In Episode 10 of the Content Conversations podcast, Lucy Mowatt speaks to social media manager and influencer Mollie Hyde about building and growing your Instagram following. From engagement tips to the tools she can’t live without, Mollie gives some fantastic insights.
Lucy Mowatt: Hello and welcome to episode 10 of the Content Conversations Podcast. I’m your host Lucy Mowatt, founder of Method Marketing.
This week I’m chatting to social media manager and influencer Mollie Hyde about making impact on Instagram.
She tells us how she built her audience, creates a beautiful newsfeed and secures consistently high-levels of engagement across all of her posts.
If you’re considering setting up an account for your business, her insights are invaluable. So here are just to get started? Let’s jump right in.
MH: Hi, I’m great, thanks. How are you?
LM: Not too bad. Looking forward to the summer. I’m sick of this weather.
MH: I just had a horrible walk in the rain and hail earlier actually as well. That was interesting.
LM: I know, the nights are drawing out now though, so that’s all good.
Before we properly get into the podcast, can I ask you to introduce yourself and what it is you do?
MH: Sure. So my name is Molliie, as you probably already know, and I’m a social media manager. I’m a freelancer, and I also have my own life and style blog.
It kind of covers a lot of different things and I’m mostly on Instagram though. That’s my main platform, which is obviously what we’re going to talk about today. But yeah, that’s kind of a rough outline of who I am and what I do.
LM: So you’ve got more than 4,000 followers on Instagram, which is pretty cool.
MH: Yes. I am hanging around that number though, which is one of those frustrating things. I think a lot of people are kind of feeling that at the moment. So I’m trying not to focus too much on the following account.
LM: But it’s so easy to focus on that.
MH: Yeah, it’s a numbers game.
LM: Can you maybe explain why you got started on Instagram? What the draw of the platform was?
MH: Yeah, sure. I have always been quite a creative person, I like to think and [I was drawn to the] really visual nature of the platform. I started, it must’ve been four years ago I think; how old is Instagram is now? It was right at the beginning when it wasn’t really a very known thing.
When I would tell people kind of what I was up to, it was before blogging was a thing; ‘influencer’ wasn’t really a word.
At university, my friends were like, what are you doing? Why are you taking pictures of your outfit? But I just thought it was a really nice creative outlet where I could share with like-minded people. So my kind of stash and tips, I used to customise my clothes and share [pictures].
You kind of had a community on it when it first began and it was a lot smaller, so you could really create these meaningful relationships, which I think got a bit lost.
I think it could be coming back with the kind of really important comments and making those relationships with people, rather than just relying on likes and you know; numbers, so yeah.
LM: Really interesting that that’s coming back around, and you know, the numbers might not be so important anymore; it might actually be about the engagement.
MH: Definitely. I think it’s a real positive, even though everyone sees it as a kind of very negative thing at the moment. It’s quite a scary change if they do start hiding likes and things. But I think it is a move in the right direction. I think Instagram had pressure for mental health issues and things, so that’s kind of where that comes from, I think. But yeah, it should be okay, don’t panic.
LM: Well yeah, there are other ways of achieving your goals and objectives and ultimately that’s kind of a vanity metric; the likes and the followers.
MH: Exactly, yeah, that’s very true.
LM: Although that said, do you have any tips about how you grew your following and any tips you can recommend for people who are just starting out and want to start growing their numbers?
MH: Basically you’ve got to, from the start, set out what you want to get from the platform because you can get so much from it.
It really depends on what your goal is and that your objective – kind of how you want to portray yourself because it is only a side of you, from my personal point of view, not from businesses. But you know, you’ve still got the brand image that you want to decide what you’re going to put forward, so that was a really kind of key start to that.
Build the foundation rather than just going head in, just, you know, willy-nilly posting. I think you’ve got to really think about that and pretty be consistent with that image that you choose.
And then, in terms of actually doing things to build my following, I’d say tagging different accounts in pictures and commenting. I actually started when it was called, what was it…? #Shoutoutforshoutout was a hashtag.
LM: Oh yeah, I remember that.
MH: Yeah. It’s actually very good at the beginning. I think it’s got a bit overused. Now it’s #followfriday and things, which are the equivalent. That’s great.
It’s a case of really making relationships with people and then they like the content; they want to share you with their audience and then it kind of spirals. You get seen by a lot of their following and then you can borrow.
If you’re kind of talking to people who are like-minded and have similar accounts to you, even though they’re kind of your competition, it’s actually great, because their followers are likely to want to follow you as well.
LM: I was going to ask you about the building of the engagement and that’s something that I’ve certainly found; going out and commenting on other relevant accounts that are using similar hashtags really works.
MH: People just think: ‘Oh, Instagram, you just take five minutes, take a picture and post it, and jobs a good’un.’ It’s really not. I think there are a lot of behind the scenes things that you’ve got to do. So going out and engaging actively. I do spend 20 minutes saying I’m going to engage, engage, engage by commenting on people’s pictures. I would normally do it anyway, but I think sometimes it’s good to just sit yourself down and know you’re definitely doing that. And I do notice a difference in my engagement on the weeks I do that.
And also recently with hashtags, I feel like– I have a bank of hashtags; I have a hashtag bank in my notes on my phone, and I always copy and paste say 30 hashtags and I’ll make the most of it. And I do change them slightly for the pictures, to be more relevant. But recently I’ve actually done some more kind of hashtag research and I’ve really noticed the difference on the reach. So that’s the really key thing that kind with the recenccy. So it’s doubled my reach because of the, you know, and since they changed from a chronological order on LinkedIn, I mean, LinkedIn, sorry Instagram.
LM: And I didn’t even notice, sorry.
MH: Just sort of roll with it…
So, what was I saying? So chronological order. Since they changed from that, it’s a lot harder obviously to get the reach that maybe we used to have. So by hashtagging, it enables you to get onto the Explore page.
MH: So it helps you be on that, and then also when people actively search for the hashtag that you’ve used, if you come up in the top section of it, then that’s going to really help your reach because people are going to see you straight away. And also people can follow hashtag now, so you might come up in their feed without them even following you, but it’s a great thing for you to be able to pop up there. And they don’t necessarily follow you, but they might then follow you. Yeah, hashtags are really important I think.
LM: That is the dream isn’t it? Is to appear on the explore page; every influencers dream. It’s like I have to appear here. Do you have any tips on how you go about hashtag research so you can– you just said you’ve been looking into a bit more, where would you typically start?
MH: It’s almost like competitor research. You know, you look at similar accounts or accounts that you aspire to be like see what they’re hashtagging. You know, have a little route around actually look on the hashtag and see if it’s what you want to be associating with or if you think your content is good enough to kind of appear on that top section. Just to really get a feel of what content is on it. Because you know, you could have a hashtag and its huge and you’re never going to get on. It’s not very realistic. So you want to go for one that’s not got so many tags that you’re going to get lost in, but also not too small that no one is actually going to actually search for it. It’s a real balance of– you can obviously use a bit of both. That’s kind of the easy option just to cover all bases. But yeah, it’s just a case of really thinking you want to be seen for both in what you actually might be able to be seen for, so kind of, yeah, dream in reality.
LM: And I remember reading an article about that, god knows when – it must be a couple of years back – and it was really interesting. I find it worked for me is sort of getting– aim for those hashtags that have been used around like between 10,000 and a hundred thousand times, rather than going through the hashtags that have been used a million times because you’re never going to get seen. But if you go for the lower volume, you’re more likely to appear in the feed, which I found pretty useful.
MH: Yeah, I think the one I’ve just been looking at my last post and it got, I was actually in the top section. Yes, that was in– it’s around, yeah, 10, and no, it’s 10,000 for that; those hashtag. But there was some new ones that you– one of those things you’re not sure where they stem from because obviously, you can create hashtag to say if you want you to have one associated with you and then you could then share people’s posts from it or you know. People obviously are making these hashtags. There was one that a couple of fashion bloggers did called, it was another outfit post; they were always posting outfit, so it was kind of a jokey like, Oh, hashtag another outfit post. And now that one got taken off because all fashion bloggers seem to use it now because once one use it, they want to kind of get share on it, and then it just spirals again into everyone is using it.
It’s so hard to stay on top of it though. As you say, anyone can create one, so stay on top of which ones are relevant and which ones are being used. It’s really hard. And you said– it can be. I did see and you mentioned about having a hashtag bank and I know that I do that, but can you just explain what that is for anyone who isn’t sure?
MH: Oh yeah, sure. So basically I have for me personally on all my notes and it’s just a few different sets for the different types of content that I post so that I can then just copy and paste a set of 30 different hashtags, which are roughly relatable to that post. Just say I’ve done a fashion street style picture. I will copy and paste the hashtags that’s over about– they literally are hashtag street style or hashtag fashion blogger or things like that. And then, say if I do one where I’m outside in the countryside, I also add in a section about countryside style and things. So it’s just really a case of making it a bit easier because if you are posting every day, they’re not going to change drastically. So it’s great to have them kind of in reserve, so you can save time.
LM: Yeah, it can’t take forever to stop typing out hashtags. And then, have you accidentally go over; I’ve done that before? You accidentally do 31.
MH: I always copy and paste it when I’m writing it down because then you can’t repost it, can you?
MH: You can’t copy it from the comment, yeah, that’s the little trick I’ve learned from the frustration.
LM: Yeah, me too. So you’ve sort of discussed about discovery and how you get found. In terms of getting that engagement, do you find that there are any particular techniques that you use to gain engagement? Do you tend to have like a call-to-action in every post for instance?
MH: So I think call to action, that’s a tricky one because I know Facebook have been, obviously they’re very similar owned by the same people. So Facebook have been really kind of anti-call-to-actions, and I think apparently if you put them in your posts, you have to be clever about them now I think. You know, you’ve got to be more subtle call-to-action rather than comment with a heart emoji or you know, very obvious what you’re trying to do. So I think call-to-actions are less important than they used to be, but it’s very hard with engagement. I think it is a really case of; you’ve got to think about what you’re putting in your caption. It isn’t just an image, you know, everyone sees it, it’s very visual, but you’ve got to give some kind of– at least give some value in your captions as well as your image, so then that helps you of course. Say they might say your post, which also helps with– I mean Instagram kind of ranked it higher which you’ve got more saved. So that can help with, and this has reached anyway for that. Yeah, I think with the engagement, it’s just a case of making sure you’re engaging with similar content, kind of going on to those hashtag pages and even just with the few of the top ones and engage with those and then kind of precipitated.
LM: Yeah. And I think you find that the people who are so active on Instagram, they will come and check you out after you’ve made a comment and comment on your stuff as well. I’ve definitely found that.
MH: Yeah, definitely. I think because you know, how we expected to be found if you’re just going to sit there, you know you’re not– you have to kind of put yourself out there to be found. Yeah, and I think as well in terms of kind of findability, it really is kind of the most underrated or underused tool is your bio and your name. It sounds really simple, but because– you know your name you can– it’s almost like you need to put your SEO hat on and then put kind of things after your name. So I’ve got, I think I’ve got life and style blogger, that’s actually searchable within the app. So if someone’s looking for a– or you can put nourish blogger and if someone’s looking for nourish blogger, they’d find me in that list. Or if they’re tagging people they’d find me, so that’s really important; I think people don’t realize that. A lot of people think that it’s good to put hashtag in the bio or target accounts in the bio, but then not actually searchable, is only the name there that is searchable. So that’s only good if you have to say that on two accounts or if a brand had a say customer service channel that they wanted to direct people away from the main account to that. That’s kind of handy because you can click on that in the bio.
LM: Yeah. Because you still see it quite a lot and I don’t know how well Instagram promotes it, actually the hashtag is not that useful in the bio.
MH: Yeah, I saw a story in a blog post somewhere, I can’t remember where I read it, but I remember, I only remember it because I was quite surprised by the fact that it wasn’t really that useful.
LM: Yeah, because I think everybody did it, you know, I know I did. I had a couple hashtags in there and that’s just a waste of time.
MH: Yeah. It’s good to have your own hashtag that you want to promote. But apart from that, I can’t see how it’s really useful.
MH: That’s one of tricky things about Instagram with only having one link in your bio, and if you can’t– well you can link in the caption but it’s not going to be a clickable link. So I think with those, if you do have more links that you want to kind of send people off to do, then things like link tree services that you can have links off to multiple websites, which is quite handy.
LM: I’ve never used that actually. I’ve noticed a few people are.
MH: I always tell myself I need to!
LM: I know, I never get around to it.
MH: No, it’s one of those things, isn’t it?
LM: I know that’s a bit of homework for me is to go away and set up a LinkTree or at least try it.
MH: Yeah, maybe we both should.
LM: The report back.
MH: Practice what you preach, Mollie.
LM: I think we’re all guilty of that. That’s fine.
So just thinking in terms of people who are maybe going to launch an Instagram account for their business, do you think the same principles apply about sort of engagement and discovery?
MH: I think businesses kind of– it’s very different. It’s different but the same. I think when you start off as a business, you kind of start off on a slightly easier footing. I think because you kind of have, there’s that trust that initially gives, I don’t know, has humans, we seem to attract businesses more than people. And I think, what was I trying to say here? I think once you start off as a business, people are going to want to follow you because maybe they already know of you or you know, if like eCommerce, like a shop or something, well they’re going to want to tag you in things, and they’ll find me that way because you’re out there, you’ve marked yourself anyway. You’re not just a person who could just be hiding away in a room. I think that can help; just the initial how people view your profile. I do think again, it is really– you got to think about how you want to be seen before you actually start. Just so you take a running jump rather than just really try it for a week and then it will just stop.
LM: Yeah. And I think, like you were saying about brand and having a– because you’ve got very strong brand actually on your personal Instagram, but having– like carrying your branding through on your grid and having certain rules about what you’re posting and the filters you’re using and things like that can be quite important.
MH: I think, yeah, consistency really is the key. Not even just in how, like the timing of your posts, you know, like are you going to post every day, you’re going to post on a Tuesday and a Thursday. You have to need to work that out. But then also I think consistency with how your images are looking, so that kind of really does help too. Yeah, I think it’s one of the things, right; quality over quantity
LM: If you’ve got more than one person posting on your behalf on your account as well, so I suppose having consistency across those people as well.
MH: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, because one of the thing that people always say to me, why is my feed so, you know, look, why does it matter if it looks all the same tones or, you know, with the same with preset on it. But I think people don’t necessarily see my pictures all in one go once they’re following me. Before they follow me, that is what they’re going to see, so it’s kind of– you’ve got to really capture that either interest or people need to see instantly what they would gained from following you or you know what your brand is really, straight away just from those grid posts.
LM: Hopefully as a business you will have those brand guidelines already set up, so it’s a case of probably just extending them to cover Instagram.
MH: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I think that’s okay. It links in quite well with the other social platforms, I think Instagram.
LM: And I think what you were saying about sort of doing the outreach and the community and the social part of social media is something that businesses often miss, that they’re not doing the engagement and they’re going out and chatting and being social body almost. They’re just posting and then leaving it. I don’t know if you find the same thing.
MH: Yeah, I think it’s a case of, you know, they just think you’re making the content, you promote it and it’s all going to come back to them. But you actually have to kind of reach out as well as you know, it’s kind of a case of pushing it as well as just you know, doing it in a way. I think it’s really key for businesses to use Instagram because it makes them a lot more relatable, and gives the brand kind of a face to the brand, especially with the story section, which is another– personally I think it’s another underrated section of the app. Because I think, you know, you obviously got your feed content, but if that’s not necessarily being seen with the algorithm, you then have to hop onto the stories. But that’s a great way of even kind of driving revenue with the swipe up. As soon as you get to that, you’ve obviously got to get to that stage with the 10,000 followers for those. So, if you’re a big brand that shouldn’t be too hard. And if not, then you can just ad revenue, it’s so great with Instagram because you can tag your products in the feed or you can, like I said do the swipe up. So I think it definitely a really good tool for brands to use. It’s just getting them to get all the backing behind it.
LM: I think that’s the thing, sometimes we maybe– with the stories it’s quite hard to know what to post sometimes because it feels a lot more live.
MH: Yeah. I think it can be so useful though they think that it is scary. I think the more you do – personally for me, anyway –the more I do them, the more it becomes kind of second nature in my day. Oh, I should do this on stories or do this. But as soon as I stop then I’m like, Oh I haven’t done a story for a while. What should they do? But I think for brands it’s great because they can use it for the audience insights. You can use the polls or the question stickers if you have like an upcoming product launch, you could ask people, you know, what’s your favourite colour? And then it can even help form your product by knowing that your audience actually, you know, your target audience likes it.
LM: I’ve had like the questions, it’s great for if you want to ask almost like a survey if you want to know about a particular thing.
MH: Exactly, yeah, it’s not like a big survey. It’s just kind of a one hit. You just tap a button or you know, with the, I don’t know what you call it this kind of slidable scale. You can do that. And that’s just that just swipe your finger does appeal to everyone; slightly lazy nature.
LM: Yeah. But it’s so interactive in a way that actually feed post on, so it gives you a lot more opportunity to engage.
MH: Yeah. I think it helps with kind of creating that real engagement rather than just kind of oh, just tap a like you know, sort of helps to nurture that a bit more I think.
LM: I often encourage brands to do some behind the scenes type content on stories. It’s quite nice bringing sort of less curated, more real face to their business with stories.
MH: Yeah, that can be really useful and depending on the type of business, but I think yeah, behind the scenes just add that different element doesn’t it to their otherwise curated feed.
LM: Definitely. Are there any businesses that you think are currently acing it on Instagram that you recommend people follow for inspiration maybe?
MH: There’s a lot. I really think that put me on the spot.
MH: I didn’t think a lot of obviously magazines maybe struggling in print now it’s all gone more digital. They are very good at kind of using a swipe up on their story or if they’ve got a headline, you know, it’s very eye-catching stories. That the nature of their business really. But they also do things like, they kind of have a mini version of the magazine in the story so you can do. That this or that, and it’s a poll where you choose pink dress or blue or things that you actually enjoy. You know, when it comes up on your feet, you enjoy interacting with them or you find out that they are not necessarily new stories but you find out what’s going on. I think that kind of makes you want to follow them. Trying to think of any actual e-commerce one; I think ASOS is doing quite well in terms of their relate-ability. They can really see, they’ve really tapped into who their niche audience of say maybe 20-year-olds, or 20, 30. They’ve got like, you know, millennial age bracket where they’ll do a meme, they’ll do ones that are related just to them. Like they’ll make ASOS ones. I think that’s quite interesting, they’ve got quite a big social team behind them I think. But yeah, I think it’s good when a brand doesn’t just focus on what they sell necessarily. They actually see what is doing well on the platform itself and then they just try different things and see what works, what doesn’t, you know, you’ve got to be quite bold I think to succeed.
LM: Yeah. And some business I think are obviously quite nervous about their reputation and maybe not damaging their brand, but social allows you to have that little bit of freedom and maybe humanity in a way that other channels don’t.
MH: Exactly. I think if you are more nervous, there are ways to do it and still do it well, but this is on a different level so you can be more, maybe if you had a good designer, you could do some kind of infographics on there and use it in a more visual way and keep it quite heavily branded still, but also provide different value then for your website does. Yeah, tap into different audiences via Instagram.
LM: Yeah. It’s a lovely, really visual platform and I love that about it, but it also makes me realize how bad I’m taking photographs.
MH: There’s always editing apps, they makes my photos famous.
LM: Do you have any recommendations of any apps that you particularly liked for editing photos?
MH: I think in terms of quality of the photo; then Light Room is the first one that I would always put my photo into. And that just helps with– I would literally put the auto button on and see what it thinks I should be doing with the image. And then I always change it in case I don’t agree. I kind of have a fiddle around with the lighting and exposure and that. And then I always, always recommend an app called, I think it’s called Unum, U.N.U.M, yeah. There’s another one called Planoly; basically it’s really helps you to see how your feed is going to look so you can kind of preplan, and you put your pictures into there before you actually post them, so you can see if it matches. So for me it’s great to see if all the tones are matching or to see, you know, have I posted too many selfies recently, maybe I should mix it up and post an outfit picture or a flat lay or something. So that’s probably my most used app, so it kind of helping with the feet. It’s not necessarily with the individual pictures but just helps to see that you’ve got a coherent feed going on.
LM: I always wondered how people got that. I’ve never used Planoly. Now I know it makes sense you can see in advance.
MH: Yeah, you can also schedule post, so it’s quite handy; all-rounder really.
MH: You know, if you’ve got a busy week ahead or if you know that hey, Pancake Day is coming up and we’ve got some content to post, you could get that in to when you know you’re going to be posting it. And then you can add captions, so if you have some creative, like 10 minutes and you want to jot something down; you can add it into that as a draft. That can be quite handy really. I think Planoly has a better one for scheduling than the other one that I mentioned.
LM: I’ve been using Facebook creator studio to do my scheduling, but that’s not necessarily the most affirming experience.
MH: I don’t really enjoy using any of those Facebook tool.
LM: No, so I’m looking for an alternative so I will check that out.
MH: Yeah, you definitely should. Yeah, that’s the two main ones that I use.
LM: Oh great, that’s really helpful. If people want to find out more about you, where can they do that? What’s your Instagram handle for one thing?
MH: So my Instagram handle is what I started with. I don’t know if I regret choosing the name, but I’m going to stick with it. My handle is @a_la_mol because I’m obviously called Mollie and it’s almost like a la mode in fashion, that’s where I was rolling with my kind of love of puns, and I decided to stay with that.
LM: I like it.
MH: You’ll find me with many puns in my caption as well as a warning.
LM: And are you on LinkedIn as well?
MH: I am under my normal name, which is Mollie Hyde; Mollie with an IE and Hyde with a Y.
LM: And I’ll put links in the show notes for people to– they can come and find you.
MH: That’s probably easier than my weird little ditty!
LM: Well, thank you for coming on and sharing your ideas and your tips. I really appreciate it.
MH: Thank you for having me. Sorry, it was quite a lot of just kind of my thoughts.
LM: That was great. That’s exactly what we want.
MH: Word vom just came out.
LM: That’s great. Thanks so much, Mollie.
MH: Thank you.