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Do You + Be Kind: Growing Your Instagram – Part One

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Hey buddies!
This is sort of the behind-the-scenes introduction to the Do You + Be Kind organic IG growth series I’ll be publishing over the next few weeks, and this first segment gives you an idea of where I’m coming from…and why this series might be a little different than you were expecting: read below to see what I’m talking about.  😉

I’ve been working on this series covering Instagram growth for awhile now, and I wanted it to be just right before hitting that little “publish” button.  It’s tricky to answer these questions without coming across as a self-important, know-it-all, and that’s been my hold up if I’m being honest with you all.  I want to use my experience to help if anyone could use the perspective, but I also don’t want to come off like an expert….because I can only speak to my own personal experience, you know?  So.  Take this series for what it is: a reflection back on my year and a half whirlwind Instagram journey as I try and piece together what worked for me and how it could work for you, too.  That’s my goal.

Another hold up: perpetuating the belief that THE most important thing about Instagram/social media is the number next to our names.  That’s a scary, bottomless pit of a trap to fall into, and it can reroute the course of our decisions, our social media identity, and even how we choose to spend our time with (or without…) our family and actual face-to-face people in our lives.  I’ve fallen into that trap once or twice on here, not going to lie, and it didn’t feel great.  It felt…like I’d lost ME on MY own social media account ABOUT ME.  😑  Funny how that can happen, huh?  I’ve hesitated to write an entire series promoting GROW GROW GROW, because…that honestly isn’t the MOST important thing about it all.  I’m realizing as I walk my own journey that the followers you HAVE should matter more than possibly ignoring the community you’ve created to constantly attract new followers at all costs.  Our people supporting us already should be our #1 focus when we are creating content for our channels, fostering and growing the community we’ve built and loving on the people who love us as best we can.  Is growth important and a good thing for our feeds?  By all means, heck yes!!  It’s vital for businesses and income if we are using our accounts for that purpose, and it expands our horizons for new opportunities and connections, all that jazz.  But…if growth-at-all-costs becomes the main focus, then I think we’ll miss the best part about social media: the community already around us.

I’m not here to reinvent the wheel either.  Not only is Instagram constantly shifting and reshaping itself anyway (algorithms, anyone…?! 😩), there are already SO MANY great resources out there for social media growth tactics, ideas and implementations, etc.  If you are looking for quick tips and tricks, a Google search will get you what you want.  No need for me to completely rewrite what’s been written a bunch of times already by experienced people.  What I’m going to talk about in this series might be a little unconventional and against the social-media-grain, if you will.  But…it’s what worked for me, for whatever reason, and if it can help my buddies in their own journeys, then I say it’s worth sharing!  Just a warning though: it’s probably not what you’re expecting, so if you choose to stick with me, I’d ask that ya keep an open mind and remember that GROWTH GROWTH GROWTH is only one part of the Instagram equation (…math…😳😂) in my opinion.  An important part, but…only a part.

Before we begin, I think it would be good to get a little background and context on why I’m even approaching this topic and where I’m coming from in a sense.  By far the most frequently asked question I receive (in some form or another) pertains to Instagram growth: how did your account grow so quickly?  What should I do to get my own to grow quickly?  Tips, tricks, etc?  And I totally get the reason behind the questions: the @cottonstem account DID grow quickly, and that was a surprise ESPECIALLY to me at times!  I started that account just hoping to further grow my design business, and initially I intended to use it only as a small marketing tool.  I started my IG account in August 2016, and the original goal that I wrote in my biz planner back then was “500 followers by Christmas” with a little blank square next to it waiting for its checkmark.  By Christmas four months later, the account had grown organically to approximately 20K.  (“Organically” meaning zero paid-for followers or likes or any of that shady stuff…👎🏼)  At around 10 months, it had hit 100K.  Now at a year and a half, it’s around 220K.  Insane and swirly: understatements fo’ sure.  😉  But…looking back, I think I can now connect the dots and hopefully use what I’ve learned to help others on their journey, too!  First things first though…

While this growth certainly was a surprise at times, it also did not by any means “just happen”…not by a long shot.  Time, energy, research, planning, all the things all those articles you Googled told you to do….?  Well, I did them, too.  I listened and read and read some more.  I asked for advice from those who knew better than me, tried new things and accepted change, honed my skills intentionally, sacrificed free time with my family/leisure time to learn and put in the effort.

(Not to mention…some of the kindest people I’ve met on IG land helped me by sharing my photos and connecting me with their friends, all out of the goodness of their hearts.  They were certainly living out the title of this series: do you + be kind.  I’ll be forever grateful for THEIR kindness and have tried to pass it on myself.) 

I say this 👆🏼up there to tell you up front: it takes work and time…and a helping hand.  Hard work and more time than you think it will take.  Pick any of your favorite Instagrammers or bloggers, and I guarantee they would tell you that what might appear to have just “happened” for them in regards to their growth or success took a crap ton of work behind the scenes, and I bet they could name a few people they’re grateful to for helping them out along the way.  They hustled!! I have little patience for people who want quick results with little effort given on their part.  That just doesn’t exist, man!  (Or if it does, point me in the right direction, because mama be tired…  😂😉) People who hustle get results…just don’t miss the results because of the hustle as you grow.  Again, growth is only one part…

Anyway, my point is this: if you are willing to put in the work, keep an open mind and put in some MORE work after that…then this series is for you.  Do you and be kind: organically growing your reach without losing yourself in the process.  Are ya with me so far, buddies?!  If you’re curious about specifics such as photography, feed cohesiveness, social media boundaries, growth tactics…plus insight from some of your favorite bloggers and Instagrammers, then stick around for Part Two of the Do You + Be Kind IG Growth series coming soon…!
❤ERIN

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  1. Kelly Pickel says:

    Erin,

    Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I enjoy your perspective and look forward to part 2. Keep up the good work sweet lady!

  2. Sharon says:

    This was so neat! I’m not trying to grow my Instagram, but I enjoyed this all the same and I think this mindset is one of the reasons I feel so much fun and joy in your account (other than the all round awesome content!). I’ll definitely check out part 2 for some inspiration! Thanks for being you and sharing that!

  3. Jane Peet says:

    looking forward to your series, Erin! I remember way back when you mentioned on stories that you wanted to share more…your heart knew. I believe organic growth will provide deep roots & beautiful connections. Keep doing you, xo

  4. Susan Wilson says:

    Your authenticity is what keeps me coming back for more!

  5. Laura says:

    Told ya I’d hop over and soak it up! Give me more! Can’t wait for what’s next! Teach me your ways♥️♥️ ~lewbeck (laura)

  6. I am really looking forward to this series! I am loving my little Instagram community and am spending a lot of time and effort getting to know and connect with people. It is a passion of mine, for SURE!! <3

  7. Tracy says:

    We all love your authenticity Erin!! You are a great mentor! You are by far my favorite account!!💟💟

  8. Sandee says:

    Great read from someone beginning. Thanks again Erin. Your heart is truly why you grew so fast. I’m pretty sure people recognized your genuine heart. 😍😍😍

  9. Ingrid says:

    I love your honesty and kindness in sharing!!
    I’m really looking forward to reading more in this series.
    Thank you Erin!!

  10. Kelsey says:

    Been looking forward to this little series! Thanks for putting this together Erin! Xoxo

  11. So great Erin! And I’m glad this is NOT coming from a “get rich quick” perspective! You do you girl and keep up that hustle 😘
    Adrianne Rabensburg

  12. Tiffany says:

    I’m so looking forward to this series! Thank you for sharing and you’re refreshing perspective!

  13. Christa says:

    Hi Erin! New follower here 👋🏻 and I will definitely be back for “Part 2”.
    As a new IG’er (is that a word?😂) I need all the truthful and helpful pointers. Your writing style is like you are having a conversation with just me. Love it! Thank you!
    Christa

  14. Morgan says:

    Yay! I’ve been anxiously waiting for your series on this. I definitely want to put in the work, but hear so.much conflicting info, that I never know WHERE to spend my time most effectively (if that makes sense?). I love the takeaways about growth not being the most important thing, hustling, and being KIND! Can’t wait for the rest! Teach on Fearless Leader! 😉

  15. Tootie Trouy says:

    Looking forward to Part 2! You are definitely one of those sweet accounts that has helped me, and I am so thankful!

  16. Emily says:

    Erin, I really enjoyed your post! I’ve followed you for awhile now and I can really identify with everything you’re saying! As I’m trying to grow my Insta as well as my blog, being authentic and “doing you” is what makes people want to be part of our tribes. I’m starting to see that it can be such and awesome community if we let it. There’s room for everyone and I love that! You keep doin’ you girl!

  17. Lynda says:

    Thank your for your kindness in sharing yourself, your passion and your family

  18. Thank you for this series! Just tonight I started working on our business account for a wine shop we are opening. I’m excited to learn and put in the work. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Lauren keebey says:

    Yay!!! So excited to learn about your journey!

  20. THAnk you Erin. I can totally relate to the work, Work, and then more work. Losing yourself as well. Mainly the family part. I found myself getting mad because I would be interrupted in the middle of a great thought or idea and thought ‘man, my family is what’s most important’. So re-group and carve out the time=late nights or early mornings when all is quiet and it’s just me and the sunrise.
    Looking forward to the next part of your series here. Thanks for your inspiration!
    Robyne

  21. Lesley says:

    Thank you so much for being honest! It’s so refreshing to hear someone affirm the value in being yourself instead of trying to “hack” the system. Can’t wait for part two!

  22. Mandy says:

    Very excited for this series. I started my home and garden blog in November and I am finding it challenging to keep growing. Plus, we are in mid-renovations! Exciting but reno-s aren’t pretty until they are finished, lol. Looking forward to more!

  23. Natalie says:

    Cool….i’m excited to read this series! Thanjs in advance 🙂

  24. Marci says:

    This is going to be awesome!! Looking forward to part 2!

  25. Bree/ whitesparrowfarm says:

    Beautiful, generous people like you sharing my photos and me “HUSTLIN GURRRL” is the reason I gained 7.6k in two months! I’m working hard for my success…and having so much fun doing it! Can’t wait to read more! xoxo

  26. Patti ( italianblonde1) says:

    Loved it! Looking forward to the next series.

  27. Monica says:

    I am excited to read the series! I feel as some bloggers want to keep things a secret or make it all about social media. I like instagram but stopped using facebook because of all the garbage. I am still new to the home decor and at first it was all just for inspiration since we bought a house and needed to fill it. I have always been a creative person. I am not doing it for business or money but for my enjoyment.

  28. Jessica says:

    Thanks for sharing. I’m only one month into working on my blog and it seems so overwhelming. So many questions. But this gives me hope that this new adventure might just work out. Can’t wait for part 2.

  29. Angelina White says:

    Awesome read, I’m so excited for this series. I’m not afraid of hard work especially if it’s for my babies and making it possible for me to be with them at home. Thanks for sharing your expertise and insight into your growth. I’m so happy I found your account. I always look forward to your posts and stories and now this series. Yay!!

  30. Sandi says:

    As a brand new blogger who will soon be trying to grow her social platforms, I can’t tell you how excited I am to learn more! Thanks for sharing!! ❤️❤️❤️

  31. Jessica says:

    Looking forward to reading more! I could use all the inspiration I can get as a newbie blogger. You are such an inspiration🙂

  32. Christine says:

    I just got started on Instagram to share my love of capsule wardrobes. I think that’s how I found you, and this series about Instagram will be quite useful to me since I don’t know what I’m doing! Thanks!

  33. Natasha says:

    Erin,
    Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with Instagram as it relates to growth. I am looking for to reading your upcoming articles as I am looking for ways to improve the experience on my IG this year.

    Thanks much,
    Xoxo Natasha,❤

  34. The more and more you put yourself out there the more and more I like and look up to you! Thank you Erin so so much! Can’t wait for Part 2 as I also try and navigate this IG world! The best – ya I’m talking about you!

  35. Stacy says:

    I love your view on this Erin, because you being authentically you is, what I believe, has made you the success that you are. Yes, you have put in the hard work and the time and yes, you may have made mistakes along the way (which probably taught you more than any amount of research and reading would have done), but through it all you have remained authentic and real. You really are an inspiration in this crazy world, to just do what feels right to you and trust that you will find the right crowd because of it. My view is that if you are going to portray yourself as someone different on social media to who you really are, then you are going to attract followers who you are not going to be able to connect with and that is just setting yourself up for failure.
    I can’t wait to see what you have in store for us with your next instalment of this series!

  36. Tami Loecker says:

    Thank you! I love your blog and stories. I am very new to blogging and Instagram and love your perspective!

  37. Tammy /tammzplaceofhappy says:

    Thank you for what you do! Thank you for inspiring! I’ve followed your account religiously and love everything about you. Can’t wait to see this journey.

  38. Rachel says:

    So excited for this series. Thank you so much for this Erin

  39. Erin,
    I love your honesty with this. I think today we live in a society that demands immediate results. We lack patience in so many regards. We expect immediate responses to text messages, email, likes and comments on instagram. “Why haven’t more people liked my post?” “Why are people not commenting?”. Patience is missing. I know I am guilty of this. We have become more lazy and expect the results without the effort. I cannot wait for your next installment!

  40. Melanie says:

    Love you Erin! You are so genuine and fun! I find myself telling friends about your IG stories, wardrobe advice, darling children, etc. I’m not even sure what the “it” factor is, but you’ve got it. Keep doing you!

  41. Trina Patek says:

    Great info Erin! Excited to read part 2.

  42. Justine (ohmyvintagemarket) says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this!! ❤️❤️❤️

  43. Haley says:

    This was so helpful! I work full time with a furniture restoration business on the side. Most of time feeling very overwhelmed trying to keep up with both! Loved hearing your perspective! Looked forward to hearing more! I love your page and look forward to your stories and shares every day! I pass you along to friends all the time and tell them the reason I love to follow is because how humble and realistic you are! Thanks for a little lunch break inspiration! 💓

  44. Cristina says:

    You’re amazing, Erin!!! Thank you for taking your time to share all of this with us!!!
    Much love sista! Xoxo

    Cristina

  45. Cathy Frith says:

    I couldn’t agree more!!.. I am coming up to a year of owning my own small brick and mortar home decor and gift store up here in White Rock BC (2 hours north of Seattle), and it’s a challenge at time to stay true to myself, by branding and my vision, especially with SO much outside influence and suggestion.. My IG account has not really grown much over the past ew months, however I completely agree with keeping it real and paying attention to the followers that I do have and who support me on a continual basis.. It’s not about the numbers for me, although I would be lying if I didn’t get caught up in them at times, but for me it’s about servicing my community, growing relationships and giving my customers an experience, each and every time they enter in to the boutique.
    You are a huge inspiration to me and I continue to learn and grow by following your lead and staying true to myself and just “doing me”…xoxo

  46. Nicole Cantu says:

    Yes!!! Such great points, Erin! Loved reading this! Can’t wait for Chapter 2!!! 📚

  47. Angie says:

    Erin,
    Love this!! I’m so excited for part 2!! I love your perspective on growth. Gotta stay true to who you are. 💗
    Angie

  48. Jacqueline says:

    Beautiful! Waiting for part 2.

  49. Karie says:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom 💗 😊
    Curious also what you think about FB and the differences between IG you’ve encountered. Looking forward to reading more and seeing all your great posts ✨

  50. Yvette Johnson says:

    Loved reading this!! Thank you so much for sharing your journey and experiences. I am so excited for this series and can hardly wait for part 2.

  51. Thank you so much Erin!!! I loved reading this and super excited for part 2! I am a fellow Tulsan and just recently (well goodness its been a little over 1 year ago) purchased a new franchise (Vintage Market Days of Atlanta) Yes Atlanta .. and I am here in Oklahoma! So a little more than hard at times but want to connect more with my fellow customers in Georgia! Your Blog and Instagram have been such an inspiration over the past year! Thank you for always keeping it real and positive! I have recently had my third kiddo and just quite my teaching job to focus more on my kiddos and Vintage Market Days. 🙂 Thank you for all your advice!!!

  52. Kathy menne says:

    Great read! Not growing my instagram but always interested in the story behind the faces I follow. LOVE your title “Do you and be kind”! My new mantra and one I will be sharing with my kiddos!

  53. Kasha Nankiville says:

    This is beautiful. Really. I am so looking forward to part 2! My Nana always says “Be kind to one another”, she is literally know for that saying, but it is so true. So that combined with staying true to yourself and your family while letting the creativity blossom is giving me all the heart feels for where I want to be this year. You have already been such an inspiration so THANK YOU!!

  54. Carle says:

    I’m so excited to read and follow along with this series! I’ve been thinking and praying about starting a blog for a long time and love your heart and honesty Erin!

  55. Lisa Medina says:

    Thank you so much for taking the time to put this together! I can already tell its exactly what I need just from hearing your heart poured out in this post! I’m looking forward to part two!❤️

  56. Sarah says:

    Erin, your big heart always shines! Thanks fgor sharing your experiences with us. Taking away some great thoughts and needed advice. Can’t wait to read part 2 ❤😊

  57. Airica says:

    I just started my own motherhood blog and loved this read. I look forward to the rest of the series.❤️

  58. Sakshi says:

    Thank you for sharing, this is very nice information.

  59. Chelsea says:

    Send on #2 yay! Positivity, kindness and LOVE. great post Erin!

  60. Nayda says:

    I came across your blog after searching “ how to style a lob” your picture stood out over all the 200 hundred thousand pictures I was staring at … seriously because of you looked down to earth and not trying too hard very genuine. Anyway, I never write comments on any blog or videos although I read and watch so many, with that said I thought the article was about growing plants 🙄! I read this and not trying to grow my instagram but I am now i think #225K 😝! I love the article I love your genuine feel, your down to earth vibe, and that your a mom is definitely a plus! Keep doing what your doing I love empowering women! & had to just give you mad 💗! Looking forward to reading part 2.

  61. Ann McFarland says:

    Beautiful Erin,… Aweee your a sweet breath of fresh air, and I honestly am an OG with only 700ish followers, but this is not about that for me -You & my other loves on here have gotten me through the roughest period of my life. The days were so dark at times I didn’t know if I could climb the wall.. I follow you & support you because you are genuinely a beautiful soul. You have a sweet spirit & I am smitten by your magnificent ideas🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 You deserve so much love, support, success and more, & I just love you & I thank you from the bottom of my heart…..
    Ann

  62. LOVING this series already. Thank you for taking your unique heart and perspective in this and sharing it with all of this! What a beautiful approach. The words: be grounded, be graceful and have GRIT keep coming to me after reading this 🙂

  63. Tish says:

    I really appreciated and enjoyed reading this! I love making a house feel like a home and putting new things up or trying new ideas. My fiancé and I just moved into our new house and man… talk about bare walls 🤦🏾‍♀️😂! I decided to try and use this opporunity to start an Instagram blog. It has just been a little frustrating with not having content due to furniture and decor and what have you all costing money and with a new house and upcoming wedding, wallets are closed tight. This just really spoke to me and I guess I’m trying to say thank you for writing it! You seem so down to earth and I love that!!! ❤️ I can’t wait to read the next one! 😊

  64. Kelly says:

    I am forever grateful for your post. I started only 6 months after you and feel like it’s been a great journey – but tons of work. But I am willing to put in the work. Not all of us will grow as fast and we need to remember that doenst mean what we have to offer is any less. We all have greatness to offer!! Your an example to all of us. Thank you!

  65. I JUST saw that you’re doing this Instagram series! Just finished reading part one and am going to catch up!…. And SO excited to learn from the best! Growing organically, do you and be kind, hard work, hustling… Yes!! Can you tell I like to use exclamation points?!!! 🤣

  66. Danahia says:

    First, you rock. Second, I’m coming back for more! I’m TRYING to make a difference in my little community but my problem is that I don’t think my readers really give a crap about what I write 😂 I was born without my left hand so my readers can’t really “relate”. Any advice? I want to be an inspiration not a nuisance.

  67. Dana says:

    I’ve not been able to catch up on my emails/blogs until now, and have just been able to read this! Thank you so much for doing this. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, and I can already tell it is going to be something I will glean from.

  68. I have this dream and want to share with people the things I’ve learned from renovating furniture, decorating, deals, travel and fashion. Im all over the place with ideas! Thanks for the advise and looking forward to the series 🙂

  69. Serena Sepeda says:

    I love following your stories and blog!

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