Grow your Instagram following and grow your Creative Business

This is an impromptu post.   Probably not the smartest way to write a post 😉   But here it goes anyways…  my thoughts and theories on growing your Instagram following to help grow your creative business….

This weekend I hit a milestone on Instagram.

I reached 10k followers.   I have very mixed feelings about this.   I’m going to be really transparent with you all here.   I did set this as a goal for myself.   My goal was to hit 10k by the end of last year.   So it took 4 extra months.

Why..??   I don’t know why!   It’s so silly really.   It’s just a number and I think it’s so easy to get caught up in these social media numbers.

I think there is a danger in letting social media likes and numbers define who we are or who we think we are.   I see this in the younger generation especially.   I’m raising a teenage daughter who follows a lot of Instagram “celebrities” and I constantly hear her talk about the number of followers they have.   Like somehow they are more important, much cooler and much prettier if they have more followers.

As my following has grown I have realized I am the same person I was when there were 100 following   I’m not any more important, any cooler or any smarter…but I am older and wiser 😉   But I will say sharing on Instagram has helped me become more comfortable with who I am and to value myself a little more.   Or maybe that’s just something I’ve been gaining with age 😉

So really… why the 10k goal…?

First and foremost I use social media to share and connect.   I love connecting with others who share similar passions to mine.  I work from home and I’m happily introverting most days so sharing on Instagram is fun and rewarding.

It’s no secret that Instagram is a great business tool.  I didn’t set out with a plan and really at first it was kind of a game.   I also always had it in the back of my mind that it may serve a purpose someday.   After all, I’ve already turned one hobby into a business and knew it was possible to do again.

One thing I try not to lose sight of, is connecting and offering value and inspiration.

I have a quote written on a sticky note on my computer that reads:

Be valuable in your marketplace.   Serve others.

I don’t remember who I got it from but it’s there as a daily reminder that my business should be there to serve and not to sell.

Expanding your audience is going to be beneficial for any creative business.

I urge you to think about why you want to expand your audience.   I wrestle with this constantly.   What it comes right down to for me, is being an encourager (how is that not a , providing inspiration, and connecting.

So how did I grow my audience?

It’s not completely by accident as it is something I’ve been working towards.   It hardly feels like work though because it’s been pretty organic.   Here is the number one secret to growing your audience:


It’s that simple.   I started my Instagram quilting account a little less than 2 1/2 years ago.   I actually started it as a personal account.  I quickly realized that was not going to happen since all I wanted to post was all quilting, all the time.   I found myself following those who only shared quilting vs. those who mixed it all together.   So I decided to keep it very niche.

This is my very first Instagram post on this account 😉  Way back to November 4th, 2014.


#modernquilting #quilting

A post shared by Emily Dennis (@emily_dennis_) on

Tips to help grow your Instagram Following

I’ll share some tips that I think will help you grow your following if this is something you are looking to do.   Now most of these tips are theory because I’m basing them off of my own behavior and the results I think they brought.

  • Engage
  • Give your audience someone to connect to (YOURSELF!)
  • Use relevant hashtags
  • Spend time connecting with other users in your niche
  • No way around it… GOOD PHOTOS
  • Use brands you wish to connect or collaborate with
  • Be yourself
  • Offer incentives (occasionally) for people to follow along (ex:  giveaways)

I’ll walk through each of these and share some insights and how I think they have personally helped.


I’m sure you have heard this a million times by now but there really is no way around it.   This is probably the easiest thing you can do and it’s fun!   It’s liking those pretty photos.   It’s commenting on other posts.   It’s going into the explore tab and liking and commenting on the things that catch your eye.

Consistently show up and comment on the posts in your feed.   Trust me, that person is reading those comments every single time.   Unless maybe they are getting thousands of responses within minutes 😉

I went into the explore tab daily when I first started and it always always always grew my following.  That was actually a fun side effect and one that surprised me.

Take Action:   Spend 5 minutes every day in the explore tab commenting and liking.   Make a point to comment on posts in your own feed.

Give your audience someone to connect to… that’s YOU!

I’m not talking about sharing your life story.   I’m talking about giving them a face to picture.   I started sharing photos of myself when I realized how much more I connected with others who posted photos of themselves.   It puts a face to a name.  I think this is ESPECIALLY important if your instagram handle is not your actual name.

Instagram handles all blur together for me, so when the people I follow post themselves it really helps my brain remember who is who.

That actually leads me to another point…  Consider using your name as your handle.   I was very intentional about using my name.   I tend to remember actual names better so that is what I went with.

Notice how all the things I do are based off of my own experience using Instagram…ha 😉

So go ahead and post a photo of yourself!   And I don’t mean just once.   On a regular basis.   Maybe monthly.  Maybe every few weeks as a Friday intro.

That’s another thing…  let people know who you are!   And again, I don’t mean sharing your life story.   I’m actually pretty private about my life.   I value my privacy and I don’t share my kids nearly as much as I used to when they were toddlers.

But I’m sure if you have been following along for a while you know I have 3 kids all in school which allows me plenty of quilting time.
You know we like to travel and take road trips.
You might know I’m also a photographer.
You might know that I live the arctic tundra.  Or at least it feels that way up here in Upper Michigan.
You probably know about my super awesome youngest brother Dan who has down syndrome.
Maybe you know I have a ginormous family who I like to give quilts to.

That’s not everything about me but it probably offers enough to connect on something.

Take Action:   Post a photo of yourself.   You can do it!   And on that photo share a few things about yourself.

Use relevant hashtags

Hashtags are the best!   I first fell in love with hashtags because I could use them to search anything I wanted!  Using hashtags is not only good for sharing your work but also helpful for others who are searching for what you have to share.   Seriously.. they are win win!

It’s not hard to find out what hashtags are relevant to what you are sharing.   Instagram will even give you the number of posts with that hashtag so you know instantly if it’s a good hashtag to use.   A million posts using a hashtag isn’t going to get you far and a hashtag with 3 posts isn’t going to get you far.  So find those happy medium hashtags that are relevant and being used.

I hashtag the makers, the brands and the object.   Here’s a recent example of a post I did with the hashtags I used.


Goooood Morning Instagram! 😃 it has been such a busy few weeks wrapping up projects over here but I see the light at the end of the tunnel so it’s all good. . Today is my turn on the #bountifulblogtour 😊😊😊. @sharonhollanddesigns newest fabric line is a beauty with those blues and greens I love so much. And lately yellow is really growing on me and this line has several great yellow prints. . I made a super fast and simple #trianglepop quilt using fat quarters. Link in profile will take you over to the blog post with a gazillion more photos and links to resources if you want to make your own 😊 . . . . #bountifulfabrics by #sharonhollanddesigns for @artgalleryfabrics #artgallerfabrics #trianglequilt #quiltylove #quiltylovepatterns #quiltsofinstagram #modernquilting

A post shared by Emily Dennis (@emily_dennis_) on

I like to use my hashtags mixed into my caption and also at the bottom in sentence form if possible.   I think providing hashtags in a helpful way is the best way to use them.

Stick to 5-10 relevant hashtags.   Fewer relevant hashtags will go a lot further than a million non-relevant ones.

Take Action:   Posts 5 relevant hashtags on your posts from now on.

Spend time connecting with users in your niche

So this is another fun one!   I enjoy connecting with other quilters and makers and it’s really not difficult to do when you come from a genuine place as a friend and a peer.   Save the fan girling for Justin Bieber…. hahah… did I really just say that.   I’m pretty sure Justin Bieber could pass me on the street and I wouldn’t know it was him.   laughing out loud here guys.

Anyways… yeah, just connect.

Take Action:   Comment on the posts in your feed and don’t be afraid to send a message when you are watching stories.

Post great photos

Yep, See how I went from good to great 😉   There really is no way around this.   Your feed needs to be full of great photos if you are looking to build your audience.

This means holding off on posting that midnight finish because the lighting is terrible.   It takes a lot of restraint and I’ll be the first to admit that’s not always fun.  I actually resisted this for a long time because I’m a chronic over sharer.   Plus I have no patience and want to share everything RIGHT NOW. 😉

Up until recently 95% of my photos on my feed were taken with my iPhone and edited in the Instagram app.   Just make sure you have nicely lit photos and a somewhat cohesive feed.   I still use my iPhone all the time but lately I have been taking more time to use my DSLR for my Instagram photos.   Obviously it’s a few more steps but worth it in the end for me.  A nice camera is so not necessary though!   The iPhone camera is actually pretty amazing.

Can you tell which post below is iPhone and which is the DSLR? 😉  The moral of the story is, it doesn’t matter because both got great engagement and look good.


Good Instagram photos needs it’s own post and I’ll write one some day but here are some quick tips:

  • Use natural light alone.   Never mix your lights or you will get weird color castes.   Turn off all other lights.
  • Use a reflector.   I use a white foam poster board.
  • Use appealing backgrounds such as a wood floor, white desk…etc..
  • Reduce the clutter in your photo.
  • Spend a sunny day taking the same photo in different areas of your house at different times of the day to find out where the most ideal spot is.    Then use that spot at that time whenever possible.
  • Use basic editing.   I use the IG app and brighten, sharpen, pull up shadows and add a little contrast.

Take Action:   Be more intentional with the next 6 photos you post.

Use brands you want to connect and collaborate with

This is another fun and easy tip to follow.   Most of us are using brands we love so be sure to tag them and hashtag the brand and designers every time!   This prompts your favorite brands to re-post which always leads to new follows and a wider audience.   They might even reach out and want to collaborate on a project!

Consider using brands that might reach a new audience.   As a quilter I love trying a new brand I’ve never used before.   Not only is it fresh and new for me, it’s a new audience I might reach.

I did this recently by using Tula Pink.   I had to find out what all the fuss was about and make a quilt with Tula.   Not only was I introduced to a lovely new quilting fabric but I was able to use hashtags I haven’t used before to reach a new audience.


Take Action:   Hashtag and tag the designers and brands in your posts.

Be Yourself

I admit this is easier said than done!   I’m sure you have heard a million times how it’s important to repel and attract.   And the only way to do this is to just be yourself.   You will attract the right people and repel the right people.

But as a recovering people pleaser.. ha..  this is much easier said than done.   Like I mentioned earlier social media has really helped me become more comfortable with who I am.   I have much more of a take it or leave it attitude these days and I think that attitude is helping me be myself.

You know what guys… being your self is the easiest person to be!

It’s actually very freeing when you give yourself permission to be yourself.   Stop worrying about what other people might think.   Stop worrying about how many people will unfollow you if you if you post that photo or share that story.

Take Action:   Write your caption like you are talking to a friend and stop being a people pleaser.

Offer incentives for people to follow along

This is a good tool to use occasionally.   I would caution using it too much and I would also think about how you can use this tool to gain followers who want to be there and who are interested in what you offer (not just your giveaway).

I do this from time to time.   I love giveaways!   And I love giving away stuff to people who are there supporting and following along.   My giveaways are usually tag a friend giveaways for two reasons.

One… I get to giveaway two things!
And two… tagging a friend means you might be introducing that friend to my feed for the first time.

Chances are the friend being tagged is also interested in what I am sharing.   Unfollows after giveaways are almost non-existent for me for those two reasons.

Never use giveaway related hashtags because you will attract accounts made just for the purpose of entering.   I don’t use very many hashtags on my giveaways because it’s for my audience!

Take Action:   Host a giveaway!  Don’t worry about your audience size!  Do a giveaway because you appreciate those who are there supporting and following along.


Well geez louise…

I didn’t set out to write all of this today but maybe you will find it helpful if growing an audience is a goal of yours.

I definitely have very mixed emotions about my following and try to keep a healthy perspective about it.

The most valuable piece of advice I can leave you with is to speak to your current audience regardless of the size!   If 500 people are there following along, that’s 500 people you can connect and share with!  Speak to them as if they are important because THEY ARE!

And hey.. if you have any theories as to how you think your own following has grown, I would love to hear them!