From 0 – 10k in One Year: How to Grow Your Instagram Following

It is crazy to sit back and think that just over a year ago, this blog and all of its related social media platforms did not exist. When I started the blog, I really knew next to nothing about blogging and social media. Sure I had a Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest account that I loved to use for fun and without thought, but to start building something from the ground up, where every single post and picture was very calculated and planned out, was a whole new ball game.

The one thing I knew, when I started my blog, was that I really wanted to respect my kids privacy as much as I could. Obviously they would weave their way into my blog and social posts because they are such an enormous part of my life. But I wanted to be very intentional about how much I exposed them online.

So with that thought, I decided to start every single social platform from scratch! Again, not knowing a ton about blogging, I didn’t even think to simply ‘clean-up’ my accounts and use the little following that I had, as a jumping off point. Nope. Not how I did it. I literally opened all brand new accounts, branded to my blog name and started with zero followers in each. ZERO.

Instagram

So I won’t lie…it does feel like quite the accomplishment to sit back, one year later, and see how each social platform (including my actual blog), have grown.

But the one that is MOST impressive to me is Instagram. Just last week, I crossed over the coveted 10k mark, which still blows my mind. And it really wasn’t until June of last year that things started to pick up, when I reached 2k, and then I started to see my growth go up by almost a thousand each month after that. 

I seem to get asked a lot, by both other bloggers and friends, how I was able to grow my Instagram account so rapidly, so I thought I would share today the tips and tricks that I’ve used to help me grow. I am by NO means an expert and in my mind, I still have a long way to go as I set my new goals for my Instagram reach. But, there definitely are some great things I have learned (and a few mistakes I’ve made) as I’ve hustled to grow that social platform that I want to share with you today.

From 0-10k in One Year: How to Grow Your Instagram Following

1. Know Your Brand & What Your Are Saying
It is so important as a blogger in general, to know your brand and what you are trying to say to the world. But especially on Instagram, you want to try and stick within your niche and be somewhat consistent with your posts. 

For me, as a lifestyle blogger, it is a little harder to have lazor-like focus on my feed because as a lifestyle blogger, I cover a HUGE amount of topics. With mommy, fashion, food and beauty specific bloggers, their feeds are usually much more consistent in their content. 

So I find that I have to be very careful and thoughtful about what pictures I actually share on my Instagram. Does it represent my brand? Does it help tell my story? Does it inspire? Does it make sense to my followers?

As an example, coffee is something that I have had in my brand since the very beginning. I think everyone who follows me knows how much I LOVE coffee. Out of 370 posts on Instagram, over 60 of them are coffee related. That’s close to 20% of my feed, meaning that on average, I post about coffee about once a week. It’s part of a mother’s chaos. It’s part of my brand so it’s part of my Instagram.

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2. Curate Your Feed
This one is a tricky one to learn and I am still trying to master it myself. The word curate is one that seems very popular at the moment, especially within the social influencers networks. What does it even mean, you might ask. To curate means “to pull together, sift through, and select for presentation, as music or website content,” as Dictionary.com puts it. 

Along with knowing your brand and what you are trying to say, you want to make sure that your feed is consistent and that your pictures, as a whole, tell a story. This applies not just to the content in your pictures, but also the quality, the angles of your pictures and the colors. 

Whenever you take any kind of Instagram ecourse or listen to a seminar about it, influencers will ALWAYS tell you to look at your top nine pictures together…your grid. Because when someone comes to your profile, they are going to see your grid first. It’s like a first impression…do your first nine pictures work together? What do they say about you and your brand? Do they make someone want to follow along?

In the end, I think this is one of the most important elements of growing your Instagram feed. As it is a photography platform and is almost completely visual, you want to make sure that your visual statement is strong and entices people to stick around.

3. Edit Your Pictures
This one is huge and super important in creating a beautiful and consistent, curated feed. Every single picture of mine goes through edits. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I use VSCOcam and I love it! While Instagram has majorly upped their editing capabilities, I still prefer VSCO. 

And when you are editing your pictures, know your “formula.” What I mean by that is figure out exactly how you want your pictures to look and edit them all the same way. So if you want them over-exposed, do that to ALL of your pictures. If you want them to have a tinge of color, do that to all of them. 

For me, I know exactly what filter I like on VSCO and then after I put the filter on (and lower the intensity of it), I always edit the same things: exposure, saturation, color and sharpness. So even if my pictures aren’t always the same (due to the lifestyle nature of my blog), they all still work together on Instagram because of the editing process I use.

4. Post Regularly, But Not Too Often
In order to create an “Instagram presence” you want to make sure you are posting regularly, but at the same time, not too often.

A good general rule of thumb I’ve always followed is to post at least once a day, but never more than three times a day. You want to keep your name in peoples minds and so you want to be sharing with them on the regular. 

But on the other hand, if you post too often, you will likely annoy some of your followers and they might leave. I’ll be honest, if one particular person is blowing up my Instagram feed, I will unfollow them. I only have so much time to scroll through my feed at one time, and when it is filled with one person’s pictures, that means it’s taking away from me seeing other people’s posts. Don’t overdue it. 

One final bonus tip for this point is to know when your audience is most active. Figure out when you get most of your engagement and schedule your posts to go live then. 

5. Engage with Others
This one is huge. And I think goes for any social media platform out there. Engage, engage, engage. Let me break down the kinds of engagement I mean on Instagram.

First and foremost, when someone comments on your posts, respond to them. I know that sometime’s it can take a lot of time but at the end of the day, if they’ve taken the time to write a comment to you, you should take the time to write back. It’s just common courtesy and goes a long way in showing your followers that you care.

Comment on other people’s posts. Whether it’s another blogger or simply a momma who is seeking advice/having a rough day, stop and take 20 seconds to write something short and sweet. In an online world where face to face time is hard to come by, trying to have true engagement with others is crucial, especially if you are trying to build a social network. 

Like other people’s pictures. I’m not just talking about the people that you follow. I’m talking about the people that you DON’T follow. Hop on a hashtag that is relevant to your brand and like peoples pictures who used that hashtag. This is a great way to grow your account organically.

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6. Use Hashtags
Speaking of hashtags, use them! Since I started using hashtags in my posts, my reach has grown by leaps and bounds. Because others are doing the same thing as what I mentioned above…checking out relevant hashtags and liking, commenting and following similar accounts. So if your picture comes up on that hashtag, you are likely to reach people who aren’t following you.

Three more tips on hashtags: 1. Don’t put them in your caption. No one wants to see a huge stack of hashtags. Put them in your comments. While people can still see them, it’s not as obvious as in your caption. 2. Search out the most common hashtags in your niche and use them. You can use up to 30 hashtags in a comment, so plan them out and use all of them! 3. With that said, you don’t want to be typing out 30 hashtags every time you post. Create a shortcut key in your phone’s setting so that when you type in a certain word, they all populate. I have this set in my phone with 25 hashtags. Because I am a lifestyle blogger and my content does change somewhat from day to day, I leave those last five hashtags open so that I can make them specific to what that particular post is about.

7. Join Chat Loops
While somewhat time consuming, Instagram chat loops are a great way to reach new people and encourage engagement. I was part of one from almost the very beginning and I know it has contributed to my growth. 

By joining in with 6-10 other bloggers and looping together, you are leveraging their audience, to follow you. And you are also creating conversation. Again, in a world where it’s hard to have face time with people, you want to be able to create meaningful conversations on your social platforms. 

8. Buy Into Giveaways
While this one isn’t for everyone, it’s definitely a huge way I’ve grown my account. People LOVE to win free stuff. And on a platform like Instagram that is already SATURATED with amazing accounts, it’s hard to sometimes reach the people that you want to reach. 

So partnering up with other accounts and doing a giveaway is a great way to expand your reach. You will need to buy into the prize…that is how it works…everyone involved in the giveaway contributes a certain amount of money towards the prize. And you generally want to join in ones that have higher followings to maximize your reach.

I’ve gained anywhere from 600-1,000+ followers in a matter of 48 hours when I’ve participated in loops! Now, you will always lose some afterwards, that is inevitable, but if your content is good and consistent, the majority of new followers will stick around!

9. Use a Social Media Engagement App
There are many social media engagement apps out there and when you know how to use them, they can really benefit you. They can help you see everything about your account: your new followers, recent unfollowers, your ‘fans’…those who you aren’t following, and those that aren’t following you. You can also copy other Instagrammer’s followers, meaning, target specific followers that you think might enjoy your content. 

I personally use Crowdfire and it’s been a great tool to help me see the behind the scenes activity on my account. While it can become somewhat obsessive to keep checking, it is good to know what is happening with your followers behind the scenes. 

10. Clean Up Your Account
I think it’s important to go through your account every so often and clean it up. Sometimes you will think a picture is great to share, in the moment, but then looking back, it doesn’t really fit with the rest of your pictures. Or maybe it didn’t have great engagement, so you don’t want it on your feed (especially if you are a blogger looking to work with brands, they look at your engagement). 

Now that being said, if you go WAY back to the beginning of even my IG feed, you will see that I’ve learned these things over the last year and what my account started off like is not what it looks like now. That’s ok. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go and delete all of my old pictures. People evolve and so do their brands. 

But once you have narrowed in on your brand, the kind of content you want to share, the way you edit pictures…then you might want to go back and delete some pictures that really don’t work within that.

Now that I’ve given you my personal top 10 tips and tricks on how to grow your Instagram account, I want to be completely honest and give you three mistakes that I’ve made along the way. We can only learn from these mistakes to make ourselves better, so for that reason, here’s what I’ve learned!

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Three Mistakes I’ve Made With Instagram

1. Buying Followers
Ugh. I really don’t even want to talk about this but I feel like I MUST! In the beginning, I was anxious to grow my account. And after hustling my buns off, on EVERY platform, I was exhausted. I kept seeing things where you could buy followers and so I thought I would give it a try. BIG MISTAKE!

Not only was it a complete waste of money, every single follower I bought, is now gone! EVEN IF THEY CLAIM to be 100% REAL followers, they aren’t. That’s what I thought…”Oh they are REAL. So this is ok.” As soon as you gain the followers, often in one shot, (which how can that actually be real then?) you will see that these aren’t real at all. Most of them have only about five pictures posted, they are following about 6,000+ people and only have about 20 followers. 

Instagram (and other platforms) have gone through great lengths to try and get rid of these “bots” (fake) accounts in the last year. And when they did their big clean up, I lost every single one. It was frustrating to see my number drop overnight, but I had only myself to blame. 

So lesson learned, don’t buy followers. It’s just not worth it. Use your money to join in a loop giveaway like I mentioned above. This way you know you are getting REAL followers. 

2. Not Enough Brand Awareness in the Beginning
This came from not knowing what my brand really looked like at the beginning. I honestly thought that if I just took a pretty picture, that would be enough for Instagram. I knew nothing about branding and curating a feed. It’s only over time that I learned those things (and I’m still learning). Had my IG game been strong from the start, I’m sure I’d be even further ahead today.

3. Starting From Scratch 
As I said, I started from zero followers by opening a brand new account on Instagram. In my personal account, I had about 400 followers and so what I should have done was clean up my account, change the name and use that as my launching pad. I would say that when starting out on Instagram, your first 1,000 followers are the hardest to come by. Then as your numbers grow, it does get easier. So starting from zero took me months longer than it would have had I started at 400.

 

So there you have it! My top 10 ways I’ve grown my Instagram account from 0 – 10k in a  year, plus a few mistakes I’ve made along the way. 

Instagram is a VERY hot platform right now and is constantly changing. And so what works today, might not work next week. If you are trying to grow your IG presence, you definitely need to always have your ear to the ground about what is changing (btw, did you know that as of this week, you can now switch back and forth effortlessly between multiple accounts on IG?! This is good news for someone like me with two accounts). Also, look at what other top IG’ers are doing. I have a few of my favorite Instagram accounts and I won’t lie…I definitely take notes on how they are styling pictures, to their brand awareness to how they edit their pictures. Learn from the pro’s! 

That’s all for today! Hope you’ve enjoyed this! And it almost goes without saying, if you aren’t following me yet on Instagram, what are you waiting for?! 

Love & Blessings,

CMartin-Sign

 

 

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12 Comments on From 0 – 10k in One Year: How to Grow Your Instagram Following

  1. Sara
    February 10, 2016 at 11:07 am (4 months ago)

    This is a great post! Engagement and hashtags are two that I’m really trying to work on lately. I need to pay more attention to the hashtags that others I follow are using to make sure I’m using the right ones. So much to learn!

    Reply
    • Christine
      March 7, 2016 at 6:26 am (3 months ago)

      Yes, hashtags are key! Also, if I see that other IG’ers are getting lots of engagement, I will take a screenshot of the hashtags they used and check them out. If it’s working for them, it will likely work for you too!

      Reply
  2. Justine Y @ Little Dove Creations
    February 10, 2016 at 3:37 pm (4 months ago)

    10K, that’s amazing! It makes sense though because your feed and content is so great. I’m having such a hard time breaking 1000. I’ve been sitting within a a 980-990 range for almost a month now. I’ll get a few, and then I’ll lose a few. Which is fine, since I want to have engaged followers in addition to a large audience, but it’s still frustrating.
    Thanks for all this great information Christine! I will definitely be pinning. 🙂

    Reply
    • Christine
      March 7, 2016 at 6:25 am (3 months ago)

      Hey Justine! Just getting to these comments now. But first, thank you! You are super sweet! Two things: 1. Breaking 1,000 is HARD! I think I said that…that the first 1k was the hardest…then it got a bit easier. 2. I can remember two specific numbers on the journey were I was just STUCK! Couldn’t get past it. Funny enough, I’ve been currently stuck again. It happens. Just keep being consistent with your content, posting often and make sure to engage and you will find your way out of it and fly past your goal in no time!

      Reply
  3. Kathy
    February 10, 2016 at 4:44 pm (4 months ago)

    What a great article! Super helpful… Love your honesty too!

    Reply
    • Christine
      March 7, 2016 at 6:23 am (3 months ago)

      Thank you, my friend!

      Reply
  4. Nicole
    February 10, 2016 at 8:58 pm (4 months ago)

    A really great post! Succinct and full of useful tips. Congratulations on your fast success!

    Reply
    • Christine
      March 7, 2016 at 6:30 am (3 months ago)

      Thank you Nicole!

      Reply
  5. Tara
    February 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm (3 months ago)

    Awesome tips. I never cared much about growing my Instagram followers, but it really is my favorite social media platform, so I’ve made this year my year of Instagram.

    Reply
    • Christine
      March 7, 2016 at 6:22 am (3 months ago)

      That’s great! Many brands are interested in bloggers Instagram so that’s why I focused so much on it! Best of luck with growing it!!!

      Reply
  6. Dia
    February 11, 2016 at 8:05 pm (3 months ago)

    Thanks for these tips. One of my major goals is to grow my instagram this year. I have heard buying followers in a big mistake. So far hashtags have helped my reach alot

    Reply
    • Christine
      March 7, 2016 at 6:21 am (3 months ago)

      Glad you enjoyed! Yes, stay away from buying followers! Not worth it! Grow it organically and through your own hustle!

      Reply

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