A Field Guide to “Insta-Stardom”
On Instagram, everyone is trying to be famous. And on a platform that sees more than 95 million new posts each day, it can be tough to break through the clutter. What started as a hobby became part of my daily routine when my dog, @samthebully (quick plug: you can follow him right now), amassed nearly 14,000 followers on Instagram.
I’ve been, somewhat unexpectedly, in the pool of micro-influencers for almost three years now. The road to growing a following wasn’t seamless, but I’ve picked up a few nuggets of wisdom along the way that can provide a framework for those starting out.
Building the Brand
When I started Sam’s Instagram, it was an outlet for me to show off his quirks and personality for my mom and grandma without flooding my personal account. Building your brand starts on the ground floor, but you can’t let that intimidate you.
- Be Consistent: You should be working on your brand every day. Always be thinking of content opportunities. Have alibrary of photos to choose from. Be selective — not everything is post worthy. Establish curation rules and stick to them. Posting at specific times and on certain days helps me stay organized. It’s the framework to my success.
- Be Relevant: Be smart, keep your users’ interests in mind and plan ahead to make sure you have timely content for upcoming holidays and major events. Instagram has the attention span of a goldfish, so take advantage of the moment before it’s gone.
- Be Authentic: Even if you aren’t posting every day, you should be engaging with your followers and other users. Comment on and like pictures from relevant accounts. Respond to comments and direct messages. Be genuine—users can smell canned responses quicker than Sam smells his dinner.
- Be on Brand: Establish your brand’s unique story, tone and art direction. Stick to it — this creates legitimacy. Sam is smart, sarcastic, lazy and funny. I use neutral backgrounds and single-subject photos that make users laugh (pretty easy, because I have a weird looking dog to begin with). No one wants to be looking at an ad, so get creative on how you showcase your brand.
#Hashtag and @Tag
The hashtag has been around for a while and helps get your content in front of people who are looking for you. Think of it as a (semi-accurate) filing system. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per post. Use these with tact. Sam is a dog, so the possibilities are endless (#dog, #dogsofinstagram, #targetdog). I mix in a few of those with current events such as #laborday, #longweekend and #lakelife, bringing Sam’s content to the widest range of people.
Engage with brands, it promotes your profile. Tag accounts that may choose to feature you. Keep hassling them, they’ll see you. After tagging World Market, they reposted Sam’s picture and tagged him, putting his mug in front of their more than 600,000 followers. If it’s a relevant and well thought out post, the social world is your oyster.
Optimize Your Profile
What makes your profile memorable? Do you have a contact email or website in your description? These are little things that go a long way. Sam has had dozens of promotional opportunities and was featured in two magazines—all because he has an email address.
A trick I’ve learned is the name field of your profile, which is free SEO. Instead of putting his first and last name, I put English Bull Terrier as his name, so when someone searches “English bull terrier,” his profile is always in the top 5 search results. Bada bing.
Be a Brand You Want to See
In the end, it’s up to you to create the brand you want to see in the world. Create goals, have a strategy and integrate it into your routine. If your posts have basic rules, your due diligence will pay off. Finally, remember to be human (or canine), it’s a social platform after all.