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How I Grew My Instagram, Part 1!

Hi cute friends!! So this post is for the people out there who are curious on how I started to grow my following on Instagram and built up my page. Keep in mind I just recently hit 5k followers, so I am by no means an expert and am still in the beginning phases of all of this myself. BUT I love transparency, I think there needs to be more of it in this "influencer/content creator space" because we can all learn from each other. There's literally no reason for me to not share what I have learned and what has worked for me, (I don't get why people are so secretive sometimes) soooooo I really hope this is helpful.


The other week I asked you guys on IG stories what you want to know and after sifting through your responses, here are the topics people were most curious about:

Getting Started

Growing Your Page Organically

Creating Content, Shooting & Photo Edits

Brand Partnerships

Paid Collaborations


NOTE: In this blog post, I am going to cover the first 3 topics. It got a little too long so I decided to split it up. Stay tuned though, tomorrow I will be sharing everything brand partnership related including my first collab, examples of how to communicate with brands, how I monetized my Instagram with such a small following, why I have turned down paid opportunities, and more.


Let's start at the very beginning, rewind to January 2020:


Why I started, How I started, Making the Transition, & Just Going For It

I started working on my Instagram just for fun, kind of as a side passion project and creative outlet. It literally stemmed from a conversation I had with a friend when she was asking me all about my clothes, style inspirations, thrifting strategies/finds, how I never 'repeat' outfits, etc. So I was like okay yeah maybe I'll start to share more of that on my Instagram...that kinda sounds fun and who knows maybe more people than I thought are interested in this part of me. I've always loved photography and styling, so the inspiration aspect and content creation came fairly easy. I didn't put any pressure on myself and just started taking more pictures of my daily outfits. *This is important!! Don't take yourself too seriously, especially if you are just getting started. Just start shooting content and have fun with it. *


To be honest, in the beginning I was kind of nervous. You know the stupid thoughts that creep into your head like omg what are my friends going think, I've always been pretty low key on social media so how do I make the switch, blah blah blah. Long story short though I just went for it. I definitely eased into it but I purposely started to curate my content to be more intentional and style/fashion based. Very quickly my friends and family asked me about my Instagram, asking if I was "trying to be an influencer" or saying they loved the new content. You'll quickly become comfortable talking about it and sharing what you're up to, but just go for it and be confident!


Here is a screenshot of my feed before I started:

I honestly still love it and in a way it hasn't changed that much? It was just less curated and I was sharing whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted (sometimes only 1 post in a month). Lot's of my art, the frequent selfie, just normal stuff:

Here is a screenshot of my feed just as I was starting to take my IG more seriously, so the very beginning of it all:

It's mostly me and my outfits. I didn't have any sort of plan I was just taking photos and posting them. No edits either, well maybe some brightness adjusting but for the most part these are unedited.

Things to note:

1) I started tagging brands of the clothing I was wearing in hope to get more eyes on my photos and to share where my clothes are from. I know this is silly, but I wasn't confident or ready to start using hashtags. It felt a little too "thirsty" for me at the time. Maybe some of you who are just starting out will know what I mean by this/relate? My advice now though-- get over it and use the damn hashtags and tag brands you are wearing. It will help your reach and exposure right off the bat.


2) You can't stay relevant or see growth by posting once every two weeks. So come up with an idea or goal of how often you would like to post. Especially in the beginning when you are just getting the hang of things, make this reasonable! The last thing you want is to stress over Instagram because more often than not, you'll just burn yourself out and it wont be fun anymore. My goal in the beginning stage, since I wanted to actually give it a go and run with it, was to post 2-3 times a week.


3) Like I said (but super important as you get started), just start posting! You're not going to know what your aesthetic, vibe or purpose is going to be until you get it going. Now that I have grown a bit, have seen which posts of mine perform the best and have gotten feedback, I know that a lot people like my account for colorful outfits, matcha pics, animal cuteness and general fashion/beauty insights and tips. But you don't know what people will gravitate towards in the beginning so don't put yourself in a box, just share what comes natural to you and go from there.


How To Grow Your Page Organically

After the first month or so I realized that new people were following me, people I had never met before were tuning in and engaging with my posts. And it might sound dumb but that was so fun to see. It validated my efforts and was the motivation I needed to keep going, I figured I must be doing something right. So at that point I decided that beyond just sharing more content, I wanted to grow my page. So I started to spend more time trying to get new eyes on my account.


What I did:

1) Engage with other like minded creators. I'm talking like an hour and a half of engaging a day, boarder line overkill lol. Instead of watching TV at night I would sit on Instagram, find other small fashion/creator accounts and comment and like their photos. For every new account I came across, I would typically like at least 3 of their photos and try to comment on one. Obviously the theory here is that they get a notification that @josie_francis liked their photos etc, then is like oooo who is this girllll? Clicks on my account, sees my profile and then follows me. Obviously it doesn't always happen that perfectly, but it definitely drives people to your page and definitely helped kick start my growth.


Until this happened:

I engaged too much that I got banned from engaging haaaa. Maybe this has happened to you too (it's the WORST) but I had liked and commented on too many people's photos in too short of a time period that Instagram thought I was a bot and blocked me. I reported it and tried to get my powers back but I literally had to wait 7 days before I could do anything. (if you stalk me deep enough you'll see I didn't post between March 8th and March 16th because I was banned. Technically I could have posted, but I couldn't comment or like anyones posts, and a caption is apparently considered a comment.... sooooo I just took a week off IG basically) So that suuuuuper sucked and there was really nothing I could do besides wait it out. This definitely set me back when I felt like I had great momentum but I just used it as a week to stock up on content and chill.


Keep this in mind though! I am sharing this so it hopefully doesn't happen to you. Don't go on an engaging spree because you'll probably learn your lesson the hard way like I did. Obviously still engage, just at a normal speed/amount. (I was legit going through hashtags and liking hundreds of pics in a row at rapid speed oopsie).


This is what the notification looked like every time I tried to like or comment on a photo:


2) I started using hashtags

Took me long enough! Hashtags still frustrate the sh*t out of me because sometimes they perform so well and so many new accounts are reached and other times they completely flop. I don't have the secret here because the IG algorithm is always changing but my experience with hashtags is: always switch them up (don't use the same hashtags for every post), make sure you use some general hashtags and some smaller niche ones (#blogger vs #losangelesblogger) and make sure they are relevant to whatever your post is about. If you don't know which hashtags to use, find a content creator who you like and see which hashtags they use on their posts.


The first time I ever used hashtags on one of my posts was on this post:

Check out the insights, I had like 2500 followers at the time so I was like daaaayum!! They really do work lol:


3) Engagement Groups

Ok so I have mixed feelings on this but I will share my honest experience. If you're not familiar, an engagement or boost group is basically a group of like minded creators who agree to support each other by liking, commenting and saving each other's photos. It's definitely a good way to build your network and get good engagement on your posts when you first start out. I was in some of these groups for a few months before I realized a) it's a lot of work having to keep up with everyone's posts b) it's forced engagement in a way, so it started to feel inauthentic and kind of silly, c) my reach randomly dropped and I think it might be because Instagram can track them and in turn, drops your engagement because it's not true engagement when its from a specific group (this is just my hypothesis lol). Also once you know about these groups and keep an eye out, you can easily tell which content creators are in engagement groups and which aren't in my opinion. It just didn't feel authentic to me once I got going and realized what's up. But I know tons of creators who are in them and have grown because of it so just something to know about/keep in mind.


4) Share for Share

Also major mixed feelings here... I think it's a thin line...but I want to share everything that I have tried with you guys incase it helps you. A share for share or "sfs" is when people shout you out on their instagram and in return, you share them on your page, typically on IG stories. This is definitely a fun way to showcase some accounts that inspire you, and that's how I use sfs mostly. But every week I have random people DM me asking me "sfs??" and it MAKES ME SO MAD. I kind of got into this on my IG stories the other week, but I hate this approach. I have always cringed at the "follow for follow" tactic and this is the same thing. You don't follow me, I have never seen your account before, but you want me to shout you out? Yeah um nopeeee! However I occasionally share a handful of accounts that I truly love (maybe some new accounts I have recently come across or some OG creators I have followed forever). And I do think that it can be such a fun way to shout out some of your fav accounts that your followers might end up loving too. Long story short, I think this can definitely be a fun way to get your account out there and shouted out but there's a thin line of when it turns thirsty/inauthentic...at least in my opinion.


5) Turn your Personal IG Account into a Creators Account

If you're just starting out, do this ASAP if you haven't already! With a creators account, you will have access to your accounts insights like how many people followed you that week, details on your audience (top locations, gender & age) how your posts are performing relative to one another, etc. This wont get you followers necessarily but it is a really good way to understand what is going on with your account over time. This information can be super insightful so definitely spend time in the data to see what works and what doesn't work.


Creating Content, Shooting & Photo Editing

The most important part of being a content creator is.....creating content! And good content. When I was originally starting out, some weeks it was hard to post 2-3 times like I wanted to because I wasn't used to it and didn't have my groove down. But don't just post for the sake of posting! Shitty content won't get you anywhere.


Content/Shooting Schedule

A lot of you asked if I have a schedule for when I create content or when I shoot during the week. I don't know what other creators say to this question but for me personally... it is usually totally up to my mood. Some days I don't feel creative or in the mood to shoot and on these days, I just let it be. The worst thing is trying to shoot when you're not feeling it. But other days I have so much fun with it and spend a few hours shooting a few different looks. And sometimes a random impromptu mirror selfie will make its way on the feed later that day. It really just depends but overall, I don't really set a schedule for myself.


However, if I am working on something for a brand and have a deadline, then I definitely plan a head of time and prioritize things. This week for me is actually pretty heavy in terms of branded content I need to deliver. And if you're curious what that looks like, here's what's on my to-do-list for the next few days:

Shoot and deliver 6 images to Soludos -3 product shots and 3 lifestyle shots from gifted clothing/shoes

Film a "Get Ready With Me" video for a paid partnership with Ilia Beauty using their makeup

Shoot website content for Drifter Organics with gifted product

Get content in Who What Wear Collections June collection (gifted)


Staying Organized

This is hardddd. Especially when you're taking a ton of photos every week. After I shoot an outfit or a bunch of photos for something, I immediately go through the images and delete everything I don't like. I usually keep maybe the top 5-10 photos from the shoot on my phone and get rid of everything else either wise my camera roll turns into the biggest mess. You'll find what works for you but try to stay on top of it or you might lose photos in the mix.

Planning Ahead

A big part of me is super spontaneous and random but honestly when it comes to posting on Instagram (now that I am very active on it) I like to be prepared and typically plan ahead. Meaning I loooove to have some content on deck...I definitely get stressed out when I'm like shit I have nothing to post this week. I add any and all photos that I love to a certain "instagram" folder in my camera roll, so I almost always know I have backup photos to post.


Side note...just something that bugs me that I want to add in here *pet peeve alert* is that I hateee when people post photos that aren't theirs. Obviously there's a million amazing pictures on Pinterest that anyone could share as "filler pics" to make their feed pretty but I'm like.....you're a content creator so create your own...!? That's really here nor there lmao just something that annoys me.


Planning Out Your Feed

I use an app called Planoly to plan out my feed ahead of time. Howeverrr my feed rarely ever looks exactly how I planned it because I am always taking new pics, so I add stuff in all the time. I love being able to play around with what my feed will look like maybe 4 or 5 photos down the road, but I also don't live by my planning app. If I take a photo this minute that I love and want to share, I'll post it. I promise that having a "cohesive" or "pretty" feed isn't the key to IG success so don't stress over it because it is going to constantly change. But I do love planning apps, it's definitely nice to be able to rearrange your upcoming posts to see what looks best to you.


Who takes my pics?

It depends on who is around! A lot of my pics are self timer, set up on a tripod, mirror selfies, my boyfriend is so fun to shoot with, friends family etc! Sometimes I love just taking my own pictures with my tripod/remote because then I am on my own time and I don't have to bug anyone, but it's definitely a mix. I have also shot with a few photographers in LA who have wanted more content for their portfolio and wanted to shoot with me, so that's super fun as well. If you're just starting out, you'll get more and more comfortable with other people taking pics of you.


Editing my photos

I was actually surprised that so many of you were curious about this! Like I said earlier, when I was just starting out I had no idea what my aesthetic would turn out to be and I wasn't even worried about it. I was just shooting and posting, just getting content out there. I wasn't editing my photos unless they were dark, then I'd brighten it. Maybe 3 or so months in I was like okay I want everything to look a little more cohesive, so I played around on VCSO for a while to find an edit I liked. I picked a filter that I've loved for years and usually have it a at 1.5 out of 10, so you can't even really tell there is a filter on it but it definitely brings some cohesion which I like. This is my feed right now and if you compare it to the pic of my feed I shared earlier, you can definitely notice a difference.


Ok if you got this far, yay! I really hope this was helpful on how to make the transition and start growing your Instagram. If there are other things you want to know about, shoot me a DM!! I promise I'll share anything you want to know if it can help. And remember, tomorrow I will be sharing another blog post on everything brand partnerships/paid collabs :) I just felt that this post was long enough itself and there's so much juice/details on the brand stuff sooooo....see you back here tomorrow!


Xx,

Josie