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Social Media > Instagram Icon

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

Everybody starts with zero followers. Here's how these pros got thousands upon thousands of fans.
PeopleImages | Getty Images

Instagram Icons have unique ways to reach thousands of people each day. But every account starts at zero.

Whether the content is Hollywood memes or landscape photography, these 13 Icon accounts open up about their processes of promotion, the toolbox offered by Instagram, and how to continually grow with each post.


 

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

1. Cross promote.

Courtesy of Leslie Mosier

Name: Leslie Mosier

Handle: @itsdougthepug

We do everything organically. I'm proud to say we've never spent money on an ad. We've gained the most followers whenever we collaborate with other big Instagrammers or celebrities and personalities. Whenever we do that cross promotion of content it always gives us a new audience to engage with. It gives us a whole new fanbase to connect with and that's definitely how it grew so big.

 

I remember after we collaborated with Justin Bieber a few years ago. He posted on Instagram two photos of Doug wearing Calvin Kleins, holding up this little sign that said "What do you mean?" [for his album]. That day alone we gained like 60,000 Instagram followers. It really shows you it's all about who you get in front of.

 

(Read more: The Secrets of the Woman Who Quit Her Job and Made Her Pug an Instagram Celebrity)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

2. Tag the right people.

Courtesy of Jessica Hirsch

Name: Jessica Hirsch

Handle: @cheatdayeats

Tagging the right people. For example, if I post something that I think would attract attention of let’s say, Food and Wine (@foodandwine), because it’s a beautiful shot, and hope that they would regram me, and they have a couple million followers, then reposts are going to help build and attract new followers. I’ve seen accounts who don’t tag, and I’ve noticed that their growth is actually a lot slower. It’s an annoying thing to do, but I think it’s worth it. Plus, sometimes people might look to see who’s been tagging @foodandwine. So it’s kind of like a search engine.

 

Hashtags are a good way, also, for a search engine, although I’ve been hearing lately that they could not be helpful, because a lot of them have been banned or something. So there’s a lot of back and forth about that.

 

(Read more: This Former Math Teacher Now Gets Paid to Travel the World and Take Pictures of Her Meals)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

3. Choose quality over quantity.

Courtesy of danielkordan.com

Name: Daniel Kordan

Handle: @danielkordan

Content. The content should be awesome and as perfect as possible. It can be a limitation [for me] because if I start to post pictures that are less than my level of quality then I will have people unsubscribe from my feed. So I don’t post everything -- I only post pictures that I consider the best.


(Read more: How This Physics Student Turned His Passion for Beautiful Landscapes Into Instagram Fame)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

4. Offer exclusivity.

Courtesy of Micaela Erlanger

Name: Micaela Erlanger

Handle: @micaelaerlanger

I think people follow me because they like my work. There’s been an incredible rise and interest in celebrity fashion on social media. There is a lot of focus and emphasis on that. I think that people are inspired by what my clients [and I] are up to. Then of course there is the aspirational aspect to working in the entertainment and fashion industry.

 

I have access and a behind-the-scenes look at things that most people don’t. Being able to share that in this setting is something that draws appeal and people seek that out. My followers are followers because they care.

 

(Read more: This Celebrity Stylist Uses Instagram to Show Fans How Red Carpet Moments Are Made)


 

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

5. See up meetups.

Courtesy of Natalie Amrossi

Name: Natalie Amrossi

Handle: @misshattan

One is doing Instagram meetups, which are called Instameets, where people who have the same interest in photography go shoot around in different locations. Also, a lot of people on Instagram tend to repost your photos. Their followers see your work, and if they like what they see, they follow you, too. I would post photos of New York from perspectives that not a lot of people would otherwise see, especially my aerial perspectives, and a lot of reposting action is how my followers grew. It could either be just an average person with 1,000 followers that were their friends, or a photography account page with more followers featuring different photographers. That and collaborating with other photographers and taking portraits of each other is another way I grew my followers.

 

(Read more: This Aerial Photographer Took Her Hobby to New Heights With Instagram)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

6. Embrace user content.

Courtesy of Ryan Glick

Name: Ryan Glick

Handle: @coffeenclothes

We created this public community over the past three years and in turn, we have hundreds of people every day posting Coffee 'N Clothes content -- using the hashtag, tagging our brand. The way Coffee 'N Clothes works is people from all over the world are creating content for us, looking to be featured, spreading our messaging. So every day 500 people are posting their own Coffee 'N Clothes photos, we're reaching [those] 500 people and their audiences, so it has a snowball effect.

 

(Read more: This Marketer Transformed His Instagram Into 2 Profitable Businesses)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

7. Keep it playful.

Courtesy of Floom

Name: Lana Elie

Handle: @floomofficial

We do a lot of competition partnerships with other accounts that we think have unique offerings and work well with us. Users can follow us to win something. We also make sure all our content is produced in-house. A lot of the time with our flower of the week it becomes quite educational and quite fun to engage with.

 

With Instagram stories we'll open it up and make it kind of playful, talk about how it was named, things like that. I think that shareability allows other people to promote us. And also the simplicity of our images. We also make our assets for our florists. Like, if you want to share our Instagram account, you can use this video.

 

(Read more: How This Former Personal Assistant Used Instagram to Turn Her Love of Flowers Into a Blooming Business)

 

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

8. Generate consistent content.

Courtesy of Murad Osmann

Name: The Osmanns

Handle: @FollowMeTo

Before, it used to be generating content on a steady basis. I’ve made mistakes: Sometimes I’ve waited for like three weeks [between posts], which is wrong, because you should constantly generate content for your followers and audience. With huge gaps, you will see the decrease in attention and steady growth. Now, the constant generation of posts and content works mostly only on YouTube, it doesn’t really work on Instagram because of the new mechanics and algorithms.

 

We don’t pay for promotion, but I’m sure that works for some people. What we try to do is cross-promote with different influencers, go on different trips and generate the content that our audience wants. Our strategy at the moment is to communicate with our followers a bit more and increase the reach of our existing followers.

 

(Read more: How a Spur-of-the-Moment Photo Led to This Couple's Iconic Work Being Featured in Times Square and Around the World)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

9. Find partners.

Courtesy of Aureta Thomollari

Name: Aureta Thomollari

Handle: @aureta

I saw that our accounts were doing so well and said [to Watson] let’s open something together where we can put whatever we want, where it's not so conscious because it doesn't really have our names. So that's how it started.

 

Through the other accounts -- we repost each other's accounts. When we started @watts.on, we would post pictures and we would say via @watts.on. So we're using all of our platforms to push [other] platforms.

 

(Read more: This Mysterious Entrepreneur Uses Instagram to Show Off Art and Her Travels and Now Has Half a Million Followers)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

10. Create inspiring content.

Courtesy of Rachel Ryle

Name: Rachel Ryle

Handle: @rachelryle

I view each animation of mine as a new advertisement of my capabilities as an artist. My hope, every single time that I create a new animation, is that it reaches someone new out in the world. That doesn't mean that I'm desperately wanting a new follower, but that what I'm taking a week to create will reach someone that I didn't know was going to reach and hopefully inspire them. That inspiration is the ultimate advertisement of what my account is about.

 

(Read more: This Former Marketing Director Quit Her Job After 7 Weeks of Posting Amazing Animations on Instagram)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

11. Be attentive to followers, not statistics.

Courtesy of Sharmadean Reid

Name: Sharmadean Reid

Handle: @wahnails

We don't promote it, really. The reason is because we are a service-based business with a finite amount of customers. We can probably serve a maximum of 50 people a day. Right now we're not selling product. But when we when we do sell product again next year we'll be looking to grow our following. But we can't handle the amount of requests we get.

 

We get people DMing us for appointments, emailing us for appointments that we can't handle the amount of traffic that we already get. We're not concentrating on growing it right now. I think that for me it's about the quality of the followers, not the quantity. I prefer to track engagement rather than the number of followers.

 

(Read more: This Entrepreneur's Eye-Catching Instagram Keeps Her Nail Salon 100 Percent Booked)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

12. Tune into analytics.

Courtesy of Girl With No Job

Name: Claudia Oshry

Handle: @girlwithnojob

None of it's paid. It's all organic. I'm very in-tune with my analytics -- which days have the best engagement, which days have low engagement. And I find that when something goes viral and you get it first -- even if somebody bigger picks it up -- it ends up on the Explorer page. Any time you're the first person to get something good is when you're going to see the biggest results.

 

(Read more: Instagram's 'Girl With No Job' Actually Works 24/7 to Build Her Brand)

How 13 Instagram Icons Grew Their Followings to Massive Levels

13. Put a name to the face.

Courtesy of Melanie Garcia

Name: Melanie Garcia

Handle: @hamlet_the_piggy

The Instagram community is a community, and I feel like, the more you interact with the community, people and followers see that. Be a part of the community, make it organic and have fun with it, is really my philosophy. I don’t do something specific to promote, but it's just about engaging every day.

 

I try to do events so that we can go and actually meet these people and that comment and love Hamlet, so that we can put a name to the face. We've done some Instagram get-togethers, like a pool party where Hamlet and I were in a fashion show that donated the proceeds to no-kill shelters. We've done office visits at different magazines. So we've gotten to meet fun people in different ways whether it's, "Hey, come visit us and make our employees smile," or we just will plan our own meet-and-greets at a park or at a restaurant.

 

(Read more: She Adopted a Pet Pig to Cope With Epilepsy. Now, Her Job Is Managing This Adorable Instagram Star)