Everyone wants to know what the magical formula is for growing an Instagram following. Between the gimmicks of giveaways and ‘follow for follows,’ it can seem impossible when your goal has something to do with amassing a large audience, such as landing a book deal or becoming an influencer. It’s not often talked about, but the real behind-the-scenes formula for building an Instagram empire comes down to good ol’ fashioned work. It’s not necessarily pay-to-play like some think, and you don’t have to invest bookoo bucks in ads to grow an audience.
Just ask Angie Lee, who is the founder of the Angie Lee Show, which has been named a Top 10 podcast. In addition to her podcast accolades, her followers adore her Instagram account — all 100,000 of them. Over the years, Lee has shown up to share jam-packed value in every post, encouraging, inspiring, and educating hopeful entrepreneurs to JUST GET STARTED, since, as she says, “ready is a lie.” We got together to talk about how she scaled to 100K followers with zero paid ads (read that one more time!) and how you can, too.
1. Focus on Heartbeats Not Likes.
Sometimes, in the hubbub of influencer culture and the glitter and glitz of vanity metrics, it can be hard to remember that each follower is a real person. “I am constantly reminding my audience and those who I work with that every like and every follower is a heartbeat. That’s a privilege I don’t take lightly,” Lee reflects. It’s hard to picture, but while 500 followers on Instagram may not seem like a lot compared to other Instagram accounts, a room filled with 500 people would be quite crowded and overwhelming! That’s so many more people than it seems. Remember this.
As for starting out with a scant audience, Lee says, “I always like to tell people, that if you won’t be grateful for just a handful of followers, you won’t be grateful if you have thousands of followers.” This is what compels Lee to reply to EVERY direct message and comment that she gets. “Plus, think of the beginning of your journey as practice. Use your initial followers’ feedback to your content as market research,” she added.
Another part of understanding that each follower is a heartbeat is realizing that people are looking for value. Think of your own habits on Instagram. Who do you follow? What do you look for? The truth is, people are naturally self-interested… which simply means they only follow someone when they clearly see how they’ll get value. So, when creating content for your page, Lee says to over deliver on the value front.
2. Niche Down Like It’s Your Job.
Here’s the thing: no one can do what you do like you do, but you need to niche down more than you think to make sure that your account stands out. Lee encourages the consideration, WHO is your target audience, specially? What is it that they’re looking for? What are they motivated by? What do you really help them to do?
There are a lot of Instagram accounts that are a bit generic – and while it’s a popular misconception that the trick to getting more followers is to appeal to more people, it certainly is a misconception. “There are so many people out there – more than you can fathom – that will feel a resonance with you and your content because you weren’t afraid to get ultra-specific and niche down,” Lee said.
3. Consistency Is The Unsexy Secret.
“The truth is, getting my business started meant that I showed up time and time again even when no one clapped,” Lee shared. “Consistency is key, alongside believing in yourself and the FACT that you have value to give.” Lee says that one of the main reasons she got to 100K followers without ads is because she committed to showing up every single day, “even when it was messy and imperfect.”
“You don’t need to consistently make perfect content. Just consistently deliver value. And you have so much value to give!” Lee encourages. Of course, to be consistent, you also have to just get started. “This is where it comes full circle, because to get on a consistent posting schedule, you have to take the leap and make that first post, even if it’s not ‘perfect,’” Lee said. “What I want people to know is that the only real difference between the people who build the audiences and those who don’t is consistency.”
Remember that you have so much value to deliver, and there are thousands of people out there who can benefit from your message! Heed Lee’s call and start posting.