I have been on Instagram for a little over one year, and what a year it has been! Let's back track for all of my new followers so I can give you all a quick recap of my journey on these squares. Instagram started out as a way for me to document our custom build. I wanted a way to showcase my design selections on a platform that wouldn't make my Facebook friends feel substandard, I wanted a place where I didn't feel like I was gloating - that was not my intent. So, I switched it up to the photo platform I had grown to love so much over the years. Little did I know that Instagram had an ENORMOUS home decor community. Call me naive and oblivious. I quickly jumped on the home account bandwagon and haven't looked back since. I have met such an INCREDIBLE community of amazing and talented women on these spaces. More importantly, I have made genuine friendships. I never in a million years would have thought that Instagram would become my literal social outlet and connect me to such like minded people. It was, and still is, truly mind blowing. But, this is not what has prompted me to write this blog. I wanted to share with you the ultimate secrets to growing your account, in a truly organic, natural and genuine way. So here it is,
Pick The Flower You Want To Grow
The first thing that needs to be done when establishing your account is to find out what you want your account to be. What is your brand? Are you a mom blogger? Are you a home decor fanatic? A Lifestyle Influencer? Pick one. Yep. I said one. If you are on Instagram to build your followers the very first step is realizing what you want to be when you grow - if you would. When you start establishing a following, your followers expect to see certain material. The vast majority who initially started following you because they want to see home cooked meals and recipes do not want to see photos of your children - no offense, they just don't care. So pick one topic and stick to it.
Secondly, what is your goal? Do you want to collaborate with companies? Do you want to get paid for posting? Or do you just want to have a large following and become "insta-famous"? You need to figure out these wants because this will set you up for the goals you set in the future.
Plant Your Seed
After you have established the genre of your account, you have got to establish relationships. Period. Make friends. Make allies. Create cliques. You have no idea how incredible Insta-land is when you have your posse to roll around with. Your friends will support you, encourage you and complain, bitch and moan with you. You need them, they need you. On the other end of this spectrum, making enemies is the absolute wrong way to go about this life. Imagine Instagram is like a tiny town where everyone knows your name, they know what you do, what you've said and they know the tricks you're up to. Each tiny town is a different Instagram community - i.e. lifestyle bloggers, fitness accounts, home decor, crunchy moms... we all stick together. Within each town you have your cliques. Think of the cafeteria scene from Mean Girls, yes we have all seen the movie and know exactly what I'm referring to. (Little recap if you don't: an elaborate breakdown of cliques) The crazy thing is we all don't know everyone in our communities, but we all know someone who knows someone. So in a nutshell, BE NICE.
In order to make friends you need to put yourself out there. How do you do that? BY ENGAGING. Engage with everyone you can, especially the smaller accounts. When I first started up my account I found accounts through hashtags. I commented on every account I thought was either interesting or inspiring. I never really thought too hard about it. I also never really thought that real live people were being the squares either. (I mean, I knew real people managed accounts but in the beginning I didn't really think that engaging with people would help me in the long run - but it 100% does) People want to feel loved, if you love one of their photos, let them know! Odds are they will respond to you, check out your page and they may follow you back.
Let me tell you, I follow about 2,000 accounts. I see about 10 when I scroll through Instagram. When an account comments on one of my posts, I try to check out their account, if they never comment they get lost in the sea of accounts I never have a chance to see. Lesson here - ENGAGE, and don't be afraid to do it.
Let Your Roots Get Grounded
So you've reached your first major follower milestone.. 500. When looking at larger accounts 500 seems so small. IT ISN'T. 500 people have chosen to follow you!! That's huge. What do you do though when you reach 500? You set your next goal for 1,000. I know, I know, it seems impossible, but this is where your friends come in to play. Start comment and share pods. Help each other's engagement. When you post, let your friends know you've posted so they can help boost your post to beat that lousy algorithm that keeps changing and we can never figure out. Bottom line is this; the more engagement you have on a post the more likely Instagram will show your post through hashtags.
It's always nice to comment on your friends' posts, but it's even nicer to share their accounts on your pages, or stories. But this leads me to the whole sharing controversy ....
Share your friends, but don't share them often. You are trying to grow your brand. When you rely on sharing other people's accounts for growth, you are taking a huge risk. You do not want your followers following you based on other people's hard work. Why is that? Well, when you begin to share your own photos there will be a chance that they will unfollow you because it isn't what they initially thought your account was. So be careful when sharing and don't share too often.
Let's talk about your photo content. Photos are what grasps your followers. You need nice photos, period. There is no way around it, You want light photos. You want appealing photos. You want staged photos. It doesn't matter what type of account you are trying to grow, every large account on these squares stages their photos, some nicer than others, but we all take the time to prop, adjust lighting and get the perfect angle. Between you and me, sometimes I wind up taking about 25 photos before I am comfortable with posting my favorite one ( and half the time it fails on the engagement aspect which is INCREDIBLY frustrating). Your viewers want to see variety as well. Your viewers are YOUR audience, they get bored seeing the same photo over and over again. Your audience wants to see that you are different and original, give them a run for their money and get creative. At the end of the day, without decent photos people will not want to follow you.
The Forbidden "G" word...
Giveaways. The "oh so bad" way to gain followers. Or is it? Giveaways are not always a bad way to gain followers. You must know, that when you do chose to pay into giveaways you will lose some once the giveaway has ended.. BUT, the bottom line is this.. the ones who like your content WILL stay. Instagram can be all sorts of messed up at times. Since the algorithm has changed over the past few years, you do not see posts in chronological order. Instagram picks and chooses who they want you to see. I truly feel that giveaways do help other accounts find you, BUT doing giveaways often is not a good idea, in my opinion. The last thing your followers want to see is an account who has succumbed to ads, prizes and sponsorships. It's freaking annoying. Bottom line. So be cautious if you plan to do them.
Sponsorships and Collaborations
I think it's safe to say that every influencer on Instagram wants to collaborate with companies. It is so amazing when you get your first DM from a company that wants to partner with you on an item. My first collaboration was when I hit about 1,000 followers. I. Was. Pumped. But what happens if companies aren't contacting you? Reach out to them! The worst that can happen is they say no. Shoot them a DM or email. If you are wanting to collaborate with a company, put yourself in their shoes. If you were partnering up with influencers, who would you want to represent your company? Be that account. Companies aren't necessarily looking for numbers anymore, they're looking for the right brand with the right following.
Let Your Plant Blossom
You've made a nice group of friends, gained a little bit of a following, and you have nice content. So what's next, how do you grow?! Well, rinse, lather and repeat my friends. With great content, relationships and friendliness ... YOU WILL GROW. Sometimes it takes longer than other accounts but it will happen. Here are some day to day tips for keeping a steady growing account.
1. Post every single day. Figure out the best time for you to post. Is it in the morning or evenings? This is 100% trial and error. I am just learning that I have a better success rate when I post at 8:00 AM EST., while my best insta-friend's best time is approximately 12 hours later.
2. ENGAGE. Engage with every single person who comments on every single post of yours. NO exceptions. Double points = when they engage on your photo, go engage on their last three. Yup. Time consuming,..but guess what? Every single influencer on these squares puts the time in. I personally engage and do Instagram related work about 6 hours a day.
3. Hop on those stories. Yes, it is so extremely awkward the first few go around, but let me tell you, people want to see your pretty little face. The face behind those beautiful squares. After awhile, taking videos becomes second nature. Personally, hopping on stories has made me more confident in the real world, weird I know. I am more comfortable in my own skin because of them.
4. Don't be salty. Ain't nobody got time for that high school drama, gossiping nonsense. We all know one or two people out there who feed off of talking bad about people. Don't be that person. I know it is extremely frustrating when you gain 20 followers and lose 19 in a given day, I get it. But publicly talking bad about accounts who are growing makes you look childish, immature and mean. You may have a few allies on your side but more enemies in the long run. (This IS a real issue on these squares, you will know the mean girls when you see them. Pick your people cautiously and know that if they're taking badly about XYZ it's only a matter of time before you're next)
5. Don't let the numbers game get you down. Every single follower you receive is a step in the right direction. Don't get frustrated, just keep on trucking.Most importantly, do not give up. If your dream is to grow as an Instagram Influencer, it takes time. The work you put in is the work you get out of it. There are no shortcuts.