Firstly I just want to point out that having thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers on social media does not signify the amount of friends you have in real life. It does not determine your likability, your popularity, your happiness, and it certainly does not determine your value as a person. It doesn't even make you "famous" - it simply means, in real terms, you have created an entertaining, informative, interesting, humorous or unique visual and/or literary page which an extended audience finds helpful or enjoyable.
Instagram and other social media platforms are simply that - social media. It's a medium for us to utilise if we wish. It's a way for us to connect, communicate and create content that we can then share with others. We can inspire and be inspired, empower and be empowered, motivate and be motivated. We can dream, we can interact, we can network (both personally and/or professionally), we can see sights from across the globe without even having to leave our bedrooms and we can keep as up to date with our favourite celebrities as we can with our friends and family.
That's pretty groovy if you ask me!!
No, social media isn't fake.
No, social media isn't evil.
But yes it is very powerful and when used by someone with personality traits or intense self-beliefs that make them more vulnerable, or with the wrong intentions, or used without appropriate boundaries, supervision, reflection or feedback, or simply in the wrong way or amount, it can be harmful, hurtful and have such a negative hold over both individuals and small sub-pockets of society in general. Therefore being cautious and staying safe in the way you use social media is always going to be a good idea.
However, having over 1 million followers on instagram myself, (I can't even comprehend 1million people, I am mind blown every day to be honest! But I know that there are people with more than 1m followers who would obviously be more qualified to write this article. Don't get me wrong - I'm no professional and am certainly not by any means the best at what I do!) I am SO commonly asked "How did you get to where you are?", "How did you get so many followers?", and most frequently, "how can I get that many followers too?"..
I'll be honest, there is no quick fix, magic spell or flawless formula. BUT there are certainly things I have found help or could potentially assist YOU in growing your own social media accounts.
So without further ado, here are some of my top tips to build creatively successful social media platforms. (Keep in mind some are for social media in general and some are Instagram specific)
1. Let go of expectation. "Rome wasn't built in a day" as they say. Remember that every kind of achievement or gain in life takes time, dedication and persistence. It'd be lovely to just wake up successful; owning a house, having a family, looking like Miranda Kerr or being a millionaire (however you define success), but unfortunately that's not generally how it works. Remember, "Patience is a virtue". True success on social media is, with all things considered, simply posting a pic or comment that you can feel proud of and good about - it is NOT about numbers.
2. Considering Instagram is a very aesthetic/image based app, it always helps to take good photos!
- Clean your lens (camera, gopro, iphone etc) before you take the shot. You'll find lenses (especially the lens on iphones and androids!!) can get really really grotty with all types of matter... dirt, dust, grease, sand, water and even salt! This will leave your image speckled, distorted, blurry or slightly foggy/cloudy. Easiest way to avoid this is to give it a wipe with a micro-fibre towel or even just a soft shirt before taking a photo.
- Keep your horizon straight! One of the first things I was taught in my very first photography lesson was that horizons or any lines within a photo should try and be straight ie the horizon should be the same distance from the bottom of a photo on one side as it is on the other. And now that you know this too, I bet you'll begin to notice it in photos for yourself! There are apps (eg snapseed) which have an adjustable rotation tool. This enables you to use guide lines to ensure it is straight. Instagram has a rotation/straightening tool also!
- The rule of thirds. Alright this one is a little complex to comprehend and to be honest it doesn't reallllyyyy matter because there are definitely times where it isn't necessary. But studies have shown that images that apply the rule of thirds are typically preferred over the images that do not. Regardless, it's interesting to know!
(For examples and a clearer explanation of the "rule of thirds" look here: http://learnprophotography.com/rule-of-thirds/)
- Be aware of your angles and camera position. Understand that the placement of camera (or person holding camera) will drastically effect the outcome. This includes height/elevation.
To understand what I mean, take a photo of someone with a horizon in the background. Take it straight on, from a standing position. Then take the same shot, but from waist height. Then again from a squatting position. Notice how the horizon elevates or drops depending on the position of the camera. You'll find that in this type of shot, the image is usually most effective or aesthetically pleasing when the horizon falls lower in comparison to the subjects body. i.e instead of being above their head (or feet if it is a handstand/yoga photo) the horizon would probably look better around their hips, knees or even ankles.
Of course this is definitely up to your own personal preference! Use your creativity and artistic eye and decide what looks better to you
- Lighting. Consider the lighting; exposure, shadows, direct sunlight, contrast, highlights etc
- Acknowledge the impact of colour, and what your personal preference is.
- Depth of field (http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/depth-of-field.htm)
- For more photography tips try googling it - you'll be amazed at what you find!
3. Colour/Theme. This is such a personally determined aspect. When you look at a few of your favourite Instagram pages you may notice that they have a certain theme, colour scheme or mood to their page. Perhaps it's incredibly colourful and vibrant, maybe it's pastel based, maybe it's all black and white, maybe every image looks a little faded, or maybe there is a lot of white (like a LOT of white). You'll start to become aware that a lot of the larger Instagrams tend to follow a certain theme within their account, and once you know this, you can experiment with this on your own page too!
4. Know your message. What is your account about? What are you trying to convey? What do you want to be known for?
Ultimately, what is your essence?
A good way to answer this question is by writing down 1-10 words that describe you (or what your account is about). The less the better - more specific.
E.g health, fitness, travel, happiness, mental health, happiness, fashion, inspirational quotes, beach, surf, sport, yoga, food, lifestyle, photography etc
And then stick to posting things that incorporate messages surrounding those topics.
Then write a short paragraph explaining what the goal of your account is.
ie. My ethos is health, happiness, yoga, travel and lifestyle with bits of style/fashion too.
And the reason for my account is to inspire others make their own lives exceptional. To get out of the house and watch a sunrise, to go for a morning workout, to treat their bodies with respect and nourish themselves with good & nutrient dense foods, to maybe try yoga (even just once!), to become more mindful, to show compassion, to be kind, to give compliments and to give others and themselves love. I want it to be a place of colour where people can be inspired to create their own sunshine!
What would you describe YOUR account as?
5. Understand that there are around four different styles of Instagram page (most social media platforms have similar styles of page).
No.1 is the personal account. This is used solely for family, friends and occasionally friends of friends. These accounts are usually set to PRIVATE as they are pretty much just that. Private. Or as private as social media can be haha. Don't go using it as a journal or anything!! Once something is on the internet it's there for good! Always remember that… On “Private” the public cannot see the content or who they follow/who follows them etc.
No.2 is the personal/public style account. These accounts are usually set to PUBLIC and the owner is fully aware that their content can be seen by anyone who chooses to look. Images are usually still personal however… photos of friends, parties, beach outings, funny moments, sights, candid travel shots and probably/possibly some embarrassing ones from a drunk night at the local club haha. Friends, family, friends of friends and usually a few randoms follow these accounts. Because of the way Instagram used to work (yes, it used to work slightly differently) about 2-3yrs ago - the "explore page" used to be called the "popular page" and it showed content from accounts when an image exceeded the likes and/or comments of a certain formula. The “popular page” was filled with lots of the same accounts frequently and as a consequence these accounts grew and grew because they were always on that page for the whole of the Instagram world to see. (Note: every time you refreshed the popular page it would change. The formula to get on the popular page also changed quite frequently and no one knew what it was, but it was assumed it had a lot to do with the number of likes/comments in comparison to the accounts overall follower count. This is commonly referred to in the industry as "the engagement rate".)
No.3 is the public account. As the term would suggest, this account is set to PUBLIC and the content shown is often taken or created specifically for a specific media platform and audience. This often means the content is selective, strategic and "filtered" so to speak (#punintended ) to get the best response from viewers/followers. These are my favourite accounts to follow and usually have the most followers. These accounts post content that is aesthetically pleasing, creative, artistic, inspiring, motivating, empowering etc. These are the photographic images by professionals, campaign shots by models, epic sunrise/sunset photos, a picture perfect travel shot that makes you feel like you're the one standing beneath that exotic Hawaiian Waterfall or climbing mountains with views to infinity. Sometimes images are carefully constructed (ie flatlays, food pics, interior photos, arms are raised on a mountain top with back to camera and shirt off) simply for an image. And while some say that's "fake", I think it's art, shown in an online gallery. It's capturing spirit, construction, patterns, views etc that will instil happiness or awe in someone else… maybe even inspire THEM to get outdoors and climb a mountain too!! Who knows! :)
Some people say going to the gym doesn't count unless you took a selfie. As in they go to the gym to get that workout selfie to show they are working out. And while some have an issue with that, I think it's great because it means it is making that person actually get off the couch and go to the gym at all! Woohoo! "You go Glen Coco!"
Followers of these accounts generally have no personal connection to the person but find their content amusing, beautiful, inspiring, empowering, enjoyable, motivating etc.
No.4 is brands. These accounts are usually PUBLIC as companies have realised how valuable and how much of a powerful tool social media is to businesses and brands (both big and small).
These are usually just images of things that the company resonates with, or reposted images that they like and feel will drive more people to follow their account, thus more people who will see their product and name. Smart move businesses ;)
6. This isn't really a helpful hint at all but rather an interesting rumour. I definitely do not encourage this, if it is at all based in fact. I can happily and honestly say that I have never ever bought followers. But I have been told and heard rumours before that it has been, and probably still is, possible to actually "buy" likes and followers on social media. Instagram in particular. I'm not entirely sure how that works to tell you the truth. Nor am I privvy to how much it costs. But I do know that a lot of people like to assume others "bought their followers". Maybe I just like to think the best of people, but I don't think many people actually do buy their followers. One of the times people assume someone bought their followers is when they seem to have a lot of followers but not many likes or comments on photos. And while I suppose this is possible in the extreme cases, most of the time likes and comments vary drastically from account to account depending on the content.
I think "personalities" (youtubers, tv hosts, actors/actresses etc) and celebrities have a much greater engagement rate from their followers than those who simply post images because people feel a greater connection to them. Video enhances the engagement we feel with someone, yes? You feel like you know someone more from a video than you do a photo yes? So in these cases, someone with 30k followers could get the same amount of likes as someone with 200k followers… does that make sense? Depending on how well their audience thinks they know them. And of course some people follow others just to "keep an eye on them" (am I right?) perhaps because they're curiously envious or enviously curious and they don't actually want to like the photos, but they want to know what they're up to. In fact a celebrity could probably post a photo of a slice of mouldy cheese and it would probably get hundreds of thousands of likes… the interaction between humans on social media platforms can be funny like that haha .
7. Post regularly. People like consistency. This doesn't need to be five times a day (though guilty of this myself from time to time 🏼) … but it can be if you like haha! Try to post at least once every few days or so, that's great! This will help build rapport with your followers, let them get to know you a little better, and give them a sneak peek into your life (make sure it is only as much of your life as YOU are comfortable showing). Note: people love to know stuff about other people.
8. Remain authentic to your brand, values and ethos. Don't post images of things, products, brands etc that you don't fully believe in, that don't resonate with you or your brand or that you don't actually use yourself. We all know how annoying it is when someone posts image after image of sponsored "things". I don't even need to specify what kinds of products or items I’m talking about because I have no doubt you already know the kind of things I mean.
I think there is a sense of trust built between a content creator and their followers. Understand that the trust is fragile and you shouldn't tamper with it. They want to believe you are good and honest. So BE good and honest. Don't try to endorse a product unless you genuinely believe it and back it. As nice or as flattering as it is to be complimented and gifted things, it's not always the best idea both personally and professionally. E.g I used to get literally COUNTLESS enquiries from teatox companies asking me to promote their weightloss teatox products, boasting their natural ingredients made them healthy which aligned perfectly with my ethos and brand. As flattering as it was I'd always politely decline because, well because of many reasons really. Instead of these insincere collaborations, try build solid relationships with companies that you DO support (and who you would actually pay to have their product, regardless of whether or not they gave it to you), who you DO believe in, who you WOULD recommend to your friends and family and who truly do resonate with you. Note: these posts are usually referred to as "product gifting".
Companies will usually email or DM profiles upward of 10-20K suggesting the opportunity for a mutually beneficial "collaboration". This generally means that they will send you product in exchange for a post or two (of the product or you with the product) on your account. Simple enough, right? If this does happen to you, I would highly suggest being selective in the companies/brands you do choose to work with because:- 1. It needs to resonate with your own branding (ie values and ethos) 2. It can limit the potential work you could get with other brands that sell similar products. i.e one surf brand might not want to work with you if they see you have worked with their competitor. I'd recommend doing your own research and knowing the brand, the background and the products. Then having two email responses drafted. The first, if you feel it wasn't something that resonated with you, then politely declining - saying thanks but no thanks. And the second saying that you are interested to find out more and excited to try their product but that you will only post about their product if you truly love it. They should respect that :)
9. Network collaboratively. With both individuals and companies! (As I just said… obviously only collaborate with companies that are well aligned with your own account). Collaborating with other people and brands can be mutually beneficial and a great way to try something new, make friends, and expand your audience by sharing your followers with each other. Eg. message someone with a similar interests and ethos as you and see if they want to hang out, grab a coffee maybe or go for a hike together and perhaps get some pics together. The tagged photos on both accounts then act as an introduction to each other’s audience. It's kind of like cross pollination in nature :) (if followers were flowers). Other strategies can be attending an organised "instameet" with like-minded souls, or do a "SFS" (shout out for a shout out) ie you give someone a shout out by posting one of their pics and they post a pic of you - both tagging each other. It’s the social media equivalent of business and professional networking.
10. Know what to keep private. Have boundaries and stick to them. Also listen to family and friends if they suggest you might be oversharing stuff that they would like kept personal. Social media etiquette is important, so show respect for yourself and those close to you at all times. Remember people follow you because of what they originally saw on your page. Then they continued following because they are enjoying what you are regularly posting. Don't suddenly change it and expect everyone to “change focus” with you. Accept that there are always going to be aspects of your page that doesn’t always resonate with everyone. For the most part I have just kept my private life separate from my Instagram. Then I use other social media channels such as snapchat to share those more personal and social moments (within reason of course!)
11. Just remember that you will always be judged and you can never please everyone. Criticism is unfortunately inevitable and dealing with it can be quite difficult and the effect varies dramatically from person to person.
12. You are ALWAYS representing yourself /your brand. Both online AND in person. So be a reflection of your beliefs and values.
13. Practice what you preach. I feel like people are getting better and better at sniffing out "fakers". Be an example of the way you wish to live and treat others the way you would want to be treated. I sound like a mum but it's so true.
14. Be aware that people can see every thing you do online. They can see not only what you post, but also what you like, what you watch, who you follow, what you comment etc. be aware and conscious of your actions at all times. Ensuring you only use social media in the right way. This means not posting crude/crass/inappropriate photos, being kind to others, not bullying, minimising/eliminating swearing etc. also remember that the average age of social media users is getting younger and younger. You may not be able to control that but you can filter your own behaviours online. My tip would be to not post anything that you wouldn't want your parents/family seeing. Ask yourself if it is appropriate before pressing "send" or "post".
15. Let tagging be your friend. Tagging is a great way to let your followers know who or what is in a photo, but also to make brands more aware of you (then perhaps they will see the image and either repost it and tag you, or want to collaborate with you). However, I don't recommend tagging people or brands unless they are actually IN the image themselves eg. don't tag a big celebrity or a fancy car company in a selfie with absolutely zero relevance to it. Tagging can be done two ways; 1. "Traditional tagging" as I like to call it. This is where you post a picture and then tag using the "@" followed by their username in the caption. The second is called "tap tagging". This is where you can click on an image and see a direct link to someone’s profile. This is a great way to tag friends/brands and to make others aware of who they are.
16. Hashtagging. To be honest I'm not a big hashtagger myself. But they definitely have been proven to be yet another way for people to stumble across your account. Let's say you tagged a photo of a rainbow with #rainbow. Anyone who goes searching Instagram for #rainbows will then potentially find your photo. If they do this and then stumble over to your page and like what they see, then that's one extra follower already!
Alternatively, you can use hashtags for your own convenience. I use the hashtag #WrittenBySjana as a way of filing my own writings. That way whenever I want to look back and find my writings I will search that hashtag :)
17. Profile layout. This is when you go on to your profile, and see the overall archive (grid style, not feed style). Note: this is like the “first impression” someone gets of your very-own unique Instagram style! How do you wish to be perceived?
There are some accounts that have an assigned column for different things i.e first column is a quote, second column is food photography and the last column is photos of themselves. Triangl swimwear keeps their account interesting by posting one photo of a model or person in their swimwear, then one photo of a beach/tropical scene. Keeping ALL photos bright and colourful. If you are to go on their profile, you will see that this consistent variation maintains a visually appealing feed. Nothing ever looks clumped, or over done. There is variety in images, and no two images next to each other look similar. It creates a sort of harmonious visual balance.
18. Get to know your followers. When are they most active? At what times during the day do they seem to like and comment most? Where are they from? Are they in your time zone? Etc etc. This sort of information can be really helpful when trying to analyse and improve. Knowing the behaviours, locations and movements of your followers means you can then more accurately predict the best times to post to attain the best response. (This has a lot to do with time zones. If most of YOUR followers are American and you are from Australia you will find that you may need to post at ungodly hours in Australia to get the best results and interactions. Or you may not!) A great way to find out this information and more is ICONOSQUARE.com (now available by subscription only I just heard - it has been free in the past)
19. Use your bio (biography). This is the space dedicated solely to the purpose of informing. Use it. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to know something simple about someone and it not being in their bio. Let people know a bit about you/your account! Don't be shy .️
20. Have a profile pic of your head. No joke. It's apparently more personable and appealing. Which totally makes sense - people want to see who they're following!
21. Don't be afraid to engage with your audience. Talk to them, respond, ask questions. Anything that breaks down barriers and makes you seem as relatable/personable as possible!
22. Be open, raw and honest. People appreciate genuine people, they can almost always empathise with you and actually tend to really appreciate and respect when someone is unapolagetically themselves. Flaws, tears, tantrums, imperfections and all!
23. Treat Instagram like a community – NOT a competition! It’s sometimes apparent that there is some sort of unspoken “pedestal” that people with more followers are placed upon. Always keep in mind that someone’s follower count is not a score that reflects whether the person behind the page is good, kind, moral or even the person they are presenting in the images. Don’t judge someone by their follower count. Follower counts can't be compared, just because "Miss O" has a higher follower count than you does not mean she is better, superior or even a kinder person than you. Nor should a higher follower count be the foundation of jealousy and unnecessary negative competitive behaviours from or toward others. My mum used to say “Girls compete with one another. Women uplift one another”. And I couldn’t agree more – we should all be encouraging and supporting others – in general this helps to create a positive and uplifting atmosphere for ALL users (including YOU!)
24. Block tool. It's there for you to use if you want to. If someone is harassing you or limiting your Instagram experience, then you are more than entitled to make that button go red! I have had to! Anyone who is negative towards others or myself, is destructively critical, or even just writing unnecessary or crude/crass/offensive stuff, I just block them. I have no desire to have that sort of negative commentary on my Instagram. That’s not the sort of environment I want my insta to be – and it doesn’t have to be. :) Don't worry, people do not get notified when you block them… they are simply unable to search or tag you on Instagram. To them, it is as if your profile no longer exists. (NB. if you desperately feel the need to make a "constructive criticism", these are more appropriate and will always be more gratefully and graciously received if sent via email or a private messaging option on any of the platforms).
25. Interlock your links. On each social media channel you use, have links or information about your other social channels. This makes it easier for your followers to find you on other platforms as well as encouraging new followers to find you on your other channels. Have daily photos on Instagram, stories and details of your hobbies and life on Tumblr, post your quick humour on twitter, vlogs on youtube, and your large photo albums of "similar yet slightly different” photos on Facebook. This sort of networking is really important as it keeps your style/brand/image attractive on multiple sites. …not always the same content! You’re interesting, share it!
26. Utilise captions. I love a good inspirational quote or an empowering message. Some just like one word wonders and some like just to generally explain the photo. Whatever you like doing, I definitely recommend just typing SOMETHING as it adds another level to the image... makes it a little more interesting.
27. Get creative - be artsy! Instagram is a visual platform. You can play around with that as much as you like! Art doesn't always need to be on a canvas.
28. Give credit whenever possible. Technically speaking, Instagram has the rights to the content we upload to Instagram. But when it comes to reposting images, it is ALWAYS good to give credit to the photographer or the owner of the image in the first place. If you are unsure, say so. If you know the creator, tag them and say something like "pic by ..." Or "photographer: ...". It's human to be proud of our achievements, and I think it's only fair that we do recognise and celebrate the things others do! Same for the people IN the photos… if you know who they are - tag them, it's quite easy I promise!
29. Empower others. If you have the ability to impact and reach however many people, then don’t you think you should use that to help evoke positive change and kindness? You'll be amazed how much of an impact you are able to have through social media - use this power wisely!
30. Editing apps. Instagram updates itself pretty regularly, and to be honest, the recent updates actually provide a pretty good place to edit/tweak and filter your images before posting. However, if you're anything like me you will actually enjoy the artistic process of editing and enhancing images! And if this is you, you'll find a lot of great apps out there that help you do so! A few of my favourites are VSCO (great filters), camera 360 (good for enhancing images and has a fun High Definition option that I sometimes like to play with), Snapseed is great for general editing like adjusting lighting, contrast etc, a few other popular ones are "Retouch", "facetune", "frametastic" and "photoblend". For videos, I like to use an app called "Perfect Video" as it allows me to mash together different clips easily as well as put music on top! Note: take it easy on the editing apps. While it is fun to enhance images, it is possible to go a little overboard making the image actually a little less appealing (oversaturation, too much contrast, when shadows are brought out they go grainy/noisy, too much highlight, and my personal pet peeve is when skin tones are edited to look orange haha).
31. Having someone else to take photos with is always fun! One of mine, and my brother’s, favourite things to do is to go take photos together. We'll go out at sunset, go to the beach, find a cool place, hike a mountain or even travel the world together taking photos. For us, photography is a passion and using social media to share those images and moments brings us a lot of joy!
32. Sometimes there is not always someone around to take photos with. And that doesn't make taking photos unenjoyable by any means, but it does prove challenging if you want to be IN the shot. You can't be in front AND behind the camera after all... or can you? Self timer is such a clever little invention! Most cameras have a self timer function these days (pop it on a tripod and away you go!) and even iphones have an in-built timer. It's only 10 seconds long though I believe, so if you want longer timers you'll be happy to know that there are apps for that! I would recommend one called "TimerCam". That is what I use to take the majority of my yoga shots! Because contrary to belief I don't have a full time photographer who follows me around haha! And unfortunately my brother works (a LOT) so is rarely free to come take photos during the day. So TimerCam is my weapon of choice.
33. Quality. You don't need to spend big money on expensive equipment. Your phone works well enough! The size and quality of images on social media is very limited. There is no need to have professional type equipment as it will be wasted unfortunately. The pro equipment isn't really necessary unless you are going to blow up the images, print them or sell them. But if you want the fancy equipment, go for it!! Whatever floats your boat!
34. Try not to take the hater and negative comments to heart. Remember, what someone says and the way they choose to act is a direct reflection of THEM, not you.
Know the best way to deal with haters is often not responding at all. I simply block any person who is being rude, judgemental, negative, bullying or swearing, then delete their comment. That has proven by far the most effective in contributing toward a "positive-vibes-only" account and closing down the haters! Try to avoid responding at all costs. This only adds fuel to the fire. Or alternatively be KIND in response. It confuses them endlessly and in my experience it has a high success rate of getting a sincere apology and them actually admitting they were in the wrong. But be sure to proof read your reply before hitting send. You do NOT want it coming across as sarcastic or manipulative. Sincere and sweet is what to aim for. Sincere and sweet…
If you did do something wrong, perhaps you didn't tag/credit someone, posted something inappropriate or gave false information and someone picks you up on it - apologise, admit your fault and fix it.
35. Think before you post.
How may this photo/status/comment effect someone else? Is it necessary? Is it uplifting and kind? Or is it potentially degrading, embarrassing, disrespectful, rude, offensive, racist or hypocritical? Always consider the potential impact a post could have on another person or group. Adjust your actions accordingly. Then also consider your reasons for wanting to post it. Is it to simply share a memory, capture a moment, remember a place and celebrate a specific day/event? Is it inspiring, uplifting, respectful? Or are you posting that image/status simply to satisfy your ego? To reap personal gains, boast, or even to attain attention, a certain reputation or number of likes? What is your reason for wanting to post that to the world, and is that a valid reason? I'd suggest always trying the "assess, reassess, then post" method.
36. Have fun with it. Don't take anything that I say too seriously. These are again, not fail-safe tips, they are simply my opinions. Social media is YOURS to use how YOU desire. If you prefer your images slanted, zoomed, blurry and captionless then do that!! No joke! You do whatever you want - just have fun with it!! It’s not going to feel like a success if you don’t feel good about any aspect of it.