

After a mini freak-out, I went through my first assigned tasks, most of which turned out to be challenging and pretty fun. About half of them involved social media. Finally, out of all my new duties, I spotted one project where I knew I would impress my new co-workers: starting up an Instagram account from scratch.

The context: Storyware began working on the CvilleShops project in the spring of 2020 before I joined the team. CvilleShops was built to help local businesses in Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding areas impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. We wanted to provide something different by building an online store that would enable customers to purchase gift cards from multiple businesses at once instead of directing people to a list of other websites. Most importantly, we were committed that all the businesses on CvilleShops would receive 100% of the value of gift card purchases.

After the site went live, I launched the CvilleShops Instagram account on May 21st, 2020 from square one. We built our following organically – without the use of paid advertising – but it grew exponentially because I followed a few key steps that I had discovered when I built my personal clothing business, Lydia’s Closet, the previous summer.

Based entirely on instagram, my business marketed gently used clothing to college students at affordable prices. I began the account in June 2019 from scratch and quickly realized that there was a booming niche market for used clothing on Instagram. In just two short months I accumulated 3,500 followers by adhering to a few simple, free rules for Instagram account growth.

4 Steps to a Successful (and Organic) Instagram Account Launch:

1. Create an Aesthetically Pleasing Feed

I began the CvilleShops account by coordinating the profile picture and highlight bubbles with the style presets for our feed. For our bio, I used CvilleShops’ short and catchy tagline: “shop Charlottesville for Charlottesville.” These and other little details might seem trivial, but they helped us transmit our mission in as few words as possible setting the stage to build our brand.

2. Share the New Account with Partners, Coworkers, and Friends

After launching the account, I cross-promoted the first CvilleShops post on the Storyware account, as well as my personal accounts. I sent a message out about the CvilleShops project to family, friends, and professional contacts. In fact, my mom was our first customer! While modest, this critical mass of followers began a ripple of awareness for our effort and ensured that new followers encountered our brand in connection with an active audience.

3. Start Following People Who Follow Accounts Like Yours

In the case of CvilleShops, this was the most important step. I built relationships with potential consumers by following people who were interested in the accounts of our registered vendors. I knew they were more likely to follow us back because they would recognize at least one of our partners. After engaging that segment, I started working back from other Charlottesville-centric accounts. Everyone I reached out to had a connection to our town and our businesses.

Note: In the longer-term, it is important to maintain a strong ratio of “followers to following,” but this metric is secondary in the crucial early months of an Instagram account. After a brand has established a following, then it should cull its “following” list into a more curated community of influential users.

4. Leverage the Instagram algorithm:

The formula for increased engagement…

Post frequently: The more you post, the more people will see your posts
Stick to a schedule: If you settle on every other day, post every other day. Don’t stop. If you post once a week, stick to it.
Determine the best time to post: Check your post insights for “prime posting time.”
Monitor Insights: See which posts are doing well and what you can improve on
Conduct a social media audit and competitor analysis: Do a comprehensive review of all social accounts, insights, content, and organization, then analyze similar business accounts. Brainstorm, set goals and come up with a social media plan.

In just three months of hard work, CvilleShops gained over 1,000 followers, and I was offered the position of Digital Marketing Assistant at Storyware. I have continued to work on impactful projects like CvilleShops, which I have now grown to over 4,600 followers. On a personal level, it has been immensely satisfying to use my skills and create a platform that supported struggling local businesses in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia during a global pandemic.