Follower Favorites 2020

Growing your Platform

Hey There!

Today I wanted to share my tips and tricks for growing your social media platform.  I am, by no means, an expert in this.  But I wanted to share what has worked for me, in case you are wanting to grow (your instagram, your blog, your facebook, your Pinterest, whatever) and feeling stuck or are looking for a resource.

This post has been a total work in progress for a while now.  I started mentally writing it back in the spring, when I first saw some real growth happening with my Instagram account & blog.  I feel like the ole social media is ever-changing, though, and I wanted to kind of hone in on what works for me and for my account before sharing.

Let me give you a little bit of background info, first.  (Feel free to skip down to the tips below if you don’t feel like reading this ;)).

I originally started this blog a few years back.  I was just kind of bored and wanting a place to write or throw up a recipe or some little hacks, or just whatever crossed my mind.  Hence the name “Little Things by Tess.”  I wanted to share all the little things that I enjoy, but I didn’t have a real purpose or any real goals with it.  I slowly, but surely, started giving up on it.  I didn’t know how I was talking to, why I was even talking, or (in the end) what I wanted to say.

Cut to 2017.  I was a stay-at-home-mom doing real estate on the side and just feeling unfulfilled.  I didn’t feel like I had anything for me.  I love my daughter more than anything, but talking to someone all day who (at the time) couldn’t talk back left me less than fulfilled.  I felt like I needed something to keep my mind busy and focused on “adult stuff” rather than just “baby stuff.”  For a few months, I toyed with the idea of getting back to blogging, but was left with the same self doubt of not knowing what I even wanted to share or why I should bother with it (cuz why would anyone care?!)

I decided to get on Facebook and ask what I should blog about if I were to start blogging again.  The responses about sharing my outfits/fashion advice shocked me!  It had never even occurred to me to do anything with fashion.  In fact, I geared away from it because it’s such a completely saturated market, and I don’t like to spend a bunch of money on clothes.  And actually, I pride myself much more in finding a good deal than buying the (really expensive) nice pair of (fill in the blank…).  So I was like, well hmm… where do I go with this?  I consider myself good at cooking, good at finding deals, and lots of random stuff in between.  Maybe I just keep up with the Little Things concept and try actually posting some outfits and get more serious about food posts.

So I took it to another level than I had before, got a little bit more consistent, then eventually tired of it.  I was left with the thoughts of, “what’s the point?” and “my pics will never look like that” and “how do people even do this?  how do people even grow?”  My husband had a health scare and this blog kind of went by the wayside and didn’t get much TLC for a few months.  It actually felt like a welcome break.  I pretty much half assed 2017 and chalked it up to “eh, I’ll never do anything real with that…etc.”

THEN.  I decided in 2018 that I was going to whole ass it. 😉

I decided that if I was ever going to be successful in this arena, I needed to do what I’d always done when prepping for a new job, and research the sh*t out of it.  (I’ll get to this point later).

I set goals for myself, made spreadsheets to track time and expenses, and DEDICATED MY TIME to it.  I set aside certain portions of the week just to focus on getting my plan together, instead of it being a throw away extra thing that I did when I felt like it or forced myself to do because I felt obligated.

Before I “re-launched” (I say this loosely, because it was never a formal thing at all, it was just how I mentally framed it), I got myself prepared.  With the research and planning I did, I knew what I was going to do prior to doing it and was setting myself up for success, instead of just winging it, like I had been.

I set a goal, in February of this year (2018) to be at 10,000 followers by the same time next year (February 2019).  I believe I had 465 followers at the time.  It was absurd.  It was big and hairy and ridiculous, and seemingly unachievable for me, if history told me anything.  And I met it last month (October 2018).  I don’t say this in a boastful way at all; it’s just astonishing to me and just goes to show that if you really get behind something, you can blow your goals out of the water.

I don’t know that what I’ve done will work for everyone and for every niche, but I will share what’s worked for me and how I reached my goal so much sooner than I ever thought possible.

Keep in mind that this post is incredibly long-winded, but I’m trying to be as thorough and detailed as possible to be as helpful as I can.  Some of the best nuggets are towards the end 😉

My Top Takeaways

1. Make. A. Plan.

This sounds so generic, but it really is the first stepping stone.  If you’re serious, you need to take it seriously.  Sit down and write these things out:

  • what am I trying to say/share?
  • who am I trying to say it to?  (who is your ideal audience)
  • WHY am I trying to say/share it?

Those are the most integral components, in my opinion, with the last being the most important for me.

My personal “why” was because I think people often think they have to spend a ton of money to have a cute outfit and I want to help them find ways to feel good/cute/trendy/etc without having to spend a bunch of money.  I also think people think of food and cooking as being unapproachable and I want to share tips and tricks and my easier recipes so that people can make delicious meals without even knowing they could cook.  My WHY was wanting to help people, not to make money.  So if I focused on that, and used the scale of others being happy or helped as my win/loss, I’d surely feel a lot better at the end of the day than if my goal was to make a bajillion dollars and I made nothing.

Once I sat down and figured those things out for myself, I made my plan on how I was going to post more consistently, what kind of investment I was willing to make, when I wanted my ROI (return on investment) to happen by, and what my big, lofty, hairy goal was going to be.  This portion of it may be a little extreme, but it’s personally helped me because I’m very type A.  This may be unnecessary for you, but I’d say having an end goal and tracking your monthly progress towards that goal is imperative.

2. Become the “Expert” and choose your platform

Go back to the three questions above in the bullets and figure out who your audience is and where you’re going to find them.  For me, I learned that my blog and my instagram were going to be the places for me to find the largest audience in the quickest manner.  That may not be the same for whatever field you’re in.  If you’re into interior design, Pinterest may be a place to focus your time and energy.  If you’re a photographer and looking to build a local following, Facebook may be your main platform.  For me, with the mix of fashion and food, I don’t need a local audience and decided to focus my energy on Instagram, since it’s seems like the platform that most people gravitate towards these days.

Then, get edu-ma-cated.  I say this tongue in cheek, but in reality, this is OH so important.  There certainly wasn’t a complete abundance of information on organically grow on instagram and blogs even as of January/February this year (when I was immersing myself in this stuff), but I got on Pinterest and searched everything I could and read and pinned and read and pinned.  I listened to countless podcasts – my favorites being FohrCasts and The Influencer Podcast.  And I found a blogger bestie, Amber, of All the Ambience.  She and I are so similar in our view of the blogging world and always have so much to chat about.  But she has been blogging for years and years and is a wealth of knowledge and helped me really narrow in my focus and look at things through a wider scope and bigger picture.

3.  As tempting as it is, skip the shortcuts

Let’s have an Honest Abe moment here… when I first decided to “re-launch” my blog/instagram, I found out about a little thing called “buying followers.”  I was like oh wow, it’s that easy?!  Why don’t I just do that?!  UMMMM because they’re all bots.  They are fake followers and only hurt your account and engagement (and most drop off anyway!).  I think I bought 500 (if I remember correctly) and felt the rush of my following number go up, only to (about a month later) listen in on a talk about how crappy it is for your account to have these bots and to promptly get rid of them.  SOOO, that big ole rush of followers was all for nothing and I had to use the Cleaner for IG app to get rid of all of them.  In the end, there are no real shortcuts in this – it’s a long game kind of deal.  So do yourself a favor and don’t try the shortcuts!

4. Stop looking at the numbers so much

This sounds kind of backwards, right?!  Isn’t the point to have your numbers grow?  Isn’t it to watch them progress and see where you stand?  Well sure.  But if that’s THE point, then refer back to point numero uno and figure out your purpose.  In my opinion, it’s absolutely ok to check on your numbers here and there — what’s your following looking like, what posts are people responding to, what kind of stories get more interaction, etc.  But if you sit there and measure every like, every comment, every follow, you will drive yourself crazy.  Stay focused on WHY you’re here and who you’re talking to, and the rest will follow.

The numbers I find important are in my IG Insights.  (Side note, set your IG page to a business page to access these).  In this, I find what days of the week are most successful (and plan posts accordingly), what kind of content your audience is seeing/engaging with, and what the demographic of my followers and weekly growth is.  (Example: I tend to get more engagement on selfie pics than on more professional photography… so I try and focus in on putting out more of that content since it’s what seems to be liked more by my “audience”).   I really try and look at this about once a week and keep my nose to the ground otherwise.

Which leads me to…

5. Stay in your lane

It’s easy in this racket to start swerving off.  Looking at what other people are doing and is working for them and suddenly thinking that’s what you need to be doing.  Or comparing your account with others and wondering why they get more likes on a pic or why they’re growing faster … or whatever!  There are so many comparison moments but remember, “Comparison is the thief of Joy.”  I truly believe this.  Once you remember who you are talking to and that they are what matter, it’s easier to not get lost in the shuffle of comparison.

Here’s an example, for my account, I feel like I don’t have as many “likes” on my photos as similar sized accounts.  But, after talking to some of my girlfriends with similar followings, we’ve found that we often have “Feed families” and “Story Families.”  And some people just have a much larger engagement in their stories (I happen to be one of them).  So what if I don’t get as many likes on my photos.  Am I here for likes or am I here for a purpose (of helping others)?  Staying in my lane helps me stay focused and remember why I’m here.

6. Figure out your Aesthetic

This one is kind of a doozy 🙂  I struggled with this for the longest time.  And tbh, I still wrestle with it a tiny bit.  At first, I was looking at all of these accounts that seem to have a professional photographer on deck for every nuance in their life and seem to live in all white houses with white walls and white shoes and white skies and white pillows and white clothes and white white white 😉  So when I was first starting back up I was like, “okay light bright airy, nothing otherwise should go on my feed.”  Umm… no.  That’s not real life.  Well it’s not mine, anyway, and I don’t want it to be.  Sure, I am curating photos and trying to put my best foot forward on my feed, but I don’t want to be inauthentic and someone I’m not.  So I try and make my “grid” (word for how your IG feed looks) cohesive, but I don’t get too hung up on it.

  • If you plan ahead, by using an app like UNUM, you can try and plan out posts and see how your photos are going to look next to one another.  I mainly like this to make sure the colors look similar in my photos – that one isn’t blown up with orange hues and the next is cooler in color and muted.  This takes work and planning, but it definitely helps a ton with cohesiveness.
  • Try using an app like VSCO to figure out your personal hues or find a preset you like.  Presets basically set it up that your photos will all have the same balance of color/exposure/contrast etc.  But, because lighting is OH so different every time you take a photo, you will still need adjustment if you use one (same with VSCO).

7. Find your people

Have you ever heard of an engagement pod?  If you haven’t, you should look into them.  Find people with a similar mission to yours and ask if they’d like to help engage with one another (like each other’s photos/comment).  Some people may frown on this and think it’s silly, but it really does give your posts a bit of a boost.  For me, though, it’s been an incredible sense of community.  I’ve found some women that are doing the same thing as me and inspire me and support me and it makes me feel a great sense of belonging.

8. ENGAGE. ENGAGE. ENGAGE.

Did I mention engage?

I’ll tell you what I mean by this.  In all honesty, when I first started hearing this expression, I thought I knew what it meant.  Once I shifted my mind set around this ONE thing, everything changed.

Engaging means not just interacting with the people who are following you or you may follow, but it’s interacting with those who don’t.  Once I started interacting with people (even just liking a handful of photos of theirs) that weren’t following me, I had SUCH a huge return on followers.  I try and spend a good chunk of my day (most days) doing this.

Here’s why I think that is.  I’ll totally butcher this because it’s been years since I’ve read it, but in the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” they discuss this topic.  Have you ever heard about how the best communicators are the ones that listen?  How you can just meet someone and they ask you about yourself and you find yourself talking and talking and then walk away thinking they’re just the nicest person…  That’s because we all just kind of want to be heard.  So, liking or commenting on someone else’s stuff is your way of telling them you hear them, you’re listening, they’re interesting, etc.

I’m sure some may disagree with this strategy, but this is my top actionable item that I believe has grown my account substantially.

9. Participate in or Host Giveaways

Again, some people may not agree with this method, but I’ve found it to be really helpful in growing.  Make sure whatever item you are giving away makes sense to “your brand” and that it is adding value.  For instance, I’m not going to be doing some kind of sports trophy giveaway because it has absolutely nothing to do with my interests or what I feel I have any knowledge or expertise in.

Also understand that your following will bump up, only to (most likely) trail down a bit because a lot of people will only follow you for a giveaway and then pretty immediately unfollow.  So this is a great tactic to boost your growth a bit, but don’t count on it as your main strategy.  Also, be strategic and mindful that people don’t want to see you doing a giveaway every five minutes, so be selective on when you do them.

10. Shoutouts

Have another account that you love and you think people should be following?  Do that person a solid and shout them out and tag them.  Giving to others will find it’s way back.  Share the love.  If you find yourself in an engagement group, start shouting out one another.  It’s a whole additional audience that you can be in front of.  I try and do this about once a week and I feel like it’s been really helpful in helping me grow.

BONUS tidbits

Figure out how your audience can best get to know you

For me, I feel like it’s been IG stories.  So many of my friends said that when I talk on my stories, they feel like they’re talking TO me.  In the end, I want the people to feel like they’re having a convo with me too, and that they’re seeing my personality.  There is a new fashion/food blogger/instagrammer/influencer popping up every minute.  The best way I’ve found to distinguish myself is just to talk on stories fairly regularly and talk like I’m talking to my friends.  Let me tell ya, it is super uncomfortable at first – but I try and push myself out of my comfort zone and tell myself to get over it 🙂  It becomes easier, the more often you do it.

Don’t just show the highlight reel

Be as authentic and real as you can be.  Remember that IG is people’s highlight reel of their life.  So much of the bad, uncomfortable and even ugly is behind the scenes.  Let people in on some of the real you and trust that they will appreciate you more for being real.  It can be hard to be vulnerable, but if you want people to get to know you and trust you, they have to feel like they know you.

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And there you have it.  Those are the most vital things I’ve learned along this blogging/instagramming journey.  I hope this serves as a guide and resource for you and you pick up at least one tip or tidbit that’s helpful for YOUR journey.

Please feel free to reach out with any comments or questions – you can leave them here or email me at littlethingsbytess@gmail.com or direct message me on IG: littlethingsbytess – I’d love to hear your feedback!

 

 

xo, tess

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12 Comments

  1. October 2, 2018 / 1:38 AM

    OMG I just met you and I feel like I know you. Love your writing style and love that you worked so hard at putting this together! It’s amazing!!

    • Tess
      Author
      October 2, 2018 / 1:51 AM

      Thank you so much girl!!! I appreciate that, more than you know 🖤

  2. Reshma
    October 2, 2018 / 2:21 AM

    Thank you for this post, it does make a lot of sense. I’m on a very early stage and already feeling so lost with so many questions about why things were happening and felt overwhelmed. And this post did answer some of them. One thing I have definitely learnt that organic growth is the right way to go.

    Thanks so much and hopeful to be a part of the blogger world.
    Love,
    @heygorgeousreshma

    • Tess
      Author
      October 2, 2018 / 2:46 PM

      I’m glad that this has helped you!! Keep up the good work and you will get there!!

  3. Adrienne altman
    October 2, 2018 / 2:41 AM

    Thanks for putting this together Tess!

    I just recently started following toy and it’s great to know a bit of a back story.

    I have recently started looking into growing my following and I’d love to ask a few questions about how you found your mentor and about engagement groups…

  4. Krystin
    October 2, 2018 / 1:46 PM

    You’ve done an amazing job building your IG and Blog..i found you a while ago through mutual friends from ISU and have seen your growth from 200 followers to 10,000 and you have done a fabulous job!!!! Just wanted to let you know😉

    • Tess
      Author
      October 2, 2018 / 2:47 PM

      Aw thank you so much girl!! And thank you for the follow. I appreciate you!

  5. October 4, 2018 / 7:14 PM

    I LOVED this! Thank you so much for sharing. As someone who has a very similar story, this hit me on so many levels!

    • Tess
      Author
      October 5, 2018 / 11:23 PM

      Thank you, Brittany!! I really appreciate it!

  6. Emily Haman
    February 6, 2019 / 1:12 AM

    This is such a real, down to earth post! And it’s so great to have mentors out there that take time to share insight into their success!

    • Tess
      Author
      February 6, 2019 / 2:53 AM

      Thank you so much girl!!