Becoming Instagram Famous is like becoming a millionaire. In 21st century America Instagram fame has become a symbol of elite social status. In this post, you'll learn how to:
Grow your social media following
Outsmart the Instagram algorithm
Find a niche and cater to your audience
Make full use of the tools that are available to you
Table of Contents
Instagram fame is the Holy Grail of the social media world.
Sure, it’s nice to have a ton of followers on Facebook and Twitter; but being Instagram famous is different. That’s because, for the moment at least, Instagram carries a level of ‘cool’ that resonates with the 18-25 demographic in a way that Facebook and Twitter simply do not.
That makes being Instagram famous uniquely fashionable.
Plus, Instagram fame often extends well beyond the platform itself. In fact, once you’re truly famous on Instagram you can basically just consider yourself famous in real life too.
Just ask Kim Kardashian.
Since the early 2010s, social media has largely been a game of using appearances to gain followers - or hustling to gain digital fame.
There are plenty of reasons why people would want Instagram fame - it makes money, it allows you, your work, and your interests to reach a broad audience and perhaps most importantly, it seems fun to watch those numbers go up and engage with people from all over the world.
At the center of this digital ecosystem is an entirely new industry - one that aims to convert digital influence into money and brand association - that of the social media influencer.
Who/what Is an Influencer?
The term ‘influencer’ made its way into the lexicon of Oxford University in 2016’s ‘Dictionary of Social Media’ - although the actual idea had been in practice for over half a decade by then.
In simple terms, a social media influencer is a generally popular social media user that, through their content, has the ability to influence large numbers of other users and generate interest in various things - from purchasable products to niche trends, their own online personas, and even social causes.
While it seems that influencers mushroom up overnight, the phenomenon behind them has been a constant, creeping revolution that began over a decade ago - well before the advent of Instagram in 2010.
The Rise of Influencer Culture
Ask most Internet veterans, and their answer for the ‘birthplace’ of modern social media will likely be one of two things - MySpace and Facebook. In the 2000s, both platforms allowed you to keep up with other users by adding them as ‘friends’ - with friend counts serving as a marker of popularity among both websites - with six figures serving as the benchmark of fame for early influencers like Hannah Beth, Audrey Kitching, and Jeffree Star.
The template for the modern influencer began to spark up as fashion bloggers took to WordPress in the late 2000s - sharing opinions, outfits, and style guides that they loved. “The advent of social media democratized fashion in several ways,” shares British School of Fashion Professor, Natascha Radclyffe-Thomas. “As their followers grew, so did their potential for influence, and as fashion is such a visual medium, people came to identify with the look and style of fashion bloggers, which gave them more influence with fashion brands who came to collaborate with them.”
For those of you who experienced Instagram back in around 2015 (just around the time ‘influencer’ became a recognized word), this might sound familiar - even stereotypical. We’ve all seen images of affluent-looking people wearing designer clothes at exotic locations - with added ‘thirst traps' thrown in for good measure.
Today, things are a bit more complicated. We’re in a world where an egg can receive over 50 million likes - being an influencer is far more than adhering to fashion trends and appearing attractive.
Today, you can find influencers in pretty much every niche imaginable - from geek culture to automobiles, music production, childcare, mental health, cooking, and even cleaning.
With over 1 billion monthly active users, it’s likely that if you share posts on something you’re passionate about, other like-minded individuals will slowly come to follow your content.
How ‘Content Creators’ Have Changed the Game
As social media platforms matured, so did their users.
Not every influencer is entirely focused on followers and engagement numbers - some are in it to showcase their skills and make the best content possible, focusing on quality over quantity.
These people are loosely referred to as content creators – and they populate everything on the internet from Reddit to YouTube and of course, Instagram.
Generally speaking, content creators are highly skilled individuals - usually in media-related fields such as art, photography, videography, music, etc. - who leverage the platform of social media to serve as a portfolio to showcase their work. You’ll find that their content, while more time-consuming to create and heavily skill-focused, is informative, unique, and gathers thousands of followers.
While content creators are certainly focused on their craft more than their cash, that doesn’t mean that taking the time to produce quality content cannot be well-monetized.
The biggest advantage of being a content creator is that your audience trusts and values your opinions, much more than the average influencer - especially in your niche of expertise. This means that as your follower count rises, social media savvy brands will be open to running affiliate marketing partnerships with you - a doubly beneficial setup if you already use and enjoy their products.
You can also use platforms such as Patreon to gather loyal, enthusiastic, and generous followers who might be willing to help by backing your content.
So, How Do We Become Instagram Famous?
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to Instagram fame, the truth is that there are several points to consider if you’re looking to build a brand around yourself and gain thousands - potentially millions of followers.
Here’s what to keep in mind as you chase Instagram success:
Understand Why You Want to Become Popular on Social Media
The best and most effective accounts on social media have one thing in common - they know exactly why they create the content and persona that they’ve made for themselves.
This can be a bit confusing to figure out at first - so to keep things simple, we’ll ask you a straightforward question; do you want to be an influencer or a creator?
As explained above, an influencer is primarily concerned with presenting an attractive Instagram aesthetic, keeping themselves trendy and relevant, and being able to highly monetize their accounts through brand deals and sponsorships.
To an influencer, what matters most are follower counts and engagement metrics such as likes and clicks.
On the contrary, a content creator is more concerned with the quality and craftsmanship of their content strategy. They are more often than not professionals in various fields - with the writing, videography, and photography skills to produce quality content.
To a creator, quality content that brings value and inside information to followers is paramount.
Remember that neither is necessarily ‘better’ than the other - it all depends on why you want to become Insta-famous and what you’d like to do with the platform that you have.
Discover Your Niche
While likes and follows dictate the overall popularity of your account, the core of any Instagram property depends on the interests of its owner.
Even ‘cliche’ fashion/modeling influencers don’t have it easy - they have to keep up with fashion trends, nutrition and health, makeup, workout routines, and several other things that audiences do not get backstage access to.
It’s worth sitting down and making a list of your core interests and passions - doing this will allow you to understand the kind of content you will have to produce to become a successful presence on Instagram.
The most invisible cost, after all, is your own personal interest in keeping content fresh on your account. Making good content requires skill, persistence, and creativity - all of which can be taxing if you don’t resonate with the kind of content you want to make.
Over time, several people have realized this - spawning different types of subcategories over time. These are some of the niches you may find when browsing through Instagram:
The list is endless - regardless of how niche your interests are, you will find your tribe over time.
Understand the Value of Short-Form Video
If there’s one thing to take away from the last five years of social media content, it’s that video is king - especially short-form video. Audiences, especially younger ones, are 26% more attentive to short, mobile video content than other mediums.
Instagram themselves made this clear to users in August 2020, when they launched the ‘reels’ feature on their platform. Mimicking the hugely viral success of Tiktok, Instagram reels feature 15-second videos in portrait orientation, complemented by a huge suite of effects and editing tools. It’s telling that the suite for Reels is more advanced than that of regular stories - despite the latter being a feature for around five years now.
The Tools: How Instagram Reels Works
To create Instagram Reels, select the Reels option from the Instagram camera menu. This allows you to access the Reels editing tools, which comprise of:
The Instagram music library has thousands of songs depending on your region - you can use these to add some thematic flair to your videos. You can also use your own audio by simply recording a Reel with live audio. Remember that any publicly posted reel will give you the option to reuse its audio for your own editing - this is a nifty feature to take advantage of popular new reel formats that have been making a buzz on the platform.
Timer and Countdown
Like most camera apps, Instagram allows you to set timers for when your camera will begin recording. This can be useful if you need to be within frame, or your video idea needs a non-selfie angle.
A feature that resulted from TikTok’s popular ‘outfit swap’ trend, this allows you to seamlessly align the last frame of a previous clip with new ones - a common effect in many viral video formats.
Simple - this one allows you to control the playback speed of your video. You can use this to make slow-motion content or sync your actions to the beat of whatever music you’ve added to your reel.
One of the biggest hits of Instagram’s feature set in the last couple of years has been AR support - allowing both Instagram and independent creators to make aesthetic, quirky, or amusing filters/overlays for video content. There are dozens and dozens to choose from, so go wild.
Understand Your Audience
The content you publish is only one side of the coin - the other important part of social media success is your body of followers, and how well you’re able to reach out to them.
Naturally, this becomes a lot easier once you’ve established a good niche. To start things off, you should do the following:
Use Instagram’s Explore feature to find other similar accounts in your niche.
Take note of how the best accounts engage with audiences, and which hashtags work best with their content.
Use Instagram mentions to reference famous and interesting personalities in the niche your audience loves. Bonus points if the main account features your post in a story!
Use polls, comment questions, etc. to drive engagement.
After doing this, you should be able to develop a basic idea of what your average follower is like, what kind of content they resonate with and why they want to follow you in the first place.
Say you’re looking to make an impact in the mental health community. Speaking out on causes that your audience resonates with, sharing messages of positivity, and understanding your audiences’ daily struggles will go a long way in making you relatable and engaging.
Remember to reply to comments as well. You don’t need to respond to every single one, but making the effort to appreciate your followers and answer their questions helps build trust in your profile.
Authenticity Is Key
While people may like your posts because of the content, they stick around and follow you because they have an interest in connecting with the kind of person you are and find you relatable.
This means that keeping an authentic, approachable, and honest version of yourself is ideal. Audiences will see through ill-conceived schemes to gain attention - while this may work in the short term, it will make your online persona weak over time and result in negative comments and unfollows.
To stay authentic, it’s good to:
Post stories about your everyday life and activities.
Be honest with your thoughts in your posts - don’t be afraid to share.
If you have a stand on a social issue, voice your opinions. Just be sure to remain civil and think before you post.
Share stories that appreciate the good work others in your space are doing - this can bring in their fans to follow you as well.
While this is up to your discretion, consider using your face as your profile image. This gives your account more personality and puts a recognizable marker on your content that audiences relate to.
Remember that while authenticity is important, you are in control of what your audience finally sees. If baring it all makes you uncomfortable, take a step back. Whether you choose to put your face up or stay more private, the choice is yours.
Take High-Quality Images and Videos
Did you know that Instagram wasn’t originally supposed to be a social network? It initially began as Burbn, an image-sharing network for geo-tagging, which was converted into a social network at a later stage by founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger.
From this misfired beginning to the multi-billion strong platform it is today, Instagram has kept one thing in focus - its reliance on visual content.
Instagram is almost entirely focused on images and video, so it’s no coincidence that skilled photographers and videographers have made a huge impact on the app.
That said, you don’t need to have loads of know-how and gear to create beautiful images. All you need is:
A decent, relatively recent smartphone camera.
Basic knowledge of picture framing, such as the rule of thirds.
A separate app to handle image editing, such as VSCO. Instagram’s filters also get the job done, but aren’t very tweakable.
Over time, you’ll develop a visual style that suits your content - be open to experimentation and always ask for opinions.
Going Pro - Using Dedicated Editing Applications
If you’ve been in the Instagram game for a while and feel that mobile tools aren’t quite cutting it for you, there’s always the option of dedicated desktop applications to help with pro-grade editing.
While this may not give you a good return on investment if you’re making straightforward influencer content, it might be a necessity for content creators looking to refine their posts and create highly personalized, professional-looking visuals.
To achieve this, you will need to use software tools such as:
Final Cut Pro
Remember that these tools can also be a massive time sink - it’s always beneficial to learn how to use them, but not at the expense of your regular upload schedule.
Tell a Story
On its website, Instagram calls itself a ‘visual inspiration’ platform. While this may sound like marketing jargon, there’s some very real truth behind the words - the people who make the most of Instagram do so by relying on the principles of storytelling to get their point across and make content that inspires. The concept isn’t new or surprising - human beings have been wired to listen and tell stories for thousands of years, and social media is no different.
On the flip side, it can be a bit confusing for newcomers to build a story around their Instagram accounts. The best way to do this is to:
Rely on interesting stories you come across, if not your own. Share things that have directly inspired you!
Make long-form posts every now and then. Doing a photojournalism-style post on a place you’ve traveled to or an interesting person you’ve met, adds massive personality to your feed.
Focus on the dull moments too. Not everything on your account has to be positive - stories of failure and loss make you seem more human and relatable to audiences.
Like any skill, managing an Instagram account requires consistency - a need that will only rise as you get more popular.
Unfortunately, just about everything from your visual style to posting frequency and language can be a target for consistency, making the work seem insurmountable early on. The good news is that the more consistent you become, the easier it gradually gets - so start early.
The first thing to generally keep track of is post consistency. You will want to schedule a content drop at similar times each week - this will help you stay regular with updates and let you take advantage of audience traffic. According to research, you will generally benefit from posting regularly between 10 AM and 3 PM CDT - ideally on Wednesdays and Fridays.
As you do some research on other successful pages, you’ll notice that several Instagram pages have post layouts or grids - making their feeds seem uniform and visually consistent.
Why is this important? Because the very first thing a user will see on your profile is your overall feed aesthetic - first impressions are crucial in the game of social media fame.
Here are a few tips to keep a great-looking feed:
If you post more than just photos, consider keeping a grid layout so that your feed looks neat from your profile page.
Find one filter that works great with your photos, and stick with it.
Incorporate some flow into your image posting schedule - try and post images from the same location or with the same color palette together rather than separately.
Unless you’re looking for that effect (say, for a comedic account), try to refrain from posting images with wildly different editing or styles from your usual posts.
Build a Community Around Yourself
While people spending increasing amounts of time on social media isn’t a new phenomenon by any means, the last year has seen that number skyrocket to unprecedented levels.
Given the global COVID-19 pandemic, people are spending more time at home and consequently have been online much more often - reports indicate a 36% surge in social media use across 2020. The change isn’t just in terms of magnitude - we’ve now changed the way we socialize and have become more accustomed to forming strong bonds with others through digital channels.
What does this mean for the prospect of Instagram success? In short, you’ll want to take advantage of this willingness to connect and communicate, by opening strong channels of engagement between you and your audience.
By taking the effort to build a community around your profile, you provide users with a space to come together, have conversations, and share interests. While making good content is one part of the equation, it means little if your audience doesn’t feel connected to you - especially when you’re competing with millions of accounts for attention.
Take the following tips into account, and you’ll see boosted reach, engagement, and audience loyalty - as well as enjoy having a lively, interactive community around your Instagram.
Don’t Wait for an Audience
Many early Instagram users make the mistake of thinking that they have to build a massive body of content before taking the effort to attract an audience.
On the contrary, making the first move is a great idea. To do this, begin incorporating popular hashtags in your niche, follow and comment on the posts of other accounts that have similar audiences to yours, send a friendly DM to someone whose work you appreciate.
Building a community always starts with a single conversation - don’t be afraid to take the first step. Soon, you’ll attract more people who find you and your content relevant and enjoyable.
Use Stories to Build Community Conversations
A fantastic way to begin building engagement is by using Stories - not only do you have various features to help reach out in different ways, but you can also show users both sides of the conversation. According to Instagram, over 500 million people use Stories every day - so why not get in on that action?
A simple way to get started, once you’ve built a healthy body of followers, is to use the ‘questions’ feature, where you can ask your audience a simple question - bonus points if the question is relevant to whatever else you’ve posted on your stories for a given day.
Once you ask questions, you can pick up interesting replies and highlight them in further stories - giving your own reactions to them and further building the conversation.
If you’re thinking of building a popular Instagram account, chances are that you’ve spent a good amount of time on the platform with a personal account, and have been following people in your niche.
Sometimes, a great way to build a sense of community is to mix in with other communities on Instagram - established accounts with several followers can be a great help, especially if you happen to be connected with their owners.
You can set up events such as Instagram Live sessions together to talk about your favorite topics, share ideas and take questions from live stream viewers - all while driving more attention to your own accounts.
Unite Over Causes
Each niche on Instagram has various kinds of causes to rally around - nothing brings a community together better than a single, focused goal.
Take the time to read up on issues and trends that focus on addressing community issues such as racism, gender equality, and environmentalism - this allows your followers to share opinions and support on your posts.
You can even take advantage of carousel posts to give your followers a quick and easy guide to current social issues - this can be shared on their stories, further driving engagement.
The Future of Instagram Influencer Marketing
As mentioned above, the effect of a global pandemic on Instagram fame cannot be understated - we live in a world where the rules of audience engagement have constantly changed. Concerts have turned digital, fitness gurus instruct classes via webcam, and digital influencers have become more popular than ever before.
The latter point, in particular, holds weight. In a world where advertising crews and other marketing departments have seen major cuts, brands are turning towards influencers to provide relatable, affordable solutions to their marketing needs - covering everything from fitness to mental health and lifestyle goods.
If there’s one thing to understand about the future of Instagram, it’s that short-form videos such as Reels will continue to dominate.
Instagram’s strategy seems to be focused on eliminating competition such as TikTok - gaining a foothold over the world of quick video content. By including a great suite of editing tools, Instagram has made Reels the easiest and quickest way to produce visual content for their platform - a trend we expect to continue into the future.
Instagram is also expected to debut better organizational tools for news feeds.
While the Instagram algorithm currently dictates the vast majority of content and advertising we’re exposed to in one big chunk, users have been asking for more control over their feeds for a while now. It’s possible that we may see custom feeds roll out over time. This will let users divide their attention more accurately towards their major interests - a boon for several niche content creators wading through masses of generic content to reach their target audiences.
What will always remain the same, however, is that becoming successful on any digital platform requires hard work, commitment, and a genuine love for the niche that you wish to excel in. Many thousands of accounts simply burn out and go inactive after a few weeks - but if you stay in the game, keep creating content, and reaching out to your audience, you’re bound to build a good following.
Hopefully, this guide to Instagram success has helped you get that extra bit closer to running the account of your dreams.