This is not an easy number to achieve and we had to lie, brown-nose and show off on Instagram to get here.
Prior to this experiment, Jackson and I had our own personal accounts on Instagram. My account was started years ago and my followers (about 400) were mostly people I knew. I’d post occasionally and *maybe* get 80 likes on a really good post, averaging about 15 likes per post; nothing too inspiring.
After our big trip, we decided to revamp our blog and, therefore, our social media presence. Why? Because when you get a lot of followers on Instagram you can make money, get free experiences, and hold a lot of influence. All of these things are very valuable to us as travelers.
Within the first few days of opening our account, Jackson got an offer from a company that promised to “grow our followers by 500 in a month” for a fee. Jackson and I looked at this number and thought: we can beat that.
The race had begun: could we beat 500 followers in a month?
Here’s what we did:
We did exactly what you are doing right now by reading this blog post.
When we opened this account we researched a whole lot. I read Forbes’ articles on social media use, I read blogs, I asked friends, I looked at what successful posts were doing on Instagram. Jackson did the same and we’d message each other throughout the day with tidbits we had picked up on how to grow our Instagram account.
Many people have opened accounts. Many people are very good at growing their numbers. Ad agencies, businesses, and countless news outlets have done research on Instagram. Don’t start from scratch! Check out what they say. The numbers, advice and experiences are really useful.
Pick a Theme
Arguably, this is the hardest step. For us, it was easy: travel photos. We decided to post pictures from our Big Trip around the world as well as photos we’ve taken in New York City, while on our honeymoon in the Rocky mountains, and from anywhere that felt beautiful and exotic. This meant that any pictures of us eating with friends, me crocheting on the couch or videos of Jackson cooking would be off topic and therefore: off theme!
Hashtag like a Boss
Opening our account on July 11, 2017 we started at 0.
We decided to post and hashtag and the people will find us. Simple, right? (Except… it doesn’t work like that when you’re first starting. More on that below).
We’d search for hashtags that had a lot of contributions like “travelblogger” and “wanderlust” and would tag our photos with them. Instagram lets you tag 30 tags per post so we took advantage of that every time. Jackson had a list of tags in a folder he’d copy and paste to each post, then we’d personalize the list with contributions like “Monkey” and “Croatiancoasts”, etc.
Leave personalized comments
After liking a photo, this comes naturally as the next step. By commenting more than a winky face, you’ll catch the eye of the account holder more than with just a regular “like”. Jackson and I tried to comment with honest anecdotes, questions about the picture or some comment on the quality of the photo. I was surprised at how many cool places I’d never heard of pop up on Instagram and I had questions about some of what I was seeing “Where is that hike!? That looks incredible!” or “Did you see many reindeer during the summer?” We found that by engaging with people on a more personal level we got more followers.
Within the first week we’d reached about 80 followers. Not bad. But at that rate we weren’t going to hit our goal.
Like Like Like
Our account wasn’t growing fast enough! We started liking everything in sight, sometimes taking shifts of 30-45min in the evenings and mornings to like the crap out of everything.
Liking pictures notifies the person who posted the photo that your account exists. Maybe they’ll look at your account and like your pictures back? Maybe they’ll start following you!! Studies have shown that for every 100 likes you’ll get about 5 new followers. It’s a really good place to start when on Instagram.
Liking stuff can get pretty weird. After a while, you’ll find yourself liking the DUMBEST photos simply because you’re on auto pilot. There were a few times I would accidentally like porn. Whoops!! UNLIKE!!
Our followers JUMPED and by the end of the 2nd week we’d hit 182 followers. There’s a method to the madness!
Follow People, too.
We learned this a bit later to the game. Honestly: one of the best ways to get a follower is to serial like their portfolio: “like” about 5 photos all over, then hit “follow” and they’ll probably follow you back. By doing the rapid fire liking and following technique we gained quite a number of followers.
Post Often and at Optimal Times of the Day
Post at least twice a day!
For us, that meant posting at 7:30am and 5pm or 9pm during the week. On weekends, we’d post around 2am on Saturday, 10am in the mornings and around 5pm. (We got these times from research done!)
Why? Because you need to be in the search results as often as possible when other accounts go through a like pictures.
Watch your Number Grow… Then Crash.
The ‘ole bait and switch. A classic example can be found in the thousands of accounts that will serial like your pictures (like, 10 of them) and then follow you. Great! Then, after you follow back THEY UNFOLLOW YOU. This happens over and over. After a while, we got jaded. Instead of getting excited about our followers increasing by so much, we realized that when we stare at an account that has 7K followers and are only following 200 accounts they’ll probably drop us like a hot potato after we’ve followed back.
Here’s the sad reality: we lost 532 followers over the course of two weeks from July 26- Aug 11.
Don’t despair! Your number will grow if you continue to follow and like other accounts. Yeah, you’ll lose the “fake” accounts that make you think they’re “true blue” followers of your work, but the more you comment and attract other followers on Instagram the numbers will still work out positively. The good news? Over the course of those same two weeks we gained 915 followers!
Just keep going!
We didn’t start taking detailed statistics right away, and when we did start, we were just recording total users. After about a week of that, we noticed the follower ebb and flow, and decided to try and record that a bit more. This chart shows daily lost and gained followers, and our net increase for each day. Ideally the net increase would stay stable (or grow), but there were definite days where we under performed.
So, Where Does That Leave Us?
We worked really hard to hit 700 likes. AND WE DID IT.
Our posts went from getting 50ish likes to 200 likes per picture.
The account retains about 30 followers a day (some days gaining 70 and losing 40!!).
We’ve gotten over 700 followers in 30 days. We want to more than double that number in the next month.
We’ll continue to hit this account on Instagram with everything we’ve got. It’s important to remember that the two of us are tag-teaming this experiment. That helps a lot. I admire those who are going solo on their accounts and making all the followers anyway.
Also, growing your followers takes a lot of time. You’ve got to really dedicate yourself to this and be consistent. When looking at what other bloggers have written and talked about, it could take years to get to 10K followers. Or, maybe not? Couldn’t we do it sooner?
…that’s a nice goal to try and hit. Wanna help us out by following us?