1) Find Your Niche
Little known fact: my Instagram account started as my personal account, and I had no intention of ever starting a fitness account or a blog for that matter! It was sort of a happy accident that happened after Kayla Itsines (creator of the infamous Bikini Body Guide) shared my progress picture on her account. Following the feature on her page I was flooded with questions about my progress and eating habits, so I started to post my daily meals, workout schedule, and share the story behind my fitness journey. After the second time that Kayla featured me on her account I gained a significant following, majority hailing from within the BBG community and I found my niche; fitness and wellness advice!
Now my account has broadened to include more topics, especially over on my blog. At the heart of it all, however, is my fitness following and I understand that most of my followers are looking to me for advice and encouragement in those areas. Find what you’re passionate and/or knowledgeable about and use that to your advantage. I am told all the time that people appreciate my advice and the knowledge that I offer. Always aspire to be more than just a pretty picture!
2) Pick Your Theme
Now that you have a general idea of what you want to post about, it’s time to work on presentation. There are many influencers out there whose accounts have their own “personality” if you will. The way they edit their photos and the overall feel of their account is unique to them, which helps to set them apart in a sea of photos and accounts.
I use Snapseed for any minor adjustments light brightness and sharpening before throwing a filter from VSCOcam onto it. I use the same filter every time (though sometimes at different levels) in order to keep my feed clean and consistent. In the winter time my feed is cool and much darker, and in the summertime I try to keep the colors bright and fun.
It is also important to share high quality images! It may seem silly but a curated photo of your breakfast does look a lot better than an under lit shot of your oatmeal taken on your iphone. People want to be inspired by what they see, so make sure your images are up to par.
3) Connect & Comment
One of the most valuable aspects of Instagram is the ability and ease with which you can directly connect with others. Whether it’s through a like, a comment, or a direct message, there are so many ways to network and make friends on Instagram. When I first started to transition from my personal account into a fitness and lifestyle account, I sort of felt like I was floating around in space on my own. Instagram has millions of users, and sometimes you have to stick your neck out a bit.
I made an effort to search through hashtags to find other accounts to follow. I spent 30 minutes every morning going through my timeline and leaving genuine comments on people’s photos. I answered every message I had in my inbox. Over time I build meaningful connections with some of these people, not to mention the brands like GTS that I now have relationships with!
4) Be Original
One of my favorite quotes of all time is “work hard in silence and let success be your noise.” It is important to remember that your account is your own and no one else’s. You want people to follow you for who you are and what you have to contribute! If you are sharing and saying things you don’t believe solely to get more likes, then you are not being original. The right people will follow you, and for the right reasons. I’d rather have 100 people who connect with and benefit from my message following me than 100,000 who don’t. It’s about far more than how many followers you have, it’s about how many lives you can make a difference in, and that’s hard to do if you aren’t being yourself.
5) Creative Captions
I have been told by many of my followers that they appreciate my captions far more than my pictures. You might hear that and think it’s insulting, but I think it’s awesome. I spend a lot of time and effort coming up with my captions because it is where I can best get my message across. I know that most people will only look at the picture and skip over the captions, but that’s the heart and soul of my account. People appreciate what you share with them visually, but they also appreciate what you have to say.
I understand that a pretty yoga pose or a post workout selfie can be a great source of motivation for most people, but so can a pep talk, or a quote, or a genuine message of support. Captions matter, and they also help to better engage your audience with you. If you have a funny story, a favorite quote, knowledge you’d like to share, share it! Ask questions of your followers and respond to theirs. For me the very best part of running my account is the conversations I get to have with others.
6) Utilize Hashtags
Ah, hashtags. Little did I know how important they really and truly are for exposing your account with the world. Since Instagram has changed it’s algorithm, hashtags have become a major way for it’s users to search for and filter through content. A good hashtag can present your account to more unique viewers, so it is important to choose them wisely. I suggest selecting hashtags that are relevant to your brand image and niche, and/or more specific hashtags as opposed to some of the more generalized options.
The best way to gain exposure is to land yourself on the discover page. A good rule of thumb is to only use hashtags with a few thousand images linked to them. For example, when posting a transformation photo it can be tempting to use #transformation, but there are over 10,000,000 other people using the very same hashtag and your photo is likely to get buried beneath the pile. If you choose a hashtag like #fitnesstransformations there are only 4,000 posts to compete with. Find those unique hashtags and use them to your advantage!
7) Learn Your Audience
Some of my most effective Instagram posts and blog posts are the ones that answer a recurring question or questions that my followers ask of me. Just like it is important to find your niche it is also important to give your followers the answers and suggestions they are looking for. If you are a fitness blog, share the tips and tricks that worked for you. Share your food diary, or your personal story. People are looking for advice, yes, but they are also looking for connection. The more they know about your own experience the greater chance they have to relate it to their own, and that in turn builds a relationship between you and your followers and reiterates the point I made before; be more than just a pretty picture.
8) Connect to Other Platforms
A great way to broaden your audience and expand your personal brand is to connect your account with your other social media platforms. Not only have I gained followers from Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and of course from my blog, but I have gained additional platforms with which to share my message and content. While Instagram is many people’s flagship, there are large audiences on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter (to name a few) who can benefit from your message as well.
Yes, this requires a bit more work to monetize, and yes- it would be easier to stick to one platform and be done with it but if you are serious about growth and expansion don’t be afraid to venture into foreign territory.
9) Reach Out
Building relationships with other people and companies is another great way to gain exposure and build your audience, and to do that you have to be willing to reach out. My relationship with GTS is the perfect example of why you should always send an email. I had found their account on Instagram and was interested in their brand right away, so I sent them a DM and connected with them! Now I am fortunate enough to be a brand ambassador and have the opportunity to write for their blog and be featured on their page. Not only is that a great way to continue to build my relationship with the company, but it in turn helps give me exposure to new audiences!
10) Host A Giveaway
Giveaways are not only a great way to grow your following, but provide another opportunity to create working relationships with brands. They provide exposure for both parties and are also quite fun. For brand giveaways you can ask your followers to follow both you and the account of the product you are featuring before tagging a friend as a form of entry. For looped or group giveaways, you each tag one person on the list and they tag the next, going around in a circle back to the first person in the loop. Each follower who comes across the giveaway are then required to follow all of the accounts listed if you made it a requirement that they must follow for a chance to win.
Born and raised in Massachusetts, Kelly McGrath began documenting her fitness journey in the spring of 2015 after her collegiate ice hockey career had come to a close. Through her experiences in navigating life after sports she found a renewed passion for health and sharing her knowledge with others. Now a full time interior designer and part time blogger, Kelly looks to help people of all ages and backgrounds reach their fitness and wellness goals.