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.
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.