10 Essential Tips to Hit 10k on Instagram
For so many creative starting out, the 10k following count is an elusive mark of “success”. You finally get a “k” instead of an exact follower count, and it unlocks the swipe-up feature for business and creator accounts, which can be a huge asset for a business and another way to drive up engagement. After months and months of creating a community, developing my photography skills, finding my niche and editing style, and figuring out the social media game, I recently reached 10,000 followers on Instagram. As time goes on and with constant algorithm changes, gaining a following has been more and more challenging, so I wanted to share 10 of my best tips on how to get to 10k followers on Instagram (because honestly the first 10k is the hardest!):
1. Engage and engage some more
You only gain a follower when someone 1) sees your post and decides to follow 2) sees your profile and hits follow or 3) sees your story and visits your profile via the story to follow. More eyes on your posts and profile will result in follows – it’s a sheer numbers game. This is not a very popular tip, but you won’t be an overnight success – if you’re not spending hours liking, commenting, responding to stories, sending DMs, you are not going to get noticed. Unfortunately you cannot just post and expect people to come to you, you must be the one to engage first. Leave meaningful comments, respond to their captions, and they are likely to reciprocate. Do not use bots at this stage and try to game the system – you are likely to get your account banned or deleted, and many brands and other users can see right through this.
2. Stick to a niche and develop your style
Until you are a much larger account and individual posts don’t matter as much if they do well or not, if you want to grow it’s best to stick to a single niche such as only travel, or only portraits, instead of a mix of all of your interests. Then develop a consistent editing style or use the same filter on all of your photographs and plan out your feed so that when someone visits your account all of your photographs have a consistent look or feel. Followers like knowing what to expect, and a beautiful feed helps get that final “follow” tap.
3. Create beautiful content
There is no getting around that beautiful content is still king. Practice your photography and editing, and post images that people will love on sight. For me, going out as often as I could to take photographs and meeting with other creators was huge for learning and developing my creative eye. Having a unique style has come with YEARS of editing and finding what I like, so don’t put pressure on yourself to suddenly come up with a standout style. Experiment, find what works and what you like, and keep in touch with what your audience engages with most.
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Being in this cave at dawn was almost a spiritual experience - golden light streaming in, quiet solitude from the recent rain, and no one around for miles. In truth this cave does have a special meaning for many people who visit it, so I wanted to be as respectful as possible. Sitting here was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had on an adventure, and I would love if the person after me got to have this same experience; without trash, without carvings, without vandalism, without any trace of the others that came before. These places have existed long before us and will exist long after us, so please always leave no trace. 🧡
4. Post consistently and often
You definitely want to be using all 30 of your hashtags, and you shouldn’t be using generic tags like #landscape or #love. Find niche-specific hashtags for your account, use hashtags from feature accounts in your niche, and make sure the tags you use are not too small nor too big. Too small and no one is searching for those hashtags, and too big and your post will immediately disappear into the noise. You also will want to switch them up occasionally; I usually have 20 main hashtags I slowly phase in or out, and the remaining 10 are location- or subject-specific.
5. Research your hashtags
As a photographer, most of your best shots are probably not going to be somewhere you just walk up to a location, in perfect weather, snap a shot and leave. Most times you are battling crazy weather, you probably haven’t slept much, and you’ve visited this location for three years straight before all the conditions lined up perfectly. As smartphones and cameras improve, it becomes harder and harder to stand out from the pack, which means pushing yourself to your creative limits. On the business front, you need to constantly be putting yourself out there. I get asked all the time how I get jobs with certain brands, and I would not have worked with any of them if I sat around and waited for them to come to me. I reach out every single week, facing rejection after rejection, all chasing the one single yes that leads to a job.
6. Write engaging captions
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I'm convinced this is actually the Polar Express 🚂🎅❄️⠀ ⠀ But really this is just an extremely photogenic commuter train that passes through one ridiculously scenic bend. Trains tend to come through fairly regularly, but the amount of time you'll have to wait varies greatly. Of course right when I arrived a train passed through, so I had to wait 30 minutes for the next one - but it went the wrong direction!! So I patiently waited in the gentle snow fall for another 30 minutes for a train to pass through again in the direction I wanted - and thankfully the wait paid off!⠀ ⠀ I also found it interesting how certain places suddenly get super popular on this app - I went from seeing a photograph from this location and thinking it was super novel and incredible to suddenly seeing it everywhere. And when I arrived there were more people than I expected at the viewpoint, so there goes my thoughts that it was a "hidden gem" haha. But despite that I still was SO excited to see this scene and even better to get a train going through it. It was definitely quite a thrilling moment to have the wait finally rewarded, and it made the shot more than just another checkmark of a shot to get.⠀ ⠀ Would you wait for over hour in the snow just to get a shot?
7. Be present in your stories
8. Be authentic
9. Respond to comments and DMs
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There is seeing a view in a photograph, and then there's seeing it in person, after you've hiked up a mountain peak, not once, but twice, in the dark, covered in rain and sweat, facing a howling wind - but damn. Those views were worth the struggle to get here. I knew if I didn't do any other hike in Canada, I had to do this one. I somehow snagged a campsite despite the fact you have to book these three months out, on the phone, within an hour of the office opening. A crazy streak of luck started my adventure here, but promptly ended at that point. I wanted to catch the sunrise, but hiking somewhere in the dark alone for the first time isn't smart, so I decided to hike it first for sunset and scope it out, then I would come back in the morning once I knew where I needed to be. In my excitement at the increasingly beautiful views on the steep trek up, I blew past the viewpoint and kept on hiking through the mountain. I passed yellow larches, stunning alpine valleys, snowy peaks, and after a while I realized I was possibly lost. I didn't know I had hiked past the point I needed to stop, so following the signs ended up leading me on a large merry loop for hours. I finally realized my mistake and backtracked, but I was too lake for sunset and had hiked three times as far as I needed to. I was so exhausted and so upset with myself, I didn't know if I could drag myself up there AGAIN just a scant few hours later for sunrise. But I hiked back down, collapsed into my tent, and woke up a few hours later. Gave myself a little pep talk, and rolled out in the cold darkness. The hike up was tough, but when I finally got the views I had been chasing, I was so happy and so proud I had pushed past all the challenges to get there. While I didn't get sunset photographs here or even a good sunrise, I did see some amazing views on my hike the night before I wouldn't have seen otherwise. More importantly, I realized I was capable of so much more than I thought I was. Looking at this shot, knowing what I went through to capture it, is truly powerful. So dig deep, chase your dreams, you can do so much more than you know. 💙
10. Figure out what’s successful and re-create it
Social media is not the end-all-be-all, so please don’t place the value of your photographic skill or self-worth on these numbers. You never know what other people’s journeys are, and I know plenty of top-tier photographers with very low follower counts that are nevertheless very successful in their field. If you have any questions, comments, or thoughts on any of this, please leave me a comment below! I would love to know your thoughts on the elusive 10k mark.
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Hey I’m Rebecca!
I’m a freelance travel & outdoors photographer and blogger living in the US but you can find me adventuring around the globe! On this blog I share tips to help you improve your photography, inspiration to explore the outdoors, destination guides, and travel tips, and more to plan your own adventures!
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