Another milestone. A month ago, I hit 20,000 followers on Instagram. Yesterday, I hit 30,000.
I'm still mind-boggled that so many people care to see my art. It's incredibly motivating and one of the main reasons my art has improved.
I started posting around January this year and have grown it organically. At peak, over 600 people followed me in one day. There's no magic here. No hacks, no money spent, no mind games played.
That said, I think there were some things that helped increase my following.
At peak, I was posting around once every other day. During the month of May, artists across Instagram participate in "Mermay" where people draw mermaids everyday. I committed to every other day. In total, I drew 15 mermaids. May was one of the most significant months of growth for me.
People want to see content on a consistent basis. Your cadence might vary but try sticking to a schedule. For me, I've now slowed down to a more leisurely 4-5 day pace. Art takes a long time to make and I don't have that much time after work. When I don't have finished art to post, I still try to show works in progress in my story.
Participate in challenges
Mermay for the month of May, Inktober for October. Challenges are a great way to get exposure. They're also really fun to do and the barrier to entry is low. There's usually several prompt lists to choose from.
DTIYS (Draw this in your style) challenges are great as well. Artists will often feature participants' work in their stories. You also have the chance to get featured in a permanent post. Most challenges will have a challenge hashtag where other people can find your work.
Hosting your own DTIYS is a great way to get discovered as well. I hosted my own DTIYS when I hit 10k followers. Over 450 people participated which helped me get even more exposure.
Although I'm not sure of a particular strategy for hash-tagging, I know they help. I usually use a mixture of popular (millions tagged) and less popular (hundreds of thousands tagged) hashtags.
Some people recommend using the full 30 hashtags and some recommend using a select ~10. I usually go with somewhere in the middle, around 20. Sometimes I get a lot of impressions from hashtags, sometimes I don't. That's a part of the Instagram mystery I think.
If you're trying to grow on Instagram and things aren't "working", try not to stress! It makes me sad to see new artists obsess over their numbers. Focus on making good art and the people will come.