How to Develop A Following

I have no clue. Don’t leave yet, though.

A little bit of background before we begin. I’ve had my Instagram account for seven years and throughout those years, I’ve had about four phases of content. Surprisingly, this is important to the overall narrative of developing a following.

The first phase were mostly made up of posts like this:

Overall, the posts were simple. They were little pieces of poetry that related to my daily life or expressed my depression in another way. Written in print, cursive, or beneath an angsty, poor quality photograph, these were just a way for me to reach out to my audience.

As you can clearly see here, they generally got between five to ten likes per post. I remember becoming incredibly excited about seeing it tick over into an actual number instead of just the names.

This is in part because it was a smaller platform but I didn’t know how to use hashtags yet at this point. I also didn’t know how to be genuine. I was enjoying what I was writing but there was a thick layer of awareness that I couldn’t break through. I knew the people who followed me and knew they were analyzing my work. They were desperately trying to connect it to my life and it ruined a lot of what I was doing.

The next phase was my largest phase, without a doubt.

This era of my writing was where I received a couple hundred more followers. I started using hashtags every so often but the real key was that I was consistently posting. I posted practically every day.

This consistency helped me connect to my audience. I wasn’t writing very well. The subject matter wasn’t terribly relatable, but the format looked cool. It had passion, energy, and emotion behind it.

In particular, this era of my writing sparked me into loving what I was doing. I felt like I could say whatever I wanted and for awhile, that heaviness that came from judgement fell away. Not for long, of course.

But during this era, while the quality of the work was not perfect, the quantity plus the emotion kept it going. I also interacted a lot with the people who commented which makes you very favorable in the eyes of Instagram.

There was a definite downside to this part of my life though. I had begun to view this as a platform, mainly because it had grown into one. I felt like I had to make my presence as an author known.

Now there is a part two to this era. It is still my #typewriterpoetry era but I got a different typewriter and started taking what I was doing more seriously. I really buckled down and made good, quality content that I was (and still am) proud of. It’s my favorite time in my writing.

For a year, it was glorious. I was happy, enjoying what I was doing, and blissfully unaware that I was heading towards a crash.

The algorithm changed. And I was not in a favorable position.

My work was not pg. I had a lot of dead followers on my page. And overnight, I lost 200 followers, went from getting over 100 likes on my stuff to barely scraping by with ten. And it killed my productivity.

I had the distinct thought Well why do something I don’t like if it isn’t even helping me?

And that was the first time I realized I did not enjoy pushing out so much content. I wasn’t enjoying forcing myself to a posting schedule. I wasn’t enjoying being analyzed and criticized. I wasn’t happy trying to one up my gory stories anymore. I had someone forcibly stop me (f-u Instagram) and I saw that everything had spiraled out of control.

So instead of figuring out something new, I scrambled to hold onto what had worked.

Well, what ended up happening was that I slowly started hating Instagram. Still hung up on the idea that Instagram has to be the place where I find readers for my novels and whatnot, I was determined to fix this. Enter stage three which looks like this:

Better? I thought so. I got to plan my posts and I concretely felt like I was doing something. I asked my viewers questions, posted what I thought would be helpful, interesting content, and even tried to adopt the right voice for it. But I got sad quickly. What initially had a lot of support, stopped having support in less than a week and I was getting less and less engagement which made me feel like I was standing a lone at a party full of people who all didn’t want to talk to me. It sucked.

Now this brings me to my current point where yesterday alone I got eight followers. Not revolutionary numbers I know, but I haven’t seen growth on my page in actual years.

What did I do different?

I threw my hands into the air and said screw it. I started posting grungey topics. I gave up with the formalities of being an interactive author and slipped back into a comfortable place of angst, black, lofi vibes, and heavy metal. My voice fit perfectly and I felt great.

I stopped

  • thinking about what I should do
  • caring about the backlash I’d get
  • fixating on my community as a writer (I don’t fit in)

And instead, I just did what I wanted. I unfollowed everything I followed as a courtesy and followed all the weird, creepy pages that make me happy. I feel amazing. Absolutely amazing and it reflects in my page. So maybe my page isn’t what I ever thought it would turn out to be.

If you want a following, you don’t need to cater to your audience. You need to cater to you. If you feel like posting pictures of creepy dolls, your audience will come. That’s what the hashtags are for. Just make sure you post authentic, quality work that you think is bomb.

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