I often get asked how on earth I have reached over 60,000 followers on Instagram. Although there is not one specific answer, there are definitely some key strategies that stand out when I consider my success. These highlights are relatable to any business or brand, not just food bloggers. Social media platforms such as Instagram can easily serve as our main outlet to positively promote our brands-and for free! It is how you represent yourself that will determine your outcome.
1. POST WITH PASSION. People are attracted to good vibes and that contagious energy stems from passion. If you do not love what or who you are representing, people will know. It is very easy to recognize a soul that is lacking enthusiasm for what they do, both online and in person. If you are not passionate about your brand, I would advise you to reconsider investing your time and energy into it. Find something that does sparkle your soul and find out for yourself how rewarding posting with passion can be.
2. USE #HASHTAGS. Hashtags are widely used on Instagram for users to discover new photos, thus discovering new accounts. Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags in a post and I would advise you to think of some staple tags that you can use. When using hashtags, make sure you include some that are generic in which millions of people both use and lookup. Be sure to also think outside the box. Consider who your demographic is that you are aiming to target and choose words that would attract that demographic to you. You can also create some hashtags that are authentic to you, your brand or a specific product. Once you create a list of tags that are relatable to your pictures, keep that list in your notepad section of your smartphone. This allows you to copy and paste those tags into each published post. Captions with an abundance of hashtags can look overwhelming and can deter people away from reading what you have to say and for that reason I would post the tags in a separate comment below.
*My Nutty4Nutrition account was created when I went gluten free. I curiously looked up the #glutenfree hashtag on Instagram and was so inspired by this world of real foods that I previously knew nothing about. Within a matter of time, Nutty4Nutrition was thriving. All thanks to a popular hashtag.
3. CONSISTENCY IS KEY. Having a set schedule for your posts can benefit you in the long run. Aim for a certain amount of posts a day and do your best to stick to that pattern as your followers will catch on and count on your consistent presence. Of course, I totally support (and encourage) phone free days and/or vacations but be sure to let your followers know you are taking some time off and when you will be back. Unexpected MIA bouts may lead to people questioning your commitment or assuming your passion has expired.
4. PICTURE QUALITY. For many, Instagram is the best way to visually promote a brand for free. However, to attract potential and interested investors your pictures must be stellar. You do not have to be a professional photographer or even have to use a fancy ass camera with all the bells and whistles. You just need to put in the effort and take note of what has worked well for you and what has not. Try to avoid blurry and dark pictures that are hard to decipher. Crisp and clear captured moments always do best. Play around with filters and lighting (afterlight is one of my favourites) and include your whole snapshot without cropping by using apps such as Easy Square. Your pictures are what will attract followers to your account so they must be eye-catching.
*All of my pictures are taken with my iphone6 and that may be obvious (photography really is not my forte) but until I get my hands on a fabulous camera, my smartphone will have to do. Although my picture taking skills need improvement (and always will), I have come a long way and I do really put effort into making my food pictures look appetizing. I think my followers recognize my genuine attempt and I must be doing something right judging by all of the encouraging comments of admiration I receive. When it comes to the art of photography-practice makes perfect so let’s keep on snapping.
5. BE AUTHENTIC. Your pictures are how you will gain newcomers to your feed but keeping them around is a different story. Chances are your brand is not a complete one of a kind in its class. You have competition. What makes a fashion blogger for example; stand out from all the rest of the fashion bloggers? They all have stunning pictures where you think to yourself “my god she looks perfect every day and I wish I had that skirt or the loads of money I would need to buyout her closet.” But to be honest, I say that about every fashion snapshot I see. Eventually, they all start to look the same in their perfection and I can’t even tell them apart anymore. I’m bored. I unfollow. What would make me stay? I, personally, want to know who is behind that picture. Who are you and why is this your passion? Share your soul. Inform me; teach me new things about your brand, your view on life, your struggles, and your triumphs. You are already putting yourself out there so really shine bright. That is what would keep me from pressing unfollow on anybody’s profile. So, yes great quality pictures are key but they certainly are not everything when it comes to Instagram success. Be yourself.
While we are on the topic of authenticism, try and post original pictures that are yours. Memes sure are funny and quotes are definitely inspiring but if your feed consists only of pictures people can find on Pinterest, why should they follow you? Avoid doing too many S4S (shout out for shout outs) which is when two accounts promote each other to gain new followers from each other. An overload of shout outs mean too much of your feed is consisting of other’s pictures and not of your own. Keep in mind that people originally followed you for you and your personalized content.
6. JOIN YOUR COMMUNITY. Whether you are involved in the food scene, pre and post natal services, cleaning supplies, or running a non-profit animal shelter-there are other businesses or services of your variety out there. Do not be a snob-interact with your community. Reach out, be friendly and communicate with your peers. You will be grateful to have others to interact with that understand everything about your day and having somebody to go to for advice is always handy. By making new friends within your class, there is also the chance of many business partnership opportunities. Your community may be your competition but as long as you remain authentic, you will gain those of interest who are a right fit for you and your brand.
7. ENGAGE. It’s important to not only engage with your community members but as well as your followers. Besides emojis and people tagging their friends or family members, meaningful comments or questions are hard to come by on Instagram. Acknowledge any efforts of communication coming from your followers or potential followers. Responsiveness shows that you appreciate the time they took to comment on your post. Engagement shows you value them and that is one powerful way to stand out amongst your competition. Interact with professionalism and never disrespect anyone even if they are asking for it. Harsh language will not only reflect you but also your brand. Address bullying or rude remarks with friendliness and simply delete all traces of unwanted commentary. Block the negative energy if need be.
8. AVOID THE NUMBER GAME. Remember that it is ideal to gain followers in an honest manner. Avoid hosting too many giveaways or contests as this will only attract those that want free shit. Sadly, these types of followers will most likely unfollow you the second you run dry of goodies to hand out. In my opinion, real Instagram success is gaining even one follower who is genuinely interested in you and what you stand for. They engage and support and decide to follow you for you. Do not obsess over the number of likes or follows but do get excited when your hard work is recognized. Do enjoy the journey and do appreciate the progress of your growth.
*I have never in my time had a goal of a specific number of followers to hit and I never will. I am grateful to be inspired by others in my community on a daily basis and I am humbled every time I am able to pass on that inspiration to others. At the end of the day, the number of likes or followers gained should never define you or your brand.
Does anyone have any other helpful tips on brand building via Instagram? What strategies have helped you the most in gaining a loyal audience? I hope my blog post offered you the slightest bit of insight and I truly wish you all the best!