How I gained 2000 followers in 6 days (plus 4 years)
THE FIVE C'S OF INSTAGRAM
Hey everyone! I've had a recent surge of growth on my Instagram and have had a lot of questions about how this happened. I thought an overview blog post would be beneficial to some of you! As a follow-up, I will be getting more in-depth for each of the Cs.
First off, let me just say that I'm probably more shocked than anyone else that this is happening while simultaneously incredibly grateful! As of the writing of this post, I have 5737 followers, with the average image garnering over 800+ likes (a few have breached 2k and one is at 15k and rising wtf). I started 2019 with 3008 followers.
To begin, the first thing I want you to do is evaluate why you want followers on Instagram. Is it to be able to reach a wider audience? Why? To what end? Do you have a product to sell to those followers? Do you want to be able to put links in your Instagram stories? Do you want to be sponsored and become an influencer?
Knowing the reason you want followers is critical to gearing your content and your schedule to that goal. It will also help you maintain momentum in the duldrums of this process. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It also fluctuates. This growth may slow down for me, but I will continue to do these things regardless.
I want to reach 10,000 followers on Instagram in order to link my store in stories so that followers can purchase merchandise like prints and pins. That's my goal, so with that in mind, I began creating CONTENT.
What is content? This is the thing you are creating. And you want to create a lot of it. Now, this doesn't mean you have to work eleventy seven hours and never sleep, this simply means you need to maximize the mileage you get out of your content. If you produce work quickly, good, you're golden, do not pass go lol. If you're slower or you work larger and do not have finished pieces quite as often, you may need to tweak your process ever so slightly to generate more content based on the piece you're working on. Take photos during the process. Even better, set up your phone and take short clips of video. Document as much as you can and post those WIPs as you go.
I cannot tell you the frustration of having someone ask "How do I get followers" and when you go to their page, they have 4 images posted over the course of a year. Make art, y'all! The world needs it!
Having a backlog of images to be able to post will help you maintain CONSISTENCY.
How many times have we heard a successful artist harp on about consistency? Endlessly. It's because it's the simple truth that consistency not only tells your followers/viewers that you are still here and you are not disappearing, but it also helps develop good habits for you.
Consider your schedule and what you feel you can reasonably maintain. I had been highly inconsistent for, well, years, and it was getting nowhere. Once I started posting regularly, even if it was just quick WIPs, the ball started to sssslllloooowwwwllllyyyy roll forward. After that first image hit a hot hashtag and I started getting a LOT of engagement, I felt more encouraged and worked out a schedule to maintain that engagement. I started with 3 posts a day every day, but realized quickly that's not going to be something I can personally maintain, so now I'm down to 2 posts on weekdays, 1 post on weekend days.
It's weird how, even though my followers are international, the best times to post are still between 12pm - 3pm. So I post my images between those times daily. I have an alarm set on my phone. I have images ready to fire off. I'm all set.
While posting this content consistently, you're going to be considering CONTEXT.
Our followers fall into 2 basic categories (these do not count the "Superfan" who becomes a long time supporter, and eventually friend).
The follower who relates to you and has things in common 😎
The follower who looks up to you and believes you're some sort of art sorcerer 💖
Keeping these 2 categories in mind, you will want to provide context around your art to show how you and your art live. Relating followers will see your image and think "I like that too! We have that in common!" For instance, sometimes I will post an image that shows a coffee mug in the image somewhere.
Looking-up-to-you followers are people who are either non-artists or new-artists. Both of these subcategories see your work and see magic. Showing things like the tools you use or your workspace fascinates these followers as they get to see the "inside world" of an art wizard and that's exciting for them!
These 2 categories apply to ANY public figure, like a celebrity. We follow a celebrity because we either relate to them (my example: Jennifer Lawrence) or we look up to them (my example: Margot Robbie).
Another way to provide context on your consistent content is... CAPTIONS.
These are the part of the image that encourages engagement, and it will vary for each user. Generally, you will want to start thinking of your image in terms of what the user is looking at, and try to gear your caption toward them in a way that results in them thinking about themselves in relation to the art.
For example, instead of saying "Here is my latest piece," you might consider "I drew a bird! What's your favorite bird? *insert bird emoji*"
The first goal is to show your follower you are interested in their thoughts on the piece. The ultimate goal is seeing followers tag people in your image. If you can work in a request to tag others into your caption without it coming across hokey, that's a great caption! "Tag someone who likes birds!" isn't a bad thing.
Captions can be long and thoughtful or short and sweet. I've found a mix of both works well, as different followers are drawn to different styles of captioning. The bottom line is to remain authentic to yourself, as that's what the COMMUNITY will want.
This one is the C that connects you and results in friendships, good working relationships, and networking, if that's where it takes you. This is the C that makes you feel less alone, less lost, and more seen. Really seen. Engaging in the community with good, quality comments and conversations makes you an invaluable resource. It's also supposed to be fun! There are great community challenges you can take part in, like #drawthisinyourstyle or #creatuanuary or #inktober.
When someone comments, especially within the first hour of you posting an image, with a good comment, respond in kind. You don't have to write a book, but your followers want to be seen and if you acknowledge them and show gratitude that they're not only viewing your work but taking time to comment, it works wonders.
Also, comments and replies shows Instagram this content is good and IG will then boost your content to a wider audience. *winky*
Take a few minutes, and it doesn't have to be a lot of minutes, to go comment on work you love as well. If I've learned nothing else this year, it's that showing kindness and gratitude will bring good things back to you. If that sounds too woo-woo for ya, take the word of Gary Vaynerchuck
The only way to encourage others to share your work is to be someone your followers and other artists want to be associated with.
Ok, all of that said, there is one key point we cannot ignore. This growth may seem sudden and overnight but... it includes the previous 4 years of trudging through a wasteland.
I will not ignore nor deny the fact that all of this is a set up for the moment your art hits a hot hashtag at the right moment. That's the one factor we cannot control, we must simply create, post, engage and... wait.
So make the content and do not be discouraged that it will be slow until it isn't!
This is the first in a series of posts about Instagram. I will dive into the details of each category as well as how to do market research into hashtags.
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In the meantime, create art! The worlds needs it!