We constantly hear the question, “How do I grow my Instagram following quickly and for free?” Today, we’re going to talk about how to grow your Instagram followers for free with video.
And we have some amazing advice from Aaria of @surelysimpleblog. She’s an artist who has grow her following to well over 700,000!
She’s also a long time user of MiloTree!
Here you can sneak in on a conversation we had with her about Instagram growth strategy, and specifically how she’s effectively been using Instagram Video to grow her following and engagement.
Table of Contents
Using Instagram for your business
I actually started using Instagram as simply as a way for collecting and organizing my daily art endeavours in one place. I had always wanted to make art my profession but at the time, it was just not happening in the ‘real world’.
So, when I actually did start posting on Instagram, the only motive I had was to indulge in all my interests: drawing, painting, photography etc. I didn’t have any expectations, and that really is the beauty of the process!
It became part of my daily routine to carve out some time to post something everyday. At one point, I did aspire to make ‘mindblowing’ and ‘great’ art and establish myself as a brilliant artist, but I just didn’t have the time to put my energy into that aspect of art.
I decided to accept myself for what I am: I am an artist who likes to create art for fun and make friends. Then, the name “Surelysimpleblog” was coined out of that thought and I also started hosting a creative challenge @surelysimplechallenge so other like minded people could join me.
I remember when I posted the prompts for the first challenge ever (this was when I had about 600 followers) and 12 people joined in to doodle everyday. The prompts were extremely simple, stuff like drawing a flower vase, painting a rose etc.
I was so thrilled when those people were joining me in my very simple pursuit of doing something creative everyday. Looking back, now the numbers seem very small, as compared to now when we have a whole directory of surely simple tags being used every minute.
The tag #surelysimple is now almost up to 100,000 posts. Throughout the journey, I keep creating new tags such as: #surelysimpleart, #surelysimplelettering, #surelysimplejournal, #surelysimplecolor etc.
It was liberating in a way that I found out for myself that art doesn’t have to be complicated to be ‘successful.” You don’t need an ad agency or clients or anything that we like to term as ‘professional’ to be an artist. All you need is you.
Since I had started this project solely for myself, I still find it amazing that so many people have joined me along the way. There are a lot of people who want to be creative but they feel restricted.
People feel like they wouldn’t do art because of the potential of failure that comes along with any creative genre. I make it a big deal to push myself everyday to make art no matter how bad it is.
I think that’s what attracts people my way. I get so many messages and emails everyday with: “I never thought I could be an artist, but after trying your post, I know I can!”
People share their stories with me and I’m so happy to be a part of someone’s day. That is a huge bonus for me.
I don’t think of it Instagram itself as a business — it gives me business outside of Instagram.
It’s just a space for my creative expression, and while I am thankful that people relate to it and resonate well with me, it is totally a selfish endeavor where I indulge myself and allow myself to make art on a daily basis, as imperfect or simple as I like. I enjoy it so much and I’m glad people are enjoying it too!
For the first two years of creating my Instagram account, I was working and creating content for different brands, upcoming shops entirely for free.
I do count that as valuable experience. At one point in time, my parents actually gave me some feedback. They made me realize that my time is important and also I should consider making money since I was an adult now. Haha!
Reference: I have been working on this since I was about 19. When I realized that I could actually make money from doing something I love, that’s when you could say, Surely Simple became a ‘business’ model.
It’s totally creatively fueled but I’m pleased to say that I actually do earn a living by promoting my services on Instagram!
The best part is while most artists and designers I know showcase their ‘work,” so far I haven’t bothered to.
People all over the world contact me for logo commissions, wedding invites, portrait commissions all because of the short videos! I am planning to make a portfolio of the work I do, but right now, just appreciate the fact that these tiny videos represent me to get work, even without me advertising myself directly as a freelance artist!
How did you grow your Instagram following?
As I’ve already explained, the biggest thing that helped me grow the following was to just focus on myself. I only remember one time where I was nervous about the follower count, just before I hit 10K followers.
I was on 9999 followers that day and there were thoughts running through my mind like: “Am I ready to get the ‘K’ there?” “Do I even deserve this?” All sorts of silly thoughts. The funny thing is, after I hit 10K, all the doubts faded away.
It grew from 100K to where it is now- almost 800K, and after that initial ‘worry’ of passing 10K, I just don’t care about numbers anymore. Some people celebrate Instagram follower milestones- but I have never done it, because it’s just not about the followers for me.
I just focus myself to look at what I’m doing and evaluate myself and the work I’m publishing. It’s a paradox but that’s what keeps me grounded. The follower count is all irrelevant here.
Creativity counts for everything. I use the follower count only for one thing — the more people who follow me, the more creative I am. If there’s a dip in followers, I ask myself, ‘Am I not being creative enough?’ and then I do something different.
I’m not particularly interested in fame which is why I prefer to stay anonymous online. However, what I am interested in is how many people I can positively impact by my work.
My work may be simple but people relate to it easily. That’s how growth happens, as I’ve experienced it first hand. You need to have an idea that people relate to. In my case, it’s a basic premise: make art everyday and make it very simple and fun. No pressure.
You use a lot of video instead of photos. How did you decide to switch to an Instagram video strategy?
Videos are the easiest way to get an idea across. An image has to be perfectly curated, arranged and it’s too much work for me. As I said, Instagram is not a place where I work, but where I relax.
Making a video is just incredibly convenient for me and people would also prefer to watch something as opposed to seeing a mere image, I feel.
How to excel at Instagram video
Video content is the current big thing. If you scroll all the way down on my Instagram, I also started off with creating images, but once Instagram introduced the 15 second video option, and later the 1 minute video option, I knew that was the simplest way to do it.
It also gave me an opportunity to learn more about videography (another one of my many interests). So, through a period of trial and error and many videos later, that’s what I mainly like to do.
I also do post pictures because nowadays I feel myself gravitating towards photography again, but truth be told, making a video is easier than crafting a picture perfect image. At least, for me.
Also, as an artist, the best way to show that you are one is to just draw.
Nowadays, a lot of people are recording their process, and it is so fascinating to see it. It’s a prized part of what a person does.
There’s nothing impressive anymore about great art because the internet has made everything so accessible. Somehow, spontaneous things are much more impressive in that regard, whether it be an artist sharing how to draw something, a funny clip of that exact moment captured on the street that makes a video viral, small things like that.
How do you come up with ideas for your Instagram videos?
It’s like a daily exercise: so I literally just position my camera and tripod over a piece of paper, gather some supplies and go along with my mood.
I don’t plan my videos in advance as of now, but I do write down ideas from time to time. Funny thing though, I never refer to what ideas I do jot down later.
It’s a 100% spontaneous and based on what I’m feeling that day. Do I feel like drawing eyes? Do I feel like painting something? Or maybe creating a doodle out of a rough sketch? I just go with the flow.
What benefits do you think Instagram video have over Instagram photos?
Instagram photos are great for some, and videos work better for others.
It all really depends on you and what you’re trying to portray yourself as. The biggest benefit I feel Instagram videos have over photos (especially the multiple gallery where you can clump both the images and videos together) is that you can see the views.
It’s really all about the views and how many people are seeing your content.
Forget the likes and comments. Views are a big deal. Someone has taken a few seconds out of their life to see a video and views indicate that. Sometimes views are misleading and some videos do well, some do worse.
There are so many factors involved: the day you post, the time. But generally speaking, if you make a good video it will get the reception it deserves even after some time has passed.
How do you get your audience to engage with your videos?
Just ask questions. Ask for feedback. The golden rule: Ask people to voice their opinion/ give them a fun task. Everyone likes to be involved and play.
What is your best advice for someone just starting to use videos on Instagram?
Practice making videos. A lot. Everyday, if possible. Believe it or not, there is an art to making a tiny condensed video. I’m still figuring it out every day as I go along.
Social media is so dynamic that what worked for you yesterday may actually backfire today. You have to keep changing it up, keep adjusting what you do. Play according to your strengths too. Keep it as simple as possible.
No frills, no fancy stuff. Just the idea. At least, that’s how I do it. And just have fun! That’s really the most important part.
Aaria Baid is a writer and artist who believes in making art everyday and enjoying life! She’s also a multitasker: check out her IG projects: @surelysimpleblog, @surelysimplechallenge, @surelysimplewords, @opinion9, @patternvilla. Blogs: surelysimple.com and opinion9.com