Depending on your perspective, 18k+ followers is a lot or not that many. For me it was a lot, and way more than I ever thought I have.
I thought I would share what I did and didn’t do to get this many followers. Since I joined three years ago, Instagram has already undergone many changes. Some of them make it easier, some make it harder.
My use had dropped off quite a bit this year, as part of a shift in priorities. I still like the platform and intend to use it for my other projects.
Let me tell you a little more about what I did, what I didn’t do and why.
An account for my creative business
This account was established for my creative business. It’s very niche, so I never thought it would have any massive appeal, and that was fine with me. I wanted to share my work and maybe find some people interested in what I offer.
How long did it take to get 18k followers?
It took me about two years.
What was my timing strategy?
I already had a many years of work saved up, so it was easy to post something new every other day or so. This kept my account with a steady stream of new content. This was critical in gaining more followers.
Like and follow others
In the start, I had no followers, so I applied the like and follow strategy. (I never see this mentioned on any instagram strategy guide). I did searches for my main keyword and liked photos and followed many people. I tend to give likes to people without huge number of likes. This increases the chance of reciprocity. Comments help too.
I try to live by the rule that if you want likes and followers, you must be willing to follow and like. It’s pretty basic, and it is helpful for starting out.
I stuck with my niche. I almost never posted off-topic pictures. I only ever posted one photo of myself. People are often a curious who is behind the work, and this is a great way to make your brand more personal.
I curated my work. I didn’t post photos of my early work because I thought it wasn’t at the same standard. That may be too harsh. It could be part of a strategy to show where you came from and how far you progressed in your skills.
As I mentioned I was consistent in my strategy. It truly worked in the long run. I kept it simple and maintained a steady effort. This was really the foundation of my strategy. Consistent, quality content. It may take time, but you will get there.
Four things I didn’t do
Today there is much advice about getting an instagram followers. In reviewing what has been my own strategy, I see that I followed none of the standard stuff you read. I just kept up the stream of posts.
There is much more you can do with instagram now than when I started, and it is definitely worth investigating.
In any case, here are a few things I haven’t done:
I didn’t pay
I didn’t pay for promoted posts, I didn’t pay influencers, and I didn’t pay for any courses or books about getting followers. And neither did I buy followers, of course. I know some people in my niche that had far more followers than I did, and they used some of these methods. There is no harm in paying money for ads or influencers if you can afford it, but it is certainly not needed.
I didn’t post videos
I started my account before video came to instragram. It worked fine with only images although video is certainly a great way find a greater audience. Today, I would definitely consider video. It can be very simple and easy to get started with.
I didn’t make it an obsession
I spent quite a bit of time on Instagram in the beginning. I would look at other’s work in my area or look at nature images. As many of you know, it can be very relaxing to scroll.
Unfortunately I couldn’t maintain this time commitment, and I didn’t think I was gaining that much from it. Certainly my focus was not. I had to do something about that.
So I decreased my time there. I read now instead. Beyond enjoyment, I find reading helps a lot with focus, and I definitely need loads more of that!
I kept it simple and straightforward and honest. I didn’t do giveaways or contests or use funky hashtags. Showing up on a regular basis often gets you much farther than clever strategies, not that there is anything wrong with them. They can be useful in the right time and right place.
What I have learned
This has been a great learning experience as well. Anything you do like this on a consistent basis is a fabulous teacher.
Beware the algorithm
These can bite you on the butt. They routinely make changes to them, so don’t count on the flow of eyes to remain constant. Some changes will help, others will hurt. Usually they hurt because they want to put you in a corner and make you pay for views.
The number of likes I was getting on my FB page plummeted when they switched to this tactic. There wasn’t much I could do. I disengaged to a large degree because it wasn’t worth a bunch of time.
Find other ways to get your fans in your corner, namely your email list and your website. These you will always have.
Followers are not customers
People have all sorts of motivations for following you. Some truly are interested in your product, services or brand, so they may turn into customers down the line. Others may just like your images or if you have a lot of followers, some are hoping for attention themselves, or maybe they want to learn your strategy.
I will also add that not all followers are followers. Some are bots and spammers. They will fall away in time, so don’t let losing followers bother you. The ones that are truly interested will remain.
Likes are not a measure of quality
The likes you get on any platform are only a measure of how well your images appeal to those people that live there. On another platform you might get many more likes and followers. It has nothing to do with how good your product is or how well it will sell. Some of my most popular products got fewer likes and vice versa.
The massive flow of images and content flowing on instragram makes it even more essential that you are creative. And the best way to be creative is to be yourself. Find your values and find new ways to express them in your work. This is an essential piece of having a business. Your uniqueness can drive your creative efforts and help you really stand out from the crowd. Don’t be a copycat cookie-cutter clone. Be yourself!
Have fun with it
A place like instagram is for fun. You can get as geeky as you want with analytics and data about which post gets the best visibility and engagement, but remember these are real people behind the numbers. People want great content and also connection.
Educate, entertain and engage
I try to remember the three tenants of social media whenever I make a post now.. educate, entertain and engage. It makes it much easier to focus on what my message should be.
If you are thinking today about getting started on instagram, give it a try. My best advice is consistency and quality, consider who your audience will be and to remember the three basic tenants. It will take time to grow the kind of audience you really want, so enjoy the journey!