10 Ways To Grow Your Instagram Following

10 ways to grow your instagram following: these are the exact FREE and easy strategies I used to grow from 0 to 15,000 followers this year! A must-read for small business owners who want to grow their instagram following.

I manage a number of instagram accounts aside from my own (which actually gets the least amount of love these days). The various accounts range from 1,000+ to 100,000+ followers, but the one that’s most fascinating to me is my dog Mochi’s account. I originally started her account just so my own account wouldn’t be completely filled with photos of her – but within a couple of months, her account following surpassed mine and then grew from to 15,000+ followers this year!

Update: read THIS POST for an update on how I doubled her following from 15,000 to 30,000 in just 2 months and THIS POST for an update at 50,000 followers! 

Why This Matters

I’ve mentioned before that growing Mochi’s instagram account is about more than just getting likes and followers. If you’re using instagram for your business, you want to grow your following (yes, numbers matter!) but you also want to stay true to your brand and attract an audience of potential clients/customers. Otherwise, what’s the point?

10 Ways To Grow Your Instagram Following

Last month I shared these 5 ways to make your instagram account more attractive (to potential followers), but just looking good (even really good) doesn’t guarantee that you will grow your following. These are 10 actionable strategies I’ve used to organically grow Mochi’s account from 0 – 15,000+ followers this year!

Share good photos

This should go without saying – though I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again because it’s really important. Share good photos. Don’t share the bad ones. Most of Mochi’s photos are taken with a Canon 6D  though some were just snapped with an iPhone. In general, I pay attention to lighting, clarity (blurry = BAD), and how good Mochi’s hair looks. #girlproblems

Seriously though, no one wants to follow an account with bad photos. And often sometimes it might take 50 bad photos to get 1 good one – but it’s worth it.

Post consistently

I post at least once a day but sometimes twice. We take a lot of photos of Mochi (she’s so damn cute), but sometimes there aren’t any that are “shareworthy” – so I won’t post until we can take another. If Mochi’s not in the mood to pose for photos, we don’t make her. It’s easier to take photos in batches when she is being playful or particularly cute.

Consistency matters for a few reasons – to stay relevant to your audience, you need to regularly show up in their feed. Also, the chance of new followers finding your account is more likely when you post a new photo – as people engage with it, their activity shows up in their followers’ activity feeds. Plus, if you’re using hashtags (which you should be), each time you post a photo you have the opportunity to get more eyes on your account.

Post content targeted to your niche

The majority of Mochi’s followers are not just people who like dogs. They are not just people who like small dogs. They are people who like small, fluffy dogs, Mean Girls, napping, fashion, carbs, wine, and Taylor Swift. I keep this in mind especially when coming up with captions. The more specific you can be when defining your niche / target audience, the better. You should have already done this for your brand, but for your instagram account, you can get even more specific and define the types of photos that would specifically attract your target audience – then only post those types photos!

Just because other people are posting certain types of photos does not mean that you should – for example, most popular lifestyle bloggers post #OOTD photos and photos of their food (because OMG cupcakes! and avocado toast! and latte art!). I post none of these things. When I was (primarily) a beauty blogger, my instagram feed was 90% photos of makeup/ skincare. Mochi’s audience just wants to see Mochi. They don’t even really like seeing Mochi with humans or with other dogs!

cu-instagram-course

Make friends within your niche

Instagram is a social network – so be social! When I first started Mochi’s account, I spent hours liking / commenting / following other accounts of other small, fluffy dogs as well as dogs in NYC in general. A lot of these dogs (or really their humans!) not only followed her back, but they have become real life friends and advocates of Mochi. Please don’t just leave spammy comments or ask people to follow you back (seriously, just don’t) – leaving genuine comments will lead to actual friendships and more engaged followers. #promise 

Use hashtags

I touched on this earlier, but seriously – use hashtags. But not just any hashtags, use hashtags that are targeted to your ideal audience. Using hashtags like #followme or #tagsforlikes will only get you spammy likes/follows/comments, and using generic hashtags like #love or #pretty aren’t specific enough. I use a mix of hashtags that are targeted but have varying degrees of popularity – for example, #maltipoo has 470,000+ posts while #dogsofnewyork has 36,000+ posts – but both are specific to Mochi as she is a maltipoo dog in New York.  I typically prefer to add hashtags in a separate comment rather than in the main caption to prevent the feed from looking cluttered. You can use up to 30 hashtags per photo, but even using a handful can make a huge difference in how many people see your posts!

growthovertimeUsing iconosquare to track instagram analytics - tips for growing your instagram following including 10 specific ways I grew an account from 0-15,000 followers organically.

Set goals

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a BIG fan of goal setting. I went from a career in goal-based financial planning to goal-based marketing strategy and yes, I even set annual goals for my dog. If you set goals, you are more likely to achieve them. Period. Last December I gchatted my husband to tell him that one of Mochi’s goals for 2015 was 10,000 instagram followers. Obviously we’ve passed that, so now my goal is 25,000. With 10 weeks left in the year (craaaaazy), she needs to average 1,000 net new followers/ week which is reasonable given her current growth rate. Goal setting helps you to break things down into actionable, trackable bits – whether your goals are growing to a certain # of followers by a particular date or by a certain percentage each month – but you actually have to set goals, to be able to work toward them!

I included a screenshot of her growth chart so you can see that her account growth was pretty consistent through August of this year, and then the growth curve steepens. It took approximately 50 weeks to grow from 0 – 10,000 (mainly because I did not really put effort into growing it), but only 8 weeks to grow from 10,000 – 15,000. This is mainly due to refining her strategy and increasing the number of daily posts from 1 to 2 – which (in Mochi’s case) has proven to be a successful method for increasing net new followers at a faster rate! The other chart shows her total likes per month as well as average likes per photo on a monthly basis. Currently she’s averaging around 1,240 likes + 45 comments per photo which is over 8% engagement. This is important because as we post more often, I want to make sure her engagement does not decline significantly. Many sources will tell you 3-6% engagement (meaning your average likes + comments per photo) on instagram is good, but if you’re just starting to grow your account your engagement should probably be even higher!

Engagement   BestTimeToPost

Give the people what they want, when they want it

In addition to goal setting, my other obsession is analytics. I’m a total data nerd (see also: I went to math camp and majored in finance). I use Iconosquare daily to track various instagram statistics as well as analyze what’s working (and what’s not). Iconosquare can help you determine everything from what the best times of day to post on instagram are (for your specific account!) to which photos get the most likes/comments to how your account is growing over time. Based on Mochi’s post analytics, people tend to prefer close up photos of her in our apartment. Even though I might love photos taken from further away (when she looks really tiny!) or photos of her out and about in the city – these photos get lower engagement, so we try to keep them to a minimum! As you can see from the charts above, Mochi consistently posts photos between 8:30-9:30pm, and when I can, I also post between 1-2pm. I’ve experimented with a few other time frames, but these seem to be peak times for engaging her followers.

Have a “thing” or theme

And by “thing” I mean a gimmick (hate that word) or a theme or just a some “thing” that makes your account stand out from all the other ones. See this post for tips on making your Instagram account stand out visually from other accounts! 

Tag brands / people / places (when they are in your photos)

I always tag brands and people (other dogs) when they are in Mochi’s instagram photos – whether it’s the brand of clothing she is wearing or the brand of the couch she is sitting on or the other dogs she is with at an event. Both brands and people have re-posted her photos on their own accounts, and she has gained hundreds (if not thousands) of followers because of this! It helps when brands have more followers than she does, but even having photos re-posted by smaller accounts can bring in new followers! Also, geotagging (adding a location) to your photos can be a great way for people to find you. Most of Mochi’s photos are taken in our apartment (which I don’t geotag, because that’s creepy), but whenever we post photos from events around the city I add a location. For example, last weekend we went to the Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade so I geotagged Tompkins Square Park as the location for this photo. If you look through the Tompkins Square Park location tag, you’ll see tons of photos from the parade including several of Mochi that other people took!

Promote your instagram account other places

Whenever people “meet” Mochi on the street / at the park / in an elevator and comment that she’s cute or try to pet her, I shamelessly give them her business card and tell them to follow her on Instagrambecause who doesn’t like cute puppies. I wouldn’t recommend doing that for yourself or your business (unless you are a dog?), but don’t assume that your “real life” friends are all following you already. You can promote your instagram account on your website, on your other social media channels, in your emails, or in person – but give people a REAL reason to follow you on instagram (versus anywhere else). For example – maybe you share a tip of the day, behind the scenes sneak peeks, or “secret” sales only for your followers.

 

So that’s it.

Those are the 10 FREE and easy strategies I used to grow Mochi’s instagram following from 0 to 15,000.

Update: read THIS POST for an update on how I doubled her following from 15,000 to 30,000 in just 2 months and THIS POST for an update at 50,000 followers! 

It’s worth noting that I didn’t use strategies like loop giveaways or any sort of paid promotions / mentions. While these types of strategies can be helpful in growing your following, you definitely don’t have to spend money to get followers!

What strategies have you used to grow your instagram following?

 

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4 Types Of Content To Market Your Business (With Examples!)

4 types of content to market your business - what to blog about or share on social media to attract and convert potential customers . Examples of educational, inspirational, community building, and promotional blog posts!

After 6+ years of blogging, I’m written posts on pretty much every lifestyle topic you can think of, but when it comes to blogging for your business, I still think educational, inspirational, community building, and promotional content are the 4 key types to market your business. A couple of weeks ago I shared tips for scheduling social media content (what to share and when to share it), and I received an email from a reader asking if the types of content I mentioned were just for social media or if they applied to blog posts as well. The answer is yes – they definitely apply to blog posts too!  I touched on these before, but I wanted to share more specific examples for anyone who is having trouble coming up with blog post ideas!

Educational:

How To / Tutorials: Teach / show your audience how to do something. This is not just for DIY bloggers! To come up with a tutorial for pretty much any subject, you just have to think about what people would want help doing or what you’ve searched for yourself! I’ve googled everything from how to set up autoresponders in mailchimp to how to fishtail braid and am pretty confident that I could now teach those skills to other people!

For example, Lisa of Elembee shares awesome tips on how to use WordPress, and I love the way Amanda Genther shared this step by step tutorial for adding LeadBoxes to WordPress blog posts.

Lists: People LOVE lists. Period. 10 ways to do this. 5 places to find that. Lists are easy to digest and are a helpful way to roundup a number of resources or examples of something.

For example: Buzzfeed – they basically built an empire around lists. This post is also an example of a list!

Product Reviews: Review a product or service that would be helpful for your audience – these are great posts for incorporating affiliate links because people are more likely to purchase after reading a (positive) review!

For example, Sabrina of The Beauty Look Book does an amazing job at comprehensive product reviews like this one on foundation makeup brushesand Jessica of Jessica Says shared a review of her 7 best blog + business investments!

Case Study: These posts can be so helpful for service-based businesses because they give your audience “proof” that your service is worth the investment.

For example, Mariah of Femtrepreneur shares specific case studies of how other entrepreneurs have used the skills she teaches in her programs to grow their businesses, and if you haven’t read through some of Think With Google’s case studies, you’re missing out on some really cool data.

Free Help/ Product: Offer your product or service for free (in a limited way) – I’m not saying you should just give away your services completely, but offer something small that gives people a taste of what it’s like to work with you!

For example: Sarah of XOSarah has a monthly blog feature called Fix It Fridays where she gives free blog design advice to anyone who comments with their blog link during a specific time, and Shay Cochrane shares a free styled stock image with her email subscribers each month.

Inspirational

Behind the scenes: Give your readers a peek behind the scenes of your business – this can help build your know/like/trust factor through transparency and intimacy.

For example, Melyssa of The Nectar Collective shares a behind the scenes look at her business with monthly traffic + income reportsand Birchbox regularly shares behind the scenes videos of their photoshoots.

Quotes: I will openly admit that I don’t quite understand why people love quotes SO MUCH, but they do.

For example, you can find inspirational quotes in my blog post here and so many more here.

Trending: Blogging about trends (in your industry) while incorporating your products or services into the mix is an easy way to inspire your audience to make a purchase!

For example, Olive and Piper rounds up trendy marble items (including some of their own pieces), and Style Me Pretty inspires brides with fall wedding trends.

Community Building:

Giveaways: This is pretty self-explanatory, but if you’re looking to grow your community and encourage engagement, giveaways are an excellent thing to promote in your blog posts. You can partner with other brands or bloggers to cross-promote a giveaway, or you can host your own!

For example, you can find a sponsored giveaway with Panasonic here.

Link Ups: Link ups are a fun way to connect with other bloggers and increase your exposure at the same time.

For example, the ladies at the B Bar have a monthly link up based on an open ended question, and Fran started a linkup for bloggers who budget.

Client/ Reader FAQs: If you frequently get certain questions from your clients or readers, turn your FAQs into a blog post!

For example, Katey of Chronicles of Frivolity has a “Dear Katey” series, and Emily of Cupcakes & Cashmere used to do a “Ask Emily” video series.

Interviews: Interviewing other people in your industry can be a great way to grow your community while supporting other business owners. Some of my favorite blog series are interviews because it’s always interesting to read Q&As with influencers and leaders in a particular field.

For example, Megan Minns has a series featuring the stories of other side hustlers, and Meg Biram interviews some fabulous business owners in her Behind the Biz series.

Promotional:

Sales: In addition to your other marketing channels, your blog is an easy place to promote sales!

For example, Shop Prima donna uses their blog to share special sales with their readers, and in this post, Mackenzie shares 10 picks from her shop‘s sale.

Product / program announcements: Even if you’re announcing new products / programs on your website or via your email list, you can use your blog to go into more detail about your new offerings or make special announcements.

For example, the ladies at ban.do used their blog to let customers know where they could still grab their sold out agendas, and Jamie from Spruce Rd. uses her blog to give her readers a preview of her monthly Lunch & Learn workshops.

Featured work / testimonials: Finally, don’t be afraid to show off your work on your blog sometimes! Include visuals or testimonials whenever possible so your audience can really get a sense of what it’s like to work with you or use your products!

For example, Allison of Wonderlass shares examples of her clients’ photo shoots, and Emily Ley shows how people use (and love) her Simplified Planner in a series on her blog.

So that’s a ton of ideas for blog content to market your business, but if you have any other ideas – please share them in the comments!

10 Apps I Use For Productivity

10 apps I use for productivity - from email, social media, project management and more!

I’m always curious what apps other people use to stay productive. From to do lists to social media management, everyone has their favorites – so I thought I’d share 10 apps that I use on a daily basis to keep me on track and organized throughout the day!

Gmail

I prefer using the Gmail app over the regular iPhone mail app because of the way it displays inboxes separately. I know some people may like all their mail going into 1 inbox, but I like to keep my work, personal, blog/ business emails separate. The Gmail app allows me to easily flip between them but still maintain separation!

Todoist

I can’t function without my to do list. I’ve tried so many different versions both on paper and paperless, but I keep coming back to Todoist. I have the app on my phone and also keep the web version pinned to my browser at home and at work – so it’s always readily accessible. It’s super easy to keep things organized by project, and I like that I can focus on tasks for the day, but also have the option to see and schedule tasks for the future. Also, I am the type of person that hates to see overdue tasks, so it’s motivating to cross off tasks on time!

Google Calendar

Again, I prefer the Google calendar app over the iPhone calendar app for everything except actually seeing what day it is! I use separate google calendars for work, personal, blog/ business and everything is color coordinated in a certain way, so I like that the app carries over the same color scheme.

Dropbox

I store all my files (SO MANY PHOTOS) via dropbox so they don’t take up space on my computers. This way they’re easy to access, easy to share, and I never have to worry about my computer slowing down!

Edgar

When it comes to social media scheduling, I’ve used Buffer for the ease of scheduling posts and Hootsuite for monitoring, engaging, and analyzing – but eventually switched to Edgar (though this is kind of cheating because it’s not really an app) because it saves so much time .Instead of publishing your social media updates just once or having to reschedule them when you want to share again, Edgar saves them in a library that you build over time and automatically re-share.  (more…)

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