Let me go ahead & spoil this for you. I don’t know exactly HOW I got on the Suggested User list. But, I can tell you that I was working for a long time on intentionally creating my Instagram feed. I made very specific & strategic decisions that, in my opinion, probably helped get me noticed.
Instead of pretending like I know how the heck I got chosen, instead, I’ll tell you the steps I took leading up to being chosen. What happened when I got the word from Insta & what happened over the course of my time on the ever exclusive, ever elusive Suggested User list.
HOW TO GET SUGGESTED USER LIST
First, let me say that my Instagram feed of today doesn’t look like it did a couple of years ago. When I first started Instagram, I didn’t know about branding. I didn’t know how the platform worked. I didn’t use hashtags or try & make connections with companies. Oh & my pictures were horrible. There was that.
Also, I do not have a huge social media following on any other platform. It’s not like I had 80k Facebook followers I could herd over to Instagram. Or even 2k, for that matter. I essentially started out like everyone else (without a platform) – a nobody with no followers. And not a nobody in the sense that I was worthless, but… you know what I mean. It was a level playing field.
The first thing I did was get settled on my niche. I do food. No one cared what lipstick I was wearing or what jeans I was loving. I mean, a small, very tiny percentage of people did care but most of those people were friends or family. In reality, for my feed, posting outside of my food niche was actually sending people away. I love fashion. I love makeup. Heck, I love my kids. But guess what, no one really wanted to see that stuff. If I could figure out how to incorporate my other interests into my foodie feed, then it was magic. But the selfies had to stop.
The second thing I did was get better at taking pictures. I still use my iPhone for 90% of my feed but I learned you can still take a darn good picture if you put some effort into it. I started setting up my shots, plating food on props (yes, just for Instagram!!!!), learning how to use natural light & the best, most realistic looking filters. If you want to read more about food photography for Instagram check out this post I wrote.
Third, I built a sense of community. I replied to every single person who commented on my posts – or at least I tried my very best to do so. Sometimes it was just a thumbs up or a smiley face. I at least tried to acknowledge them in some way. I also liked & commented on other people’s pictures. I don’t want to say I did this in a way to troll people. I didn’t ‘like’ pictures unless they were interesting to me & I didn’t comment on their posts unless I had something to say. I wanted to only attract the kind of follower or friend who would actively engage with me & be my ideal follower or friendly peer.
Before I was put on the Suggested User list I felt like I’d paved a path where a steady, consistent influx of people were following me & I had been gaining by an average of 1k new followers a month. I had a system & knew what worked.
When I got picked up on Jan 15 I received both an email & a DM in the app. It basically told me I was on a ‘dynamic list that highlights some of the top community members’ & they hoped that during my time as a Suggested User I would be able to show other users ‘not only beautiful photographs & videos but also how to be an awesome community member’.
I wrote them back a wordy & thankful message. Thank you so much. What an honor. How could I ever say thanks enough. I gushed on & on.
They replied back with emojis: smiley face. thumbs up. Cryptic, Instagram, cryptic…
On Jan 15, 2015 I had 6775 followers. 24 hours later I had doubled & hit what I’d set as my year long goal of 15k. Exactly one week later I had 70k followers. That’s not a typo. 70 thousand. By the end of my two week reign I had 117k Instagram followers.
So what good things happened? Well, more followers of course. More likes, more engagement. More opportunities to connect with people I wanted to inspire or brands that I wanted to collaborate with. My biggest cheerleaders were cheering even louder, sending me tons of well wishes & congrats & lots of – We can’t believe your feed is blowing up, we’re all so proud!
Along with that also came spam, spam & more spam. Dudes tagging me in shirtless pictures of themselves laying in bed, standing by a car. Ya know, totally normal things like that. People tagging me on spam feeds that said things like – If you go over & spam @goeatyourbeets I will reward you with 5 billion followers. And I’m not making that up. I also got a lot of what I would call the chain mail of our current social generation. Comments that all said, My name is so & so & if you stop reading this you will die. Post this comment on x number of other pages, or else. Didn’t think that stuff exists? It does. It’s weird. Also, porn feeds. Did you know they had those? Maybe I run in some boring circles but I really didn’t. Especially with the amount of breastfeeding mothers being banned from social media, I really didn’t think there would be like, straight up porn feeds. But there are. I know because they commented on my posts. Oh & a feed about someone who eats poop. I wish I was making this stuff up.
All in all, there were definitely more positive than negative things to come from this. It’s just that the negative things are… much funnier, right? And all the good, really good, really exciting things are just now happening & swirling & growing slowly. And those are the things I can’t wait to share with you over the coming months. Needless to say… stay tuned!!!
I’m losing followers now. Like, sometimes 300 people a day. But that’s actually a good thing. I want to cultivate my feed into a group of engaged people who want to be there. Who want to interact with me & grow with my community. Now it’s just time to figure out who those people are.220