I've been on Instagram for about 3 years now, and have only seen any kind of noticeable growth in my following in the last 6 months. I KNOW how frustrating it is to put so much effort and time into something, and then receive the bare minimum amount of engagement (especially when you know that at least half of those likes come from family and your best friends!). It took me a long time to get where I am today (and I'm still a baby in the big bad world of Instagram!) but I want to encourage you on your journey, wherever you may be right now.
While there is no secret, overnight trick to go from 0 - 1000 over night, today I want to share with you my strategies over the past year which got me to my first 1k.
1. Start tracking your numbers
First things first. Grab a pen and paper (or even better, print out the free stats tracker I made just for you...it's waiting for you in The #CGScreative Resource Library) and write down exactly where you are right now. It doesn't matter if you have 5 followers on Instagram or 5000. You need to start somewhere and today is a good a day as any to begin YOUR journey.
I have also included place for you to write down your stats for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & your email list. It makes life easier having all your social media stats in one handy place. Then keep adding your stats every month (or even every few weeks). When I first started tracking my stats, I counted all numbers every week. It was very encouraging to see the numbers slowly creep up. I have included space for the 12 months of the year on the free printable above, but you can print a many as you need if you want to do it by week instead of month.
2. Write down your goals
As with any journey you need to know where you are going. You write down your 'dream' numbers and keep them small and easily attainable, or you can shoot for the stars and write down something outrageous. Don't get disheartened if you don't reach this number in a week, a month or even a year. The point of this exercise is to know where you are heading and where you want to be. You can put a date a date on your goals, but I find this doesn't end up motivating me, and I end up feeling like a failure if I haven't reached my goals by a certain date. I like to keep my goals open ended, as I want to keep growing and not stop what I'm doing even when I hit a target. Here's a free goal tracker printable to help you. You can write down whatever goals you have for your social media channels; things like hosting a giveaway/joining group boards on Pinterest are great goals to start growing your channels too.
3. Hashtags, Hashtags, Hashtags!
Hashtags WILL help you grow your following by making sure your photographs show up on searches. Before you tag your photo, think about what your photograph is showing/telling people. You want to make sure you use the right hashtags so that the right people find your feed. If you're little unsure of where to start, read this post on using different hashtags.
4. Be Social & Share the Love
If someone takes the time to comment on your photo, make sure to first reply to that comment, and then take a minute to head on over to their profile. If you like what you see, leave them a comment or two, or at the very least go and show their feed some love by liking some of their photographs. If you aren't actively engaging with other people, you're missing out on creating real, authentic connections with potential clients and potential business/blogging buddies. Think about your own feed. When someone simply likes one photo, how many times do you click on over to their feed? But think about when someone likes 5, 10, 20 of your images? How does that make you feel? Okay, it can sometimes feel like they are being a little spammy, but if they comment on your images as well as like them, chances are they genuinely enjoy what you are putting out there. So why not return the favor? It will increase your chances of being remembered by your followers as someone who is genuine and authentic, ie. they are more likely to then click over to your blog and read your content.
When you like an image on Instagram, that person gets a notification. If they have a big following, changes are they get so many notifications that your little like fades into the abyss. If you go and like 10 of their images, your name will appear 10 times in their notifications, making you stand out. I know that I click on profiles that leave me lots of likes (and I definitely click on profiles that leave comments). So why not use this to your advantage and make people want to click on your profile and follow you to see more.
5. Be Consistent with your brand
This step is the most important. Maintaining a consistent feed is what will help you stand out amongst the million of other users out there. Branding is a whole other kettle of fish, but on a basic level, if you want to convey your brand (whether that is the brand you are growing for your blog business or even just your own personal brand of who you are) you need to be consistent.
When I first started using Instagram I was all about the Valencia filter; you know that brown, sepia filter that gave a vintage edge to every photo? That was all very well and good, but since then my own style has developed into something more feminine, clean and pretty. I now use a white (or at least a light) background for all my photographs and put more thought into what I want to share. If you are serious about growing your brand, you need to think hard about the image you want to convey to your followers.
To give you an idea of what I'm talking about I want to share with you what happened to my Instagram followers a earlier this year.
At the beginning of May this year (2015) I decided to take Instagram seriously. I wanted to use it as a tool to grow my blog, not just as a place to share photos of my dog. I started styling my photographs, using a white background, and just putting a bit more thought into my images. I also started to introduce more of my own photography work (you can see this in below image on the left). Slowly, I started gaining lots of new followers. By the end of July I had gained about 200 new, actively engaging followers.
Then I went on holiday to Borneo.
I wanted to share the exciting places we were seeing and things we were doing with my readers. I changed the hashtags I was using to fit in with travel, and even though I was getting more likes on my photographs, I lost nearly 50 followers in 2 weeks. I had no idea what was going on. Yes, Instagram does go through purges where they delete inactive & spam accounts, but to loose so many people had to mean that my followers weren't interested in what I was posting.
You see, people were following CityGirlSearching the lifestyle blogger who posted photographs of makeup, stationery and other pretty things. They hadn't chosen to follow CityGirlSearching the global traveler who posted photographs of beaches & exotic foods.
It was hard to realise how fickle people can be, and to see such a decline in followers when I thought I was posting interesting new content. I realised I had to start thinking about my Instagram account as an extension of my brand, and not as a personal account.
Lots of bloggers I follow have ended up creating multiple Instagram accounts to use for different purposes and I have been contemplating doing the same. They have one account for their blog or business, and another one to share personal photographs for family and friends. Right now I have enough social media channels to juggle without adding in a personal IG account, but it is something you may want to consider to help streamline your brand.
There are a number of free apps to tell you how many people follow/unfollow you but I have just found they make me feel horrible about Instagram. I downloaded Trackgram which has a paid and free features, and I found it took all the love out of Instagram for me. When I actively see who has un-followed me, it makes me want to unfollow them, regardless of whether I like their Instagram account or not.It leaves a bad taste in my mouth being able to see who un-follows me, and it has made me feel very negative towards certain bloggers who I used to love and admire. So I would say us it with caution, or rather, don't use it all. You don't need to be reminded who exactly un follows you, you can get a broad overview of this yourself by looking at your Instagram numbers on your profile yourself.
I hope this post inspired you to tackle the big bad world of Instagram! If you have any questions about it, please feel free to leave me a comment below, I promise to get back to you.