MARKETING STRATEGY

3 strategies to quickly double your instagram (how we grew to 30,000 followers in 2 months)

Double Your Instagram - the exact strategies we used to grow from 15,000 to 30,000 followers in just 2 months plus a free checklist of the 8 things you should be doing for every instagram post!

About 2 months ago I shared 10 ways to grow your instagram following detailing the exact ways I grew my dog's instagram account from 0 to 15,000 followers last year. It was my most popular post of 2015 (thanks to Pinterest!), so I'm sharing an update now that Mochi's instagram following has doubled from 15,000 to 30,000 in just 2 months! Use these strategies to double your Instagram followers!

Let's back up for a moment – in case your wondering, “why this post is about your dog?” As a digital marketing strategist, I consult AND manage a number of different Instagram accounts, but for privacy reasons it would be weird for me to give you a behind the scenes look at the growth of my clients' accounts. So my dog's account is like a “test account” where I can show you her exact statistics and share the strategies that I've used to grow her account. Also, she monetizes her account as a digital influencer and plans to utilize her Instagram account to sell her own products this year, so I'll be sharing a look at exactly how that works in future posts. Seriously though, if MY DOG can earn an income from Instagram, you can too!

Don't miss: 10 Ways to Grow Your Instagram Following

First of all, I'll say it was definitely easier to grow from 15,000 to 30,000 than it was to grow from 0 to 15,000 – in part because I had mastered these 10 things, but also because I think when people see “popular” accounts they think, “Oh! If all these other people are following along, I should too!” I say this not to discourage anyone who is starting from 0, but rather to say, it DOES get easier! 

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool

3 strategies to quickly double your instagram

The TL;DR version is we incorporated seasonal content, were strategic about repost potential, and changed up the timing of some of our posts.

In November of 2015, I set a goal of growing from 15,000 to 25,000 by the end of the year. I didn't really have any plans to change our Instagram strategy because I knew 25,000 was attainable given her growth rate at the time. But we hit the goal a few weeks ahead of schedule so I thought about what (intentionally or not) I had done differently during this period. She's now averaging 2,000+ net new followers per week so we're on track to hit 100,000 this year!  

How @mochiandthecity grew her instagram account to 30,000 followers

Incorporate seasonal content

Sharing seasonal content is not a new idea when it comes to blogging or marketing in general, but I didn't really think it would have as much of an effect on Mochi's instagram growth. It's true though – people LOVE seasonal content! We shared a photo of her Halloween costume that got high engagement, so I wanted to be more intentional about sharing holiday photos in December – and I'm so glad I did because a few posts like this little Santa outfit was featured in the Huffington Post and this photo in front of our Christmas tree resulted in several hundred new followers. I am really selective of the sponsored content we share, but this ad we did for Walgreens was also particularly good for exposure as it was timely for the holiday season.

Assuming you are probably not going to go dress up as Santa for instagram photos (or if you are, that's cool too), there are still a lot of ways you can incorporate seasonal content into your Instagram posts. If you are a blogger or small business owner, seasonal content could be anything like… the best boots to wear in the winter / a Valentine's Day gift guide / DIY Easter decorations / ten recipes for 4th of July BBQs / tips for making the most of your summer vacation / the ultimate to fall nail polish / holiday essentials for the busy entrepreneur. Kind of a random list there, but you get it. Seasonal content is shareable content because its relevant and relatable!

Many accounts repost photos from their community, so take a look at some of the popular accounts to see the types of photos they tend to repost, and use their hashtags strategically. Click To Tweet

Be strategic about repost potential

One thing that I did do strategically was that in November I made a list of hashtags to use that would increase Mochi‘s exposure. I looked for accounts that reposted dog photos and specifically made lists of 1) niche pet accounts with over 100,000 followers and 2) dog-friendly brands with over 50,000 followers. I took a look at their feeds to determine the types of photos that seemed to get reposted more often (for example, outdoor photos vs. indoor, close up vs. wide angle, funny vs. heartwarming) and then strategically posted these types of photos with relevant hashtags.

One example is West Elm (650,000+ followers) – a dog-friendly brand that often posts photos of furry pals on their main instagram account as well as their smaller city specific accounts. We happen to have a lot of West Elm furniture, so I use their hashtag #mywestelm on any photos of Mochi that we post that include West Elm furniture. Since most of our photos are taken in our apartment, this was an obvious choice, and it paid off because on Cyber Monday West Elm reposted this photo of Mochi and a couple of the store accounts like West Elm LA and West Elm St. Louis have also reposted her photos which is pretty cool.

Another example is Dogs and Pals (300,000+ followers) – this niche dog community reposts select photos with their hashtag and I noticed that whoever curates their account seems to like photos that are close up vs. far away and photos of dogs looking cozy in bed seem to be featured often. Most of our photos of Mochi are close up + cuddly, so I started using their hashtag more intentionally, and sure enough about 4 weeks ago they reposted this photo.

No matter who your audience is, there are probably accounts in your niche with larger followings. Many accounts repost photos from their community, so take a look at some of the popular accounts to see the types of photos they tend to repost, and use their hashtags strategically. You can check out a few great posts on hashtags for creatives / bloggers / entrepreneurs, here, here and here

@mochiandthecity best times to post on instagram analytics

Don't Be Afraid to Change Things Up 

The last thing that we did during this period to double Mochi's instagram following was somewhat accidental. Mochi was posting twice a day on a pretty regular schedule – I look at her analytics in Iconosquare regularly, and had identified the times with the highest engagement, so I pretty much stuck to them. During December we were traveling for the holidays and with everything going on plus a time difference, I posted at a few random times and thought – oh well, if her engagement is low, I won't be upset. It turns out the opposite happened and a few of those random times led to some of her highest engagement ever PLUS brought in a stream of new followers. You'll see on the chart above a large dot on Sunday around 4pm when we posted this photo and around 11pm when we posted this photo.

These are not times on her “typical” schedule, but to be honest, I had stuck to the same schedule for the past 3-4 months. In that period, she gained almost 20,000 new followers, so of course her “best” times to post may have changed! I am going to make more of an effort to experiment with timing moving forward as her audience grows.

So those are the 3 “new” strategies I used to double Mochi's instagram following from 15,000 to 30,000 in two months – but as I mentioned, I also continued to do these 10 things. I've enjoyed documenting her progress, so perhaps I'll share another update later this year when she hits bigger milestones like 50,000 or 100,000. It's still a little crazy to me that SO MANY people follow her (I mean, she's super cute, but she's not exactly providing life changing content to the world), though it's also cool to see her grow as a brand – she currently earns a small but consistent income, and has BIG plans for 2016!

P.S. You should probably be following Mochi already. And if you haven't been planning your Instagram feed in advance (so you KNOW it's going to look good!) – click the link below to try my favorite Instagram scheduling tool!

Planoly - best visual Instagram scheduling tool

How to Pitch Bloggers For Collaborations

How to Pitch Bloggers For Collaborations - what you need to know as a small biz owner before you reach out to bloggers. Plus a free cheat sheet with 15 collaboration ideas!

In case you missed it, a couple of weeks ago I shared tips on how to find bloggers / influencers to collaborate with and now I'm following up with the second part of the series – how to actually connect and pitch bloggers for collaborations!

Know Who You Are Pitching

There's no good excuse to reach out to someone and NOT address then by their name. Like their actual name. It's INSANE how often bloggers get emails that are like “Hi Wonderfelle World blogger” or just “Dear blog editor” or even “Dear Wonderfelle” <– No. My name is Elle and like most bloggers it's clearly noted on my homepage, about page and on my social media accounts. Take the time to find the blogger's actual name and PLEASE spell it right. This is not Starbucks, this is your marketing outreach, and if you want people to actually read your email and respond, you need to address them properly!

Do Your Homework

Many bloggers have a page or section on their blog with information regarding how they collaborate with brands. If they don't, you can take a look around their site to see – do they have ads? Do they do sponsored posts? Do they list products as c/o or gifted? Legally they are supposed to mention when products are gifted or blog posts are sponsored (paid) so these details within their blog posts will give you a clue as to whether they are already working with brands.

Before you reach out to a blogger, it's a good idea to engage with them a bit first. Like and comment on a couple of their Instagram photos or reply to some of their tweets or leave a comment on their blog. Assuming you're not representing a huge company or well known PR firm (otherwise you're probably not reading this post!), you'll want bloggers to recognize your brand/name so they are more likely to read and respond to your email when you reach out!

Optimize Your Outreach 

After you've done your homework, you have my permission to reach out ;) Unless they specify otherwise, I recommend contacting bloggers directly by email. I don't typically suggest reaching out via direct message on social media because not everyone checks their messages (especially if your message gets filtered which happens on instagram / FB when they are not already following you). Also, you will want to include relevant links in your pitch and make it easy to for them to keep track of your message, both of which are easier to do in email vs. a direct message. Beyond that, email is just more professional – and there's a reason why many bloggers have their email listed in their social bios or on their website – they want you to use it!

When it comes to your email, don't forget – your subject matters! Keep it short but include your brand name and a short phrase that will entice them to open the email. Examples could be “Collaboration with XYZ Brand” or “Invitation to partner with XYZ Brand” or “Feature in XYZ Publication” – make the point of your email clear from the start.

There's no good excuse to reach out to someone and NOT address then by their name. Like their actual name. Click To Tweet

Make The Pitch

Obviously your pitch will be different depending on what your goals are, but your email should include a few key elements:
Salutation: use their real name
Introduction: 1 sentence that explains who you are / who you represent
Personal connection: a sentence or two that demonstrates you've actually read their blog and have done your research to determine why you think they are a good fit to partner with
Get to the point: tell them the reason for your email (gifted product? sponsored post? advertising?)
What's in it for them: a successful collaboration will be beneficial for both parties – make sure you are making it clear what the benefits are for the blogger
Include the details: mention if your proposed collaboration has a timeline or any special requirements and link to any relevant pages on your website or blog so it is easy for them to find any specific information
Signature: include links to your website / social media accounts

You Should Also Know

Just because bloggers accept gifted items, that doesn't mean they accept them all. Some bloggers may choose to approve items before they agree to receive them (and hand over their address), and just because you gift a blogger that doesn't necessarily mean they will feature/review your product (unless you are paying for a sponsored post).

Speaking of sponsored posts, it's not a bad idea to have a contract for these. It doesn't have to be complicated, but having a 1 page document that outlines the terms of the sponsored post (required deliverables, due date, compensation) ensures that everyone is one the same page and expectations are clear.

If you want to collaborate with a blogger / influencer but you don't have something specific in mind, ask for their media kit. This will detail their relevant blog / social statistics as well as the ways in which they typically work with brands. If you have ideas for collaboration opportunities beyond what is stated in their media kit, don't be afraid to ask! Most bloggers are open to mutually beneficial collaborations even if they aren't specified in their media kits.

Finally, the more “popular” a blogger is, the more emails she/he probably gets – so you may not get a reply right away (or ever). Bloggers are busy so you may need to send a follow-up message, but I would give them about a week to respond before contacting them again – you don't want to be obnoxious! If you don't hear back after that, I would move on for now (you can potentially reach out again in a few months if you want) – there are plenty of bloggers out there, so don't get discouraged if you don't hear back from everyone!

 

How To Find Bloggers To Collaborate With Your Small Business

How to find bloggers to collaborate with your small business - for new brands who can't afford to hire a PR agency for blogger outreach, this blog post has tips for finding the right bloggers to partner with and other important things your should know when pitching bloggers!

I've answered this question for a few people in my network recently, but after getting wayyy too many “bad” email pitches lately, I figured it was definitely worth writing a whole post (actually a couple) on the topic! As a blogger, I've collaborated with dozens of brands, and as a brand / marketing strategist, I've pitched tons of bloggers / influencers, so I've been on both sides of successful (and not so successful) collaborations. If you're a brand / business owner and want to collaborate with bloggers, you need to know how to find bloggers to collaborate with your small business the right way, since there are a lot of wrong ways. The wrong ways are annoying so just don't go there. Here's what you need to know…

PART 1: How to Find Bloggers / Influencers to Collaborate With (this post)

PART 2: How to Pitch Bloggers / Influencers For Collaborations (coming soon!)

First of all, know your purpose (and your budget)

Why do you want to collaborate with bloggers anyway? “To gain exposure” is vague and not a good answer. Do you want more traffic to your site? More social media followers? More email subscribers? More sales during a specific promotion? For a collaboration to be successful, you need to know what you want out of it. 

You should also know what your willing (or not willing) to pay for the collaboration. Bloggers or influencers with larger followings may require compensation in addition to gifted product to guarantee they will feature your product on their blog or social channels. For some reason this is really surprising to some business owners, but no one likes to work for free. A lot of work goes into building a blog following and styling / reviewing products, so a blogger requesting payment in exchange for advertising your product to their audience is not unreasonable!

Most bloggers have media kits that list the ways in which they are open to working with brands along with their fees for various types of collaborations. If their rates are significantly out of your price range, DO NOT try to negotiate. How would you feel if someone emailed you and said “hey I'd love to buy your product but I only want to pay 50% of the price for it, is that ok with you?” Um, no. 

Know if it's a good fit

Please do not reach out to bloggers whose brand and content is not a good fit for your product or service. It's a waste of time for everyone involved. A style blogger who primarily wears high end clothing is not interested in featuring your $10 t-shirts. A beauty blogger who reviews skincare products is not a good fit for your shoe line. A dog who doesn't have Facebook is not going to promote your jewelry on Facebook. (no joke, a brand actually pitched my dog to promote their jewelry on Facebook…)

Personally, I've only collaborated with brands that sell products or provide services that I would otherwise buy myself, but the truth is there are a lot of bloggers who will sell out compromise for free product or paid promotions. While bloggers will ultimately make the decision whether or not they want to collaborate with you, you should know if your product is a good fit for their brand/aesthetic as well. If a blogger's audience isn't your target audience, why would you want them to advertise your product anyway?

For a collaboration to be successful, you need to know what you want out of it. Click To Tweet

So Where Do You Find Them?

If you have a larger budget, you can work with a PR agency or a more blogger-specific agency like Clever Girls or Collectively who will help connect you with bloggers that fit with your brand.  There are also tech platforms like GroupHigh that can help you find bloggers in a particular niche and also streamline the pitch process, but they also have fees associated with them. Most new / small businesses don't have the budget for agency help, so I'm going to assume that you are trying to find / pitch bloggers on your own!

I suggest starting your search on Instagram because it's a visual platform that will quickly give you a sense of a blogger's brand and aesthetic, and you have a number of search options to find the types of bloggers that are a good fit for your business. I'm not saying you should decide to collaborate with a blogger based solely on their Instagram presence (definitely not!), but it's a good place to start. Obviously the type of product you sell affects the type of bloggers you are looking for, but here are a few types of searches you can run:

Groups: Many bloggers are part of groups (along with similar bloggers) so these are a great place to look! Groups could be based on location (for example, Midwest Bloggers or The Blog Societies) or by type of blogger (like Independent Fashion Bloggers or New Craft Society). Often, active members will be featured on the groups' Instagram accounts, but many of them also have websites where you can find other bloggers in the group or organization.

Networks: Networks are similar to groups, but slightly more specific in that you KNOW the bloggers that belong to these networks are currently monetizing their blogs. These bloggers usually have larger audiences and are the types of bloggers who may require compensation in addition to gifted product. A couple examples are LiketoKnow.it (rewardStyle‘s instagram monetization platform) and Style Coalition.

Hashtags by industry/niche: You can also search by hashtag for bloggers in your industry or niche – this will cast a wider net, which may or may not be a good thing depending on the types of bloggers you are looking for. This strategy requires doing a bit more due diligence, but is a great way to find bloggers who may not be part of specific groups/networks and are still a good fit for your brand! Try to narrow down the type of blogger you are looking for to get more targeted results – for example, instead of #beautyblogger you could search #greenbeautyblogger or #organicbeautyblogger. You can also try variations of hashtags like blog / blogs/ blogger/ bloggers – these may yield different results as not all bloggers use the same hashtags.

Hashtags by geographic location: Another way to search for bloggers is by searching for location-specific bloggers (for example, #nycblogger or #brooklynblogger). This is especially helpful if your business has a physical presence or if you are looking for local bloggers to collaborate with.

Similar / complimentary businesses: Last but not least, you can use instagram to see which bloggers your competitors or related businesses are working with. If you scroll through their feeds, you'll most likely see that they've re-posted photos of bloggers wearing / using their products. The drawback to this strategy is that bloggers who collaborate with your direct competitors may not want to work with you if they are brand loyal, but most bloggers are open to working with a variety of brands so it can't hurt to reach out to them if they're a good fit!

These 5 types of searches will definitely get you a solid list of bloggers to reach out to, but once you start working with bloggers (or if you already are), you can also search for “similar” bloggers by observing who they “hang out with” on social. Most bloggers have blogger friends who regularly interact by commenting / sharing or even hanging out in real life, so if you find a few bloggers who are a good fit for your brand, chances are they have blogger friends who will be a good fit as well!

You should also know

It's a good idea to start a spreadsheet to keep track of the bloggers your are reaching out to. This will help to keep you organized – you want to make sure that you don't reach out to the same person twice by mistake (this happens more than you think!) and also that you are following up with bloggers if you haven't heard back from them in a week or so. You can also use the spreadsheet to keep track of the status or results of a collaboration.

When you are determining which bloggers you want to reach out do, remember to look beyond traffic or follower numbers and pay attention to engagement. A blogger could have 20,000 instagram followers but only get a couple of hundred likes per photo – this is bad and probably means many of her followers are fake or just not that interested. It would be better to collaborate with a blogger with 10,000 followers who has a 5%+ engagement because her followers are more engaged (and more likely to buy your product)!

Also, depending on your niche, its worth reaching out to other social media “influencers” who are not necessarily bloggers. There are plenty of people (and pups) who have build up engaged audiences without having a blog and may be a good fit for your brand!