Many of you probably know my instagram page, @fltr_magazine. You probably got here through a link on that page. I have a few other pages:
- @manmakecoffee: a global specialty coffee community
- @humansofcoffee: profiling people who love specialty coffee
- @coffeeshopgoals: highlighting the most beautiful specialty coffeeshops in the world
- @foodfluffer: celebrating the most beautiful food photography in the world
- @pourovergod: my personal page
Collectively those pages have more than 400,000 followers. How I managed to attract that many isn’t a secret. It’s 10 simple steps. Which everyone can do. I wanted to share those with you.
Step 1: Get married
I’m not saying single people won’t be able to gain thousands of followers. I’m saying Instagram requires real commitment. Like marriage.
To get @manmakecoffee to the first 100,000 followers, I posted three times a day. Every day. For a year. Rain or shine. Good health or bad. If I had a flight. I would draft the post on the flight and post when I land. I didn’t miss a day.
Because the algorithm loves consistency.
So realise this, when you’ve decided to grow your following, it’s time to put a ring on it.
Step 2: Have an opinion
Today, there are 1.4 billion accounts on Instagram. On any and every topic imaginable. If you want to be seen, you need to stand out from that crowd. To do that, you need to stand for something. Have an opinion. People will follow you if you’re offering an opinion, a viewpoint, a philosophy. Especially one they haven’t heard before.
Instead of creating a page about dogs. Create a page about dogs riding skateboards. And talk about how much you love dogs riding skateboards.
Have an opinion. Stand for something. And then tell the world about it.
Step 3: Get a better camera
Instagram is a visual medium. People don’t visit the platform for your writing. They’re there to see pretty pictures.
I’m not saying you need a Hasselblad. I’m saying you need to think about the photos you’re taking. Google what makes a good photo. And work on those principles.
Step 4: Pay Mark
Believe it or not, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t pay $ 1 Billion for Instagram as some kind of philanthropic exercise. Just like your coffeeshop, Instagram is a business. It’s reason for being is to make money. So, like it or not, you need to periodically pay to promote your content. Because the algorithm is making meaningful organic reach and engagement increasingly difficult to achieve.
The flipside of that gold coin though is that paid promotions are very effective. If you want 23 year old men from Fujairah who like vintage cars and gardening to see your content, an Instagram promotion will reach 23 year old men from Fujairah who like vintage cars and gardening.
Step 5: Be a good spouse
My marriage goes really well when I listen. When I really hear what my wife is saying. And we hit rough patches when I don’t.
It’s the same with Instagram. It’ll go well for you if you really listen to your followers. When something gets a lot of likes, post more of that. When something gets very little reaction, don’t post that anymore.
Get a professional account. Go to the analytics dashboard. And regularly check those numbers to see what works and what doesn’t. Then do more of what does.
Step 6: Just ask
One the key ways to grow your following is collaborations. Suggest to another instagrammer that you do a project together. A project that will appear on their page and yours.
There are a few key principles to follow when you do:
- work with someone who has a similar audience to you, or at least has an audience that would like your content
- offer value in return for the collaboration; in my experience, it almost never needs to be money
- just ask; the worst that could happen is that the person says no
When I needed writers for Portafilter (which I still do; if you’re keen, send your proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org) I reached out to Naveed. His blog, The Need for Coffee, and the blog’s instagram page, @theneedforcoffee, targets the same audience as mine. And his writing is fire. I had a bigger following than he did. So, in return for exposure on my pages, he’s written a few articles for me. And they’ve been some of the most popular on this page. Like this one reviewing the top coffee roasters in Dubai.
Because of my “just ask” policy, I’ve interviewed Michelin Star chefs, done work for global brands, like Lavazza and Microsoft, and collaborated with specialty coffee luminaries.
So, just ask.
Step 7: Be human
A while back my sister wanted to start an Instagram page about running. And wanted my advice on what to post. And my advice was simple: be human.
I’m sure she’d get a few followers if she posted a photo of the sunset she saw on one of her runs. Or about the fancy new trainers she was running in.
But she would get way more followers if she posted about her journey from being a non-runner to running her first marathon. I told her to pour her heart into her posts. Tell people how proud she felt when she ran further than the day before. Or how she didn’t feel like getting out of bed to run on a wet, winter day. Or how nervous she was when she entered to run her first marathon.
People want to follow people, not bots.
Step 8: Be conscious of time
This is a simple one: if your audience is not on instagram at the time of day you post, they won’t see your post. This is where the analytics on instagram is, again, very useful. It shows you when most of your audience is active on the platform. Post at those times.
Step 9: Talk to people
Instagram is a social network. Be social.
Talk to your followers. Ask them questions. Answer their questions. You may not see immediate results. But keep at it. You’ll see the benefit over time. Some of the best friends I have today I met on instagram. They also happen to follow my pages.
Step 10: Enjoy yourself
Everything I’ve just told you worked for me. Some bits may work for you. Some bits won’t. The key is to keep trying. Keep posting. See what your audience likes. See what they don’t like. See when they’re online. Find your rhythm. Just keep going.
But here’s perhaps the most important tip of all: enjoy yourself.
Don’t let this become another job. Something that feels like work. Something you dread doing. If you don’t enjoy yourself it’ll show up on your page. Your followers will see your displeasure in the shadows of the photos you post and between the lines of the captions you add.
And if you’re not enjoying yourself, why should your followers enjoy your page? Instagram is about escapism. Give people a place they’ll enjoy escaping to.
Did you find these tips useful? Any other topics you’d like me to address? Leave a note in the comments below.