How do you organically grow your following on Instagram as a blogger/photographer/model/creator?
To date, I have 1,075 followers on Instagram. By the end of this post that could be down to 1,070. The amount always fluctuates.
One thing that is certain right now though? I don’t have upwards of 10k followers. And by most influencer marketing standards that takes me out of the “micro influencer” classification. I’m more of a “micro micro influencer.” Even using the word influencer leaves me shaking in my boots.
I’ve been on Instagram since July 2016, and I am embarking on my two-year IG anniversary.
I don’t want to get all “Back in my day on you,” but I’ve seen a lot of good (like meetups involving models + photographers) and a lot of bad (I followed @GaryVee and I kid you not, a bunch of motivational speakers “surprisingly” started following me).
I’m only gonna talk about the good today though. I’ve organically grown my Instagram to what it is today through passion and a strong desire to create. There ain’t no secret sauce to growing your IG (unless buying followers is your thing). In fact, no answer would be the same if you messaged people with a vast followings about the process of gaining more followers.
Despite being a micro micro influencer with 125 posts I’ve had very unique things occur. With less than 1,000 followers I won a contest on Lookbook, was followed by H&M Man on Instagram (see below) and even featured on the Instagram profiles of Forever21Men and Lookbook (also see below). I’ve also been featured on a multitude of smaller brands’ pages like Shopgauges and New Republic Man.
I also will be working with Summerfest this summer and shedding light on the festival with a unique twist. Yes, you heard it here first. If you’ve read this far already then that was your treat for taking time out of your day to read this blog post!
My intention is not to brag because if you knew me, you’d know I’m the last person to brag.
I just want to share what I think are keys to growing your following on Instagram especially when you’re starting from ground zero.
The Keys, The Keys, The Keys
1.) This one may seem like DUH, but truly care about what you’re posting and have fun. If you don’t care and enjoy what you’re doing, then why should someone else?
However, in the midst of having fun and showing passion in what you’re posting, don’t take Instagram so serious that you find it becoming a hassle. Treating social media like a job will drain the fun right out of the app itself. I could speak on this topic all day, but I will leave it at that this time around.
2.) Try not to use more than 10 hashtags in your posts. I always thought using the allotted 30 hashtags within the comment section was smart and the key to success, but then I realized that’s leaving the door wide open for spam and bots to comment, like your photos and follow you.
Some people might be cool with inflated numbers and engagement from bots and marketing automation, but I’m not one of them. I prefer genuine interaction.
Thus, the majority of the hashtags I use now are hyper-targeted (see more about this under #4), and the rest are some variation of ootd. Less is more.
3.) Be human and show your vulnerabilities. Be yourself. Anyone can can post a photo with a caption and use hashtags. But I’ve utilized Instagram stories to do polls, share my interests and bring people along on the journey (ala recording Milwaukee Fashion Week and my photo shoots around Milwaukee).
I believe people don’t want to see 10 posts from you in their feed on a random day; however, they wouldn’t mind watching how you spend 10 minutes of your day via Instagram stories. Crazy to think about, eh?
Also, if someone takes time out of their day to leave a comment, respond back. They left it for a reason…
4.) Stay on top of Instagram trends and new features within the app.
If you’re an avid IGer, you know the algorithm places the most engaging content near the top of your feed. So unless your followers only follow you, you’re going to have to do everything you can to make it to the top. Using highly targeted hashtags takes priority over more general hashtags like #fashion and #style.
I believe this is because everyone and their momma are using the general hashtags. Some users (like spam accounts) also abuse the hashtags that are associated with millions of posts. So Instagram is not going to be like, “Hey let’s move posts with 20-25 widely used hashtags to the top of users’ feeds.” They’ll do the complete opposite.
So if you’re rocking new gear from your favorite brand and want to showcase it on Instagram, do some research, find out the brand’s hashtag used in most of their photos then use that hashtag within your photo(s).
Although the brand-specific hashtag does not get as many eyes as #fashion, Instagram’s algorithms will definitely respect the gesture. Said brand might even re-post your post to their followers (assuming the photo is up to par with their page’s style and overall aesthetic).
This re-posting grants you access to their followers who not only see your profile and engage with it, but they also might follow you!
So hyper-segmentation with hashtags, understanding trends on Instagram like the ever-changing algorithm and staying on top of rollouts (like improved user experience within Instagram stories) can truly help you grow your following.
Last, But Not Least
5.) Collaborate. Collaborate. Collaborate. I can’t stress this one enough. If you’re a model, try to work with as many photographers as possible. Don’t limit yourself and work with one photographer the entire year. You can’t grow as fast as someone who’s aiming to work with a different photographer each month. The numbers just don’t add up.
Back when I first started I used to set monthly goals so I could try to work with a wide array of people.
For example, as a result of me shooting with another model in Milwaukee, I was able to see projects he worked on. Now I’m in the process of connecting with the people who helped out with this model’s projects for a project of my own! You never know when situations like these might arise so you really should just meet as many people as possible.
Additionally, aim to find creative outlets that curate content and feature Instagram users on their profile for some specific purpose (e.g., ootd, ootdmen, minimalstreetstyle, etc).
These entities might feature other bloggers and creators you are interested in working with down the line. Some of these users could also give you inspiration and help you look deeper into the box score.
That’s it! Use these tips, adjust them and add on to them to improve your brand and increase your following on IG. I’m not an expert (because only God’s an expert), but these tips are keys to building a strong foundation. Trust me.
Peace, love and style.