When we launch an Instagram account, the first few months can feel a little lonely. We’re posting to a pretty small audience, and if we’re lucky, our bff and our Mum are the only ones there valiantly liking all of our posts (thanks Mum!).

If we’ve got a marketing budget, we might run some ads to attract our target audience, or cross-promote it from our site and newsletter to build that following on that platform – but there’s no doubt about it, there’s a point where we need to put in some hard yards to build our audience on Instagram with our target market.

I’ve written in the past that having followers for the sake of followers is so 2010. Yes, we need to reach new audiences who are our target market, but that shouldn’t be in the quest of a number alone (“we need to hit 1000 followers!”) unless it’s backed up by a real business objective (“5% of our website sales come from Instagram, so increasing our followers may lead to an increase in sales. Let’s test this.”).
So, when we’re looking at growing audiences, we don’t want to be growing the audience with just anyone: we want it to be the people who will become our customers.

Most of us know that one of the ways to find your target audience on Instagram is to use hashtags your audience is likely to use. Let’s say you sell bamboo cutlery, and you think your target audience are likely to use the hashtag #zerowaste. Instagram Search will pull up everyone who has used that hashtag recently.

From there, you can engage with those people, or follow them, and over time, they might follow you back and even become customers.

Related: The Free Tools To Help You Choose The Right Instagram Hashtags

However, the problem with using hashtags in Instagram search? You’re talking to everyone in the world. Few businesses are targeting everyone on the planet. Often, you’re focusing on a certain country or city, and even if you sell products online, you might be just targeting specific countries.

But Instagram search doesn’t allow you to search by geography.

The secret to finding people who are both using your ideal hashtag and in your region? Google Search.

That’s right. Old faithful.

Here’s a rundown on how it works.

Using Google Search Find Instagram Followers

Google has a couple of advanced search features that you might not use every day.

The feature we’ve going to use is to search a specific website, using the site:instagram.com filter.

Let’s pop in both our hashtag, and ideal location into Google Search.

For example:

#zerowaste sydney site:instagram.com

What comes up? Multiple users who have used both the hashtag #zerowaste and  Sydney in their bio or in a post.


Now, you can open the results up in a new tab and follow them.

Because this is pulling in recent results, you might hit a wall and only find a handful of accounts, so for that reason, it’s better to set this aside as a regular weekly task, rather than an annual one!

You will want to mix up your search and switch out to other locations. For example:

  • #zerowaste melbourne site:instagram.com
  • #zerowaste perth site:instagram.com
  • #zerowaste nsw site:instagram.com
  • #zerowaste australia site:instagram.com

Or, switch out the hashtags:

  • #trashisfortossers sydney site:instagram.com
  • #noplanetb sydney site:instagram.com

And that’s it. It is a manual task (a nice one for the afternoon slump!), but it’s about trying to create real, authentic people in order to build connections with your target market.

Here’s the rundown for those who love checklists:

Step 1: Log into Instagram on your web browser on your computer

Step 2: Do a Google Search for your hashtag and a city in the region you want to target, using the site-specific search, for example: #zerowaste melbourne site:instagram.com

PRO TIP: You can also use keywords, not just hashtags, so for example, just the phrase zero waste.

Step 3: Open up the people you find in a new tab, and follow, or comment.

Step 4: Rinse and repeat with other hashtags and cities.

PRO TIP: If you’re out of hashtag ideas, see what those accounts you’ve been following have been using. Your audience knows the hashtags they use!

Step 5: Do this each week for half an hour until you’ve built up a small engaged audience.

You can also check out who follows them, who they follow and who comments on their posts – they might well be your audience, too!

And that’s it. A little Instagram lifehack right there to help you not just put your brand on centre stage, but to help you find that audience that is interested in your product. Love it.

Want to work with Rachel?

Rachel Beaney is a writer and social media content specialist, helping businesses connect with their audiences.

She’s worked with local, national and global companies, in addition to not-for-profits and government bodies. She loves helping businesses tell their stories with creative and data-driven solutions.

She is based in Sydney, Australia.

Want to work together? Rachel would love to hear from you. Get in touch today.