My social media inboxes and emails are perpetually full of offers from brands and companies wanting to send me their products to promote, or straight up pay me to promote their stuff. This month, I've already gotten around $3,000 worth of free products (a plus size-minded company sent me a king-size mattress and bed!) and $2,500 in cold, hard cash just for making posts on Instagram. I didn't get where I am today overnight, but how I became a plus size Instagram influencer and grew my following wasn't just an accident.
I post daily on social media, and my following is so loyal that, if I skip a day, I'm inundated with messages from concerned followers asking why I haven't posted. I keep things real by talking about stuff that matters to me, and by sharing my life experiences. I talk about my disabilities, mental health, struggles with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and body positivity. I try to break the bogus stigmas surrounding such things by being open about them. After all, social media is such a great tool for making real connections with people around the world. Besides making money and getting lots of free stuff just by posting on Instagram, I've met some of my very best friends on social media! I get asked almost daily how I became an influencer, and I'll break down some tips for you.
Keep It Real
It’s ridiculously easy to curate social media platforms in ways that make our lives seem perfect, and so many people do just that. Typically, the highlights of our lives are shared on social media (looking bomb for a night out with the girls? Post it! Soaking in that sweet, sweet vitamin D on the beach? Selfie time! Heck yes!), but what about the rest of it all? The reality is that life isn’t all about sunny days on the beach and dreamy Vance Joy lyrics. While it can be super inspiring and uplifting to see people celebrating themselves and having a great time, it’s important to keep it real.
I make amazing connections with my followers when I dig below the surface and post about deeper things, such as my struggles with mental illness and body positivity, my disabilities, and even just normal aspects of life that aren’t very glamorous. Things like getting blemishes, and lazy days spent curled up on the sofa with a hot water bottle and some Midol might not seem Instagram-worthy, but posting about them helps me stay grounded and connected to my following on a more personal level. There are enough social media accounts that only post perfection. I love it when people I follow are honest about who they are and what they go through. At any rate, people can see through inauthenticity more clearly than you give them credit for, even on social media. Posting about the reality of life totally helps me connect with my followers in a really refreshing, meaningful way, and I think that connection creates a more loyal following, too.
Talk About Your Passions In Thoughtful Captions
Writing captions can be daunting, and, unfortunately, Drake lyrics will only get you so far. My Instagram posts that include a bit of narrative usually get way more likes and engagement than ones without much of a caption. So, what are you passionate about? What sets your heart on fire? I see so many people on Instagram trying to grow a following by parroting popular buzzwords and generic phrases they don't really understand. Yawn. Instead of saying exactly what everyone else is when posting, have a clear, concise, original message. Be thoughtful about it. For example, I post about body positivity pretty often on Instagram. While I could totally just take the easy way out and have little popular phrases like, “Love yourself!” as captions, I take the time to dig deeper and use my posts as opportunities to spread resonating messages that lots of people can connect with. I talk about my relationship with my plus size, disabled body and how I’ve evolved away from self-loathing and into self-love. I talk about how I came to accept my cellulite, extra weight, and other perceived physical imperfections rather than letting internal wars with them continue to ruin my mental health. I talk about real things that I’m really passionate about.
A lot of larger accounts on social media get stale and boring because they try to placate a wide audience with their posts rather than staying true to their passions and stating their opinions on things. That’s sad! That’s a bummer. My advice to you is this: Never shut up about things that matter to you. There is so much to fight for, and so much to connect with people over. Don’t hold back and hope for universal popularity, because that’s a silly and unattainable goal. Just do you, and the right people will be attracted to your own brand of passionate energy.
Feature Clear, Clean Photos and Videos
Instagram is obviously image-based, so clear, clear posts are a must. I’ve noticed that photos of mine that are low-quality, or that feature heavy filtering, don’t get as many likes and comments as photos that are clear and lightly filtered, if filtered at all. I try to keep my feed looking clean and luxe, and I stay on-brand by mostly featuring selfies of my outfits, modeling photos, and pictures of my lush plus size bod, unapologetically.
A lot of people have very visually random Instagram feeds, and I don’t think that’s a great way to get followers. Keep it cohesive, but don’t be afraid to deviate from your usual sort of post every now and then. For instance, I use the same filter (Gingham, toned down to like 20 percent) on a lot of my posts to keep my feed visually consistent. If I’ve been posting a lot of outfit selfies in a row, I shake things up by throwing in a photo of myself engaging in self-care (Lush face masks! Luxe bath time! Heading to therapy!), a chic flat lay shot, or an adorable photo of my rescue dogs. Avoid monotony while building a brand by breaking up your feed every now and then with something different. Curate a visually cohesive, but interesting feed to cultivate a successful brand for yourself. And, for god’s sake, darling, clean your mirror and pick up those dirty clothes from the floor before taking that selfie, please!
People often find my account by scrolling through popular hashtags I’ve used, like #bodypositive and #plussizefashion. Hashtags go in and out of vogue, so keeping up on the latest popular ones is important if you want to stay visible to potential new followers. To find out how popular a hashtag is, type it into Instagram’s search bar. This will show the number of posts that have used this hashtag, indicating its popularity.
Be sure to check out big Instagram accounts that have a vibe similar to the one you're going for, and get inspired by the hashtags they’re using. Search Instagram for hashtags that are relevant to your brand, and use a few of the most popular ones (#KeepItSimple) rather than wasting time on really niche or wordy hashtags (#AvoidHashtagsThatAreTooSpecificAndWordy) that don't get much engagement. Keep things simple and relevant, as a rule. Some people say that using only a few hashtags per post is best, but I’m #shameless and use a bunch. #Whatever #YouDoYou
Consider Your Goals
It's important to keep your Instagram goals in mind when creating a feed. For instance, if you have dollar signs flashing in your eyes and you're looking to create an Instagram account that gets those sweet, sweet paid post offers, brands have to find your account attractive. In this situation, it's important to curate a feed that can easily incorporate product placement. Think: crisp, fresh, flat lay product posts, and trendy lifestyle photos.
If you're into fashion and your #goals are to get noticed by fashion brands that will hook you up with a fresh wardrobe, focus on taking killer, uncluttered outfit-of-the-day photos. If you don't have a significant other or bestie willing to follow you around taking photos of your outfits, consider investing in a tripod for clean full-body photos. Make it easy for fashion brands to visualize their clothing on you, and try to show brands you're popular enough to sell their clothing by getting a lot of engagement in your posts. To increase engagement, try using caption space to ask followers questions they will want to respond to, or going for lighthearted, thoughtful captions.
If your social media goal is simply to get more followers, you have a lot more freedom. Speaking your mind in captions is a great way to get likeminded followers. If you create an active Instagram account full of uncluttered, clear photos and videos coupled with engaging captions that show your honest passion, you really can't go wrong. My Instagram account features posts with all of these goals in mind. I make heartfelt, emotional, confessional posts when the mood strikes me, but other days, I post stylish outfit photos with simple captions to attract brands. I mix it up by throwing in the odd product placement or flat lay. You totally don't have to stick to one goal or theme, just make sure everything you post is on brand and true to you.
A lot of people make the mistake of getting super hung up about their follower numbers, when really, the focus should be on cultivating a brand that's true to you. If you have an active social media account that features clean photos, engaging, honest, and thoughtful captions, and you're using popular hashtags, followers will naturally come. Don't worry about it too much! Have fun with it. Now, I'm off to Target for a much-needed 20-ounce triple shot lattè and some home decor. If I find something cool, I'm sure I'll post it on the 'Gram!