We’re all visual people to some extent, so it’s no wonder that Instagram is all the hype these days. The social media platform is addictive, free, and fun to use, which has great implications for creative businesses; it allows you to showcase your work/products in an unobtrusive, attractive, and personable way.
As a designer, Instagram has been especially helpful for my business. Several of my past, present, and upcoming design clients have found me through Instagram, and the larger my following becomes on the platform, the greater chance I have of drawing in clientele and blog readers.
This time last year I was close to reaching 1,000 followers, and today I’m somewhere around 11k. I’ve received several inquiries from readers lately who’ve asked me how I’ve grown my Instagram following, and although I’ve shared a couple posts in the past about Instagram landing pages and how to create the quintessential Instagram feed, I’m going in a little more detail today to share 6 things that I attribute to my organic increase in followers.
1. I combine business and personal posts
The Elle & Company brand and my personal brand are closely related at this point in time, so it makes sense for me to share both business-related posts alongside some posts that are more on the personal side. Some choose to keep the two separate, but my hope is that by allowing followers into my life outside of the business - my home, my weekends, my husband, even my cat - they will connect with me on a more personal level and build a stronger connection to my brand.
This doesn’t mean that I’m not selective in what I post. In a way, I think this has resulted in becoming even more selective about what I post, because my personal posts have the potential to reflect positively or negatively on my business and vice versa. I’ve created mental guidelines for what I choose to share in my feed as well as some things that I try to stay away from.
It’s a tricky balance at times, but it makes the most sense for the audience I’m trying to attract and the brand image that I’m trying to reflect.
2. I only share images that fit my aesthetic
This is where I get very selective, especially because of my profession. As a designer, I have a heightened awareness for visually appealing images and I also have added pressure to share pretty photos. My design aesthetic goes beyond graphics and logos; it can also be seen in the clothing I wear, the interior design of my house, and my photography style. In a sense, it all comes with the design title, and even though people don’t intentionally judge designers based on all of the above, it’s often an expectation.
With that said, I’m keenly aware of how my personal brand and the Elle & Company brand is reflected through all of my social media outlets, especially Instagram. I try to get creative with the composition of my images and incorporate cheerful colors, feminine details and plenty of light.
3. I focus on captions just as much as I focus on images
I will freely admit that I spend much more time coming up with captions than I do taking and editing Instagram photos because I’ve learned that they are just as important. While a large part of a brand is visual, a fair amount of it is identified through things unseen, like tone.
If you’ve been stopping by the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably become familiar with my writing style. I would like to think that I write like I speak (although you can’t hear the southern twang that has been creeping into my accent little by little) - friendly, positive, relatable. That’s a part of my brand.
I try to reflect those same traits in my captions by keeping things short, sincere, and a little witty (that’s my goal, at least). Sometimes I’ll share a quote that’s been on my mind lately and other times I’ll go into detail about the inspiration behind a current project, but I always try to make it personable, intentional, and authentic.
4. I have a handful of simple hashtags
I’m not one to go overboard on hashtags, although I know that most social media experts encourage small business owners to utilize as many as they can. I realize that they can be helpful for growing a following, but something about a large number of hashtags - even if they’re in the first comment of a post - is off-putting to me.
Instead, I keep it to my handful of hashtags that are particular to my life and my business - #elleandcompany, #brandsbyelle, #heidithecalico, #elleandcompanyblog, #ellecourse, #elleandcompanylibrary. It keeps things simple and allows followers to see every related post at a glance. It also allows my clients, Library subscribers, blog followers, and e-course participants to use the hashtag and point their audience back to my account and my business.
5. I only follow those I wish to follow
Again, many of these insights are personal preference, but I make every effort to follow the accounts of people that I genuinely want to follow along with with. I’ve seen many users follow people with the sole intention of getting a follower in return, and that can come off as inauthentic and gimmicky - two words that I don’t want to be associated with the Elle & Company brand.
I believe that the majority of people pick up on this and see who’s inauthentically trying to grow their following. I wrote a post on Instagram loop giveaways a few months ago and at the time I was on the fence about whether I’m on board with the concept, but it’s for this reason that I’ve decided against participating in any others. I don’t want to seem insincere or on a quest to gain followers; I want people to follow along with my account because they’re interested.
6. Instagram isn’t my primary focus
While Instagram has been extremely beneficial for my business, it isn’t the be-all, end-all of Elle & Company. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the number of followers you have on the platform and measure your success by them, but they don’t mean anything for your business if those people aren’t coming back to your website and booking your services or buying your products. And by putting all of your eggs in one basket, you’re up the creek if something happens to Instagram tomorrow or they follow the lead of Facebook and Pinterest and start charging to promote posts.
For me, it’s more important to pour time and effort into my blog and use my social media accounts as a funnel into it. The more I’ve grown my blog audience, the larger all of my social media followings have grown. And that’s been the most organic growth; people following because they genuinely want to follow along with my business instead of just wanting to follow a random lady with decent photos.
While these insights may not all be applicable to your business or Instagram account, my biggest reason for writing this post is to encourage intention within every facet of your business. It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing things because we see others doing them, but it’s always important to think through the reasons behind them and find practices that work best for your business, even on Instagram.
How have you authentically grown your Instagram following?