For many of us just starting out, 10K is an elusive and exciting number. It’s the number that finally gets you a K next to your follower count and unlocks the exciting “swipe up” feature on your instagram stories. But, it’s a challenging number to reach. I’ve spent countless hours on instagram liking, commenting and following until I finally hit that exciting number yesterday. Many of you have asked how I did it and, rather than waiting to hit 100K or more to write a how-to post, I thought I would share my entire journey with you, starting now. Below are my 10 tips on getting your first 10K followers. I’d love to hear your questions and thoughts - so be sure to comment below!
1. Engage, engage, engage
This is going to be everyone’s least favorite tip, but it’s also the most important. I spend hours (yes, HOURS - at least three but often more) on instagram every day liking, commenting and following accounts in my niche. It’s impossible for people to start following you or liking your content if they don’t know you exist. You have to put yourself out there and the best way to do that is by engaging on the platform. Leave unique comments (not “nice pic!”) and reply to people’s captions; make them feel important and they’ll likely reciprocate.
I do not use, nor do I recommend using, bots of any kind. They are a fast track to being shadowbanned or, even worse, having your account deleted. This includes programs such as: instavast, instaq, rise social or any other solution that automatically likes, comments and follows people for you. These tools violate instagram’s T&Cs and access the IG API without the platform’s permission. They also make you so active that there’s a good chance you’ll end up getting blocked when you actually engage on the platform yourself. Bots seem like there’s an easy way to grow, but I do not recommend them and truly believe that brands and people can see right through them.
2. Use all the tags
Hashtags, geotags and people tags are a great way to get your photos featured and discovered by new followers. Share your location using a geotag, the topic of the photo using hashtags, and showcase brands and feature accounts by tagging them in the photo itself. You can tag up to 20 other accounts and use up to 30 hashtags and I highly recommend taking advantage of all of these.
It’s smart to have a good strategy for each of these tagging options. Tag feature accounts that align with the photo and use a similar aesthetic (for example, @sheisnotlost features light and airy travel photos and likely wouldn’t repost something that is dark and moody). If you’re wearing certain brands of clothing or using a certain product, it’s smart to tag those accounts as well as they may repost your photo. Geotags are also great because it gives you the opportunity to trend for a location and followers always appreciate knowing where your photos are taken. If you’re a small account, be more specific with your geotags (for example, Cabina Bali vs Bali, Indonesia) as there is less competition and you’re more likely to trend for something more specific. As for hashtags, make sure they’re relevant. Display Purposes is a great tool for discovering hashtags in a certain niche if you’re in a hurry.
3. Create beautiful content
I think this is another obvious one, but it’s also very important. If you want to hit 10K or more (organically), you can’t create standard photos. Each photo you post needs to be stunning. You have to shoot in good lighting (ideally golden hour), wear beautiful outfits (if you’re a fashion/style IGer that is), and have gorgeous colors. Every one thinks that instagrammers live in a magical world filled with perfect lighting and great outfits, but that’s not true. Every photo posted has been thoroughly thought out, scrupulously planned, carefully selected and then edited to perfection. In order to grow you need to create photos that you love and that others will love to.
To start doing this, work on your photography and editing skills. It’s great to be able to work with photographers, but that isn’t always an option and it’s good to have those skills on your own. Start focusing on getting good in Lightroom, shoot in RAW (instead of jpg) and invest in good equipment, if you can. I’ve been fortunate to work with various photographers for a lot of my shots, however, I do edit 98% of all my photos myself and am able to shoot myself if I need to. I’m not a perfect photographer or an expert in Lightroom, but I have noticed a huge difference since honing in on these skills.
4. Develop a consistent aesthetic
Having a gorgeous and consistent feed makes growing your account a lot easier. There are a ton of different themes that you can use for a beautiful feed; neutral tones, pops of red, muted or hues of pink. There’s an endless variety of themes, it’s just about how you edit your photos and making sure they have a consistent look and feel. And, if you ever mess up by posting something that doesn’t look right, don’t be afraid to archive or delete a photo to maintain a more-consistent look.
5. Post often
The more often you post, the more likes and comments you’re going to get. Tailwind, a visual marketing tool, did a study on over 100,000 instagram profiles and found that profiles that post seven or more times per week get more likes and followers than those that post less frequently. Posting more gives you more opportunities to trend for hashtags and geotags, and also makes it more likely that you’ll appear at the top of your followers’ timeline.
6. Respond to comments
It’s time consuming and annoying, but it’s so important to respond to the comments on your photos. It allows you to start building a relationship with your followers and encourages them to continue to comment. Ask them questions and encourage them to engage with you. It’s a lot to ask to write a deep, meaningful response to every photo, and you don’t have to. Even a simple thank you will make a huge difference.
7. Plan ahead
Scrambling to post a photo at the last minute doesn’t help anyone. It likely ends in you posting a lower quality photo and leaves you with a jumbled aesthetic. Planning tools help you schedule your photos and see your overall feed prior to posting. My favorite is Later, it allows you to plan and schedule your posts and it even has an auto-publish feature (with limitations). My favorite tool is the drag and drop preview and I am constantly using it when planning my feed.
8. Pay attention to your numbers
A lot of people have asked me if it’s worth it to switch to a business profile. Amidst rumors of lower reach and dropping engagement numbers, people are hesitant to do so. However, I think switching to a business profile is crucial to growing your instagram account. Using a business account gives you access to demographic information, post analytics, best time of day to post, instagram ads and a contact button. If you want to work with brands, it’s extremely important to know the stats that a business profile gives you access to. Until you’re big enough for your follower count alone to warrant you receiving brand collaborations, using a data-driven approach will help you build up your portfolio and win partnership opportunities.
9. Use Instagram stories
Instagram stories are a great way to showcase your daily life and behind-the-scenes moments. Followers love them because it gives them another way to get to know you and engage with you, thus building a stronger relationship. Plus, you can use the geotag and hashtag stickers to increase your reach and trend in new ways. I also encourage creating Highlights that further organize your stories for people who are new to your page and want to learn more about you. I currently have highlights for the destinations I’ve traveled to, style, blog, beauty and behinds the scenes moments.
10. Find an instagram community
As amazing as instagram is, it can also be extremely frustrating. You’ll likely run into slow patches, low engagement and potentially even shadowbanning. I highly recommend finding an instagram community that you can talk to and vent with when things like this happen. Whether it’s a comment/like pod, Facebook group, or curated group of friends you’ve made through the platform, having a group of people to turn to when times get tough makes things a lot easier. It’s also a good way to further your growth and meet new like-minded people. Plus, it’s great to have people to cheer you on and to join you in celebrating your victories.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions below!