I stopped “trying” to gain Instagram followers

I stopped "trying" to gain Instagram followers, and guess what? My account grew. That tagline sounds ridiculous - i know - it seems like everyday we're bombarded with a new blog post on the do's and don'ts of growing an instagram following: "Do post up to 30 hashtags" "DON'T post 30 hashtags are you crazy?", "You've got to spend an hour a day commenting on people's posts to even think about growing your account" you know the drill, i could go on forever with the tips and "hacks" i've read over the years.

I want to touch on the word "trying" for a minute and why i keep putting it in inverted commas. The thing is i've never actually been someone who went at the Instagram thing aggressively; even though i read the posts on how to grow a following and put a few methods into place, i was never one to take on the advice and go hard at it, commenting like i was going 50 miles a minute or even finding new accounts to follow. I have never been the extreme example (i'm far too lazy for that) however like most people there were two months or so where i was in a comment pod, (i left in August 2017 but we'll get to that) and i do see people on a daily basis who are the extreme example (commenting, liking, hash tagging, all of that). So whether like me you were, or are still in a comment pod, or you're going a bit crazy with instagram at the minute, commenting on everything you see and desperately wondering why you're not gaining followers .. this post is for you, whether you belong to either group.

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I feel like i have a lot to cover in this post so bare with me, half of it is explaining how i care about Instagram without caring, trust me we'll get there in the end.

Let's rewind back to say June/July time when i joined a comment pod. Like i said i've never been one to do the Instagram thing aggressively so i didn't really want to join one, but i felt like i had to because everyone seemed to be in them and in a way i felt like i was missing out. So i joined a pod and that was that. I left comments on their posts and they left them on mine - it was nice knowing that people would always have something nice to say, and if i had a post that didn't do as well as others i had people there to comment, and in my mind boost the post a bit. The people in the pod we're lovely, it was a small group, we often had conversations about blogging, gave advice and i still talk to a lot of the people from the pod to this day, don't get me wrong on that side of things. But my initial thoughts about pods were always in the back of my mind, the fact i've never been one to take any measures to grow my instagram was always there and i just got bored - not of Instagram, but of the constant feeling like i had to be growing or catching up.

I'm a good judge of my own thoughts and i knew i was becoming reliant on their comments - it was almost as if i got lazy with what i was creating because i knew their comments were going to be there to prop me up. Although i've always been lazy when it came to "trying" to gain followers, i've never once been lazy when it came to creating what i was posting. So i left the pod, i needed to take the step to go it alone like i used to, i wanted to focus my efforts back onto what i was creating rather than my follower count. I was scared that i would post my first post out of the pod and it'd get no comments, it meant i realised i needed to put the effort in to get the comments, so i did and the comments came in.

This time though when people commented i knew they weren't doing it because i had just commented on their latest picture, it was because they wanted to. They spent a few moments out of their day leaving me a comment purely because they liked what i was putting out there, and even if they had just commented that they liked my shoes it was 10x more rewarding than a comment from a comment pod.

Even though the comments from the people in my previous comment pod we're genuine, they were ultimately leaving you a comment because you had just commented on theirs. (Don't get me wrong i know the pod i was in like many others, was only filled with people posts who i would've been commenting on anyway) I can't quite explain it, but having just left the pod i felt like i was standing alone. Before being in the pod i was assured in my own content - people we're always nice and i never had a problem with comments, but now i had left the pod for some reason i thought my account would die. However i knew i needed to take back control, take a step back and essentially go cold turkey and have faith in my own content.

It was the best decision i ever made in terms of growing my Instagram account.

If you're a bit lost, let's recap: I never liked the idea of a comment pod, my account was growing on it's own and it was down to the content i was putting out there, i did a poll on twitter, saw how many people loved comment pods and immediately thought "oh my god, i'm being left behind". I joined one, made some friends but ultimately knew it wasn't for me, so i left. (We're still in August 2017 at this point if you're wondering). 

I want to point out that if you're in comment pods and you love it that is completely fine. I don't like them, and that's just me - i'm always worried about writing posts like this but i really don't think i'm saying anything extraordinary, just what i've found. 

So, how do i both simultaneously care about Instagram and not care about Instagram?

The thing is i don't care about gaining followers in the sense that i don't go out of my way to gain them: i don't spent an hour out of my day devoted to commenting, i barely use hashtags on my posts and i never actively seek out accounts to follow just so they follow me back. This all seems hugely counter productive, but stick with me.

However on the other side of things, i really care about Instagram: I get up at 6 am some days to meet other bloggers to take photos purely for the gram, i spend hours editing photos and organising how they'll fit into my grid, and if i'm 5 or 10 followers away from my next hundred, of course i'll put out a tweet promoting my account. The point is i care about the content i'm creating, and with that i gain followers.. but i'm not doing it to gain followers.

I completely understand how important gaining followers is to bloggers, and obviously i'm excited every time i hit my next hundred or thousand, but the difference is it's a surprise every time i do. Every time i notice how close i am to my next hundred it comes as a shock because i'm not constantly watching my follower count, yes i have a vague idea but it's not the reason behind why i'm posting on Instagram.. and i believe that's why my account is on an upward trend.

"I love what i'm creating, but i'm not gaining followers?"

If your question is similar to the above, i have a couple of things to say. The number one thing being: Give it time. Yes my account is on an upward trend, but i also have days where instead of gaining 20 followers, i lose 15. It's a fact of Instagram and really there's no such thing as an overnight success. Without wanting to sound like i'm blowing my own trumpet (toot toot), i've always come from a position of creating what i love because i love it, not because i'm trying to gain anything from it, and that's a huge factor in why i think i am growing (even be it slow growth).

If you've started your blog or instagram account purely with the aim to get 10k followers and turn this into a money making scheme, you've got a big storm coming (picture that gif) and it won't last long. I hate being blunt or "mean" but it's a fact.

There is one thing i do to make sure my posts get ultimate exposure, which i also think helps my follower number rise (not entirely sure, but i think it helps). Posting at peak time, and trying to do it everyday. That is the only thing i actually stick to alongside putting in the effort to make sure what i put out there has some effort behind it. I'd say i post 6 out of the 7 days a week; yeah i do skip a day every few days because sometimes i'm too busy in the bath, generally living my life - or like yesterday when i was preoccupied playing with wands at the Harry Potter studio tour. It's not always possible is my point.

Sometimes life gets in the way, i'm not a machine and my instagram growth isn't part of a calculated plan, but trying to remember to post at around 6:15 ish most days works for me. It's also worth noting that you'll have to work out yourself when your followers are active, i say 6:15 because i've worked that out, yours might be 7 am or 9pm so play around with it! I also promote my Instagram in a tweet everyday, i don't always remember to do it but i think it's one of the most genuine ways to give people a preview of what your grid looks like, and they make up their mind as to whether they want to follow you or not. 

If you're stuck in a rut, with your instagram account not growing and you find yourself insanely googling the new tactics to "break the algorithm" at 3am every day, take a step back. Put real effort into what you're creating and above all remember why you started.

When i left my comment pod in August i was on around 6,000 followers, i'm now just over 100 away from 9,000 - i'm well aware my account is tiny in the grand scheme of things but i've reached my current number without dodgy tactics, bots or crazy follow sprees and i'm pretty damn proud of it.

If you take anything from this post i hope it's to put less of a focus on the numbers, and more on the enjoyment.

Oh, and while you're here.. are you following me on Instagram? The cheek of it.

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54 Comments

  1. January 20, 2018 / 4:11 pm

    I was so excited for this post and it has really opened my eyes! You are SO right! I lcompletely lost touch of doing what i love (creating content) because of how crap the statistics were. Maybe i just need to continue with my account and just let it naturally grow, i know it won’t be an overnight success but hard work pays off right? who knows where i’ll be in a years time if i put in the effort! Great post Maria!

    connxvi | connxvi.com

    • Maria
      January 20, 2018 / 5:38 pm

      I’m so glad! It should be about creating the content rather than the statistics, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in them but once you start to take your focus away from them it’s so much better! 100% better to just let it go, there’s no rush! x

  2. January 20, 2018 / 4:47 pm

    Great post! I left all comment pods but got back into them because I didn’t get many comments and I thought they were important… but I’m thinking of leaving them after reading this xx

    louiselovesbeauty.com

  3. January 20, 2018 / 5:06 pm

    Love love love it!!! I use to be in 6 comment pods (insert instant headache) and as much as the girls were lovely. I was getting stressed feeling like this is now becoming chore than me actually genuinely liking someone’s comment. I have to thank the world of social media spreading the rumour of how instagram was punishing people in comment pods, as it gave me the much needed push to leave all PODS. It’s been a couple months now and I’m enjoying posting, liking and commenting when I want too. Yes I would love for loads of people to see my content but it’s not the be all end all. Plus there’s something more satisfying seeing a comment from someone who hasn’t felt obliged too and genuinely just wanted to leave a message!

    Once again great post Maria!!!!!

    Laura xx

    • Maria
      January 20, 2018 / 5:42 pm

      oh my god, 6! I can FEEL the headache! Instagram is just so much more fun and rewarding when you know the comments are coming from people who want to comment and i think if we give it long enough numbers rise on their own! x

  4. Stacey
    January 20, 2018 / 5:22 pm

    I used to have really good engagement and growth when I didn’t care or worry. I joined a pod a while ago and whilst I’ve met the loveliest people. It just never worked for me. I got so lazy and felt like I no longer enjoyed Instagram. I’m slowly getting back into actually enjoying Instagram and haven’t been in a pod for a very long time and my followers have dropped loads but that’s mainly because I haven’t be consistent

    Stacey xx

    • Maria
      January 20, 2018 / 5:45 pm

      Exactly the same as me! When you start focusing on growing your numbers the fun is completely taken out of it. Consistency is key though, once you get back into it you’ll be flying! x

  5. January 20, 2018 / 7:14 pm

    This is a fantastic post! I used to be so worried about gaining followers that it used to be unhealthy, but like you, I stopped worrying about it so much and now my account is growing quite successfully… with it being less than 5000 away from 40k. Insane!
    Unfortunately, a lot of people I follow are so obsessed with followers now-a-days that all they do is shoutouts, ALL DAY EVERY DAY. I 100% agree with you that it is more about the content you post, there’s no point creating an Instagram account if all you’re interested in is gaining followers and not putting the work in.
    I hope those type of people see this post, because it might really help them put their minds into the right perspective!

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 4:54 pm

      Thank you so much, your account is such a success so thank you so much for reading! It’s so nice to hear there are people like you who have a large following have gained it genuinely and are doing it for the love of it! x

  6. January 20, 2018 / 7:23 pm

    A lot of people get so hung up on follower numbers. The alogrithms do NOT work that way (there’s a recent post on my blog on EXACTLY how they do), and my day job is in advertising and we would much rather engagement than dead followers when reaching out to someone. Totally agree with you in respect of just keepig doing what you are doing and trying not to stress about it.

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 4:57 pm

      I’ll definitely go and read that post! Yeah engagement is so much more important to me and i think just like when you create better content not only do your followers rise but people are much more likely to engage too! x

  7. January 20, 2018 / 7:24 pm

    I was one of those who told you to go for this post because I would be interested but also I wasn’t. I get your “yes and no” on Instagram. I mean I never really did much on pods or hash tagged a lot of my posts purely because let’s be real, that’s a lot of effort. But I love the content I post. And I notice those I really love really do come forward with likes! So I couldn’t agree more with you (even though I’m a few away from 1K)

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:00 pm

      Loving the content you post is the main thing 100% and yeah like you said the engagement comes when you love it! x

  8. January 20, 2018 / 7:43 pm

    I loved this post! I’m on this thing were I gain 20 followers but lose 20 at the same time! It can be quite frustrating sometimes, other days I don’t really care tho.

    I also think you should do a post on how you edit your picture, I would loveeee to see that!! They are so pretty! x

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:01 pm

      Yeah that’s such an annoying factor of instagram at the minute, but i think if you can get it to the point where you’re adding 1-5 followers away to counteract the unfollowers it’s such a step forward! I’ve just switched up my editing style so i might just do that! x

  9. January 20, 2018 / 8:06 pm

    I’ve used Twitter & Instagram for years but now I’ve been blogging for 3 months I definitely see the value in thinking about the grid aesthetic & I make much more effort with photos now! I think genuinely being yourself makes Twitter & Instagram a much more fun & interesting place so I struggle to understand those who like for like or follow for follow just to reach a random number. I’ve never even heard of a comment pod!
    Thank you for highlighting the importance of remembering it’s not about the numbers &/or followers! xx

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:04 pm

      Oh yeah they’re such a huge part of blogging, i didn’t realise when i started either! and i completely agree, being yourself makes you so much more almost approachable in an internet sense haha! Thank you for reading x

  10. January 20, 2018 / 8:22 pm

    Such a good post, I saw people quoting it all over twitter so I had to come and have a read. I’ve given up with Instagram, if I gain followers – great, if I don’t – no love lost. Granted I do need to start posting so much more often though – I need to find me a fellow blogger to take photos with, I get home from work and I really can’t be bothered to glam myself or anything up to take photos of myself. anyway, great post, it’s nice to know that there are other bloggers out there who don’t just want to grow their instagram so much that they think of nothing else.

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:06 pm

      ahaha i’m so thankful for twitter! Yeah i think when it comes down to it you have to remember the enjoyment factor should be key, and if you’ve lost that there isn’t much point! Twitter is a great way to find other bloggers in your area, you might be able to meet up for coffee and do a few photos on a day off – that’s exactly how i’ve found all of my closest blogging friends! x

  11. January 20, 2018 / 9:24 pm

    This is a lovely post, and it really inspired me to take my Instagram to the next level content-wise, without doing any of the hour-long ”tricks” that I read (and you mentioned) in like a hundred different articles. If the followers come, they come. And if they don’t, at least I’ll be 100% proud of what I’m putting out there. Thank you, Maria.

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:07 pm

      Ah this is so lovely to hear! Good luck with it, you’ll definitely see improvement once you start focusing purely on the content rather than just the numbers! x

  12. January 20, 2018 / 11:18 pm

    Omg instagram can feel like such a minefield in the blogger world. This post is awesome, love what you’re doing x

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:09 pm

      It really can but once you start focusing on yourself the whole perspective changes! Thank you so so much for reading x

  13. January 20, 2018 / 11:20 pm

    Oh, I really needed to read this! I really like the content I’m creating but sometimes I am just too conscious about what might people think or what if I don’t get as many comments like my last picture.. but then I remember that is my instagram and its my way to show who I am. So thank you for the encourage, you’re truly a role model in this haha.

    http://www.blossomikebana.com

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:10 pm

      omg what a lovely comment! Exactly, also i find the things i’m most worried about posting do the best because people like to see people being themselves and showing their opinions! That is so kind, thank you for reading x

  14. January 21, 2018 / 12:26 am

    I love the storytelling of this post. I feel like I was right next to you as you were telling me this story face to face instead of reading this on a computer. I go through phases where I care about instagram or not. Sometimes I get so excited that I gained 100 followers in two weeks, that I kinda expect these numbers to keep steadily rising. It really upsets me when I go back down in followers 10-15. You’re so right. I kinda just need to post what I love, and make sure it looks good. I don’t need to post, and like, and get so caught up in the “game”. Great post Maria xxx

    Melina | http://www.ivefoundwaldo.com

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:13 pm

      Ah that makes me so happy thank you!! That’s the best mindset to be in, when you gain the followers see it as an achievement but don’t get too down if you lose some! And when you’re posting what you love it’s a much more enjoyable experience!x

  15. January 21, 2018 / 7:48 am

    Such a good post Maria, it’s definitely made me have a think about pods and whether they are actually good for content!

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:15 pm

      Thank you so much Jodie! Yeah at the time i knew i didn’t feel right about them, but i went ahead and joined but to be honest i’m glad i did because i gained this whole learning experience from it! I feel like i’m better going it alone and seeing what content receives genuine engagement, it also helps me see what type of posts people like best, but everyone is different some people love the pods! x

    • Maria
      January 21, 2018 / 5:16 pm

      Doing it for you is the best thing and honestly stick at it, they’ll start coming eventually once you get into your stride and improve too! x

    • Maria
      January 24, 2018 / 4:26 pm

      I’m so glad, thank you for reading! x

  16. January 21, 2018 / 8:38 pm

    It was so interesting to hear your views Maria! I stopped posting on Instagram ages ago, although I never really got into it properly. I don’t know why, but I’ve never managed to grow to love the platform. I may have to start posting on there again at some point x

    Jenny | LuxeStyle

    • Maria
      January 24, 2018 / 4:28 pm

      I’d definitely give it another go, especially if you enjoy creating images! Also it’s probably one of the most useful platforms for your blog too! x

  17. January 22, 2018 / 12:36 pm

    I left my pods too! It all got a bit much and too greedy and you’re right I became to depend on the comments and likes and my content suffered! Now I stuck to my regime as much as possible and my Insta is sort of growing naturally with much more growth than when I was in the pods! Insta is messing with us so much but I hope they sort it out soon!

    • Maria
      January 24, 2018 / 4:29 pm

      Exactly! It’s so natural to become reliant, i think it’s so much better to go it alone and see how you can take it from there! x

  18. January 22, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    This is a great post! I absolutely love your honesty and you’ve put your point across soo well. I stopped caring about gaining followers and started enjoying taking pictures more and ensuring that they were to the best of my ability, and I’ve now hit over 3,000 followers which I’m soo happy about. I was stuck at 2.8k for over a year and then all of a sudden I gained 300 in less than a month.. So it goes to show that if you put the effort into your pictures then it pays off. I am a part a comment pod and I love all the girls involved and I feel as if it’s helped with my growth too, but I totally understand that it’s not for everyone xo

    Char | http://www.charslittleblog.co.uk

    • Maria
      January 24, 2018 / 4:30 pm

      300 in a month is amazing! It just shows how different an experience instagram can be when you focus on the content! x

    • Maria
      January 24, 2018 / 4:31 pm

      No problem! Stick at it, really focus on what you’re creating rather than the numbers x

  19. January 24, 2018 / 4:58 pm

    I always felt like I was missing out a bit by not being in a pod but in a way I am glad I avoided it in the end! 🙂 You’re so right about just enjoying what you post on instagram – I think when you stress about followers and likes it takes the enjoyment out completely and then what’s the point in doing something you don’t enjoy ay! My instagram is hopeless, I have no engagement whatsoever aha but I don’t mind – it’s just fun to post pictures I love instead! Such a lovely well written post as always and so insightful!

    Ps I LOVE your new blog layout! xxx

    Tash | natashatodd.co.uk

    • Maria
      February 2, 2018 / 2:01 pm

      You’re not missing anything in my experience! Keep working on it, be consistent, that’s the only way to build it up! and thank you, i’m so happy with it now! x

  20. January 27, 2018 / 3:32 pm

    Excellent post Maria! I feel exactly the same as you, I care but don’t care about the numbers and I agree you need to love what you post rather than do it for the sake of it! Obviously your account is about a zillion times bigger than mine (as I’ve never really bothered that much) and I think you’ve got some really great points here!

    Daughter of An Air Hostess // Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle

    • Maria
      February 2, 2018 / 2:07 pm

      Thank you so much! It’s really the best mindset to be in and you’ll definitely see your account grow if you stick to it! x

  21. January 27, 2018 / 8:47 pm

    This is honestly very true. I was trying to much and when I looked at my account I didn’t feel like it was reflecting me. The last three days I have posted one photo a day. All of them not recent but from previous trips that I never shared. I love those photos, I think they reflect who I am and what I love and I also noticed that people are actually following me for the content I put up and not expecting a “follow for follow”.
    In three days I grew by 29 followers. I am on 529 . It is still a small number but I like to think that it is big enough for three days where I completely changed my approach to Instagram.
    I post what I love, I use the correct hashtags and I always reply when people comment. And I am loving it.

    Loved reading this post and completely agree with your point of view.

    Blog | The Lisa’s World Instagram Twitter

  22. January 29, 2018 / 9:18 am

    This is such a helpful post! I find Instagram and it’s new algorithm so annoying and disheartening. I had another Instagram account in the past and stopped working on that created another on as it didn’t feel like me and I felt like I lost part of my identity to it. Last year I’ve created separate Instagram account to get that creativity back again and to really show what I am about and what I enjoy. Since I’ve done that I’ve noticed growth and related on that to grow. I totally forgot about all the stuff you’ve mentioned in your post. I’ve relayed on the quality of my photos and captions but now it’s not enough. And I guess we as creators need to work harder to grow and beat the algorithm. Sometimes I do forget about the “human” aspect of it. Thank you for this post. I has definitely opened my eyes.
    Kinga xx
    http://rockthisrunway.com/

    • Maria
      February 2, 2018 / 2:14 pm

      aw i’m so glad it’s been insightful for you, i think it’s easy to forget the root of things and get lost in follower numbers but i think everyone needs to think back to how instagram started and it’s simply down to creating and sharing images! x

    • Maria
      February 5, 2018 / 3:00 pm

      Exactly, i’ve really re-found my love for the app now and i’m really enjoying posting what i put effort into creating! x

  23. February 5, 2018 / 4:22 pm

    Great post! It really comes down to the genuine engagement, whether that be instagram comments or amount of followers. What good is 1,000 swayed followers when you could have 500 genuinely interested people enjoying your content.
    I recently left 2 pods I was in. We were all following each other anyway and more or less in the same geek lifestyle blog niche so chances are I was seeing and enjoying their posts anyway.
    I’ve also stopped with the 30 irrelevant hashtags and started narrowing down to tags specific for that post. So my recent IG pic is a sneak peek of the colour we are painting the spare room. Old me would have stuck all of my geek hashtags on it that I have saved in my phone’s notes.

    Might I have gotten more likes if I had used all of the tags? Maybe but someone who is hoping to see a pic of Star Wars or Harry Potter stuff might not be happy seeing a tub of bright paint in the middle of that hashtag feed. I’m going on a bit of a ramble here but using instagram how it’s intended to be used is definitely working for me.

  24. February 12, 2018 / 10:38 pm

    Great read! I have the same feeling about comment pods. Although everyone is nice and may leave genuine comments, ultimately it’s the idea of reciprocity (comment for comment) that makes it feel slightly inauthentic. It is difficult to know if they really even like your content. I agree it’s way more rewarding to be able to tell who actually genuinely likes your content.

    ephemeralfox.com

  25. Emma
    February 18, 2018 / 10:46 pm

    Was nice to read this knowing you were talking about me and my pod! Hehe. Unfortunately it’s fallen apart now so the pod is no longer, but yes have defo made some good friends from it too. Including you! Even though we only talk occasionally 🙂 hope you’re well and great post Maria! Instagram can all get a bit much and obsessive sometimes! I wish it wasn’t all so fake/set up but that’s just the way it’s become which sucks. But there are some real people out there, like yourself x

  26. February 19, 2018 / 12:01 am

    I love this post, everything you’ve said is so true and it’s so easy to get caught up in it all. Your posts are always absolutely spot on!

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