How I got 35K Followers in the Last 4 Months

How I Got 35K Followers in 4 Months

This post is a sequel to “How I Got 10K Followers in <7 Months” – which is the most popular article I’ve ever written on The Hungry Partier (21K+ views).

If you haven’t read that post yet, then I suggest reading it before startingthis one, because it is the nuts and bolts for using specific tactics each SM account.  If you don’t read it before attacking this one, then that’s like watching Spider Man 2 before Spider Man 1.  Uncool.

Since I wrote that post last November, my social media reach has been growing exponentially.  Just a few weeks ago, I was named the 30th Most Influential Travel Blogger on social media by Rise.Global. The criteria was based off influencing people on the 5 major social media platforms via followers, likes, comments and shares.

I wrote the first version of this post to share my knowledge with other travel bloggers, businesses, and anyone else who wants to rapidly build their following on social media. At the time, I was still a newbie at social media, hustling for hours everyday and doing all that I felt was necessary.

However, since then, I have learned from my mistakes and the process has become much smoother.   Without realizing it, social media has become my full-time job. I now consider myself an expert at manipulating each network and using it to its full potential. And in this post, I am going to share with you some of the most important things I’ve picked up since hitting the 10K followers mark.

Here were my social media numbers when I wrote my first social media post on November 21, 2014:

1. Twitter– 3,039 followers
2. Instagram– 2,267 followers
3. Pinterest– 2,121 followers
4. Facebook– 514 followers
5. Google Plus– 2,131 followers

And here are my current numbers now, as of March 28, 2015:

1. Twitter– 22,750 followers
2. Instagram– 12,310 followers
3. Pinterest– 3,814 followers
4. Facebook– 2,007 followers
5. Google Plus– 2,743 followers

I also want to stress that I still haven’t paid for a single follower, and I don’t use any black hat tactics. Every follower that I have obtained is a REAL person with a real beating heart. If you are only interested in skyrocketing you numbers (and you don’t care about engagement), then I suggest that you stop reading this right now and just pay a few hundred bucks to get thousands of fake robot followers on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And good luck with that.

Also, there is a reason why my twitter Twitter and Instagram took off faster than the others, and I will explain in detail later in this post.

Kindly note that the overall strategies for building each social network that I taught you in version 1 are almost exactly the same, so I won’t waste my time repeating them in this article.  Instead, I will give a fresh review of how to use each social network to its full potential, share with you what I think is working, and explain how I see the platform evolving in the future.  After that, I will share my 3 biggest pieces of advice that I have picked up from working full-time on social media.

Another thing that I’d like to share is that I haven’t spent any more time to build my accounts.  This gets MUCH easier with time, as you’ll become smarter and you’ll learn which tactics work best. And my engagement levels have gone above and beyond what they were a few months ago as well.

Lastly, I’d like to bring to your attention the other blog posts that I’ve written social media over the last few months. They are called:
– What’s the Real ROI of Social Media for Bloggers?
– How to Make a Post go Viral
– 7 Twitter Tips from a Guy who has 500K+ Followers

Alright, so here is round two of my advice for “How I Got 35K Followers in the Last 4 Months.”

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that everything you read is from my own personal experiences. Kindly take my advice for what it’s worth. There are many variables that go into promoting yourself on social media (i.e. different niches, men vs. women, website functionality, photo quality, frequency of posting, etc), so the overall success for someone will likely be different than for someone else. 

1. Google plus is dead

Long story short, stop using Google Plus. My traffic from Google Plus has been steadily declining month after month, and now it has just become a waste of my time.

Why has it crashed?  I don’t really know to be honest with you.  But I’m thinking that whatever the reason is, Google doesn’t want to admit their failure, so they just keep it hanging around for as long as they can.

However, this wasn’t really the case when I wrote version 1 of this article. At that time, Google plus was actually doing okay.  I was getting several hundred hits a month from posting photos and links to my blog.  Also, when people would find one of my posts from a Google search, my Google Plus photo of my face would show up next to my article. Well, they took that away.

And when I used to write guests post for companies, I was able to get credibility under the “contributor for” section (which helped with SEO and Domain Authority), but that’s no longer the case.

Nowadays, when I look at my latest monthly statistics, I only got a measly 26 referrals from Google Plus. Compare that with 4,170 monthly referrals from Pinterest or 2,237 from Facebook or 2,151 from Twitter, and it puts the measly power of Google Plus into perspective.  The only good thing that came from Google Plus is “Google Hangouts,” which is a better alternative to Skype.

So if I were you, I would just completely give up on Google Plus as a means for building traffic to your site, which is actually a relief because it’s one less thing to think about 🙂

2. Pinterest is still #1 for traffic

Pinterest is still the best social network for bringing new faces to your site.

My Pinterest engagement levels have been steadily increasing month after month. Last month, I got 4,170 referrals from Pinterest alone, compared to 3,653 the month before, and 2,893 the month before that.   Pinterest remains the best for bringing new people to my site, by continuing to post unique photos across several group boards per day in my niche (check version 1 for more explanation).

Remember, Pinterest is best used only for referrals via photos that you post on group boards. Your followers aren’t as important, so don’t get caught up with the numbers. Just keep focusing on getting access to popular group boards (with several thousands followers), and posting high quality photos on those boards daily with a LINK to your desired blog post.

For a more detailed explanation of how to get access to group boards and more, please see version 1.

3. Instagram is KING for building a reputation

Instagram is the best social network for connecting with people and building a positive reputation with your readers.

Instagram is without question the social network that I’ve had the MOST success with so far. On my last 10 Instagram photos, I got an average of 454 likes and 33 comments.  This is nearly double the engagement than I got just 3 months ago, and it’s far superior to any other social network that I use.

But with Instagram, please understand that you won’t get any direct website traffic (because there are no clickable hyperlinks allowed in your posts). But that’s OKAY! It will all come around in the end.  I get daily emails from people who first discovered me on Instagram, who then checked out my blog later on their own time.

Instagram is all about building credibility, and interacting with your followers via comments. It’s about building a solid reputation.  It’s about getting people excited to see each of your photos.

In addition, Instagram is the network in which I think you can have the biggest influence on your readers. It also grows the fastest. It seems like once you hit certain thresholds of followers (5K and 10K), then more and more random people will start finding you. Maybe it’s because your account will get promoted, or because your photos will show up under the “recommended people to follow,” but trust me that more random people will start to find you!

Bottom line: Spend most of your time building Instagram, because I think it has the most potential for the future.

4. Facebook is slowly on the decline

This is not just my opinion, but it seems to be the general consensus for all bloggers/businesses… Facebook is tumbling downhill.

Facebook is the most volatile and unpredictable social media out there, as their regulations and algorithms change almost daily.  Yes, it’s very annoying, but it’s also understandable when you have a website that is THIS powerful.  1 out of every 4 webpages on the internet is on Facebook.

And let me be the first to admit that I still struggle with Facebook. I am no expert. My likers count just reached 2,000, which is much less than many other bloggers in my niche.

But there is no doubt that the organic reach of Facebook posts have been decreasing day by day.  Now, Facebook is making you pay money to “boost posts,” which means that they will show up on more news feeds that you specifically target. Basically, the more money you pay, the more news feeds that your post will be shown on.  If you don’t pay, then your posts will be hidden…  Which leads me to this conclusion: Even as my FB followers are increasing, my posts visibility is decreasing. Facebook is the ONLY social network that is like this.

That being said, Facebook is far from dead. I still continue to post 2-3 daily photos from my travels, and my engagement levels are doing alright. I have given in and now I pay to boost certain posts, and it’s been working.

But when you decide to boost a post, be smart about it. I usually will throw $5 at posts that are already doing well organically and that have a link to my blog in them. This way, I can maximize traffic juice to my blog.

Also, some of my most viewed posts on Facebook are simply links that I share from other reputable news sources (Huff post, CNN) and other big travel blogs. Give it a try and see what works best for you.

I am anxiously waiting to see what surprises that Facebook will throw in the mix in the near future.

5. Twitter is too automated, but still effective

Twitter, in my eyes, is slowly turning into a marketing scheme. I just hit 22K followers, and my engagement levels aren’t much different than they were at 10K. Ok, well maybe they are going up a little bit; I got 2,151 referrals this month compared to 1,751 last month, but it’s hard to judge when I am only getting a few likes/comments/retweets per tweet. It’s nothing consistent.

The most frustrating part about Twitter is that each Tweet lasts only an average of ~15 minutes before it goes too far down in the stream of Tweets. That’s ridiculous when I compare that to my Facebook posts which last days, or my Pinterest posts which can stay active for months!

Also, I am sick and tired of getting automated tweets from people. So many times after I follow someone, I get a tweet back @me like “Hi There! Want to plan the best trip abroad? Check out my new travel app called ____” Blah. Blah. Blah.

I feel like I am dealing with more robots than people on Twitter.   And I will admit that I am a bit guilty of this as well. I have an automated plugin that tweets out one of my blog posts every day, and every time someone follows me, I send them a direct message saying thank you.

I know that many of you will disagree with me on Twitter (and that’s ok). But I am just not seeing the return on investment that I imagined.

Next, I will share with you my 3 biggest SM tips for moving forward: 

1. Reply to EVERY comment.

This is the #1 most important piece of advice that I will give you. This is also what I spend 75% of my time with social media nowadays. Reply to every comment, no matter where it comes from!

It doesn’t matter whether the comment is on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, blog posts or emails.  You should actively be engaging with your audience and answer their questions and comments. And when you’re responding to them, it’s important to just be yourself; act like you would if you were sitting face to face with them. Remember that people follow you for who you are, so don’t change that.

Why? Because this is how you build strong relationship and connect with people. This is what keeps people coming back for more, and what makes them tell their friends about your blog.  I recommend to ask questions in your posts and encourage people to respond. You could even give away a small prize like a postcard or something (which I did and it worked really well).

Just a few weeks ago in Goa, India, one of my IG followers commented on my photo saying that she was also in Goa and wanted to meet me. I responded and we decided to hang out and party together with her friends.  And then when I was just in Mumbai, one of my Instagram followers also wanted to show me around her city, so we hung out and it was great!   It’s such a great feeling- that people are starting to find me instead of me finding them.

Here are photos with my new friends from Instagram:

And this only happened because I replied to their comments.

2. Post often and consistently 

This is perhaps the biggest tip to boost your engagement levels across all networks.

I used to post only 1 photos/ tweet per day. I would post them at random times, whenever I was online or when I felt like sharing something.

But then when I started scheduling all of my posts, I realized that MANY more people saw my posts. My engagement levels (likes + comments + shares) skyrocketed.

Be consistent when you post. Check your Google Analytics to find out where the majority of your target audience is coming from and post in the morning and evening in their time zone. In my case, most of my audience are Americans, so I post everything according to Eastern Time Zone.

Also, post more often then you think, and do it in intervals. I used to think that I was being “annoying” and that people would be sick of hearing from me. Well, I’m sure that was likely the case for a very tiny portion of my followers, but those people could just stop following me and then who cares after that.

But the number of followers that you will GAIN are much higher than the amount you will LOSE when you post frequently. Trust me.

How often should you post?

Here is my posting schedule for each network. This is what I’ve found to work best for me and my engagement. Feel free to copy it or find out what works best for you on your own:

Facebook: 3 photos everyday. 9AM, 3PM, 10PM EST. (Facebook is the easiest to schedule your posts on, just set the time and date. And you can do as many as you want)

Instagram: 2 photos everyday, always 12 hours apart. I try to aim for 7AM and 7PM EST.

Twitter: I tweet about 5-7 times a day, spread out every 2 hours.   Some of them are automated from my old blog posts, some come from Triberr, and most come from my fingertips.

Pinterest: Post 1 unique photo to 10 group boards per day (with a link to my blog).  That is 10 photos in total.  All photos are posted from 6-9PM EST.

3. Hire a VA to do all the busy work

Social media is a lot of work.  If you want to build your numbers at a fast rate, then it’s impossible to do everything all by yourself.  The work never ends.

So I recommend you to hire a VA (virtual assistant) to split the job with you!

Are you aware that there are people waiting for you in the Philippines, or Bangladesh, or Romania, who will work efficiently for dirt cheap. You can find them on Odesk, Elance or Fiverr.

I have been working with the same Filipino guy for 15 months, and we have a very good relationship. In fact, I just visited him in Manila a few weeks ago and he took me out to party!

But before you hire someone, make sure you:
– Check that they are fluent in English
– Find out their background
– See examples of their previous work
– Check if they have good feedback and read what others are saying about them
– Give them some “test work” and see how efficient they are
– Write them DETAILED notes about exactly what you want them to do for you. Have them follow step by step.
– Don’t pay them more than $3 per hour (there are thousands who will work for cheaper)

If you can do all of things things that I mentioned in this article, then I can promise you that your followers will grow at a MUCH faster rate and you’ll be on your way to success.

If you don’t have the energy to do all of these things, or you need some more assistance, then I now offer private social media consulting at very affordable rates. Contact me if interested.

And don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions! I am always happy to help you out 🙂

Good luck and please comment below! 

55 thoughts on “How I got 35K Followers in the Last 4 Months

  1. Great actionable points, Drew!
    Fellow travel blogger from India here 🙂 Hit me up if you are in my part of the world (or, I could be in yours!).

  2. Hey Drew!
    I read both the first article and this one, which are such eye-openers! I guess it’s because I’m not really the active social media type of person (quality > quantity of postings for me) but I can definitely see the fruit of all the hard work one puts into it! It’s a relief to find that G+, Facebook, and Twitter aren’t so high on the list anymore ’cause to be honest, I don’t bother with those when it comes to using it outside of my personal life lol. As for Pinterest, I didn’t realize that I could spend countless hours re-pinning other people’s stuff and yet not enough pinning of my own… so thanks for the heads up!

    The most I’ve probably done is on Instagram— with the hashtags, likes, and comments. However… I don’t know if you’ve noticed it for the past year, but it seems that the whole “comment more hashtags on your photos” don’t seem to work anymore, because I think Instagram changed it so that photos only appear in the search results according to the time they were posted and /cannot/ climb to the top any more if say, you tried to add or re-add hashtags after 5 minutes 🙁 get it? what do you think?

    Also, I get a wee bit excited every time you mention Canva because a couple of my friends work there (the Manila team, at least)!
    Once again, I really appreciate you sharing these tips! One more thing… has anyone ever told you that you look like Merry Brandybuck? ;D

    http://artbeatsmath.tumblr.com

    1. Hey Hannah — thanks for the comment! YEs, I still think facebook, twitter and G+ are on the decline. I would still focus mostly on Instagram and Snapchat 🙂

      I agree with the comments on IG — I am not seeing such a good benefit on them as I did before.

      I love Canva!! Best service ever.

      Wishing you all the best, and let me know if you have any more questions!

      Drew

  3. HI Drew! We have recently discovered your detailed articles and success in doing what you love the most… travel! We are in the process of beginning an online travel presence. We have begun posting photographs to instagram and so far have been successful but we have many more ‘likes’ than ‘followers’, what is your advice for generating more followings as well as likes? Our website is under construction at the moment, we wondered whether it was because of that? Thanks so much, we will continue reading and following your movements! Keep up the amazing work!

    1. Hey- nice work so far! I recommend commenting and liking on other people’s photos, so they will be directed to your page and then they will follow you if you have nice pics. Also, try to get featured on big accounts!

      Best of luck,

      Drew

  4. Drew, Drew, Drew this is SOOOO helpful! Honestly, there are a million articles like this, but yours has the freshest, most usable tips. Thanks so much for writing this with such detail. I have found our Instagram to be growing tremendously. It’s true what you said too. We reached 5000 followers about a week ago and the numbers just keep skyrocketing. I keep getting 50-100 new followers every day. Fingers crossed that the trend continues (and moves over into Facebook a little bit lol).

    Thanks again!

    PS: Have shared this liberally!!

  5. How do know where your referrals are coming from? Is there a plugin for that? I have no clue if people are coming to my blog more from pinterest or twitter or intsagram.

  6. Very useful, again 🙂

    I do think that Instagram recently changed a bit though. They used to show all photos of people you follow, but that’s not happening anymore. I’ve missed quite a few photos of people, probably because I haven’t been liking enough of their photos. So, I think they have an algorythm to now. 🙁

  7. You said…’ I don’t use any black hat tactics’. Really? You are really being dishonest with your followers. You forgot to mention how you really get those followers on instagram! Following and then unfollowing and then refollowing and unfollowing people again won’t get you far in the long run. People are not stupid and they will sooner or later know what you are doing. Your engagement isn’t even that high on instagram for the amount of followers that you have. I thin you should really play open cards with your readers. You are not playing fair. That’s all.

    1. Marta – I used to do that but I haven’t in a long time. Look at how many people I am following now, only 64. I think that the follow/unfollow game is useful in the beginning to get initially recognized, but like you said, the engagement levels are lower than they should be. Thanks for the comment

      1. If long time is 2 weeks that that’s a really long time. I saw you having over 20k followers but you also followed over 20 ks and then the unfollow game started. I don’t care how you do it, just be fair and include it in your post, because you are clearly not being honest with your readers. I thought you are going to delete my comment, so at least I am glad you faced the critique.

        1. Marta – Yes I already admitted that I did it, but at most I was never following over 3K people. I don’t know where you are getting 20K. Anyways, like I said before, it is beneficial to do this only in the beginning but not in the long run. Maybe I should have mentioned that in the post – so thanks for bringing this up. Cheers 🙂

  8. I’m a big fan of your original post so having an update on it was like Christmas to me! Anyway it just confirmed what my intuition told me: G+ and Facebook are not worth the time spent. Also, I feel it’s counterproductive if you spread your eggs across too many baskets at a time.
    Thanks again for your detailed and insightful tips, learned a lot!

    Long shot here: do you happen to manage or have privileges to add anyone on any of these Pinterest Boards? Wonder if you can add me @geekyexplorer 🙂

    Cheers mate,
    Bruno

    1. Hey Bruno – thanks a lot for the comment!! I’m glad that you agree with me 🙂

      Unfortunately, I don’t have access to any of them. But you can still try to get access to them by contacting the owner of each board! Good luck

  9. Another great post! But sad to hear about Goggle plus. I am expecting much from them. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Drew, Had to make a new comment cause I think we met the reply limit. Won’t let me reply to you again haha. in response to your question: no I have not been getting emails when you reply to my comment. Though I do not have the “notify me of follow up comments” box selected. From experience, that box then emails every time anyone makes a comment not specifically a comment in response to mine.

    What I had meant to ask about Pinterest was: I do not currently have a good portfolio of my own pictures to post on Pinterest boards. I assume I should not post stock images I have paid for, but have not taken personally on there. Is that correct?

    Thanks

    1. John- thanks for the answer. I want to set the option so it automatically emails then when I respond to their comment, otherwise they likely won’t notice that I responded to them.

      If you paid for the stock images, then you can definitely post them. Everyone does it. You will not get caught. That’s the point of Pinterest anyways, to share photos of things on the web. It doesn’t have to be yours.

      Cheers!

      Drew

  11. Another fabulous, informative post! The first really helped me with Twitter, now I am jumping on the Pinterest band wagon!

  12. Thanks for all the tips and recommendations Drew! I just read both versions of this post and learned a lot. I am just beginning my Travel Blog as I take the leap into making travel more of a priority in my life. I’ll be putting your recommendations into practice starting with focusing first on Pinterest and then twitter while dabbling with Instagram and Snap Chat!

      1. I just joined triberr. How do I go about getting invited to the different travel blog tribes? Do I need to send a message to the chief of each tribe requesting an invite? Thanks!

        1. You have to comment on the tribe and ask if you can join.. But many of them already hit capacity at 30 people, so you have to ask as many as you can. Good lucK!

          1. Thanks for all the replies and assistance Drew. One more for you. With Pinterest, I do not currently have a good portfolio of pictures to post to boards. Though I hope to in the coming months. I assume that posting stock images ect. is heavily frowned upon. In addition to commenting on the photos of others, do you have any insight into what other options are available until I’ve built up a nice photography portfolio? Thanks again man! Your work is truly inspiring and helpful.

          2. No problem John. Just curious – Did you receive an email notification when I replied to your comment?

            RE Pinterest – first make your profile look pretty and professional. Then just start getting accesss to group boards! That’s it really, then post one image on each board per day. Good luck!

  13. Was so depressed to read about Google+ as that was one that I felt like I was getting the hang of!! haha… I use Pinterest but need to work out the best groups/boards to join and wrap my head around that!!
    thanks again for all your tips!

    1. No prob Zita, best of luck! If you are having success with G+ then don’t stop! Like I stated in the post, these are just from my experiences 🙂

      1. Hi again Drew, just checking back through this article as I thought I had read here about how to check who is following you on Instagram? According to my notifications I have gotten about 5 new followers today but my ‘following’ number has not changed… I’m worried people are following me, the. When I follow them back they are unfollowing me. Do you know a way to check this? I am sure I read somewhere there is a way to do it?

        1. Hi Zita, I am confused by your question.. If you get 5 new followers then that will increase your “Followers” number, NOT your “following” number. Your “following” number is the people that you are following, so that will increase when you start to follow someone. Does this help clear some confusion?

  14. I’ve really loved both versions of this article – not only because the tips are incredibly useful, but also because it’s pretty fascinating to read how you grew such a huge community on social media. Thanks so much for sharing!

  15. Another great post. I really liked the first one, and have been slowly getting some of my numbers up as well. I don’t really know where my traffic comes from, so that’s something I probably should look into more.

    1. Much appreciated Dave. You should install Google Analytics (it’s free and easy) and it will tell you detailed info about your traffic! Good luck

  16. I feel the same way as you about Twitter! I NEVER liked Twitter to begin with, and everyone thought I was crazy. Besides the automated stuff, I really don’t like scrolling my Twitter newsfeed. It’s hard to read, I don’t really care about most of the tweets, and everything is so small! I much prefer Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. I just go on Twitter because I have to for my blog, but I still feel like I haven’t “got it” yet.

  17. Thanks for the great advice! Actually, I first read part #1 as you suggested and instantly opened G+ account – only to realize a few hours later that you don´t recommend it anymore! 😀 But I gained a few extra page visits from it today 🙂 I think I´ll give it a try, because it helps in search engine if nothing else, it seems. FB is quite frustrating as you say, I was struggling with it even in my previous job and the pages I was managing. Not really worth the effort, but if you gain active followers, then it´s great. I know I should pay more attention to Pinterest and Instagram, but I´m a huge procrastinator when it comes to these 😀 I don´t want to start building all account at once as it´ll get pretty messy (it is already now anyway). But I´ll definitely follow your advice on that. So thanks again!

    1. Hey Monika – I’m glad that we are likeminded with each network! Although I would DEFINTIELY recommend getting on both Instagram and Pinterest. Those are the two most powerful social media networks, and then ones that I’ve had the most success with. I’d be glad to help you in any way possible 🙂

  18. Thank you! Another extremely helpful post! I am getting there with facebook, Instagram and Twitter and these tips are great! However I am still struggling with Pinterest! I need to sit down for a day and figure it out!

    1. Sally- Pinterest is very important to figure out!! I’d recommend going thru step by step in my 1st post, and it will help you understand it. Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂

  19. Another great post…I came across your first one (How I Got 10k…) a few months ago hen I was just beginning my blog and it helped immensely! Social media does not come naturally to me, so every hint counts. I am also wondering about instagram, and how you grew your account so successfully. It is one of my favourite platforms (can’t resist looking at amazing photos) but for some reason it has been a struggle to gain followers. Thanks again…Happy travels!

    1. Hi Lara – thanks for the comment! I’m happy that my tips helped you. Instagram is easy to grow fast. Have you been following the steps that I mentioned in the first version? Keep posting engaging photos, and start following/commenting on other accounts within your niche. People will start to follow you back 🙂 Good luck!

  20. What groups do you recommend for pinterest? I admit I have no idea how to use it (I’m such a terrible female lol).

    Also what do you find to be the best types of pictures to post on instagram? I feel like I post good photos but the most likes I’ve ever gotten was 133. Most of my pictures get 30-60. I was excited when you started following me though 🙂

    1. Hi Katrina! Check out my profile and copy the groups that I am in. You can also google search “Best Pinterest Travel Group Boards” and get a list there. Getting access to these boards is the tricky part though…

      For IG, it’s all about reaching out to other accounts within your niche. Start following & commenting on other pages and they will begin to do the same for you. I know, it’s a tedious process, but it gets much easier with time!

      Good luck, and cheers from India 😀

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