The number one question I get e-mailed & asked about is how to grow your IG following or start a blog. Well… it’s a toss up between that and hair questions (which is next on my “to tackle” list- I might get around to it someday).
So let me start out by saying that if you have e-mailed, commented, messaged, snapped, whatever-ed me, and I haven’t gotten back to you- I’M SO SORRY! One of things I have come to realize and accept as my blog/IG has grown is that I just can’t keep up with everything. Similar to the busyness of my personal life, my business side has grown tremendously and although I feel extremely grateful to be able to say that, the perfectionist and people pleasing side of me absolutely hates when I drop the ball because I have so much going on 24/7. I’ve had to learn to prioritize and often times getting back to people is at the bottom of the list as horrible as that may sound. In this season there are many things that take precedent over it. So please hear me when I say that it’s not personal and I’m not ignoring you on purpose. I wish I could e-mail you all back but I might just go in-sane if I tried 🙂 I literally just can’t do it all and I’m accepting that as an okay thing as time goes on.
So this blog post is for those of you who have asked me how I do what I do and how to get started. My suggestions/tips below are things that I believe have worked for me in helping gain a following on Instagram. Is some of it luck or coincidence? Sure. But like any job, I do believe there is strategy and meaning behind it all.
Okay, and last thing before I get to it 🙂 I went about “growing my blog” differently than a lot of bloggers. Typically, those who have been in the business for a while grew their Instagram following through their blog, rather their blog through their IG (me!). You can go about it however you want, but my point being that I just can’t/won’t and literally don’t know how to give advice on how to start a blog. That’s the truth! If I’m being real, I’m still learning that side of things myself. The IG world has been my jam and my main focus from the beginning because it’s the basis of what I love to do. Taking pictures of my kids/family has been something I’ve always enjoyed. In fact, if you scroll back to the beginning posts on my Instagram, you’ll get a feel for what I’m talking about. Back before I was @ellabrooksblog, I was @mamamelly5 , and enjoyed capturing fun shots of my family just for fun (I’ve thought about going back and deleting them because they’re not as I guess you could say “put together” but I kind of love having that history remain there. Every once in a while I’ll scroll back to the beginning and look through just for fun- I mean, Ella was only 8 months old in the first picture!! Que the tears…) – That’s kind of how I fell into what I’m doing now… because I seriously love it. Photography, family, fashion, inspiring and encouraging others …. it’s what I love and am passionate about.
So, here are my personal top 10 tips…
- Good Photography- Plain and simple, you can only go so far with mediocre photography. Does that mean go out and find a professional photographer? No, not necessarily. It definitely depends on who your target audience is and what your goals are. If you don’t think photography comes natural to you and you need some help in that area, there are IG photography workshops out there. You may have to pay a little, but it’s worth the investment. Good photography separates the average from the best in my opinion. And I’ve learned that once you have a solid following, you don’t have to be as picky with your photo selection all the time. I don’t know if it’s because you’ve already somewhat captured them (you know what I mean) but it’s okay to throw in a “not-so-good” one every once in a while. However, starting out, it’s vital in order to build that initial following.
- Keep it REAL! – There are two things I have learned people crave in today’s society… keeping it real/authenticity and encouragement (which I’ll get to next). Keeping it real goes a long way… farther than you may think. People (women especially) want to be able to relate to you. Here’s a little proof… go to my IG or another blogger you follow and look at the amount of “likes” we have on the pictures where we are “keeping it real” as opposed to the “I’m so pretty ones”. Count the number of likes. Almost always, those pictures will beat out any “pretty picture perfect” picture (say that ten times hahaha). But do you see what I mean?! It’s obvious women want to be able to relate. I kind of see it like an instant connection between the two of you. And not only does it work, but it’s admirable. There’s not much more I respect in a person that I look up to than watching them expose those not-so-perfect parts of their lives, too.
- Encouragement- this one kind of tag teams #2 because I think they go hand in hand. Let’s be honest, life isn’t always a walk in the park, which is why I think encouragement is something everyone naturally craves. It’s also another connection point between you and your followers. While I feel like this is something I love to incorporate on my feed because it’s me keeping it real and I’m just really honest about my feelings (ha), maybe it isn’t for you and that’s totally okay! I don’t think this one is absolutely necessary, just something that I know has been beneficial in what I’ve loved to focus on because it’s who I am and who I want to be in helping others.
- Consistency- This one is big. Your followers want to know you’re there, engaged, and reliable. So whether you post twice a day (I personally wouldn’t suggest more than that- maybe three- but no more 🙂 -, once a day, or once every few days, be consistent. A week is just too long to go without posting in my opinion. Remember, I’m giving tips in order to GROW your IG following. Consistency will help.
- Feed’s feel- I think I could have worded that better (HAHA!) but basically what I’m trying to say is what is the feel/look of your feed? Are you into your squares matching up with each other? If you don’t know what I’m talking about- check out my IG. I (mostly) try to post pictures that aren’t the exact same so that when people stumble upon my profile, the look of my feed is a little more appealing to the eye. A lot of people don’t focus on that and have no problem gaining followers, so it’s not a must! However, whatever it is you are posting, be consistent. If you’re into editing a certain way (btw- VSCO & Pic-Tap-Go are my go to apps for editing) stick to that vibe. If you’re into certain poses, stick to those poses. One of the things I’ve learned is that it is 100% okay to post similar pictures regularly. Naturally you would think that your followers would get sick of them if they are seeing the same kind of picture often, however, it’s quite the opposite. They follow you for a reason. They obviously like those kinds of pictures. Find your feel and stick with it. Don’t switch things up on your followers or you will start to see un-follows.
- Hashtags- Always use hashtags. Search and find the trending/popular ones and use them regularly and often. If you need help finding them, feel free to copy/paste from your fav bloggers… hey- we all do it 😉
- Follow Fridays- Once you’ve gained somewhere around 2-3K, I’d encourage you to start participating in weekly/bi-weekly follow fridays. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about- it’s a simple way to team up with other bloggers and gain exposure to new potential followers from each other’s feeds. Search the hashtag #ff or #followfriday and see for yourself. Also, keep in mind that you’ll want to collab with feeds that are similar to yours as far as content and number of followers.
- Giveaway Loops- Another way to gain exposure to new potential followers is to buy into giveaways. There are all different kinds of loops you can participate in- the general idea is you are buying into a giveaway to (potentially) one of your followers. Example: You and X amount of bloggers will pitch in $30 to give away a $500 gift card to Nordstrom. Each person who enters the contest will have to follow every blogger participating in the giveaway. This one has proven to be a great way to gain a good amount of followers (as not everyone will unfollow you when the contest ends). Keep in mind that it isn’t something you want to do weekly. You want to grow your feed in the most organic way possible IMO as you want to stay true to your followers who are following you for a reason. Does that make sense?
- Engage in similar feeds- Spread the love! Like, comment, post, share etc. … you want to be engaged and commenting on other IG feeds that you follow/admire. This was something I heavily focused on in the beginning, and I gained a lot of followers that way. People are curious and when they see you commenting, they want to know who you are/why you’re interested/etc. – be engaged and make sure you are following other feeds you admire because your pictures might pop up in the explore page (another great way to be seen).
- Originality! – This one is big. Big big big! You’ve got to remember that there are hundreds & thousands of people trying to do what you’re doing. What separates you from them? Do we want everyone to “make it”? Yes, but ultimately & realistically, certain people will gain more followers than others based on their feeds. But what about their feeds? Find something new, original, but make sure it is YOU! If you try to copy someone else’s vibe, yours will be second best. I definitely think inspiration is good and I get inspo from people I follow all of the time! But, you have to find your niche and stick to it. That’s where I believe you will find success.
Last but not least (and this isn’t a number for increasing follower engagement but rather a matter of personal encouragement & opinion)- because this trend has unfortunately been on the rise… please, please do not buy followers or likes! There are so many reasons I’m against it- the biggest being it is strait up cheating. What a lot of bloggers don’t know is that engagement is huge when it comes to collaborations. Companies want to see how interested your followers are and they will be able to see right through if it isn’t true engagement. Believe it or not, even the big time people sometimes do it and I cringe when I see it. It just doesn’t settle well with me and obviously isn’t right. Don’t sell yourself short! Not to mention, IG does a clean up every so often and gets rid of all fake accounts. I know that increasing your following can be a tough task but you can do it, guys! Be consistent, be true to your self, and don’t stop. Don’t stop! Consistency and hard work pays off big time. It’s funny because when I started this journey a little over two years ago, I e-mailed Cara Loren (someone I admired from afar as she had obviously succeeded in the blogging world), and asked what her advice would be for newbies like me. Her words are exactly what I just said to you- be consistent and word hard. I remember reading it and kind of rolling my eyes like, yeah… right! Blogging?! It’s as easy as taking pictures and posting. ha- Wrong! There is soooo much more that goes into it that people don’t see. This isn’t me complaining but being flat out honest that it takes a TON of commitment, sacrifice, and hard work. Is it worth it? Absolutely. If you’re willing to go for it 100%!
Good luck, guys! I really hope that was helpful for a lot of you and you’re able to take at least one or two things and implement them into your IG journey.