When I started my Instagram account (www.instagram.com/katfairbanks) a year and a half ago, I did so with the intention of learning how to grow an audience as quickly as possible and monetize it.
I grew my audience on Instagram pretty rapidly, going from 0 to 20k in about eighteen months. I also partnered with well-known brands and made a modest amount of money per month (several hundred dollars).
I used a formula that continues to work to grow my follower count at a consistent rate – I am the admin of several Facebook groups that link back to my Instagram, and I know that’s the primary source of most of my followers.
However, I’ve been doing a poor job of creating and maintaining the connections required to maintain a good engagement rate online. A year ago, it was normal to get 1,000 likes per photo with 10k followers. Now, I’m lucky to get 400 likes, even though my follower count has doubled.
Sure, I could blame the algorithm or the impossibly high standards of the influencers around me. But I’d rather try to learn and adapt than dwell on the fact that what I’m doing on Instagram isn’t sitting well with my audience anymore.
I do notice what content of mine does well, but I don’t necessarily have the desire to replicate what is most successful on my account. As a 26 year old woman, I know pictures of my full body wearing tighter fitting clothing will get attention. But that’s not how I want to solve my engagement problem. Posing for the ever-popular “belfie” or “butt selfie” isn’t something I can stomach.
I’ve never posted an image online that is immodest, but that doesn’t mean I don’t notice that full body shots where I’m wearing form-fitting clothing is by far the most successful on my account. And while part of me understands this — Instagram content is all about quickly consumable content. Content that is eye-catching, provoking, and stands out. Provocative photos do well on Instagram for the same reason they’re effective in advertising.
It can be disheartening to see that this is the common thread among the photos that have done the best on my account, but I am also aware that the part of my audience that likes those photos aren’t necessarily the people in my audience that follow my story because they resonate with it. I wouldn’t get a flood of long-form DM’s (direct messages) if I were to post a photo of myself in club attire. I DO get heartfelt stories from my followers when I write and speak about experiences that are personal to me, and about topics I am passionate about.
Sexy photos also don’t align with my long term goals. I started my account with the intention of growing a community of like-minded people. I’ve achieved this with my Facebook groups, where conversation among group members about topics I’m passionate about (Instagram and UX Design) is center stage. But I’ve failed to translate these conversations into my content on Instagram in an impactful, meaningful way.
Moving forward, I am realigning my focus. I want to take the things I am most passionate about, like UX design, and bring them to the forefront on my Instagram page, even if that topic isn’t something I’ve seen the most successful influencers online touch. I have to think about my long term goals and how my Instagram account can serve as a way to document the ways I try to achieve those goals. My biggest goal is this – to learn and grow and become an expert in my chosen field, and eventually run my own business full time, or otherwise serve as a leader in that field.
The above photo is a recent one from my Instagram that better aligns with the personal brand I want to emulate. I accompanied this photo with a personal story about trying to book clients as a small business owner, with pretty good results. It’s the most successful piece of content I’ve posted in weeks, and it’s one I’m proud of and can get behind. It’s a small step, but it’s one that proves to me that people will connect with this version of me — the version of me that means staying genuine and real and focusing on what I care about the most.
Not everyone in my audience is only interested in sexy photos. A lot of my audience is made up of people passionate about the same things I am. I just need to continue developing my brand and creating high volume, high quality content that documents the highs and lows of trying to achieve my long term goals.