I don’t know about you, but when I have a goal I want to hit, I always give it a catch phrase. Maybe it’s the marketer in me, but I just can’t help myself ? Which is how my slogan “10k by May” was born. About 6 months ago, right around the holidays, I was looking at my Instagram and realized I was so close to hitting 5k followers and thought it would be fun to set a goal to hit it by the end of the year. I ended up hitting it before Christmas, and it gave me the boost I needed to start setting goals for myself in the new year. The one goal that I’d always felt unattainable – was hitting that magic number “10k” on Instagram. Since I’ve never been one to give up easily, I started doing the math in my head and decided based on my exponential growth up to this point – that it was totally doable to hit “10k by May.” So here’s how I did it…
How I Hit 10K Followers on Instagram
1) Fuzzy Math
No I’m not talking about the kinda math they used in the 2000 presidential race (although my math isn’t much better ?). I’m talking about the math I did in my head to figure out how long it would realistically take me to get from 5k to 10k followers. I estimated that if I could gain around 2k followers over a 2 month timeframe (so 2k Jan-Feb + 2k Mar-Apr and so on), factor in any loss in followers (500+ cuz f/uf), then I should be able to reach just over 10k in 4-5 months. How’s that for some blogger math? ? Get this y’all – it actually worked. I went from 5,500 in mid Dec to 10,000 by mid Apr. I lost a few and dipped back down under 10k, but I got it back and am now holding strong and growing! If you’re not already following, I would love it if you joined my little Instagram community – I promise to always bring the laughs ?
2) Be Consistent & Engage
If you haven’t already, you’ll probably hear this as the number one piece of advice from bloggers/influencers on how to grow a loyal following on IG. I know how daunting it seems at first to commit to posting everyday, but honestly once you get in a groove it all starts working like a well-oiled machine. First decide the type of content you want to share – is it original or do you want to do a mix of your own and reposted content? Do you have one content vertical or many? For me, I post all my own content/images and curate my feed based on 4 verticals – fashion/styling, beauty/hair tutorials, home/lifestyle, and mamahood. Next it’s time to test and see what time of day is best for posting based on your audience – I tend to post early in the morning or later after dinner time since a lot of my followers are moms. Lastly, engage! Meaning – like and comment on other accounts/posts in your niche. Then see who’s engaging with their posts and go engage with them as well – be sure to be genuine. There’s nothing worse than a generic or unrelated comment on a post to show that you really don’t care and are only there for the follow. If you’re having trouble finding accounts to follow/engage with – just search similar hashtags you already use, e.g. Houston bloggers, honest motherhood, etc. If you’re looking for more tips on this topic, I wrote about it back in August that you can read here.
3) Give Back
Join giveaways and sponsor your own. I know, I know – giveaways get a bad rap, but it’s all in how you approach them. Most influencers will recommend partnering up with 5-10 fellow bloggers in your niche and everyone pitches in $10-$20 on a prize aka Target, Starbucks, Homegoods gift card. You may not gain hundreds of followers but the ones you do gain will stick because they want to be there for your content, not just for the prize. I will say, I’ve grown the most thru joining loop giveaways which range anywhere from a $20-$50 buy-in (sometimes higher if you want a secret spot where you don’t post at all to your feed but still get all the follows). Prizes range from super niche mommy bundles to straight up PayPal cash. I know many of the bigger accounts I follow say they did giveaways the most when they were trying to get over that 10k hump so I decided to try a few & see what happened. It’s important to note that not all are created equally – the best result I’ve gotten was 1k follows from a Classy Loops Sephora/Lululemon/Apple Watch giveaway. I’ve also done a couple good ones hosted by Gotta Have It Giveaways and The Giving Collection. There are more but I just never saw a decent enough gain to warrant doing them again. There are also International giveaways that have way higher buy-ins but I’ve steered clear of those cuz I’ve heard horror stories, and the following you get is a mix of fake or non-US based accounts which means you’ll see zero engagement from them and that actually hurts you in the long run.
4) Shortcuts Don’t Last
Trust me, it’s tempting and I’ve even done them myself and learned from it. The first being the ole follow for follow. At first it starts out as an innocent “I’ll follow you if you follow me” between friends. Then, you learn about massive F4F Telegram groups and I joined a few where you get the instant gratification of gaining 300-400 followers overnight, but honestly – they’re more work than what they’re worth. You have to check in every week to make sure you’re following any new members which isn’t a huge deal, but when I think of having to still be doing that on my deathbed it gives me major anxiety ? Plus you get the usual freeloaders, and even the people that do follow back never engage on your posts because they’re honestly following so many people the algorithm keeps them from ever seeing your posts in the first place. I will say there are some reputable accounts that do “mommy follow loops” throughout the week and I’d recommend those if you’re wanting to connect with other mamas in your niche.
5) Support Your Tribe
By now most people have heard of engagement pods and there’s a ton of controversy and speculation on whether or not IG, aka “A” from Pretty Little Liars as one of my pods calls it, is actually keeping the posts of those participating in pods from being seen. I’m an admin of an active pod of mommy bloggers/influencers and we never share our posts directly to the pod – instead we let people know when we’ve caught up and stamp an emoji when we have a new post to engage with. Some people or even brands may find this inauthentic, but honestly I’m only in a few pods where all the ladies genuinely interact and support each other just like you would when a friend launches a new business. I’ve bought several products that they’ve promoted and vise versa which is why I love our little IG community. I’ve even started a new “Community” highlight for my stories where I save all of the accounts I’ve shared on #wcw, #momcrushmonday, and #followfriday. It’s a great way to spread the love and make new likeminded IG friends/followers ?
6) Brand Collabs & Features
I could talk all day long about branding and “staying true to your brand” – so much so that I even created my first course on the topic. You may have also caught my post I wrote last summer where I went into more detail about “knowing your worth” and landing sponsored posts. So for the purposes of this topic on growing your IG following – I want to touch more on why brand collabs and features have helped me grow, and more importantly, gain credibility. Don’t worry if you don’t have a huge following yet – I got my first brand collab before I even had 1k followers. You may have to accept some “product for post” collabs at first, but it all helps you gain experience and expose you to a broader audience. Because brands always have a specific branded hashtag that they’ll have you use for a sponsored post, this makes you searchable and a lot of times I find new accounts to follow this way. Another way is through brands featuring you on their IG page or stories by reposting your content. There is no guarantee that this will happen for a collab, but if you take high quality photos, adhere to brand requirements for posts, while also staying authentic and true to what your audience expects from you – you definitely increase your chances at getting featured. Then that typically leads to their followers being interested in checking out your page, and ultimately following you.
7) Give Yourself a Boost
If you have a business account, which I highly recommend if not for the analytics/insights alone plus most bigger brands require it, you’ll have the option to promote or “boost” any post. I’ve used both my own money and had brands pay me to boost a sponsored post which is always a nice bonus. Either way, you can spend anywhere from $20 to $200 to receive thousands of impressions or eyeballs on your account that you would never have been able to reach otherwise. What I like is that you can target your ads to just women of a certain age, who are moms and even layer in specific keywords like “new moms” to reach qualified followers. Sure you may not gain thousands of followers, but you may gain 50-100 loyal ones who are more likely to stick around and engage with your content.
8) Meet the Press
Over the years, the words “press” and “media” have become synonymous with “dishonest” and “fake.” It’s sad really that a guilty few have ruined it for the rest, and maybe I’m more empathetic since I worked in media and publishing for 10+ years in my career prior to blogging. There are a lot of amazing editors and reporters doing great and honest work, and I’ve been honored to call several of them my friends. I knew from working at a regional magazine how powerful press can be in shaping a person’s view of their community. So I knew I wanted to pursue it as yet another way to expand my brand and presence on a local level. I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with our local ABC13 news station through my amazing friend/mentor Rebecca Spera, and recently was featured in Voyage Houston Magazine’s “Trailblazers Series” after being nominated by another friend and business woman Hattie of Hattie Now Designs. I know, you may be feeling like you don’t have the connections I do, but honestly it’s all about community and networking/mentoring which I talk a lot about in my Voyage Houston interview. I’ve also reached out directly to other news outlets after they engaged with me on IG, and they typically will offer to put you in touch with the proper people on their end. So when in doubt, just reach out!
9) Try New Things
One of the last points I want to touch on, is something I believe as so integral to our jobs as content creators. Never be afraid to try something new. Whether it’s a new way of shooting/editing your photos, or finally going Live for the first time. Do it mama! You’ll never know if you don’t try ? Case in point, a few months back I started noticing these awesome IGTV videos on my “Explore page.” These were mostly accounts I’d never seen before, and it got me thinking – what if utilizing IG’s own tool actually helps boost your posts in the algorithm so that you finally make it on that ever sought after Explore page? So I figured what the heck, I’ve always loved creating beauty/hair tutorials and it was a heck of a lot easier to post there than to my stories. So I launched my first one in March that was just a simple “Signature Makeup Look.” It got 3x more views than any other video I’ve shared before on IG or YouTube, and I’ve since produced 7 more to my channel with my latest styling videos generating an avg of 1,500 views and 60+ comments. I even just had an agency representing a prominent makeup brand reach out to me asking if I’d collaborate on a video because they saw that they’ve gotten such great engagement on my page. To say I pinched myself a little was an understatement. I’ve also gained a bunch of new followers, and not to mention friends of mine who never saw my posts due to the algorithm, we’re now all the sudden seeing my videos/posts and asking my advice which I’m always excited to share (if you can’t tell ?). Just goes to show how if you trust your gut and step out of your comfort zone – you may just be pleasantly surprised.
10) Give the People What They Want
In the same vein as my last point, and without sounding too trite, you gotta give the people what they want. Trust me, I know the urge to just do what you want with your content, and I’m the first to tell someone looking to build a brand that staying true to your brand mission and message is so important. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned – it’s the power of the people. I’ve found that if you want “your people” to give a darn about what you have to say – then you have to listen first. Besides, didn’t your mama always tell you to “be a good listener?” ? Well mama was right, but it’s not enough just to listen – you have to then put on your thinking cap (that one’s from my 1st grade teacher ?), and get to work! That’s the fun part right? Our job as creators, is that we get to constantly be ideating and creating new content that not only speaks to our creative voice but the audience we’re speaking to as well. So the next time you’re stuck – I encourage you to run a poll, ask a simple “this or that,” and then get busy creating! Some of my most rewarding work has come from ideas or opinions I sourced from asking if my followers wanted to see “a makeup, hair or styling video next?” They answered with a resounding “yes” for styling, and like I mentioned before, those have been by far my most popular posts to date! Now I’m even more excited to see what new content I can produce and continue to grow with the help of my amazing IG family ?
I sincerely hope I’ve given you some useful tips for growing your business on IG – or at least a lot to think about! I’d love to hear where you’re at in your IG journey and what tips you have to share. Let me know in the comments below!
photos courtesy of Marlo Carroll Photography