I still remember having a conversation with another instagrammer about reaching 10,000 followers. I said something along the lines of “Once I have 10K, I won’t pay attention to my numbers anymore.” She laughed. And you know what, I was definitely being naive! As much as I don’t want to pay attention to the numbers, I can’t help myself. I’ve read so much, experimented, listened to podcasts about growing your instagram, so I thought I might share some of what has worked for me.
Disclaimer: You’re probably reading because you want to grow your followers, which I hope to be able to help you do! But! Do not discount the power of being a microinfluencer. The microinfluencer market is HUGE right now. You don’t have to have 100K or 10K or even 5K to have influence. To have influence, you just have to have an audience, and you have to show up for them! You can do this through sharing content that aligns with the messages you’re trying to convey, but also don’t miss the opportunity to be have a two-way conversation with others. It’s about community on Instagram – you wouldn’t just say hello to someone you would consider a friend and never talk to a person again. If you’re trying to build up a community, give people a reason to come back. Be kind. Be yourself. Share what you like. There are some amazing independent small brands who are looking to work with instagrammers who have amazing engagement and a strong community presence and distinct voice. I worked with a few really lovely brands and PR firms when I was only around 4-5K, and maintaining that relationship has been an important part of my own growth and understanding of “how to work with brands.”
Ok, so assuming you do want to grow your IG followers (maybe you want the handy swipe up feature or maybe it’s part of your growth strategy), I have a few tips that could be helpful.
It took me a year to reach 10K, and it felt like for-ev-er. When I joined instagram, the algorithm wasn’t in effect yet, so my photos would be seen and “liked” by thousands, even though I only had a couple hundred followers. Once this changed, it really changed the way I had to interact and engage. It’s a learn as you go thing, but there are a few ways of using instagram that haven’t changed and make a big difference in your growth.
- Engagement You hear about engagement ALL the time, and no doubt, this is one of the best ways to grow, and the most important. What is engagement? It’s not being a passive IG user – it’s liking, commenting, sharing others stories and posts through your stories, etc. Engage with the community you’ve found on instagram, whatever that happens to be. If you’re just getting started on instagram, find a handful of people that you like – they don’t all have to be from the same community, I think it’s best to follow people who have similar interests to you, because then you are genuinely following them and interested in what they’re sharing. Commenting on their photos, sending them friendly DM’s, etc., this will all increase your visibility on IG. When I got serious about wanting to grow, I made a point to spend at least 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening commenting and responding to comments on my feed. The most recent advice I’ve heard to make sure your posts are being seen (thanks algorithm!), is to spend around 20 minutes before you post engaging, then post, and spend at least 30 minutes commenting back to people and being chatty. It’s also a great way to get to know people a little more than just by their IG name!
- Hashtags There is so much confusion around hashtags – how many to use, which size to target, etc., should you use them at all. I have found a great community by using hashtags. Now that you can follow a hashtag, it’s a great way to find new accounts. One of my favorites to follow is #prettycitylondon – a HUGE community, but I’ve also stumbled across some lovely new accounts who have used the hashtag. Big accounts and small accounts show up on the hashtag, so it’s always worth using. How can you use and store hashtags? You can use up to 30 hashtags, and I write them at the bottom of my captions, not in following comments, if that makes sense. I recommend using the full 30, and using a mix of hashtags from different communities. If I’m posting a pink London photo, I’ll use hashtags centered around london, travel, pink, color, and a mix of lifestyle and design websites and brands I love. I store hashtags on the Notes app on my phone, separated by categories, then copy and paste for my posts. It’s important to switch up the hashtags you use every day, so you don’t get shadowbanned. How to find the right hashtag? Choose hashtags that have lots of engagement and some smaller ones, to ensure your posts are seen. A good resource for hashtags is Me and Orla, and google. This is a good post I bookmarked. Just search for whatever hashtags fit your niche. Also, don’t forget hashtags on stories!
- Feature accounts When you use feature accounts hashtags ( i.e. Pretty City London) or tag them in your photo, you may be selected as a feature photo. Find feature accounts in your community and tag away! Engage in the comments of feature accounts. Find other likeminded people in the community. It’s a great place to find other IGers, too.
- Stories Stories are still relatively new, and they are a tool that can have a HUGE impact. How do I know they work? Because I watch so many of them, myself! It’s 2019, we want to see what everyone is doing, we want to see the face behind the account, and it’s a great way to let your audience get a peek of who you are. I could go on about stories, including the apps I use to give them more visual impact, but I might save that for another post.
- Get creative to get noticed It’s a big community. There are so many ways to get your name and brand out in front of others! A few ideas: collaborate with like-minded IGers, do a small meet-up and tag each other. Ask an instagrammer or brand or feature account if they do stories takeovers and pitch yourself so you can appear in front of their audience. Be creative in the content you’re sharing.
- To niche or not to niche I think you already know which direction I took (hello pink things in London, that’s quite specific!). Personally, I’ve found positives and negatives from niche-ing, but I would say mostly positives. When I first started my IG, I would post anything pink that I came across. Soon, though, I realized I needed to set a tone on my IG to make my feed more cohesive. I still remember the day my friend pointed at a new shiny pink fiat and said, “hey! It’s a pink car for your feed!” And I immediately was like, “yea, that’s not on brand.” The only way I knew what was on brand for me was through months of reflection on what I enjoyed photographing and sharing. I’ve found a great community of people who love pink and London, and I’ve recently been working to ever-so-slightly break out of my niche. My opinion is that starting off niche is a great way to establish your IG brand, form a community and grow your followers. Then, once you’re more established, you can expand as you get more comfortable with what you want to share.
I hope these tips are helpful! I’ll be writing my next post on growing beyond a microinfluencer in the coming months. Let me know what else you’d like to hear about related to using instagram, I’m excited to share what I know!