This is the second in a series of blog posts where I chat to some of my favourite Instagrammers about how they have successfully grown their Instagram accounts in excess of 10K followers in 12 months.
If you didn’t catch last week’s chat with Barbora, from Herinternest, then you can do so here.
This week, I am talking to Kayte (pronounced Kate, I was saying this wrong for the longest time!) about the strategies she has used to grow her account to in excess of 10k followers in the last 12 month. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kayte, she’s a marketing expert who works with businesses to create cohesive marketing strategies, as well as a brilliant blogger and successful Instagrammer.
If you haven’t yet come across her blog, I highly recommend you pop over for a read. She’s written so many helpful blog posts jam packed with easy to digest marketing tips. Many of which are just as applicable to blogging, as they are to business.
I’m a huge fan of Kayte and am so pleased to have got to know her quite well through Instagram. She’s a genuine and incredibly helpful person, who always gives the best advice! I found her answers to my questions super helpful and insightful, and I hope you do too!
Your account has grown really fast. Roughly how many followers have you gained in the last 12 months?
In December 2016 I had under 1000 followers, so I’ve grown by over 10k this year.
What inspires you and your photography?
I’ve not quite put my finger on that yet, and I find it changes from time to time. Sometimes a picture will just come to me in the way the light is coming through the window or how a blanket has become ruffled up. Other times I’ll really have to work at it (for a recent brand collaboration I took 77 photos over the course of 3 hours and ended up using the very last one I took).
A lot of people look to Pinterest for inspiration but I’m not specific about my inspiration. More often I’ll be inspired by the tones of an image, the way shape has been used, an atmosphere, so I add images to my Saves while I’m scrolling Instagram and dig into them when I’m feeling dry.
I’ve also written on my blog about using visual tropes to create consistency in your images, and I’ll return to these when I’m feeling low on inspiration. For example, if I need an image for that day I might decide to set it in bed. So I’ll take some key props (a blanket, notebook, cup of tea, natural finds etc) and play about with shooting compositions and setting up little stories and see what comes out. Because I’m using my tropes I know whatever comes out will feel really me, and often I end up with some of my favourite images.
What do you think is the secret to steady growth on Instagram?
This is the answer no one wants to hear – it’s time. You have to take time over it, in more ways than one. You have to make time to create the best images you can, and if something’s not right you have to reshoot it rather than post a substandard image. You have to spend time writing captions that make people want to strike up a conversation with you.
Then you have to make time for those people. Instagram isn’t really about pictures, it’s about people. It’s a place for community, and people come to your account wanting to make a friend. If you’re not responding to comments, or not being open in your captions, then you’ll come across as aloof or ungrateful. Particularly when your account is smaller, the relationships you make at this stage will be so important for keeping the momentum of your growth going. Don’t take anyone for granted; everyone who engages with your content has put themselves out there to make you feel good. This is why accounts like me_and_orla and hannahargyle continue to grow and do so well – because they appreciate their followers are just fellow humans, and they make time to communicate with them in a genuine way.
And finally, it just takes time. Account growth is a rolling stone and at first seems to move millimetres at a time – getting from 0-1k is SO much harder than getting to 10k (it took me a good four months). As much as we hate to accept it, there is an element of just letting the stone roll – you have to continue to make great content, believe in what you’re doing and be patient.
What process have followed to get you where you are today?
I’m pretty strict about my engagement process – I think I’m scared I’ll jinx the success of a post if I break from it. Whenever I post I make sure I have a good hour free afterwards to engage – if I don’t have that time I just won’t post.
In the first hour after posting I do nothing but engage (and when I say engage it’s probably an 80/20 split between likes and comments). The easiest way I find to do that is to go into each of the hashtags I’ve used and engage with content posted recently (i.e. in the last hour). I use all 30 hashtags so that usually takes me the whole hour. I tend to post in the evening, so then I’ll have dinner, and spend the rest of the evening (slowly!) replying to comments on my previous post.
Although it sounds like a lot of time, it’s now part of my evening wind down routine. I put something mindless on the tv, get a snack (and often a glass of wine!) and curl up on the sofa with the dog and fall down the Instagram rabbit hole and indulge in all the beautiful content. My other half is a chef and not at home in the evenings, so it’s a nice way to spend the time (and I’m not being as anti-social as I sound!).
What piece of advice would you give to anyone looking to rapidly grow their Instagram following?
To be honest, I’d advise you not to! While follower growth is great, it’s an ego stat. Engagement is what you want, and here’s why:
- brands are increasingly looking at engagement in the post-algorithm Instagram and many big accounts are losing opportunities because only a tiny fraction are actually engaging (or even seeing) their posts – and I know this because I used to work for a brand!
- the Instagram algorithm decides whether your content is ‘good’ based on your engagement rate – if you have 100k followers but 1000 likes, someone with 1000 followers and 100 likes has higher engagement, so their post will be shown to more people
- it means your content is connecting with people, it has meaning for them and you’re impacting their lives. Which is what Instagram is all about.
With rapid growth you often get a drop in engagement, and any time I have a spike in followers I get panicky about my engagement. Steady growth is more manageable, and it allows you to maintain a good level of engagement. And, because of how the algorithm works, more engagement brings more visibility which brings more followers. I would always advise focusing on going your engagement before worrying about followers.
What benefits has having a successful Instagram account brought you?
Instagram has changed my life. This time last year I had just started a blog, I was about a month or so in to Instagram and I was living in a commuter town in a 9-5 job. Now I live in the Snowdonia National Park and I have my own business, that would not have happened without Instagram.
But more specifically, without the people on Instagram. I’ve met so many people on this little app, people who inspired the idea for my business in the first place and who now buy my products or promote me and join in with the things I do and I could not be more grateful to them for all their support.
Yes, I’ve got a few bits and bobs for free, but the community that has grown around my account, the friends I’ve made, has been a completely unexpected joy that I feel so gushy about.
What are your aspirations for your account?
At the moment I’m really looking to consolidate my account. I have an awesome tribe of really engaged people, but with the growth of my account this year I know there are lots of people who don’t really know me or what I’m about. So I want to increase engagement, get more people signed up to my mailing list (please do if you haven’t!) and generally make sure that if Instagram shut down tomorrow I’d be ok.
Other than that, it’s really nice (and a bit of an ego trip) to get sponsored collaborations with nice brands so I’d like to continue that for a bit of pocket money, but really my account is aimed at serving my business and serving the community that exists there with great content.
Thanks so much to Kayte for sharing her Instagram wisdom with us here! If you’re not already following Kayte (and why the hell not?!), then you can find her at all the places linked below!
Facebook: Simple & Season
Blog: Simple & Season
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