On September — Dollar mind, took on the task of starting an Instagram page for Ninja Writers. It was a perfect job. As an artist and super visual. We have great taste and an eye for trends. And we enjoys creating graphics.
Our first goal was to see if we could get to 1,000 organic, engaged followers by October — or in the first month. So, no running ads or taking part in any sort of tactics that would grow our list fast, but leave us with a bunch of followers we couldn’t care less about us.
I’ll be honest. It seemed like a pipe dream.
Mto build your email list?
Plus, writing isn’t exactly a visual medium. What’s even the point?
“It’ll be good,” she said. “You’ll see.”
And she was right. It’s been a ton of fun. We’re reaching a different audience in a different way. And she’s found lots of ways to make our focus (writing for writers) visually interesting.
On October 8, we had just over 700 followers and I just wasn’t sure we’d be able to get 300 more in a week. We’d exhausted our existing audience and we’d need people who weren’t already Ninja Writers to find and like us.
But we did it. On October 15, exactly, we had our 1,000th follower!
Here are some things that helped us go from zero to 1,000 in our first month on Instagram.
We leveraged our existing audience
This helped some, of course. And if I told you it didn’t, you wouldn’t believe me anyway. I wrote about Instagram a couple of times. I shared the link in my weekly newsletter to my email list. I sent out an email letting people know we were on Instagram. And I shared the link on Facebook.
I estimate that we gained about 250 followers from that effort.
We followed people in our space
We spent some time checking out the writer-space hashtags on Instagram and following other people who use them. We wanted to make sure our feed showed us awesome posts, for one thing. And we wanted to start to become part of the community.
We weren’t afraid of following back our fans #followers
My daughter, actually, is at the center of my core social media philosophy.
That philosophy is this: Social media’s main appeal for authors is that it is a way to connect to readers that literally did not exist prior.
I’ll never forget Adrienne following her favorite author (Meg Cabot) on Twitter when she was in middle school and her response when that author followed her back.
So whatever advice I hear about the percentage of followers I should have to people I follow? I throw it out the window. I follow legitimate fans with wild abandon.
If you look at the screenshots above again, you’ll see that we follow more people than follow us. And I’m okay with that. In fact, it’s the most fun. I love seeing our crazy feed. It might not make any sense to anyone else, but I adore seeing what Ninja Writers are up to.
If someone follows Ninja Writers and it seems like they’re honestly a fan or a reader, and not a bot or some other weird thing, we follow back. Period.
We identify those folks by looking at their feed for a minute and then make a judgment call. If they post pretty regularly and don’t seem like they’re just following everyone under the sun hoping to get a follow-back, we follow them.
I’m happy to report that the result of all that following was not reduced engagement. In fact, we’ve had a fantastic response to our posts, I think specifically because we get excited about the people we follow.
We interacted (Read: We were social)
I’ll write something separate about this in the next week or so, but I was given specific advice about interaction on Medium and we followed it.
That meant leaving a ton of comments, liking, sharing, and linking — doing all the Instagram stuff. Every day.
We worked at being part of the writing community on Instagram instead of just posting and forgetting.
The very best part has been getting replies from people. We’ve had a policy of responding to every reply.
We played around with the platform
Prior to this month, I’d mostly only ever posted soccer mom and dog mom photos on Instagram. Plus the occasional shot of my garden. I knew how to use filters and share to Facebook — and that’s about it.
Adrienne learned a lot about how to use stories, how to create a series of visuals that tied together, and how to add audio to a post. We also experimented a little with boosting posts with a little money to make sure they show up in interested people’s feeds.
There’s still a ton to learn. But being open to figuring it out has helped a lot.
We were consistent
We posted six times a day during that first month.
Also, we worked to have a consistent vibe to our feed. Adrienne chose a color scheme and created a logo. Our posts included links to my blog posts, inspirational writing posts, and writing prompts.
So, is it worth it?
I think so.
On a purely business level, people are clicking on the links on our Linktree page and visiting our posts. Our click-through rate is 44% — which means 44% of the times that someone clicked to our Linktree page, they’ve clicked a link inside it.
I don’t really know if 44% CTR is good or bad or somewhere in the middle. I know that when I send an email, my CTR is closer to 5% to 10%. When I send a newsletter to my most engaged followers, the CTR is 25% to 30%, so 44% sure feels pretty good.
What’s interesting to me is that each one of those 143 clicks represents someone who A) saw an Instagram post, B) clicked my bio, C) clicked the Linktree link, and D) clicked another link.
That many steps represent motivation, which represents high-quality engagement.
I’m sure that we could have found strategies that would have built our following faster. We could have paid for followers, for instance. But I don’t think that would have led to more engagement or a stronger, healthier following.
Here are the things that have helped the most #followers
- Letting people know we have a new Instagram feed. Don’t be shy about sharing your link.
- Following accounts in our space.
- Following back legitimate fans (but not necessarily people just following us to get a follow back, or bots, etc.)
- Interacting on other people’s posts.
- Responding to comments and messages on our own account.
And here are our plans for month two (and a half)
We have a big goal. We want to try to get to 3,000 followers by December 1.
The big thing we’re planning is a giveaway. I’ll write more about that when we’re done — how we did it, how it worked, etc.
We also have plans to share the link to our Instagram more visibly with our current followers on other platforms. Specifically, we’re going to experiment with directing people to our Instagram account after they join our email list.
Stay tuned for an update on how those plans work out.