The Power of One, How to Build an Instagram Following Worth Having

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There are now officially 1 billion people actively using Instagram each month. What an unfathomable number, and a mind-blowing amount of content being created. But hey, Instagram is a numbers game, isn’t it? How many followers do you have?

A little over 3,000 people have been kind enough to follow me in the past 9 months. I admit I started my account @notaboutthekids with the intention of growing a following, not just for the love of photos and The Gram. I’ve studied, planned and spent time learning Instagram and think I am off to a fairly successful start. My account size is respectable, but modest by Instagram standards, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

I know this because I have done the maths

Assuming that I continue at my current steady rate of growth it will take me more than a year to reach the 5,000 follower mark, and in 20 months from now, I may hit the magic number of 10,000 followers and gain a Swipe Up link in my Stories. Then would I have an account of value? Or, realistically do I need to aim for 20,000 followers, or 200,000?


When I look at it like that I feel like throwing the towel in, deleting my app and going for a lie-down. Who has the energy (and time!) for that kind of slog? If numbers are the whole point, you are bound to burn out. Or find that the world has moved on before way before you blow up on Instagram.

Do we agree that this can’t be the goal? That this way madness lies? The thing is, I know that there is already worth in what I have built and the process I’ve gone through to build it. So here are my thoughts on finding the real value in any social media account.

Who not how many

One of my successes in these early days of @notaboutthekids has been in establishing a conversation. My account enjoys the social media holy grail of ‘good engagement’. I’d say on average that 50+ people comment on my content every day.

How have I achieved this? From the beginning I have tried to follow a couple of key pieces of advice. First, and still relevant every day, is a tip from Julie Falconer @aladyinlondon. She said, “spend at least half of your time on Instagram engaging with other people’s content” (read more of her thoughts here). In everything I do I try and hold on to the principle that it is not all about me.

Secondly, I try to put thought into where I go and seek connections and followers. I look at accounts that I like, and that people like me like, and this is where I tend to meet my people.

I have no complaints

Look what Instagram, or social media, has offered me. With my only resources being time, an iPhone and a wifi connection I have been able to find a creative outlet, grow an expertise and reconnect with the adult world as Helen, not mum. I have discovered events that I did not know about, and learn about people I had no idea existed. I have built friendships with those I would never have met, and formed connections that may lead to work in the future. With very little risk, apart from to my ego, I have been able to start something that I hope one day to call my own business.

But really, those opportunities began to open up very early on, when I had just a few 100 followers. And I think that’s what happens if you focus on who not how many.

The Power Of One, How To Focus On The Value Of Your Instagram Followers, by Helen Perry Not About The Kids

Influencer marketing manager Nik Speller has some thoughts that could turn your way of looking at Instagram on its head read them here.

Loads does not mean Lols

Followers do not = happiness. The story of @ohsolovelyhelen_  has fascinated me recently. Helen has gained 49k followers on Instagram, gaining traction by being a big early user of the app. But her engagement has dwindled to the point where she can “barely scrape together 100 likes” on a post. She has announced that she is closing her old account, saying goodbye to thousands of followers and opening a new one. She wants to find out whether she can build genuine and increased engagement.

There’s also been a warning to those who buy followers and engagement on social media. Unilever, a global company with millions and millions of pounds to spend every year on influencer marketing has said that they are taking steps to stop working with anyone who’s faking it. They are calling for “urgent action” to clean up the industry and reestablish trust. Read more here.

So all I need is one great follower?

Potentially yeah, it only takes one person to open a new door to you, but I admit that I am not that Zen. Seeing your Instagram, or any social media account grow is satisfying and part of the point. It is disheartening when it is not.

So perhaps if you are having a bad day try this.

Go and look for just one really valuable new follower. A person who is going to comment on your posts, have a laugh or teach you something. Someone who might stock your product one day, or ask you to speak at their event, or offer you a new job. 

I believe that it really really is better to have 100 top quality followers than 10,000 disinterested ones.

This is my advice (as much to myself as anyone else).  Try and be clear about exactly why you are on Instagram.  I reckon to ‘gain 100 000 followers and get free holidays’ is probably going to lead to disappointment. But that doesn’t mean there is no point showing up. It’s just that Instagram shouldn’t be THE THING. It should be supporting the thing. We should be using its power and the connections we make there to get closer to where we want to be.

It’s tough to get big on Instagram, so try and do it right, not big. Build a brilliant little community that could create huge opportunities.

Tell me what you think in the comments box below, I’d love to know.

p.s I’m not against Instagram growth 🙂 Click here for my thoughts on the journey from 1,000-2,500 followers.

If you think others might like to read this post, click on the image below to share it to Pinterest.

How to build an influencial Instagram following, by Helen Perry Not About The Kids

What's your View?

14 comments on “The Power of One, How to Build an Instagram Following Worth Having

  1. Andrea on

    Helen, thanks for sharing! I totally agree with it’s quality not quantity. For example i can remember one specific post i made over a year ago. Don’t ask me how many likes I got cause I cant remember. What I can remember tho is the funniest and most caring comments I got. It was like a groups app talk. We almost hit 450 comments, in one post. Nothing forced, it just happened.

  2. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Andrea, welcome! Sometimes you say something that hits a nerve and is so relatable that a post just flies. You can’t fake that, can you? Real people connecting and responding to your words. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and leave a comment, always appreciated. Hx

  3. Mostlyfoodandtravel on

    This is a great read and so true. It is not about numbers though it is so easy to get wrapped up in the whole thing. Refocusing on why I started Instagram is something I have to try and do often. Most my supporters are bloggers which is nice but realistically not the best way to build following. Quality over quantity is always key.

  4. Anna on

    Love this post Helen. I am enjoying the journey being authentic. I have tried to “copy” others and not be me and it showed. `Now i believe I have found my voice again. Numbers feel important , i have a small following but have already had clients book me through instagram and been approached by major companied to collaborate, so its definitely not about the numbers but the engagement. But 10,000 followers before you can swipe up!!! crazy xx

  5. Scarlett Roitman on

    Well done you for growing so quickly. 3000+ is brilliant and hard work. I also find the OhsoloveleyHelen story interesting. It does beg the question….
    It can be tiresome, tedious and sometimes feel a little ridiculous but Instagram is also a fantastic tool. I must say apart from anything, I have really met some fabulous (genuinely) people and engage with some interesting folk every day. Listening and learning….

  6. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Neha thanks for stopping by. With regards to most of your Instagram followers being from the blogging community, I think that can be totally valid, it just depends what you want out of your account. If it is mainly a way for you to be connected to the blogging community, then fantastic you are achieving your goal. But if you would like it to drive readers to your blog then perhaps considering reaching out to some new people? Hx

  7. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    I know, ending the Swipe Up inequality is the one big change I would love Instagram to make! However, that is my only complaint. Anna, I think if you feel you are representing yourself in an authentic way and that people are finding you and booking you because of you are on Instagram how could you ask for more? Keep doing what you are doing by the sounds of things. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment, Hx

  8. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Thanks Scarlett, my little following does feel hard-won. I think if you are interested and engaged on Instagram, then you will find interesting people to chat with. That has certainly been my experience. I agree it is time-consuming (and sometimes I feel more than faintly ridiculous) but if you harness it in the right way there is great value there. Thank you for reading, always like to see one of your comments pop up. Hx

  9. Lazy Daisy Jones on

    Hello again Helen my lovely!

    … as you know I love your wise words in fact you are fast becoming my new instagram guru!

    I felt the same as the other helen and tried a new account, but I can’t concentrate on one ‘NIche’ so now I feel back on track with my old account, sharing everything but not diluting my content.

    Happy days…

    Ashley x

    Ps I’m also loving IGTV and me not a Video person at all?

  10. Bejal on

    Hey Helen! I one hundred percent agree with everything you’ve written! I started on the gram about a year ago and have tracked I’ve lost 4K followers. That’s harsh but now I can see that the ones that I do have actually comment, engage and are the keepers I would like in my life. So glad you write this as it just reiterated that quality babies all else is paramount!

  11. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Bejal, I’m so pleased that this resonated with you, thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment. How interesting to see the figures on followers that I have come and gone from your account, 4k, wow, I wonder how many of them are bots? I am beginning to wonder just how big a factor fake followers are, just how many people are involved with buying fake engagement? I find it all fascinating. Helen

  12. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Ash, I’m glad that you feel you’ve taken the right decision with your style account. Giving just one account the love and attention we would like is time-consuming enough don’t you think?? I must admit I find the workings of Instagram pretty fascinating/mind bloggling. Thanks for reading my love xxx

  13. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Nancy, thanks for stopping by, and yes, who’s counting :). I’ve invested quite a bit of time in growing the following I have right now. I’m not sure that I will be able to commit so much time to it in coming months….so I am expecting to see it slow a little. We shall see. Hxxx

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