The Exact Formula For Growing Your Personal Brand on Instagram (With Examples)

by Neil Patel

Last updated on July 14th, 2017

Social media now has over 2 billion users worldwide. That’s nearly 25% of the population of the whole planet!

And if your business has a target audience who responds well to visuals (think cooking, travel, or fitness) then Instagram is a platform that you cannot overlook.

Instagram is becoming somewhat of a hidden gem for businesses.

Despite its wild popularity, only 30% of businesses that use social media have an Instagram account.

Which, if you think about it, is absolutely crazy.

Even though you cannot include links in Instagram posts, Instagram is still an incredibly effective way to grow your brand, increase traffic, and boost your sales.

Instagram is particularly powerful for growing and scaling your personal brand.

The best way to build your personal brand is to give people a look into your life.

To give them a chance to meet the “real” you.

And unless you want to invest several hours a day into a daily YouTube vlog, Instagram is the best and easiest way to accomplish this.

So how exactly do you build a successful Instagram account for your personal brand?

What is the formula for success?

Sit back, pull out a pen and piece of paper, and I will show you.

1. Be authentic.

You remember what your mom always told you growing up?

“Just be yourself!”

You probably didn’t believe her whenever you were a kid, and maybe you still don’t. But she had a point.

People can smell b.s. from a mile away, even on social media.

If you really want to succeed at growing your personal brand, then you need to learn how to use Instagram authentically.

I realize “authenticity” is a hopelessly misused buzzword. But being authentic is still a real and important thing in marketing. Thankfully, there are ways to prove your authenticity.

And there’s no better place to start than Instagram.

tim ferris instagram

Case in point… @timferriss

If selfies are not your thing, cool.

If you love posting foodie pics, cool.

If you are a gym rat and love posting “swolefies” then go for it!


There is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ post for your personal brand, as long as it is authentic. Except maybe “duckface” selfies. But whatever. If that’s your thing.

Remember, the goal here is to let people into your life and to give your audience a peek behind the curtains.

Just be yourself with your Instagram posts and the right people will be attracted to you and your brand.

2. Keep a main theme with your posts.

I see a lot of entrepreneurs on Instagram whose posts are all over the place.

One second they are posting about fitness, the next about marketing, and then they start posting pictures of a trip from 5 years ago.

While you certainly have more liberties regarding the subjects of your posts whenever you are running an account for your personal brand, you still want a cohesive account.

Let’s me give you a couple of examples.

Let’s say that you run an online fitness company.

After working hard for a couple of years, you decide it is time to kick back and travel for a little bit, enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Now when it comes to your Instagram marketing, you can go about this transition in one of two ways.

You can start taking loads of travel pics and videos basically turning your old fitness page into a travel gallery.


You can keep your message congruent by combining the overarching theme of your account (fitness) with this new segment of your life (travel).

For example, you could post workout pics from all across the globe.

rock workout

Showing of some skillz while traveling @mikefitch

You could post pictures of surfing with the hashtag “FUNctionalfitness.”


Something like this pic from @fotoalexm would work perfectly to spice up your fitness page

Or you could do some crazy handstand stuff on beaches and at world monuments!


Or of course, the classic handstand on the beach like @sic_baristi_workout

It doesn’t really matter how you keep you page congruent, it only matters that you keep your page congruent.

You can post off topic pictures every once in awhile, but try and tie most of your posts back to one of your main themes.

3. Use hashtags, but use them wisely.

Hashtags are, bar none, one of the best ways to get your content in front of new eyeballs.

They are a super easy way to generate new Instagram followers and as a result new clients for your brand.

However, they can also be overused.

You know those crazy pics that have 20+ hashtags that are completely irrelevant to the photo?



Please don’t be that guy (or girl).

I recommend that you limit hashtags to 4-8 per picture.


@intrepidtravel doing hashtags right.

It’s not a ton, but if you choose your hashtags wisely, it will be more than enough.

4. Get new visitors to your blog.

In every post that you publish, you should have some mention of your blog or website so that people can follow up with you and (hopefully) becoming paying customers.

Unfortunately, Instagram only allows one link and it has to be in the bio of your account.


One link and one link only

While this may be a pain, you can still make do.

Whenever you post a new picture, include a short blurb about some relevant promotion or free giveaway that you are running with “More information in the bio” in parentheses.

If your posts are high quality and your copywriting skills up to par, you should be able to get people over to your website pretty easily.

If you are running a promotion or trying to sell a new product, it is ok to have a link in the description that redirects followers to a landing page.


@bcartermusic using his link to send people to his free book promotion

However, I only recommend that you do this for a couple of weeks at the most.

It may be tempting to constantly push new products.

But in the long run, you will build more brand loyalty by sending followers directly to your home page.

5. Use geotagging.

Geotags are a great way to get your content shared as well as connect with members of your audience and build a stronger personal brand.


@tailopez geotagging his post in Norway

What’s even better?

It’s really… really easy.

Just tap one button.

share to followers


It will take you less than a second or two and if you are using it properly, opens up the doors to having your content shared by major restaurants, national parks, hotels, or business events.

And, whenever your audience can see where you are, they are more likely to reach out and ask to connect.

Nothing builds authenticity and a strong personal brand like having lunch with a group of fans!

6. Use apps, not filters, to improve your photos.

Beautiful photos are the key to success on Instagram.

No amount of clever hashtagging, geotagging, or even authenticity will help you succeed with Instagram if your photos suck.

However, you know what is worse than a sucky photo?

A sucky photo that has been covered up with a worse filter.

It’s like getting a bad tattoo and then covering it up with a worse tattoo.

bad tat


Don’t try and salvage bad photos or ruin good photos with a cliché filter.

Instead, download a few apps that will improve the quality of your photos while making things appear “natural.”

Things like FaceTune and Afterlight are good places to get started.



Or you can get really geeky and alter your photos manually.



7. Reply to all comments.

This piece of advice may not be doable for those of you who have thousands of followers.

Odds are if you are reading this guide, you have not quite reached that level.

If you’re generating a reasonable number of comments (less than 50 per post) then I recommend that you respond to all comments.

Minus the trolls, of course.

Even if it just a simple “thanks.” works wonders.

Engaging with your audience is one of the keys to succeeding with Instagram.

8. Tag other brands with large followings.

Don’t be selfish when it comes to promoting other brands and companies on Instagram, especially if they have a large following.

It doesn’t matter how many likes you get from the post.

If your photo is good, the other brand or company may regram it.

This will increase the number of eyes who see your content, grow your follower base, and add authority to your personal brand.

foundr instagram

@foundrmagazine reported using this tactic heavily… And look at their follower base!


9. Get Personal With It

The key here is that you are growing your personal brand through Instagram.

So get personal!

In most businesses, you want to be professional.

No one wants to make a million dollar deal with someone who gets too personal when they should be handling business.

However, whenever you are growing your personal brand, things are different. It’s not only ok to share about your life. It’s mandatory.

It doesn’t matter what you are posting as long as you get personal. So post photos about your travels. A fitness transformation. Pictures of you and your significant other. Or even just pictures of your dog.

Let people see behind the curtains. Show them the real you. Otherwise, you are just building an Instagram account to promote another regular business.


In the right hands, Instagram is a powerful tool.

You can use it to quickly grow your business and share your message and your story with thousands of new ears.

But you have to learn how to harness it first.

With the above 9 tips, you can have a good head start over your competition (only 30% of other businesses on social media have an Instagram remember?)

You have to take action. You have to implement these tips. And you have to be consistent.

What are your best tips for growing your Instagram following?

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The Exact Formula For Growing Your Personal Brand on Instagram With Examples



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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.


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  1. Samuel says:
    September 27, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Nice post. I agree with the hashtag thing. 20 hashtags doesn’t look that good. I even read another one of Neil’s post that advises people to use the hashtags in comment instead.

  2. Kelly Edwards says:
    August 19, 2016 at 8:20 am

    Some great tips, if not a bit controversial about only using 8 hashtags… I use 1 in the main heading and then use the rest (usually about 20) in the first comment so as not to look spammy.

    Instagram isn’t yet clever enough to realise that you’re commenting on your own post, so sees this as a positive engagement and as Engaging + New = Higher up, then this increases the chance of more people interacting and seeing your content.

    I completely agree about replying to everybody too. I’d love to see more tips on how to grow your following. I’ve found that the only thing that really works to grow my following so far is to follow other people with similar interests and ‘back like’ about 3 of their photos – this usually results in them following me back.

  3. Alex Busey says:
    August 11, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Really nice post. As you say, Instagram can produce amazing results in certain niches, so it’s crucial to know how to use it to get results.

    The tip about responding to all the comments is a great one; so few of the brands I see do this, so it could present a real opportunity to get ahead of your competitors.

    You’re right about hashtags by the way, having too many looks really spammy.

  4. Nasim Khan says:
    August 9, 2016 at 3:24 am

    Great post About making brand in instagram. I have created account in Instagram long time ago but i have few followers . Hope now after collecting datas from your article if i apply it accurately I can grow my followers.
    Thank you For sharing such post

  5. Neville says:
    August 8, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Cool post Neil.

    I’ve seen people grow their Instagram followings huge. It doesn’t always translate every single follower into a buyer, but there is a decent percentage of people buying off Instagram.

    From my own consulting I’ve seen people in the health and food industry do really with Instagram. As for marketing, it seems to be a great supplement to a blog.

    The formula I’ve seen work is:
    Write meaty blog post –> Turn snippets of content into 5-10 pieces of Instagrammable content –> Link post in the pic.

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