How to Authentically Grow your Instagram When You're Just Starting Out
If you’re just starting your blog/Instagram and you feel lost… I am here to help! You might ask why? Because I wish I could have asked someone where or how to even start because that’s the hardest part. So think of me as your big sister here to help and answer any questions you might have. By no means do I have a huge following right now (about 7,000), but I have learned a lot of things on my very short journey so far and if I can help one person out, then this blog post has done it’s job. These are all of the things that I have done to get to where I am, and I will continue to do these things because they work.
Before we start, let me just say here DO NOT BUY FOLLOWERS, DO NOT BUY LIKES. Just don’t do it. People can tell & brands can tell and it’s not authentic. This process and journey requires hard work and if you want to make something of it don’t do it. It will hurt you in the long run. Period. Got it? Ok great. Now for the fun stuff!
FIRST THING - Turn your account into a business profile. It’s free and it allows you to see analytics that will be helpful to know when the best times to post are etc.
It shows you how many visits your profile gets, your discovery, etc. It tells you which content is performing best. It also tells you about your audience - top locations, age range, gender.
SECOND - Make sure your bio talks about who you are (your focus, location etc). It should consist of statements that your audience will be able to relate to and if they glance over it for 5 seconds they can get an idea of who you are. Here is mine as an example:
Lastly - Do not compare yourself to other people. You are in this with yourself. I truly believe our biggest competition is ourself. Once you start moving, look back at the progress you’ve made and how far you’ve come! That’s what matters. Everyone is on their own journey just like life and Instagram is a highlight reel. Don’t forget that!
Apps I Use Regularly
Lightroom - Edit & add my preset
Unfold - create engaging stories
Preview/Planoly/Unum - plan which photos I want to post and how they look together
VSCO - another editing tool with presets
Snapseed - editing (I don’t use this too much anymore)
Other Social sites that are beneficial to sign up on:
Fohr.co - This site gives you accurate stats about your account and how much you should charge for your content. You can be “fohr verified” which means that your audience is authentic (no fake followers or bots which is very important to brands) (free sign up)
Social Blue Book - This gives you ranges for rates you can charge for your content. (free sign up)
Influencer platforms that I am on to help connect me to brands:
Find Your Passion
Ask yourself “why do I want to do this?” Take out a piece of paper and write some of your ideas down. There is no right or wrong answer it’s just to help you figure out your path. What are your personal goals? Do you want to influence people? Do you want to share recipes? Do you want to help people reach fitness goals?
Yes, I get it, we all want 10k followers then 20k then 50k and we all want 1000+ likes. Those numbers will come with time but you really need to focus down on your NICHE and figure out who you want to target. This will help you land brand collabs in the future. (Email me if you have any questions about this at email@example.com). For me, I LOVE fashion. If you look at my Instagram feed you will see that I post outfits all the time. That’s what I love and that’s what my audience knows I will post about. If I randomly only started posting about food, my followers will get confused and unfollow me because that is not the reason they followed me in the first place. Get it? Good.
Ok, so if you are here to take Instagram seriously, Quality Content is key. What does this mean? This means posting quality photos - no blurriness, good lighting etc. Spend time on taking a good photo. A lot of times influencers will take 100s of photos (I am not exaggerating) to get the perfect shot. Think about the background, the lighting, the color & tones etc. It sounds like a lot but focus on being true to you. Make sure your lens is clean & that you are spending time on the content you’re creating. It matters. People will follow you if you have good aesthetics. You don’t need a fancy camera. I have used my iphone for every single photo I’ve posted.
Just remember Quality > Quantity
This is what is going to help you the most with growth. Being consistent will keep your audience happy. What do I need to be consistent with you may ask?
Presets - Presets are what makes the coloring of your photos look the same. You can find free ones online, etsy sells them, influencers sell their own. Depending on your budget, pick something that you love. You can pick pink tones, brown tones, white tones, blue tones etc. I’ve seen it all so before you buy something make sure you’ve researched what you want. Personally, I use the alexa jean presets. If you see someone’s profile and you like how it looks, just ask them what they use! Most times they will tell you! For mine, the first photo is how my feed looks now. The second and third were before I was taking Instagram seriously and you can just see how the first one flows better and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
Posting - Once you have turned your account into a business profile, it will tell you when the best times to post are. It will tell you when your audience is most active and most likely to see your content. For me, I post once in the morning (between 7am-8am) and once at night (7pm-8pm). You don’t need to post twice a day, I’ve just noticed it’s personally helped me.
“Treat others how you want to be treated”
If you want someone to like and comment on your content, go like and comment on theirs. It’s a two way street here, and building relationships on this platform is important. Treat other’s accounts how you want them to treat yours. People notice when you consistently like and comment on their content and will most likely follow you back. They appreciate you.
Engagement Pods - Starting out, it’s a good idea to join engagement pods. An engagement pod is when a group of people (could be 10-15 or even higher) are in a group message and like and comment on each other’s posts in return for everyone doing the same for them. I try to stay in groups between 10-15 girls because it can get too overwhelming if there are more & I personally like to get to know each person in the group and build a friendship that way. Each pod has different rules so just make sure you are being fair.
Go to Events - Does your city host blogger or meet up events? Most likely, YES! Research and see what’s happening in your area and go meet local bloggers/influencers. You will meet so many friends that way and get to know someone IRL and it’s such a fun experience too. I’ve met some of my insta besties in real life and I just wanted to be their bff even more. There are so many genuine people out there, you just have to do a little work to find them. It’s 100% worth the time and effort to build that support group.
When You’re Ready to Be All In
(Not required, but highly recommend)
So, I was at 940 followers in the Spring of 2018. After following the steps listed above I reached 2,700 followers by October 5th. Then I enrolled in Mastery By Mal’s Instagram’s growth techniques and I jumped to 5,000 followers and 2 months later and I am at 7,000 now (End of Nov 2018). This course is not a joke. It's a 3 part course that teaches you how to engage, interact, and target the right audience. It's helped over 600+ people including myself boost our Instagram SO MUCH. It is a huge part in why I was able to go from 2,700 to 6,000 in two months. Whether you are an influencer, a photographer, or just looking to boost your engagement this course is amazing.
UPDATE: 12/31/18 - I ended the year with 10.5k followers with an average engagement of 1,000 likes & 100 comments per post
And yes, it sounds too good to be true so let me just say I also promise I would never promote or encourage you to buy something if I didn't whole heartedly believe it made a huge difference in where I am today! On this platform especially with the algorithm we can't just post and hope people will follow us we have to take initiative!
Click this link if you are ready to take the next step in your Instagram growth: (If you decide to use my link, I would really appreciate if you put my name in the referral box as well & DM me on insta so I can track your progress with you & watch you grow!)
In Summary, these are the steps I’d recommend taking:
Turn your account into a business profile / Edit your Bio
Find your passion/niche
Create quality content (quality > quantity)
Engage - Treat other’s how you want to be treated
Network - Go to events, reach out to local influencers, etc. Put yourself out there.
The Next step - Mastery by Mal
I hope you found this helpful in starting to grow you blog/Instagram account. My next post will continue to talk about growing authentically, influencers tools to use, media kits, etc. Leave a comment with any questions or if this was helpful or not. I am always looking for feedback and feel free to share it with your friends as well!