There are now officially 1 billion people actively using Instagram each month. What an unfathomable number, and a mind-blowing amount of content being created. But hey, Instagram is a numbers game, isn’t it? How many followers do you have?
A little over 3,000 people have been kind enough to follow me in the past 9 months. I admit I started my account @notaboutthekids with the intention of growing a following, not just for the love of photos and The Gram. I’ve studied, planned and spent time learning Instagram and think I am off to a fairly successful start. My account size is respectable, but modest by Instagram standards, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
I know this because I have done the maths
Assuming that I continue at my current steady rate of growth it will take me more than a year to reach the 5,000 follower mark, and in 20 months from now, I may hit the magic number of 10,000 followers and gain a Swipe Up link in my Stories. Then would I have an account of value? Or, realistically do I need to aim for 20,000 followers, or 200,000?
When I look at it like that I feel like throwing the towel in, deleting my app and going for a lie-down. Who has the energy (and time!) for that kind of slog? If numbers are the whole point, you are bound to burn out. Or find that the world has moved on before way before you blow up on Instagram.
Do we agree that this can’t be the goal? That this way madness lies? The thing is, I know that there is already worth in what I have built and the process I’ve gone through to build it. So here are my thoughts on finding the real value in any social media account.
Who not how many
One of my successes in these early days of @notaboutthekids has been in establishing a conversation. My account enjoys the social media holy grail of ‘good engagement’. I’d say on average that 50+ people comment on my content every day.
How have I achieved this? From the beginning I have tried to follow a couple of key pieces of advice. First, and still relevant every day, is a tip from Julie Falconer @aladyinlondon. She said, “spend at least half of your time on Instagram engaging with other people’s content” (read more of her thoughts here). In everything I do I try and hold on to the principle that it is not all about me.
Secondly, I try to put thought into where I go and seek connections and followers. I look at accounts that I like, and that people like me like, and this is where I tend to meet my people.
I have no complaints
Look what Instagram, or social media, has offered me. With my only resources being time, an iPhone and a wifi connection I have been able to find a creative outlet, grow an expertise and reconnect with the adult world as Helen, not mum. I have discovered events that I did not know about, and learn about people I had no idea existed. I have built friendships with those I would never have met, and formed connections that may lead to work in the future. With very little risk, apart from to my ego, I have been able to start something that I hope one day to call my own business.
But really, those opportunities began to open up very early on, when I had just a few 100 followers. And I think that’s what happens if you focus on who not how many.
Influencer marketing manager Nik Speller has some thoughts that could turn your way of looking at Instagram on its head read them here.
Loads does not mean Lols
Followers do not = happiness. The story of @ohsolovelyhelen_ has fascinated me recently. Helen has gained 49k followers on Instagram, gaining traction by being a big early user of the app. But her engagement has dwindled to the point where she can “barely scrape together 100 likes” on a post. She has announced that she is closing her old account, saying goodbye to thousands of followers and opening a new one. She wants to find out whether she can build genuine and increased engagement.
There’s also been a warning to those who buy followers and engagement on social media. Unilever, a global company with millions and millions of pounds to spend every year on influencer marketing has said that they are taking steps to stop working with anyone who’s faking it. They are calling for “urgent action” to clean up the industry and reestablish trust. Read more here.
So all I need is one great follower?
Potentially yeah, it only takes one person to open a new door to you, but I admit that I am not that Zen. Seeing your Instagram, or any social media account grow is satisfying and part of the point. It is disheartening when it is not.
So perhaps if you are having a bad day try this.
Go and look for just one really valuable new follower. A person who is going to comment on your posts, have a laugh or teach you something. Someone who might stock your product one day, or ask you to speak at their event, or offer you a new job.
I believe that it really really is better to have 100 top quality followers than 10,000 disinterested ones.
This is my advice (as much to myself as anyone else). Try and be clear about exactly why you are on Instagram. I reckon to ‘gain 100 000 followers and get free holidays’ is probably going to lead to disappointment. But that doesn’t mean there is no point showing up. It’s just that Instagram shouldn’t be THE THING. It should be supporting the thing. We should be using its power and the connections we make there to get closer to where we want to be.
It’s tough to get big on Instagram, so try and do it right, not big. Build a brilliant little community that could create huge opportunities.
Tell me what you think in the comments box below, I’d love to know.
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