So. You have a pretty nice Instagram. You’ve built up a bit of a following and have your own style/niche/aesthetic to your account and you want to take that further – but you don’t know how. You’ve seen other Instagrammers doing it and you want in, but it feels like a bit of a secret club and you’re not sure when and if you’re ever going to get an invite to be a part of this seemingly glam online collaboration world. Well here’s the good news – it’s not rocket science and there’s no reason why you can’t be in on it too…
All of the above was me to a T for what felt like a really long time. I didn’t get involved with Instagram with a goal to do the above, in fact I was using the app daily and addictively for a good two-and-a-half years before the thought even entered my head. That is until I noticed a handful of Instagrammers I’d gotten to know a little, and hundreds more that I didn’t know at all appeared to be getting some incredible opportunities, and working with some great companies – small, large and many inbetween.
For quite a while I sat back, a bit baffled by the whole thing. I couldn’t quite work out how people were doing what they doing. How were they engaging with these brands and companies? Were the brands going to them? Or were they approaching the brands? While I’d been contacted by a few independent companies, I had no idea what the etiquette was. At this point I had 30K+ followers and a decent enough engagement. But what was interesting to me was that while some of those doing the collaboration work at what I’d call a high level, had a far higher following and engagement on Instagram than I, there were many who were at a similar or lesser level than myself too.
In the end I bit the bullet and asked some of my fellow Instagrammers for advice, and it became clear that there were no hard and fast rules and that in fact, everybody, both companies and Instagrammers seemed to work differently.
I learned quickly that every brand works in its own way, and I still find that to be the case. But also, while some people were very keen that they only worked with brands that had approached them directly, others were more proactive and as well as being contacted by brands, they themselves were not afraid to be the one to do the contacting if they felt that a brand was a good fit for their Instagram and style.
So which category do I fall in to? The latter. At present I’m very lucky that I am contacted and offered opportunities to collaborate on a fairly regular basis, but I also seek partnerships myself. Not everything that lands in my email inbox is a good match for me, so if I really love a brand and think that they might also like the aesthetic of my Instagram and this blog space and that we’re suited, then I will pitch for that collaboration. What do I mean by pitch? Well it’s not as scary as it sounds – it usually involves an email exchange where I outline my ideas on how I think we could partner up together. Does it always work out? Nope it doesn’t, but the response is positive more often than not and I think that’s because I don’t just willy nilly work with or contact every single brand – only the ones I am a genuine fan girl of.
And I think likewise it works both ways in that when brands are seeking out social media influencers and bloggers to work with, most of the time they will look for a specific type of online aesthetic which they know fits with their products and ethos.
Collaborating isn’t for everyone, and I understand that for some people it’s a turn off on Instagram when someone you follow is seen to be promoting products/places/experiences. But I can’t help but think, what guy or gal wouldn’t want the opportunity to work with a brand in this way, that they have been customers of or admired for years? For me it’s a privilege and I get a real buzz out of sharing my favourite picks and finds from some brilliant companies and retailers. I will only ever share items I love and would buy myself. What’s more, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have gone on to buy something that I have seen recommended, worn or featured on somebody else’s Instagram or blog.
Whether you are looking to build your Instagram in a bid to collaborate with brands, or because your feed represents your business or just because you love Instagram and its community – the latter of which for me was and still is at the forefront of why I wish to grow and invest time and energy into my account – then I would suggest the following, below. It’s nothing revolutionary, mainly common sense that you’ve likely heard before. I am no expert – I can only tell you what I know from my own experience, not forgetting that in the grand scheme of Instagram my account, my following and engagement is exceptionally small fry…
- This first point sounds obvious, but it really is the most important thing. Take and share lovely photos. There’s no secret formula – just always try to post your best! If you do that consistently people will trust that they are going to get the good stuff from you and will hit that follow button. I always try and think of my photos and videos in two categories – Instagram and Facebook. I’ll stick any old thing on Facebook, where all of the people who know me in real life hang out! They (hopefully) won’t begrudge daft selfies, or slightly blurry shots of Oscar taken in my untidy living room – because they KNOW me. Strangers on Instagram do not want or care to see that stuff – they will unfollow me and you for posting it, so just don’t do it. Remember your audience, they only want to see your best.
- Get to know your style and niche. Whether you’re a business looking to promote your products or you’re a person just like me who just wants to post pretty pictures – the sooner you find your groove and aesthetic the better. The most successful instagram accounts are the most cohesive ones, where the photos all run and fit beautifully together either in colour theme, how they’ve been edited or that they have a common feature running through them, be it portraits, family life, flat lays, travel or landscapes. Look how these following Instagrammers have nailed their style to the point that their accounts flow pretty much perfectly. If you hit the follow on any of these, you’d feel confident that what you see, is what you’ll continue to get: @siobhaise, @punkodelish, @indianatakesme, @dan_scape, @rulew, @arclesscurve & @kawaiigirl79.
- Engage, engage, engage. Engagement really is the currency of Instagram. It’s how you make connections (even make friendships!), and find the people you want to follow and get the attention of those that you want to follow you. In my first couple of years on Instagram for me engagement was the be all and end all and definitely a large factor in the growth of my account. I’m less hot at it these days due to life’s demands but it is something I am doing my best to get a handle on again as it really is important. Always try and reply to your comments and when you can make time to check out and comment on the photos of those who you follow and even those you don’t too.
- It’s really hard to be original and stand out amongst the thousands of photos posted on Instagram on a daily basis, but at least attempt it! Be yourself as that’s what people will respond to – the fact that you are YOU! And tryyyyyyy not to think too much about what everyone else is doing because trust me THAT will send you mad..
- Hashtags. Use them – they’re your friends and will help to get your images elevated and seen. There are thousands to be had, search for ones relevant to what you’re posting or if you’re lazy like me, look at the hashtags that Instagrammers you admire and have a similar style to you, use.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and about your own experiences on this subject in the comments below. And if you have any advice for those looking to grow their Instagram accounts too.
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