Recently I received a message from on of my Bud to Bloom e-course students asking me what makes a successful Instagram account? Why are some seemingly mediocre accounts growing while others who put in so much effort not making any progress?
This question really hit home for me because I know the exact overwhelmed feeling it holds within it. When you can see success happening all around you and you feel like you’re trying everything you can to get a slice of your own success with no obvious progress, it can feel heart breaking.
So today I’d like to chat about my experience and thoughts around this topic. Starting with what we define as success on Instagram…
What is success on Instagram?
I think for most people success on Instagram equals a constantly growing follower count and lots of likes. But these two metrics don’t actually define any kind of success and a strong focus on them will only leave you deep down in the bottomless pit of external gratification.
Depending on your business success should be about your authenticity, your conversation, your sales leads/conversions and/or your brand collaborations. And not one single one of these things relies on a constantly growing follower count and lots of likes.
There are accounts with 5-10k followers who have far more successful businesses in terms of income than some accounts with 100k+ followers. So what’s the difference between the two? The accounts building business from their Instagram are focused on attracting quality over quantity, listening to the wants and needs of their audiences and showing up with authentic, value-infused content.
Their followers want to invest in their products and/or brands want to work with them because they have built their business based on passion. When numbers aren’t your main driver you are far more likely to create from the heart and you are far less likely to give up when you have a slow day, week, month or year. And building business is a long term game – it’s not a competition or a race, it’s a never-ending journey of evolution.
The accounts chasing vanity metrics are more concerned with getting the numbers than becoming a trustworthy thought leader within their niche. They create based on numbers (and usually create a version of what they see other successful accounts creating) which only drives them further and further away from the unique creativity that is already within them, that will make them a success.
In fact some of the people chasing numbers may have only started an Instagram account because it’s what other people were doing and it looked like fun. Don’t get me wrong – it’s ok for you to want to be successful on Instagram, but it has to be about more than getting 100k followers or becoming an influencer. These are the kind of goals that will only leave you burnt out and deflated.
Is your focus on their success holding you back from your own success?
So what about those accounts you see that don’t seem so special to you but have numbers that are sky rocketing? Well there are a few different explanations for these:
- They started on Instagram a long long time ago when it was a less saturated space and easier to grow an audience without offering too much value. Their loyal following and growing numbers are thanks to the fact they’ve been around so long and they’ve built up momentum.
- They have more value filled content on other channels and filter those audiences through to their Instagram. There are lots of vloggers who have almost everyday/personal looking accounts but who do very well on Instagram. This is because they have loyal followers from other channels who will support whatever they create wherever they create it. And these accounts have worked really hard on building up their other channels so kudos to them.
- You are not in their target market or interested in their niche so their content doesn’t appeal to you, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t appeal to anyone else.
- They have made a name for themselves offline – through tv, radio, competitions with big audiences etc – and their followers search for them on social media.
- And of course it’s not my favourite topic, but all those numbers could be fake. While the hay day of buying followers and likes is passing us by (thanks to the diligent work of Instagram), it’s still very present on Instagram.
But guess what? None of this should really matter to you. Why? Because the more time you spend focusing on their success the less time you spend finding your own unique voice. The more time you spend thinking “this is unfair” the more you convince yourself it’s all just impossible and you may as well give up right now.
The idea that there are only so many slices of the pie to go around is ridiculous. Maybe there are only so many slices of their pie to go around, so that’s when you get in the kitchen and you make your own pie.
The secret to success on Instagram is the same secret as success anywhere
Trying to define the perfect recipe for success on Instagram is the same as trying to define the perfect recipe for success for singers, actors, artist’s, business owners, business employees – anyone in any industry. There is no single set of steps for success, because what works for one person doesn’t work for another. What’s brings out my enthusiasm for life, isn’t the same thing that brings out yours.
If there was one way to be successful we’d all be following steps 1, 2, 3 and it would work perfectly. But life is not about following the steps and getting it ticked off the list and done. Life is about creating your own path, evolving with each step of the journey and finding joy wherever you are right now. When you follow the sparks of joy you find more situations and things that bring joy. When you focus on the situations and things that feel bad you find more situations and things that feel bad.
What I can tell you though is how not to become successful:
- Creating without a deeper purpose:
- Doing something because someone else seems happy/successful doing it
- Trying to simply replicate the success you see elsewhere
- Spending your energy focused on the success of others instead of following your own unique path
- Blindly spending your time doing the things you think will bring you success instead of being open to all the possibilities that already surround you and following your joy without being concerned about where it will lead you
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and lost at the moment I recommend giving yourself a small amount of time each day or each week (around 15mins per day or 1-2 hours on the weekend) to spend time on something simply because you enjoy it. Then just see where it leads you to. It can be difficult to make a complete switch from doing what you do now to letting go and seeing where your interests lead you. So taking it slowly can be a great way to gently let go without stressing yourself out.
If you enjoyed this post, my personal branding e-course Bud to Bloom was created to help lost creative souls take a more wholistic approach to social media – starting by defining their true purpose and crafting a plan to build an audience and business from the ground up for long term success.