There are tons of resources that can help you expand your brand and grow your following on Instagram, but I wanted to share my personal experience and the tips I employed to grow my virtual tribe from a little over 10k at the beginning of 2020 to over 50k by the end of the year.
Within just a year, I've become both a brand ambassador but also a company partner with some of the most incredible spiritual wellness, jewelry, lifestyle, health and haircare brands in the country and around the globe!
The most important tip above all else is to BE PATIENT!
This is a slow and steady process but if you commit, stay consistent and invest in your own growth, you’ll see the results within months!
Ready to g(r)o(w)? Let's do it!
1. Determine your niche
Natural hair, spiritual wellness, beauty, home decor, sustainable fashion, DIY, and fitness are just a few of the different industries for you to tap into and use your voice and platform to really make an impression on your unique audience.
You have to remember that when you're embarking on this journey, what often prevents so many from expanding their reach is the feeling that since there are already so many well-established influencers on IG already, how can one stand out? While are definitely thousands of mega and large influencers out there, be mindful that even your favorite influencers, yes the one(s) with beautiful locs, the ones with a new fashion line, the ones with dope make up videos, the ones with hundreds of thousands of followers, and yes even the ones with the coveted "blue check”, all started exactly where you are.
There is an entire audience of people waiting to hear from you!
Remember: There's nothing holding you back but the limitations of your own mind.
2. Convert profile to a business profile & make it public.
If you’re looking to expand your following and potentially develop paid partnerships with well-established brands, one of the easiest ways to do that is by simply making your profile more accessible. Making your page public, converting to a business account and linking an email address are 3 immediate ways to allow potential brands to browse your photos freely to discover more about who you are, what you’re about and potentially, if they want to work with you in the future!
(To convert your page, go to your account homepage, tap the three(3) bars in the top right corner, select "Settings", scroll down and select "Switch to Business Account", et voila!)
What’s also really great about converting your profile into a business profile is that Instagram then provides you with specific insights about your followers, noting their age range, location (top cities & countries) and gender percentages so that you can create content that directly targets your unique audience in a meaningful way.
3. Consistency & Quality
Post consistency & the quality of your pictures are key to staying on your followers' feed (and on their mind, *wink*) and potentially landing your photo on the Explorer Page (a VERY successful way to gain followers).
Pro Tip: Smartphones these days take excellent photos and have great editing tools but I recommend downloading one of the popular photo editing apps like VSCO or Facetune to turn your photos up a notch. I also strongly recommend posting once a day every day with no more than a day or two-day break between posts when you're first starting out.
(Unedited vs. Edited with VSCO // Subtle yet distinctive)
I also suggest planning your content ahead of time. Scheduling your photos with their respective captions, tags and mentions will save you so much time in the long run, I promise. There are tons of content planners out there but it would be inauthentic for me to recommend any because I don’t personally use them. I save all of my scheduled posts as drafts on IG and simply post from there.
If you do use a scheduling app, please be sure to add your recommendation(s) in the comments!
Whether your goal is simply to gain more followers or to achieve brand ambassadorships/sponsorships, one of the key factors in your expansion is your engagement with your audience.
Brands want to work with influencers (big & small) who have genuine & consistent interaction with their virtual communities because that demonstrates trust and reliability.
One way to engage with your audience is by using a caption that sparks their interest, ignites curiosity, and/or asks a question!
Ex: You create a post about your haircare routine. End the post asking your followers what some of their favorite products are.
As your comments come in, certainly within the first hour of sharing your post, enhance your engagement by responding to comments and/or questions that you may receive. I LOVE engaging with my tribe in the comments and via DM and I think that has significantly contributed to the camaraderie I've built with my virtual community.
- Don't avoid opportunities to show your investment in your community because your response may just make someone's day!
- Go live about a topic that your community may enjoy discussing.
- Diversify your platform by taking not just photos, but videos (reviews are always popular) and reels.
- "How-to" videos demonstrate your creativity & proficiency in different branding tools so share your creativity by doing a "how-to" video related to your community's interests.
Whether they’re considered "cliche" or not, I personally believe that hashtags make a huge difference in the number of views, likes, shares and comments one picture can garner. Including your profile among those associated with a popular/trending hashtag is one of the easiest and quickest ways to be seen, so include a few relevant tags at the end of your posts and you’ll soon notice the difference!
You get a maximum of 30 hashtags per photo.
You can start with 30 but I would start of with 10-20 in the beginning.
There’s no difference in your engagement percentage if you post the hashtags under your photo or as a comment.
Pro Tip: Type out the best tags you want to use on your posts and save them to your “Notes” in your phone so you can simply copy & paste when necessary. Saves time & energy, thank me later.
Still here? Yay!
Only two more...
6. Mention related brands
Once you’ve got your picture edited, your caption created, & your hashtags prepared, another way to attract more attention to your photo and subsequent traction to your page is to tag a few notable brands in your industry (you can tag up to 20 per photo).
Pro Tip: If your niche is natural haircare, tag a few of your favorite natural haircare brands so they can see your photo! The reality is that these brands are likely getting tons of tags per day but I promise you, if you stay consistent, you’ll get noticed.
Testimony: I used to tag a popular haircare company in almost all of my photos in early 2019 when I was first getting noticed because of my first set of locs. After a few months, I got a DM from them thanking me for my consistency in tagging them in my photos and asking me if I wanted collaborate with them on as a brand ambassador. That was the beginning of many partnerships I would later accept but it really showed how consistency and patience work hand-in-hand in this IG world!
7. Time your posts
Now that everything else is done, you're ready to post! One of the most common questions is whether to post at a random time or if it's better to post at a specific time.
Well, one of the perks of having a business profile are the insights IG gives you about your unique audience. One of the most important insights is the best time to post. Knowing what timeframe your audience is most active on IG is key in maximizing your potential engagement on a specific post.
I’ve read that if your best timeframe is 3pm to 4pm, you should post around 2 so that the picture can circulate a bit before it hits your audience’s peak time. When you're first starting out, a lot of this will be trial & error, so try posting an hour before your target timeframe and again within the specific timeframe and see what garners the most engagement!
If you made it to the end, I really hope this post was helpful to those who are considering becoming/developing/launching a brand. Always remember that your voice is completely need & valued, stay consistent, be patient and don't give up.
Here's a quick overview of the 7 tips again:
Find your niche.
Convert page to public business page & consider linking an email.
Enhance photo quality using a photo editing app like VSCO (recommended) and/or Facetune.
Engage with your audience through the caption and responding to comments within the first hour.
Use relevant hashtags either in comments or under photo (10 to 20 to start).
Tag/Mention relevant brands (20 max).
Time your post based on your audience's most active timeframe.