A few months ago I wrote all about why I love Instagram. I got a mixed response to the post. Some people loved the positive outlook. Other people sent me messages that they still struggle with the "dark side" of social media... the jealousy, comparison, and all around fake-ness. It's easy to place your worth on the number of followers you have and the likes you receive. I get it.
About a week ago, I must have misplaced my rose tinted glasses, because I started feeling anxious when it came time to post. To avoid this, I simply didn't post. Days went by.
I'll backtrack a little... I had recently received several rejections when it came to collaborating with brands. Their reason being that my engagement isn't high enough. If you don't speak Instagram, that means that the percentage of likes I receive to number of followers I have isn't huh enough. So I started doing some research, looking into following/engagement rates, and things got real quick.
First of all, my engagement rate is FINE. In fact, its smack dab in the middle of the average range, and for a girl that suffered through years of advanced statistics, I'll tell you that the average range is a GOOD place to be.
But I started learning more and more about what is going on and what is throwing off expectations.
So you probably know by now that people can buy likes and followers. They basically pay a fee and get 500 new followers or 1000 likes on a post. These are not real people, btw, and are known as bots. If you've ever looked at someone's likes or followers and seen all sorts of weird accounts then those are likely bots.
Could I pay for a higher engagement rate? Sort of. If I just started buying likes that may give me a higher number. But it's so fake and so criminal in my opinion to try to dupe brands into working with you based on fake numbers. Plus, as I said before, my rate is average. Average is good.
But what all of this ultimately led me to is a free online tool called Social Blade. Basically, you input the person's username, and then a screen pops up that shows you the number of followers lost and gained per day. Seeing jumps in people's following of several thousand (especially when they've been losing followers daily) is a sure sign that they purchased followers. They may claim that they were featured on a huge account that day, but I'm calling them out on that lie right now. I was featured by Urban Outfitters once, and gained maybe 500 followers that day. You don't gain thousands in one day naturally. Period.
The reason I'm sharing all of this is because like I said above, I was starting to feel down by all the rejection and comparing myself to these other accounts. What were they doing right that I wasn't? It is hard not to get sucked into it from time to time. But this realization has led me back to why I truly love social media. I love connecting and sharing. I love that I have a FREE platform where I can share my art and my thoughts on life. I've met friends. Grown a community. It's been a blessing, truly. I'll continue to share there, and focus on the positive. The positive certainly outweighs the negative.
And if a brand doesn't value me, my work ethic, my lifestyle, and my art, then I DO NOT want to work with them either. I refuse to place my value on these sort of things.
I also have to remind myself that how other people choose to run their accounts is okay whether I agree with them or not. I won't be the Instagram police. Focusing on other people's actions takes away from my peace. I will always come back to my life, my choices, and my behaviors. This applies to the real world and social media. I trust that other people can feel what's real and whats not, too.
There's a tribe of really good accounts and people out there. I hope to continue to befriend them. Maybe I should put a list together of my favorite accounts? Would you want to see it?
So how do you grow your following? I get asked this one a lot. My account grows the most when I do the following:
- Post really good photos with meaningful captions. If you're not a photographer, then just know that straight horizon lines, no over-satturated color, and sharp in focus subjects go a long way!
- Comment + like other people's photos. It's supposed to be social and not one sided.
- Find people who are following similar accounts to yours and connect with them.
- Don't be afraid to follow people! I used to be stingy about this. But following people is the best way to say hello.
- Tag people in your photos. Want to get shared by a big account? You have to tag them so they know you exist!
Most of all, don't sweat any of this. It's just social media. Put the phone down, get outside, and don't scroll while you are connecting with others. Looking back on your life, you'll never think "I wish I spent more time on my phone." Promise.
P.S. I'd LOVE to hear your thoughts on all of this.
P.S.S. Want me to write more about Instagram? Let me know and I'll share more!