How to Build a Following Organically on Instagram
We hear from talented graphic designer Liam Foster about how he grew his Instagram following organically, and what tips he gives to other creatives wishing to do the same.
Instagram has been my main social media channel for a long time now. I’m active on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and even Google+, but I’ve always taken preference to the visually focused Instagram.
I’ve managed to build up a following of over 15,000 people, which still amazes me when I look back at the numbers. It has allowed me to broadcast my work to a wide audience and interact with others in the design industry, helping me make connections and gain clients.
There are certain industries that Instagram lends itself to, and design is certainly one of those. With our work being so visual, we can easily share parts of our working day to show process, concepts, inspiration, final outcomes and more, so we should definitely take advantage of that.
However, these steps don’t only apply to designers, photographers, animators and other creatives; anyone from small startups and business owners to personal bloggers can gain followers and build an audience with a specific subject matter and a bit of commitment!
1. Post consistently
Whether you set a schedule to post on specific days at certain times, or just tell yourself you’re going to post at least a few times a week, ensuring you post fresh content to your Instagram page is hugely important.
Think about it from the reverse point of view; would you follow an account that might post once a month? Or would you rather follow a similar account that posts new content everyday? We’ve all heard the saying before, but it’s true - “content is king”, so create fresh posts and show them to the world consistently, and soon enough your followers will come to expect it.
2. Engage with others
Interacting with similar accounts and potential clients is a great way to get noticed and build brand awareness. When I first started my account, I would follow similar graphic design pages and like and comment on their posts, then tag their account when I posted my own content. Simply giving them a notification means your page is more likely to be viewed, and with interesting, fresh content on your page, users are more inclined to return and/or follow, or even repost your work.
3. Create 'sticky' content
Sticky content is simply content that is memorable and shareable. Having sticky content on your Instagram feed (and website/other social media platforms, for that matter) helps to keep your audience engaged and keeps them coming back.
Users only spend a matter of seconds on your page before deciding whether or not your content is worth looking at, so catching the attention of your audience is key.
Be creative, ask different questions, encourage user engagement, tell a story. There are a number of ways to create sticky content, but doing so consistently will help your following increase in leaps and bounds.
4. Follow large accounts
Find the pages with the largest following in your industry and follow a variety of them. With any luck, they should be very easy to find with a couple of keyword and hashtag searches. Instagram also displays a 'most popular’ section at the top of search results, so the biggest accounts will most likely appear first.
Following these accounts gives you the chance to see how they work; how often to they post? What topics do they post about? Which hashtags do they use? Which accounts do they tag? Understanding how these accounts became so successful means you can apply the same techniques to your own page and begin growing your following.
For logo design and brand identity, there's a huge range of pages that operate by simply posting other designers work as inspiration. Getting these kind of accounts to notice you and your work can help your following massively; if your work is reposted by a page with hundreds of thousands of followers, your followers will increase substantially over a very short period of time. They’ll also be followers who are relevant to your work and the content you post, as they've found you by following another account in your line of work.
5. Encourage interaction
Ask questions and post content that encourages people to get involved in your work and have an input themselves. Ask for feedback from fellow designers on your work-in-progress, or show various options and ask people to vote on their favourite. With any luck, you’ll receive comments and opinions on how improvements and tweaks could be made to your work.
Interacting with people who follow your work can not only provide valuable feedback from others in your industry, it also increases your brand awareness and reminds people about your work and what you do. And by all means, interact with pages you follow, too.
6. Use relevant hashtags
Whenever I post on Instagram, I create a tagline explaining what the post is all about, and then immediately after I paste in a number of different hashtags into a comment. By doing this, it keeps the title nice and clean and still reads easily, without a ‘#’ symbol interrupting you every other word and clogging up the post.
I created a note on my phone with the hashtags written out and ready to go, so I don't have to type them individually after every post I make on Instagram. I then add a couple extra depending on the subject of the post, therefore giving it more chance of being discovered by the relevant target audience.
By using hashtags that are both relevant to other designers as well as potential clients in specific fields, you can gain the attention of the exact audience you’re looking for. It’s also worth browsing these tags every now and then yourself; engage with the content of other designers you discover. I've pasted below some of the hashtags I used for a logo post, tagging specific topics and pages that the content is relevant to.
#LogoDesign#GraphicDesign#LogoInspiration#Logomark #Logolounge#Logoinspire#DesignInspiration#Logotype #Logoinspirations#Logos#Logodesigner#Creative#Margate #Kent#TheDesignTip#CorporateIdentity#LearnLogoDesign #BrandIdentity#LogoProcess#LogoNew#Behance#Dribbble @firstname.lastname@example.org@logoplace@downwithdesign
And last but not least, stay committed! You’re unlikely to gain thousands of followers within your first few days, it takes time and effort to build a following on any social media platform. As long as you keep plugging away with fresh content, your page will organically grow over time, and eventually, using Instagram for your business will become a habit.
Huge thanks to graphic designer and brother Liam Foster for use of his article. Check out his design and logo work here.