It’s the ultimate question isn’t it. Growing your Instagram following is akin to social status nowadays. And who doesn’t want everyone to think they are awesome?

But as I’ve been unpacking and considering all things social media over the past few months, I’ve had some revelations that I think are worth sharing.

Is it possible that we’re asking the wrong question? It’s not that growth is bad in itself, it’s just that it feels like there is another more important question we should be considering first.

Why would we want to grow our social media following?

What is it that compels us to endlessly chase an increase to the number of our followers?

There are many poor reasons why we might want to do so such as vanity metrics (the feeling that having many followers gives us or the sense of status it might bring) or perhaps because someone told us we should to ‘grow our business’.

Often it’s because we haven’t really thought about it. Growth tends to be our default goal but it’s so important that we consider the reasons for it and what we’re actually trying to accomplish.

Otherwise, how do we know when we hit success? If you do manage a social media account or you’re a part of building a brand, business, church or other organisation then this is for you.

What is social media about anyways?

The more I think about this, the crux of social media for me (and in particular right now, Instagram) can only lead to one conclusion. That is, it’s all about adding value to other people.

Whether it’s about extending influence, sharing new ideas or providing products and services that improve people’s lives or meet their needs – all of this is fairly useless and ineffective without any tangible impact upon those we seek to rub shoulders with.

Which brings us to our next important question.

How are you adding value to the people who already follow you?

Because there is no point reaching a new audience if our current audience is disengaged. Disengaged customers leads to future disconnection (read: less followers).

If you genuinely do not care about the people you are seeking to influence, then there’s very little any of us can do to help you in the world of social media. You can fake it of course, but it’s fairly exhausting. It’s much easier just to genuinely care. For the purposes of this article, I’m assuming and hoping you do really.

Here are some super simple ways to add value to your audience:

1) Think about others

How basic is this and yet so helpful. Most often we develop content around either what we can create or what our needs are. Just by thinking about people can be a gamechanger for you.

Do they need encouragement? Or advice? Or practical help?

Provide something that legitimately helps others and you’ll find that you’ll be a very attractive person to follow.

2) Step into vulnerability

We all feel this need to present our best side and for the most part it’s fairly healthy. But our need to look awesome can sometimes overshadow the need of others to actually see what happened.

The truth is that our growth and our strength has come from working through weakness and failure.

Ignore those parts of your story, and you’ll immediately alienate the vast majority of people with your successful awesomeness. Humanity is a huge selling point and sharing your journey (whether personally or with your brand or organisation) is actually so helpful to us all.

No need to go overboard of course. Keep it healthy and don’t expose wounds that are still raw.

3) Keep it on point

Don’t feel the need to talk about things you know nothing about. In fact, when you focus on your niche, you’ll find that others outside of your target demographic will lean in for your expertise. Become legendary in one place instead of attempting to become the next <insert celebrity name here>.

Because you were made to be unique.

The reason we’re into you is because of your uniqueness.

Don’t feel the need to pull back on it.

That isn’t to say you can’t grow into new areas or experiment. But don’t feel pressured to do so by looking on at so many popular figures who might be. You are awesome you know.

4) Curate a league of legends

One of the simplest ways to grow your social media feed is to repost content that adds value to you personally. We live in an age of information overload and it’s hard to spot the good stuff nowadays.

Present yourself as a rational and neutral voice that is celebrating and lifting others and you’ll find that people will really appreciate that.

The side benefit is that it’ll also grow your influence and create a reciprocal sense of community. It’s a really simple way to populate your feed when done with care and thought.

5) Embody consistency

Instagram’s algorithm is designed to do one thing – keep us all on the platform. Whilst we want to put some boundaries in place to stop social media taking over the rest of our life, understand that regular connection is rewarded. It’s not for no reason at all but simple because people are genuinely interested in hearing from you regularly.

The top brands will post between 1-3 times a day.

This might feel a little overkill but choose a level that works for you and jump on board to become more consistent.

It’s better to spend 30 minutes a day than a few hours a week.

6) Mix it up

Experiment with new ideas and mediums of communication. Record a selfie video some time or take a photo of some written text in a notebook. What about memes or challenges?

Keep us engaged by being creative and experimenting.

If you’re not naturally a design genius, then don’t fear because high engagement will always trump high design. Both are obviously desirable, but it also does depend on who you want to reach.

Part of the population is just as clueless as you may. But great design with low quality content is fairly useless stuff.

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear how this article has been helpful for you. What other tips would you add to the list?

You may also like these posts

Why am I still single? (when I don’t want to be)

I shared a message recently around the idea of singleness being good. And marriage being good too. The idea was to really put the value back on singleness and to deal with the cultural romantic idol we have that meeting the right person will somehow complete us. That when we get married, life will begin and all be lived happily ever after.

Read More

PETA, human supremacy and the logical fallacy of speciesism

The internet is a wonderful place and full of wonderful ideas. It’s also a strange place and full of strange ideas. One such idea surfaced recently from the Instagram feed of animal right activist group, PETA which highlighted the concept Speciesism and attracted a certain amount of attention.

Read More

The insidious pull of extremism (why too much of anything is bad)

Excess often has a delayed reaction. Think of those moments where you very slightly over indulge - a delicious Sunday roast in Shoreditch, finishing the chocolate eclairs at the park that the kids half-touched or downing the last of the milk because you’re going away on holiday.

Cue 30 minutes later or so and you’re normally regretting the decision you made. Because life is all about balance.

Read More