Size Doesn’t Always Matter on Instagram

Meg Biram on her iPhone in office.

I got a DM on Instagram from a girl (during the time I was selling my Salmon Tangier series) who said she put her work out there and no one bought it yet but that wasn’t going to stop her from creating and trying to sell her work.

Anytime I teach an Instagram class or do a consult with a business one of their first concerns is how many followers they have. They all want 10,000+ followers so they can have the swipe up capability in Instagram stories — which I can admit is very convenient. BUT complaining about your numbers and wishing they were more is really just a waste of time.

To grow on social media you have to do a few things — be on the platform all the time, engage with people (posting, commenting, liking), and mostly creating amazing content yourself — on stories and posts. OR you have to pay for ads to help you grow (this is much more common than you would think). One of the best ways to grow (but also the hardest) is to create something so amazing, interesting, helpful, or funny that it naturally grows quickly. This is best thing but it’s also the hardest, and it has to be done with the first thing I mentioned which is being on the platform all the time engaging with your audience. Growing in a way that is organic (can still be strategic) but not using anything like loop giveaways, is hard. 

But I’m here to dispel the common myth that you have to have a lot of followers on Instagram. I actually don’t have that many followers in comparison to a lot of my influencer friends. A lot of my friends have over 100,000 followers and I have a mere 39,000+ and haven’t been able to crack 40k.

But going back to the girl who DM’d me about putting her work out there (and I think it was in response to all of my 11 pieces selling out within 12 hours) — one thing to know is that I’ve spent over 11 years creating content and building an audience, so for me the audience part is easier because that’s been my work for over a decade. For me, the art took a back seat, so I feel behind on the actual art-making part. I say all of this because I know that 39,000 followers on Instagram probably sounds like a lot to many of you, but I just don’t want you to get discouraged about audience size — keep sharing your work and keep putting it out there.

Most of the artists that I personally love and hope I can have the same success in my career that they are all having in theirs — most of them have less followers than me and they sell TONS of work and I would guess are definitely much more financially successful than I am.

Your audience size doesn’t actually matter that much, here’s why. It’s better to have 300 people who really love your work and want to buy it, than 30,000 that don’t really care. See where I’m going with this? You don’t need a huge following on social media to sell your work (or service or whatever it is you have), you just need the right people. If 300 people TODAY said they wanted a commission (or service) from you — you wouldn’t be able to deliver on all of those orders all at once! 

Obviously if you have a lot of products and you aren’t hand-making them you would love to sell 300 products all at once. I mean, I’d love to have 300 paintings done and sell them all, but you see where I’m going with this. It’s not about the number of your audience, it’s about the quality. Are they the right people who love your product/service and want it? A follower who doesn’t really care and isn’t engaged at all is just making your engagement percentage lower.

So don’t get too caught up in the numbers. If 100 out of the 39k followers I have on instagram wanted murals, I literally wouldn’t be able to do them all within this entire calendar year. 

Think more about how to find and engage with the right people, not just about growing your numbers for the sake of a number. I’d happily trade a smaller Instagram following if my paintings immediately sold out all the time.

My best advice for growing an authentic following on Instagram — you do you. Create compelling content about whatever it is you do/love/etc. in posts and on stories. Post every day, engage with others, try different things, see what works best for you.