I’m so excited to introduce a new interview series called “How I grew my brand” featuring business owners, bloggers and fellow digital marketers sharing how they reached a wider audience and grew their community or customer base to build a successful brand.
You can expect to get insights on which digital marketing strategies worked for them, specific tips you can use when building your own brand and of course, you’ll get to know some other amazing women who are killing it in their space! Let’s get growing!
How I Grew my Instagram Following to 10K in 6 Months – The Ginger Home
How did Amanda gain followers on Instagram when the algorithm is killing our Insta vibes? She’s sharing tips on how to grow your Instagram following in 2019 based on her experience.
Let’s start at the beginning, how do you decide what to post?
Before you start posting, decide what your message or brand is and make sure you are following that message every time you post. The most successful accounts on Instagram have one thing in common…they speak clearly to a niche audience with a distinct voice. For example, my message for The Ginger Home is “make your home dreamy even if it’s not your dream home”. We are fixing up a 90s bungalow that was most certainly not our dream home, but we’ve made it a beautiful, functional, and unique family home. By documenting our renovation journey, DIYs, budget hacks, seasonal decor, lifestyle etc… I hope to help others make their homes dreamy too. Everything I post is relevant to this message. When you post, ask yourself if it aligns with your niche and brand.
What has been the most important factor in creating your Instagram feed?
You MUST have good content. Instagram is a visual platform. If you don’t have beautiful, high quality images, it will be much harder to grow. In this era of information overload, we all have short attention spans. If you don’t catch a viewer’s interest visually, they aren’t going to stop and click, read your caption, see what you are about, or follow you.
One of the best decisions I made was to hire a branding photographer, Tracey Jazmin, at the very beginning when I was ready to launch my blog. Having professional photos has allowed me to be featured on Apartment Therapy and Rue Magazine.
How do you use hashtags on Instagram to grow your following?
Okay this is a big topic! If you want to be seen you have to use hashtags properly. You need to research hashtags that your ideal audience would be searching for. Then find hashtags from that subset that have top images which are visually similar to the image you are planning to post! Read that again slowly and let it sink in lol. It took me a while to do this!
Research is key. I research hashtags by typing in the general category I’m looking for in the Instagram search bar. For example, if I’m posting an image of my kitchen I simply type #kitchen and Instagram will auto-fill a list of suggestions like #kitcheninspo or #kitchenrenovation. I go through the list and find hashtags that have somewhere between 10K and 500K posts. (If they have too many posts the likelihood of anyone seeing it becomes much less. Even if it made it to the top of that hashtag list it would be bumped down almost immediately because there are so many posts being added all the time.) Then out of the list of hashtags that fit my criteria I go through and look at the top posts (Make sure you are looking at top posts and not recent posts.) I see if any look like my photos and use those ones.
If I feel like I am running out of ideas I will also go and look at the hashtags that other accounts similar to mine are using. I use a social media planning app for Instagram called PLANN. You can easily keep lists of hashtags organized in the app. Or you can simply keep some lists in your phone notes.
Use branded hashtags of larger accounts to increase your exposure or play hashtag games. In both cases, you use a specific hashtag that someone has created in the hopes of being featured by that account. For example, using the hashtag #myhgtv allowed me to be featured several times on HGTV Canada’s Instagram stories. Lots of times accounts will list their feature hashtags in their bios.
And one other thing about hashtags…there is intense controversy over how the algorithm views the number of hashtags you use. Some people say use all 30 (the maximum number allowed) and some say use less than 10 so that Instagram doesn’t flag you as being spammy. I usually use around 25 hashtags and have not noticed a difference between using less or more. Reach seems to be random based on the algorithm, which no one understands! I also notice no difference posting hashtags in my captions or in my comments.
What was the biggest contributor to gaining more followers on Instagram?
The number one way my following has grown on Instagram is by being featured by other accounts. I engaged regularly and used social media to really get social! Afterall, that’s what it’s for! One larger account that shared me early on almost doubled my follower number overnight!
Get out there and find your tribe. It makes it so much more fun to surround yourself with inspiring and supportive friends. If you are brand new to Instagram don’t be afraid to like and comment on other accounts. Find similar accounts and reach out and say hi. Leave kind comments on accounts you love.
My mantra is “Have courage and be kind.” Remember that all the accounts, no matter how large, are run by people. And our worth is not determined by a number on an app. You are not “less” than someone else because you have fewer followers. And just because someone has 100K followers doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate a kind comment.
How did you get your first brand collaborations and how have they helped your brand?
Here’s where the courage part comes in to play. Brand collaborations help to increase your visibility and gain exposure so it’s important that you do this early on. Reach out both personally and professionally to build relationships with brands and find opportunities. Rejection is never fun (and it will most definitely happen) and it can be hard to put yourself out there. But most successful Instagrammers and Bloggers say that they didn’t sit around waiting for opportunities to fall into their laps. They went out there and created opportunities for themselves. Is there an account that you adore? Send them a DM and tell them you love their work. Is there a brand that you love? Reach out and see if there is an opportunity for collaboration.
More and more brands are realizing the power of the “micro influencer” and are putting more resources into partnering with smaller accounts that have very focused audiences. So don’t wait! Align yourself with brands that feel authentic to you and start asking even if your account is small. Local businesses are a great place to start and it’s always fun to get to know your community.
If you are starting out find other accounts that you genuinely love that are just starting too and ask if they would like to start a share group, or even just a group chat to share ideas, successes and failures. That kind of support can be invaluable. Especially on the days when you get rejected or feel discouraged.
When are the best times to post on Instagram?
You need to post regularly and at prime times when your readers are online! If you upgrade to a business or creator account there are built in analytics that will tell you when your audience is online and the best times to post. My best time is around 6pm MST on weekdays, but this is not a great time for me to be on my phone. So you have to find a balance that works for your life. Lots of times I wait until 730 or 8pm to post, when my kids are in bed.
How often should you post on Instagram?
Posting daily is important, but it can be exhausting. I work with my branding photographer every couple of months to shoot content for the upcoming season. This way I have high quality images ready to go and I can organize and plan what I’m going to post well ahead of time. You can do this without a formal branding session. Think about what you would like to post and what events are coming up. Then set aside time to shoot that content. It’s a much more efficient use of your time and takes away the stress of scrambling to find something to post.
How do you use Instagram Stories and IGTV to gain followers?
When you are building a brand on Instagram as a creator or as a business, it’s important that you show up in your feed, stories or IGTV. When I am able to see the person behind the account, I feel much more connected to that account and am more likely to follow and keep following. If your feed is very curated, show up in stories and show some fun behind the scenes moments. Not only does it take the pressure off trying to create false perfection it fosters real connection.
It can feel really scary the first time you post a story or IGTV video or go live. It gets easier each time though and after a while, it feels less awkward!
Do you have any other advice for those who want to grow an Instagram following?
Don’t be shady! lol I know it’s tempting to buy followers or likes when it feels like everyone else is doing it with no repercussions. But don’t do it!! As Instagram is becoming saturated with “influencers”, companies and users are becoming much savvier about determining the authenticity of accounts. It’s better to have a smaller number of real and engaged followers. It’s a dead giveaway when someone has tons of followers, but no likes or comments; Or if all their comments are spam or emojis; Or if their follower demographics are strange.
My followers are from the US and Canada with a very small percentage from other countries and 95% are women between the ages of 25-45. When I send these statistics to a brand, they know right away my followers are real and I serve a specific demographic. So, do yourself a favour and build your account the right way, even if it’s slow and frustrating!
Also, don’t let yourself fall into the comparison trap. You’ll hear this over and over again if you read enough Instagram captions “comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s very true and it’s such an easy trap to fall into. In the design niche, I am constantly looking at beautiful images of expensively renovated dream homes. I love looking at these beautiful images, but I have to remind myself that these images are created by entire teams of people working for large design firms!
There will always be something to envy or something that makes you feel less than. So, if you start to feel negative not inspired, depressed not creative, take a break! Do less scrolling and more creating! Or just put it all aside and spend some time with your friends or family. Remember in the end, IT’S JUST AN APP!!
Who are you favourite Instagram accounts that give you marketing insights and/or inspiration on how to grow your brand?
@influencemediaco 😘 because you provide so much info on the things that I just haven’t had time to deep dive into yet like Facebook marketing, SEO, Google Analytics etc.. @theidentitecollective is one of my favs! They have an amazing blog with articles like how to get your work published, best hashtags to use, content ideas etc..! So much good info there.
@jillianharris such a great example of how to grow a team and be super successful while staying real and kind!
There are so many more, but those are top of mind at the moment!