Followers on social media. We’re obsessed with them, because if you have lots it means your business is a success and you will make more sales.
Well, kind of. But I’ll get to that.
It does so happen that one of the most common questions I get asked when working with my clients is ‘how do I get more likes and fans on social media?’ To which my answer is almost always ‘with a lot of hard work’.
I know, I’m sorry. There’s no other real magic way to grow those numbers (other than buying them – a big no no). Yes, occasionally some businesses get a lucky break when a bigger brand or influencer shares their content, sending a heap of new followers their way. But even once this happens, you have to keep them engaged with content that meets their needs! Otherwise it is just as easy to click ‘unfollow’.
How to become ‘Insta-famous’, with an expert.
I’m certainly not Insta-famous (I have around 1300 followers) and I’ve also never really cracked on the code on how to grow those numbers exponentially. So I decided to chat to someone who did have the ‘know-how’ – Lucas O’Keefe who grew his account by over 150 thousand followers in just one year!
But, before we start talking about how to get more followers – I need to go back to that point at the beginning. Numbers don’t always mean more sales or more success. There is no particular figure that means ‘yay, I’ve made it!’ My first lead that led to a client was around the 200 follower mark.
What is key is engagement. Some accounts have thousands of ‘followers’, but then little-to-no comments or likes on their posts. So what Lucas has managed to do so effectively as he has grown is provide consistently great content which teaches, educates and entertains his followers, all while he interacts with them.
And the other thing Lucas did at the beginning was invest all of his energy into one social media platform – Instagram. Originally thinking he had to be everywhere and anywhere, it was actually the opposite, leveraging one social space and becoming well known on there first. Then, once you have momentum, you can scale it to other platforms. Lucas has actually had people requesting him on other social media, and he has moved some of his strategies across to Linkedin and is considering YouTube.
The time and energy required to grow a following
I’m the first to put my hand up and admit I can get anxious when I see other marketers with huge followings on Instagram. I compare myself to them and fall into a bit of a ‘marketing overwhelm trap’ where I wonder if I am doing enough? Should I be doing more? So one of the first questions I had for Lucas was actually how much time it took him to grow his account.
Initially, when he started out at the first peak of Covid-19 in March 2020, he was spending around four to five hours a day. Admitting he had a lot more free time then, while teaching online, he was able to leverage the opportunity to work hard to grow his base following. Then he actually took a leave of absence for a few months, so he could really concentrate on taking it to the next step. Today, he spends about an hour a day on content creation and another hour on engaging with people, replying to direct messages and connecting with other accounts.
And I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard this. It helped me find peace with my levels of social media growth, because I just don’t have this kind of time to invest in it. But, even if we don’t have hours everyday to dedicate to growing our Instagram followers, there are still plenty of strategies we can take away from what Lucas has done, ones that can be scaled down to a more limited (but consistent) approach.
8 tips for Instagram growth
I love that the techniques Lucas used to build his personal brand, and now a business brand, can be easily adapted for any business. They are also transferable to other platforms like Linkedin and Facebook. And I have even tested some of his tips on my own ‘little’ account, and they are working beyond my expectations – which is very exciting.
- Stay in your own lane
This is all about establishing a foundation for your account. But can also be one of the hardest to stick to. I myself have found it difficult to keep a niche when it comes to the topics I talk about – even though on a daily basis I am telling my clients to do the same!
But it is so important to ‘narrow your arrow’ and clearly focus on who you are talking to, and what you’re talking about. Keep your content set on your target market so you can help people to learn about what it is you talk about – and it also helps the Instagram algorithm know what you’re all about too.
- Add your face and your name
Don’t hide behind your business. You are your brand (especially so as a small business owner). So can you change your Instagram profile picture to your face, rather than a logo? This is because people naturally respond better to a face, and it also makes it feel more personal. And add your own name to the profile page – this is because people like to know who the posts are coming from, rather than a large organisation.
Lucas said that changing his profile from @onthelockmedia to @thelucasokeefe had a significant impact on his growth.
”It got to the point where I just said you know what all these people know me as Lucas. It’s so much more personal than ‘hey on the clock media, how’s it going?’.
“So I made that big switch over, doubled down on the personal content and it’s been a huge factor in scaling my growth, and my community in particular”
I know that changing your whole account name may not be an option, so for me with a team and our business brand relatively well known, we’ve stuck with @identifymarketing. But I have added my name to the section of our profile, along with what we do.
- Don’t be scared of being you!
I’ve said it before and I’ll continue saying it until everyone has the confidence to embrace who they are – show your personality! Be you! It is so important when you are building a business and a brand because it is how we stand out from everyone else who is selling the same service or product.
It’s how we attract those most likely to buy from us!
So as Lucas says, find that one thing or those two or three things that are going to get people talking about you or remembering you.
“There are so many different ways to work to make it work for you, but you have to stand out.”
- Be regular and consistent
Despite all the ‘rules’, post as often as you like. But, make sure you can keep up that pace. There is no point in posting three times in one day, and then doing nothing for a week. So if once a day works for you, that is fine. If it is more, then great!
Lucas says that consistency is key, so if posting three times a week means you’re able to do that for six months straight, do that.
“If you can only consistently post three times a week but that’s going to keep you doing it for six months straight, do that. That is so much more beneficial to your brand, and your growth than a 30 day sprint, a two month period of inactivity, and then getting back to it and trying to revamp your account.”
So yes, consistency is key, but it also has different meanings for everybody.
- Keep them guessing
Consistent posting is important, but you should also mix up the ways you use the platform. For example, Lucas suggests a combination of single image posts, carousel posts (a series of images on one post that tells a story or gives tips, recipes or a guide), as well as reels, Instagram TV and Instagram lives. Why/ Because Instagram’s algorithm wants us to use multiple formats.
- Focus on communication and conversations
When people engage on your Instagram posts, through commenting, this tells Instagram that your account is worth sharing with more people.
And there is probably nothing more disengaging than taking time to comment on an account and not getting any kind of response. Which is why one of the core parts of social media is being social with those who talk to you! And even if you are extremely busy, this is so important. Otherwise they probably won’t bother commenting again, and it’s just a waste of all the time you have put into growing your account.
- Give other accounts some ‘love’ too
I’m time poor and because of this, I have typically avoided commenting on other people’s accounts. I’ll also admit that I didn’t really believe it made an impact.
But, after talking to Lucas, I made a point of doing it more often and I actually noticed an immediate increase in how much my own posts were being seen and engaged with. Amazing! So now I have carved out about fifteen minutes a day to keep up with the habit. But both Lucas and I agree that it’s not just about saying ‘great post!’.
He says try to leave a thoughtful, funny, interesting or collaborative comment – because every time you do, you’re leaving a tiny billboard that someone might see to bring them to your page for content.
- Consider the way Instagram wants you to use the platform
Yes, you can grow a business without Instagram reels, but they really are one of the easiest ways your business and brand can be put in front of new followers.
And if you’re going to use them to increase your reach, make sure you focus on the entertainment factor – while also keeping them short.
For me, I really want to use them to teach tips and share ideas, which is why I have battled with the way Instagram wants me to use them. Lucas explains that Instagram is wanting to focus on entertainment, because they know what is what the majority of the audience is going to like right now. But he does suspect that as reels become more ‘mainstream’, there will be scope to do more serious, long-form reels. I hope so!
It was so interesting to speak with Lucas and understand the way in which he grew a large, engaged community in just 12 months. By investing in the one platform, he can now offer products and services to followers who trust and respect him – because he earned it.
I think it is a really great and timely reminder that we don’t have to be on every social platform, if we do one or two really well.
And if you are planning to ‘up your activity’ on Instagram, or somewhere else, don’t forget to try and collect emails to grow your email list. Yes, you can build a business on the ‘borrowed’ platforms of social media, but the email list you create from this is your own.
Lucas is actually developing a mailing list now so that he can continue to communicate with his followers outside of a social media platform. I’m really enjoying his weekly emails that have some great suggestions for Instagram, and of course for him it is really beneficial to take his relationship one step further with his followers that began on Instagram.