If you’ve ever browsed a friend’s account on Instagram, you might have noticed that they have a LOT of followers, relatively speaking.

They’re just ordinary people who do ordinary things, and who take ordinary pictures of seemingly ordinary things. Yet - despite having just 5 or 10 friends in real life - they have over 1,000 followers on Instagram.

“How did you get so many followers?” you ask them. “I don’t know,” they say with disinterest. They don’t even care! If they can get that many followers without even trying, is it possible for you to get many more by trying? Totally!

Instagram is easily one of the best platforms on which to build an organic following on social media. It’s much easier than both Facebook and Twitter. However, while it looks as simple as just posting pictures and watching followers flood through the gates, it isn’t. Yes, amassing 1,000 followers can be as easy as that. But you don’t want 1,000 followers. You want thousands and thousands.

The first thing you need to do is define your niche. What one thing are you offering? More to the point what is the one thing you are offering that’s different - or at least better - than anyone else? What’s your thing?

Secondly, you need to post a lot. Don’t be lazy about this. Don’t have a burst of excitement, where you post a flurry of pictures in two days, before losing interest and disappearing for a few weeks. People will forget about you.

Thirdly, when people like your photos, don’t be egotistical about it. Respond by liking one of theirs! Show them some love, too. It’s the same when someone comments on your photos. Comment on theirs, too. Interact. Be frigging social! Don’t be a recluse who never leaves his or her own page. Venture out and network.

Fourthly, you need to use hash tags. People use hash tags for a reason. They don’t use them as a gimmick. They use them so people who are searching for a particular something will find their posts.

These four things are prerequisites you absolutely need. Without them, you’ll find it hard to build an organic following on Instagram.

As well as these four, there are other things you need:

Dedicate Yourself To Quality

If you dedicated yourself to quality and nothing else, would people come to you? Yes, very likely.

The comic strip artist and serial blogger, Scott Adams, described how he has “systems.” What he means by this is that there are things he’ll do consistently - such as blogging - without knowing where they will take him.

He used to blog a lot, but he wasn’t making any money out of it. He was just doing it to see what would happen. He made a commitment to quality, so that whoever read his blogs would get value out of them. Eventually, his blog took off, secured him a publishing deal and made him lots of money.

He never knew it would come to this. But by consistently posting quality, people saw he was offering them value. They came to him, and it turned into a lucrative side business for Adams.

Quality always pays in the end. If you make a commitment to just one thing with your Instagram account, make a commitment to consistent quality. People will come to you because they love what you do. It adds value to their lives. They are genuinely interested.

Of course, the problem with this sort of commitment without knowing where it will get you is that it will take up a lot of your time. It will require a lot of effort on your part. And because it takes a good while to build a big following, there might be times when you feel like giving up.

However, once people see you’re offering quality, they’ll start to share your stuff. They will spread the word. This will lead to more followers over time.

Find Influencers And Engage With Them

If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands, and you don’t mind being proactive, you should get your hands a bit dirty by finding influencers and engaging with them.

It’s not too hard to find influencers in your field. All you need to do is search keywords and hash tags, and find the profiles that have lots of followers.

Then, you need to make a connection with them by liking and sharing their posts. Comment on their posts, and let them know you’re here. After a bit of time, they’ll take notice of you. They may follow you back, and even comment on your stuff.

Who knows? They might even share your stuff too, which will give you massive exposure to their audience.

Engaging with influencers and making it pay for you will take a bit of time. But it doesn’t have to take a heap amount of time. In fact, it often serves as a quick way of building your audience.

Look at it like this: All it takes is one relevant influencer to share your post, and all of a sudden you could have hundreds - or even thousands - of new followers. It can be that easy.

It's recommended you don’t just comment on one post and leave it at that. It looks too obvious you’re just trying to draw attention to yourself. Instead, make an effort to ingratiate yourself in someone else’s community. Take the time and effort to make a few good comments. Put yourself out there. Earn respect.

Give People An Incentive To Follow You

People on the Internet LOVE free stuff. Is there anything wrong with that? Not at all! You give them free stuff and in return they give us their following. It works out well for both parties. And in fact, most successful online entrepreneurs give MOST of their stuff away for free.

Holding contests, offering promotions, and giving cool stuff away for free is a fabulous way of getting more people to follow you. You could do something like, “Share this post with your friends and be in with a chance to win XXX.” Or maybe you could do “Comment ‘I’m In!’ on this post to receive XXX.” And you know what? People WILL like and share your stuff. People love good offers. If you can make an awesome offer, it will go viral.

However, there is a flipside: To make an awesome offer, you’ll no doubt need to spend a bit of money in the first place. There will be an initial outlay. Moreover, you may attract lots of followers who are just there for the free stuff - they don’t even know who you are or what you do!

Hey, it happens. But giving stuff away for free and regularly holding contests are an easy way of building up your Instagram following.

What About Bots?

You’ve probably heard that some people use Instagram Follow and Like bots to grow their audience. Why do they use these bots? Doesn’t it mean they end up with a disengaged following?

Bots come in useful if you’re finding it hard to build your following. They were designed to automate a few activities, such as commenting, liking and of course following. With their help, you can automate the process so that you save yourself some time.

Some of the most commonly used bots include Instagress and FollowLiker, although it seems as though each time a bot gets too popular, Instagram shuts it down.

Now, Instagram bots sound good in theory. Of course, anything that saves us time sounds good in theory. But like eating a whole cake to yourself sounds good in theory, bots can catch up with you afterwards, springing a nasty surprise. At first, bots tempt you with their time-saving skills.

“You’ve been so busy lately. Let me save you some time,” they crow in your ear. But Instagram doesn't like automation. Of any kind. It’s against their code of conduct, and it can get you banned. In short, it's best to stay away from bots if you intend to stay on Instagram for a long time.