Design influencers share their best bets for turning your Instagram feed into an authoritative and authentic portfolio
If you’re running a business in this day and age, figuring out how to get more followers on Instagram and building a strong social media presence are must-haves, not niceties, for brand awareness and connecting with your future clients. But for content creators whose Instagram profiles haven’t already developed a multi-digit following, the prospect of how to get more followers can be daunting.
“If you’re Beyoncé, social is optional. If you’re not, you need to be on it,” asserts Justina Blakeney, designer and founder of the home-goods site Jungalow. “It’s the most powerful marketing tool we currently have at our disposal…and it’s free.”
Blakeney should know. Jungalow—a self-described “one-stop-shop for bohemian-modern home decor + all things all things colorful, patternful + jungalicious”—boasts metrics most bloggers and content creators would envy, with an Instagram follower count of 1.6 million. The designer herself has an audience of 528,000 on her own Instagram.
Patrick Janelle (follower count: 410,000), a creative director and entrepreneur behind the popular lifestyle site A Guy Named Patrick concurs. “It’s been hugely valuable,” he says. “I went from having a little freelance business to marketing myself as an authority in the lifestyle space.”
Of course, any emerging designer would relish the chance to get their name and work in front of thousands of potential new clients, but developing a solid content strategy and growing a robust social media following—that is, actually getting casual viewers to hit the follow button and remain engaged—take commitment. If you’re going to put in the work, do it right. We asked three social-savvy experts for their very best advice to help you harness the power of social media and see real-world results for your business’ bottom line—no bots or “like” farms required.
Just get started
Hashtags, photos, content calendars, bios, captions… The prospect of building a business profile and growing your Instagram follower count may seem overwhelming. But the most important thing, experts agree, is to just take that first step. “Not overthinking it is really important,” Blakeney explains. “You don’t get better from thinking about things, you get better by practicing. It’s exercise.” No excuses, Janelle says. You already have everything you need. “The barrier to entry is really low—anybody can do it,” he notes. Though Janelle himself often posts high-quality photos, he says it’s not a necessity, especially when you’re just starting out. “The images on social media don’t have to be glossy, professionally taken photos.”
Sure, putting Instagram posts out into the world can feel a little intimidating, but don’t let that fear keep you from reaping the benefits of social media marketing. Experiment and see what feels right. “If you post something and you’re cringing, delete it,” Blakeney says. “You have room to play.”
Think of your Instagram account as a new portfolio
For designers, Instagram is king. While most experts stay visible with accounts on other social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and increasingly, TikTok, they consider Instagram most essential, with Pinterest in a solid second place. Several designers mentioned using Pinterest as a mood board for their creative work, but Janelle says it’s also an often-overlooked way to drive traffic. “Create more visibility through having a following on Pinterest or…making sure things that appear on your website are being pinned to draw traffic back to your site.”
Write compelling Instagram captions and use hashtags
Don’t discount the power of captions to grab potential followers’ attention, Blakeney says. “There are so many ways to engage an audience and the picture is only half of it. The copy is extremely important in how you’re telling the story.” It’s about more than simply discussing each photo, Janelle says—captions are a great way to set yourself apart, draw in a new audience, and establish brand voice. “You may have beautiful images, but communicating and letting your personality show through is so important.”
For many visual people like designers, words just aren’t a default way to communicate ideas—they may think best in color and shapes—but it’s essential to consider how a post is going to be received by the audience, not only what’s easiest to create.
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