How to Get (Real!) Followers on Social Media in 2019

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May 6, 2019 10:23 am

One of the most popular topics in social media marketing is how to get more followers.

And not just any followers — real followers, no bots. Brands want to grow their followers authentically by adding real people who love the brand and are looking to engage.

This is no small task on social media in 2019!

We’ve dug into the research on all the latest follower trends and how new brands are growing from zero to 10,000 followers and how established brands are going from 10,000, beyond.

Today’s most popular brands and influencers have given us a roadmap for how to grow your social media following. We’re talking about real tactics to get real followers — no bots, no shady shortcuts. We’ll give you fresh ideas that you can try today so that you can boost your follower count on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

Listen to the podcast audio above, or read through this post to get the live notes and all the tips.


First things first … How important is a follower count on social media?

A common perception of follower counts is that they are a vanity metric. They don’t have a direct effect on the engagement of a post or on the click thru rate of a piece of content. Like many other vanity metrics, you can measure followers, but it can be hard to see how — or even if — they matter.

However, more and more these days, follower counts tell a compelling story about your brand.

Followers do matter.

Followers equal trust.

Healthy follower counts generate positive social proof for your brand. People are more inclined to follow accounts that have a large amount of followers. Even the networks themselves reward you for your follower count: Instagram, for instance, lets you place “swipe up” links into your Stories once you reach 10,000 followers.

So not only are these follower counts influencing follow-back behavior and features, they’re impacting the way your social media presence is perceived.

Followers has been a main statistic in our Buffer analytics since the beginning, and it is one of the key stats available in our new product, Buffer Analyze.

Follower counts matter. They matter to marketers, they matter to individuals, and they matter to brands.

So let’s discuss some ways to get. more. followers.

5 Fresh Strategies to Get More Followers on Social Media

1. Promote your profile on all of your “owned” channels

“Owned” channels are the channels that you have full control over — your website, your blog, and your emails for instance. This is in contrast to earned channels like social media and organic SEO, and paid channels like search ads and media buying.

owned earned paid media channelsWhat is the difference between earned, owned, and paid media? Chart via Titan Growth

One of the very best ways to grow your follower count is to use your owned channels as a significant platform for distribution.

Let’s cover this in detail for three of the primary sources “owned” channels:

First, you can promote your social profile on your blog.

We did this for the individual authors on the Buffer blog, showing a Twitter follow button next to the author’s name at the top and the bottom of the article. We’re lucky to have a sizable audience to our blog — over one million visitors each month.

Thanks to these visitors, our authors were able to grow their followings quite quickly to one-thousand-plus followers. Some even cracked the ten thousand and twenty thousand marks.

We’ve also seen this work with Instagram followers, thanks to a host of website plugins that allow you to feature several Instagram pictures on your blog .. either in the footer or in the sidebar. If you run a WordPress blog, for instance, you can search the WordPress plugin directory for Instagram plugins. There are over 40 pages of results.

Plus, most every social network makes it easy to embed content across the web. You can grab embed codes for tweets, YouTube videos, pins, Instagram photos, and more.

Placing this directly into the body of a blog post helps your social profiles have an even greater visibility.

Second, you can promote your social profile on your website.

If you’re like us, your website is your most-visited asset.

This is why we see so many brands using the website as a hub for social media promotion. We toured a list of 100 top direct-to-consumer brands, and over 90 percent used their website to promote their social profiles.

Promotion typically happens either in the header menu at the top of the website, in a dedicated “social media space” on their homepage, or in a pop-up that highlights one of their profiles. By far the most popular location for social promotion is in the footer of websites. Nearly all the brands we looked at were linking to multiple social profiles in the footer: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube … even Spotify.

Third, you can promote your social profile in the emails that you send.

You’ve likely come across this many times before. If you picture someone’s email signature, it likely had a link to a website or social profile .. there are even some tools like WiseStamp that embed your latest tweet automatically.

Brands do this as well with social media links in the footer of many of their email templates — both for marketing newsletters and in transactional emails like receipts.

To take email a step further, many brands use their lifecycle emails to promote their social accounts. If you were to follow brands like Blenders Eyewear or Good American jeans, you’ll see entire emails dedicated to a request to follow on social media.

The most effective calls-to-action can take a couple different forms. There’s Good American’s approach, which is a text-only, enormous list of links to each social network.

social media email exampel from good americanHow Good American asks for social media followers via email

Then there’s the other approach of giving people a sample of what type of content they can expect to see if they were to follow you, particularly with visual networks like Instagram and Pinterest.

This brings us to our second tip for getting more followers.

2. Fill out your social media profile completely. And make it catchy.

People are more inclined to follow back profiles that:

  1. Look real. This includes a profile picture that isn’t just the default, and a custom header image
  2. Profiles that have a helpful description telling them who you are and what you are about
  3. Profiles with a nicely designed feed of content — whether it’s a series of Instagram photos or a variety of tweets

And it’s also true that a significant “follow-back” factor is followers themselves. People will follow accounts that have a lot of followers.

For the most part, brands and businesses will have these elements covered. If you are a new business just getting started or an individual looking to jump into a new social network, make sure you check these boxes with your profile before doubling down on follower growth.

Some advanced tips include:

  • The Stories highlights on your Instagram profile get premium placement above your feed. You can capture your top Stories moments and even assign custom thumbnails to each collection.
  • On Pinterest, your latest Pins make up a mosaic for your cover photos. Be sure to have a recent activity of vibrant, catchy images.
  • Facebook has one of the most robust “About” sections of any social network. Especially if you’re a business, it pays to put a lot of TLC (tender loving care) on this part of your profile.

3. Always use hashtags whenever possible on social posts

To make the most of this tip, pick and choose from high-volume hashtags. Tools like Keyhole and Hashtagify will reveal the popularity of certain hashtags across platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

You may want to add your post to a high-volume hashtag or strategically choose to be placed on a lower-volume, but more-focused term.

On Instagram, you can use up to 30 hashtags for your post and up to 10 hashtags in your Story.

Many brands choose to put their hashtags into the first comment of their Instagram post in order to keep the photo caption cleaner.

4. Use Instagram Stories to their full advantage

Hashtags can go a long ways toward increasing visibility. So, too, can Stories.

Instagram Stories appear on the Instagram Explore tab, which means that people beyond your immediate group of followers can find you there. You can also use hashtags, geo-locations, and @-mentions to surface your Stories further.

Hashtags and location stickers will make it possible for your Instagram Stories to appear on the search results page for those geo-locations and hashtags. And an @-mention sends a notification to the profile you’ve mentioned, and it gives that person or brand a chance to repost your Story to their Stories.

And if you remember from our episode last week — episode number 144 — live video can raise the visibility of your profile on social networks, which gives you even more chance to stand out and gain followers.

5. Be genuine. Use engagement strategies to gain more followers.

A famous saying within startups is …

“do things that don’t scale.”

Similarly, some of the best strategies to grow your follower counts on social media are going to be strategies that you cannot automate.

Engagement strategies are one of those.

The core of an engagement strategy is to interact authentically with an audience on social media. Sounds quite reasonable, right? This is indeed one of the fastest ways to grow your followers … but it’s also one that takes time and can easily fall by the wayside when things get busy.

We’ve found that it can help to follow a playbook. And one of the most famous follower-growth playbooks is Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 strategy. Gary says this is the one piece of advice he gives everyone who asks him how to get more Instagram followers.

Here’s how it works:

  • Step one. Find the 10 most relevant hashtags in your niche and follow those hashtags.
  • Step two. Reach out and comment on the top nine posts in each of the 10 hashtags.
  • Step three. Continue to like and comment on posts each day.

The $1.80 strategy gets its name because you’re giving your two cents on nine posts for 10 hashtags every day. If you add that up, it equals $1.80 per day.

There are variations on this theme. Some people follow similar Instagram accounts and turn on post notifications for these accounts so they can be the first to like. Others find like-minded Instagram accounts and then follow and engage with the followers of those accounts.

At the core of all of these engagement strategies, though, is genuine engagement. The strategies won’t work without it.

Lightning round: Quick tips on getting more followers

Promote your profile with social ads.

Social ads will raise the visibility of your content and of your profile. For example, YouTube’s TrueView Ads will place your content front-and-center to viewers. And you can even run follower campaigns specifically, on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

We’ve had some of our best ad returns on Instagram Stories recently. Often times the younger the ad network, the greater the return. Pinterest is another younger ad network to try.

Run cross-promotion and takeovers with like-minded brands

Not only will this help with follower growth, it will also give you extra content for social. We typically approach this by reaching out to brands in our space and seeing if they’d be interested in a partnership. We’ve done takeovers with a variety of brands over the years. Recently, we partnered with Lifelapse – a stop-motion video agency – for an Instagram Stories takeover.

Cross-promote yourself.

Of course, you can also use your other social channels to your advantage. If you’re looking to grow a particular social profile, you can mention it in the description of your other profiles. For instance, if you’re growing your Twitter, then add a plug for your Twitter handle in your Instagram bio.

Use Instagram analytics to see what’s working.

We’re big proponents of a data-informed social media strategy. No matter which of the follower tips you try, be sure to follow up with a look at your numbers. Find out what’s working, and learn what to keep, what to stop, and what to start.

You can track follower information and post performance in Buffer and other social media tools.


How to say hello to us

We would all love to say hello to you on social media – especially Twitter!

Thanks for listening! Feel free to connect with our team at Buffer on TwitterBuffer on Facebook, our Podcast homepage, or with the hashtag #bufferpodcast.

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About The Science of Social Media podcast

The Science of Social Media is your weekly sandbox for social media stories, insights, experimentation, and inspiration. Every Monday (and sometimes more) we share the most cutting-edge social media marketing tactics from brands and influencers in every industry. If you’re a social media team of one, business owner, marketer, or someone simply interested in social media marketing, you’re sure to find something useful in each and every episode.  It’s our hope that you’ll join our 27,000+ weekly iTunes listeners and rock your social media channels as a result!

The Science of Social Media is proudly made by the Buffer team. Feel free to get in touch with us for any thoughts, ideas, or feedback.

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