I’m coming up on my 2 year mark of starting Our City Nest, which has been a ride full of many highs & lows and lessons learned along the way. I’m happy to share what’s worked, what hasn’t, and my overall honest opinion on how to start, grow and maintain an authentic following. So, let’s get to it!
1. Find your Why
I’ve mentioned this in the past, but this should be the first step of starting anything. I think a misconception of being a “creator”/”influencer”/”blogger” is that we do this solely to have that title or attention, or aspire to be just that. Sure, it could be for some, but really we are here to share our why in hopes that it can inspire and better the lives of others. So, when I say find your why – why are you starting an account about XYZ? Why does this matter to you and to others? From there, is it you? Is it unique? Is it genuine? Really spelling out and establishing your niche is what will set you apart and organically pull people in. There are so many carbon copy accounts that start to all blend together, but if you can identify what sets you apart from the wider net, you’ll not only stand out, but help yourself better understand what your focus is.
So, define your category and then drill down your focus – for me, it’s:
- Affordable Home Decor
- Styling Tips & DIY
- Casual, Simple Style with a focus on Modern Vintage
- Overall Happy Lifestyle
Focusing on these points lead me to my overall positioning & focus: Attainable, Simple Style for the Happy Home.
Sometimes, people try to be a little bit of everything, which is a great way to explore your passion and see what resonates – but eventually, finding your why organically creates a specific audience that can instantly connect and understand what you are providing.
2. Establish Consistent, Thoughtful Branding
This is something a lot of people gloss over that will pay off in the long run. At the same time, you do not need to go overboard. Knowing your why, visualize your account and create an aesthetic to project that, consistently.
Create a logo
Whether its a quick typeface or if you hire someone to create a suite of branding, this is important. You may grow quickly and need to have everything ready to go to look as legit as you are. From consistent typography, color palette and language – this is something I can help with, so please reach out to me if you are looking for affordable branding!
Create an Aesthetic
This is something you hear all the time, but more specifically about your feed. Yes, it is important to have a consistent aesthetic but you don’t need to hyperfocus on it. Here are my tips:
- Consistently edit your photos: You can read more about this here, but having a consistent look in terms of coloring, lighting, and level of clarity will begin to resonate with your audience as you. Presets are a quick, easy way to achieve this without the headache. You can shop my pack of 11 presets for desktop & mobile at just $29 here. K, I’m done with the self-plugs.
- Within your photos, set a style that becomes a signature look. This doesn’t mean to repeat yourself, but think about how you photograph elements of your home, yourself, your pet – for example 😉
- Be consistent in stories: Using the same color palette, templates, and fonts to create a familar experience.
3. Provide Value
Now that you have found your why, it’s important to provide a true value to your audience. Be intentional with every post. Are you trying to share tips, a product, project positivity? There are many accounts out there that just repost inspiration from other homes or constantly share others for clout – do you really want that for the sake of getting numbers? I don’t say this to knock people, but to cause you to pause and not get caught up in some tactics that create an influx of people that aren’t organically interested in you.
Be mindful of
Think about the balance of how much you are sharing other accounts, doing giveaways, “follow for follow” or follow loop posts. These can be very successful if you pair up with like-minded or industry accounts, and are strategic with timing, but is a fine line to balance. The last thing you want is to do weekly loop posts, a giveway, and story shares daily. Not only will you constantly stress over your follow count, but ultimately feel like shit because your followers don’t actually engage on each post because the intention of following you was not organic. It’s a dangerous cycle. It’s better to have 1,000 followers with 700 that organically want to be there and engage, than have 10,000 and only 100 interact.
When I stopped worrying about my numbers and writing thoughtful, consistent content – that is when I saw my fastest, genuine growth and I have not looked back.
If you feel like this was you in the past, or that your engagement is low, go through your account and use the remove follower tool to delete bots or spam accounts. There is also a tool that shows “least interacted with”. This may sound a little crazy, but at the least – get rid of the spam followers! This will create an authentic community that will make you feel valued and inspire you to feel good about your account.
Do engage, naturally
Now that I’ve shared what to be mindful of, it’s also important to not post and run. These all may sound obvious, but are key strategies to start, grow and maintain an authentic audience. Here is what I do on a weekly basis:
- Comment back to everyone
- Comment on others posts here & there to leave a trail
- Follow relevant hashtags so that new & different posts appear in your timeline. This extends your reach!
- Find new, inspiring accounts to share. I organically share via stories – keep them off your feed to not mislead your following.
- Play with hashtags in your post. Watch the analytics to see if it does well within it – this is the way I get the most exposure. IG boosts it to the top tab.
4. Monetize your Brand
All of what I mentioned above takes time and exploration to get to. But, you’ll feel a point where you’re ready to start profiting from your efforts. At about 1,000 followers I created this blog and applied for rewardStyle, a platform that allows you to earn commission from retailers when a customer purchases from your linked posts. This is at no cost to the customer. You can utilize both their app and website platforms to create links to products within your blog posts and stories (if you have swipe up).
Utilize other platforms to connect with brands like AspireIQ and join their affiliate programs to utilize commissionable ads on your blog. I can refer you to all these programs, so please reach out to me if interested!
You can also monetize through brand partnerships. Working with a brand to promote their products through gifting (product for free, in exchange for a post) or also a paid post (your determined rate for an exchange of posts and/or # of images). Brands will often reach out, but you should also feel encouraged to reach out to them! Message them with your overall summary, stats, and why you’d like to partner so they understand the value you bring.
Lastly, create products to grow your brand! Take your passions and profit from them. I recently scaled to share my presets after such a high demand and I feel so much joy from it. I also have bigger plans very soon!!
Tools I use
Here is the suite of tools I use to perform any and all blog related tasks:
- Google Suite: I use docs and sheets to share content, blog post outlines, etc. with brands. I also use sheets to organize finances.
- WordPress: This is a content management platform that my blog is made on. I use Siteground for hosting.
- Unfold: This is how I create all of my Instagram story templates. There is a free version!
- Adobe Photoshop: I edit photos, create Pinterest and Blog graphics, my design boards, and more using this cloud software.
- Adobe Lightroom: This is how I edit my photos. You can read all about it here.
- Airdrop: This is a huge time saver for me. I constantly airdrop my graphics and photos between my laptop and mobile to reduce storage and duplicative images.
- Google Drive: I house all of my photos and graphics here, organized by project and month.
- Camera: I utilize a DSLR camera here and my iPhone for all photos.
5. Show up
Lastly, but importantly, set an expectation with your followers. Do they expect to see you daily? What do they expect to hear from you? How do you share? Figuring out your cadence not only sets an expectation for them, but helps you plan ahead and feel more prepared about your overall account.
For me, I intentionally don’t talk to the camera just to keep that level of privacy. However, I have clear expectation that I am sharing something of value daily, and that people can expect a variety of tips, how-tos, sales, or brand partnerships through direct and pleasing imagery & graphics.
This all sounds obvious, but is one of the most important pieces to grow and maintain your authentic following.
Best of luck! Any questions? Ask below!
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