Whenever someone finds out about my Instagram their immediate follow-up question is how I got started on the platform. Since we hit 100k yesterday, I thought I would commemorate this moment by sharing with you my story and how I was able to break free and grow my account after being stuck for years! So let's take it from the top...
I downloaded Instagram in 2013 when the platform was just starting out and YouTube and Facebook were still the platforms of choice. Back then Instagram was brimming with candid shots, real friends and Valencia filters. No one had a curated feed and social strategy did not exist. In fact, if you’ve been following me for a while, you would know that my handle used to be “il0veerica” with a zero, or “xxil0veerica” if you’ve been with me since the beginning of time.
I was attending college at the time and my social aspiration was to make YouTube beauty tutorials/fashion lookbooks. But I got on Instagram for the simple reason everyone else did – everyone else was doing it. It was fun back then! No algorithms, no gear, and everything was chronological. What a time to be alive…
My first post
If you scroll all the way back to my first post, you’ll see a stack of polaroids of my friends and I in Vegas captioned “Night 1 in #vegas with my loves ❤️” dated December 15, 2013. In my archives, however, I found a gem of an #ootd dated August 9, 2013, captioned “ 🍙”. Like what? A rice ball? I wasn’t even wearing all black and white, but then again there was no social strategy and captions didn’t matter as much. Now if we’re being honest, I know that picture was not my very first post, #ootd’s did not exist so there was no way that could’ve been it. I’m pretty sure my first post was a picture of food, maybe a sandwich or noodles? Either way, it's long gone and we’ll never find out.
OOTD’s or outfit of the days (if you’ve been living under a rock) is the lifeblood of my feed. I post one almost every day but now I shoot the content ahead of time. Back then, however, it truly was the outfit I wore for that day. I remember setting my phone on timer, propping it up against a stack of books and shooting against a white wall. The inspiration for posting outfits came from my close friend Lisa (@hilisaa) who I would help shoot content for and @desiperkins lookbook videos. At the time I was still more interested in creating YouTube content rather than Instagram content. In fact, a lot of my #ootd’s back then were just snaps of my outfit to promote the lookbooks I posted on YouTube.
My first collab
In early 2014, I got my first collab! I think I was sitting around 1k-2k followers on Instagram but the collaboration was for YouTube. It was for a brand from Thailand called Miss Tichy (which doesn't exist anymore) who sent over 5 different bustiers asking to be styled in a lookbook. Shortly after I got my first Instagram collaboration which was for @sunglassspot to promote their frames.
Working Full Time
I graduated from college in June of 2014 and started working corporate by August 2014. I had been steadily growing my account up until this point and think I reached the 12k mark by the time my first day rolled around. However, once I started working 9-5, I wasn't able to dedicate as much time to creating content and my growth plateaued. I also chopped off all my hair and dyed it brown (terrible for brand recognition) and Instagram was soon to change its algorithm. I was uninspired, unmotivated, and posting just to post. Between August 2014 - December 2016 I only grew 2k, bring me to 14k. At the same time, I saw accounts that used to have the same following as me skyrocket and even new influencers surpass my follower and engagement count – I was ready to give up.
The Turning Point
In December of 2016, Lisa asked me to join her shoot with a few photographers. We bought changes of outfits, explored the city, and for the first time in a long time, I felt inspired again! Creating this content was fun and no longer something I had to do just to have something to post. Not to mention the change in perspective did wonders for my feed. After that shoot, I reached out to every Bay Area photographer I could find and exclusively posted photographer shot photos. I was so addicted to this process I would pack a duffel bag full of clothes and bring it to work just to go shoot when I got off. My account slowly started to grow again and I reached the 18k mark! For a while, I thought the growth came from posting professional camera photos, but I reality it was because I was expanding my network. Every time I shot with a photographer, not only did I have content to post on my page, but they would post me on their account exposing me to their network! Who would’ve thought the secret to growth on social media was to be social?
Going from 18k to 100k
In May of 2018, I quit my full-time job to go back to school which ended up freeing up a lot of my time for social media, but this time my approach was a lot different. I found myself writing more thoughtful captions and responding to comments hoping to connect with my audience. I also no longer looked at influencers as competition but as a community that needed support. The more I supported that community, the more support I got back. Meeting people off platform was also huge for me. I was lucky enough to be invited to a few events but have also reached out to people I’ve admired for lunch/coffee dates. In order to grow, you have to push yourself outside your comfort zone. Be nice and be genuine, don’t socialize with the intention of getting something out of them. This is truly how I got out of my rut and grew from 18k to 100k in a year!
I really hope you enjoyed reading about my journey – I started this blog to give you behind the scenes and to share my secrets with you! As you can see my story is a long one and my growth did not happen overnight. Everyone has their own path and everyone feels stuck at some point. If this is you, try something new or engage with your community/idols. I guarantee the influencer you reach out to will appreciate it more than you know. Last but not least, THANK YOU FOR 100K! I used to think that when I reached 100k I will finally think of myself as an influencer but the truth is you could have 1 follower and be an influencer. It all comes down to having a stance on a topic and willing to share your beliefs/knowledge with the world!
PS: Thank you to my boyfriend Mark, the ultimate Insta hubby, for helping me take photos since the beginning and supporting me more than I support myself. Here’s a photo of him surprising me with balloons & Susie Cakes yesterday because he was so proud!