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How I got 10,000 social media followers in my first year of travel blogging

How I got 10,000 social media followers in my first year of travel blogging

If you’d told me at the beginning that I’d reach 10,000 social media followers by the end of my first year, I’d have told you it was impossible.

And yet, I would have been proven wrong. Early on, my following grew at such a snail’s pace that I couldn’t believe anyone other than my Mum and a few close friends would like my Facebook page. But with time and effort, I managed to grow my following into something substantial.

I spent most of the past year concentrating on 5 major social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and Bloglovin’. My favourites by far have been Instagram and Pinterest, but I’ve also seen some great results from Facebook and Bloglovin’.

Twitter, on the other hand, is my mortal enemy. I have never understood it and I still dislike it, even after using it for a year. While I haven’t seen good results from it, some bloggers swear by Twitter. I think it all just depends on which platforms you enjoy using.

So how did I go about using these platforms to grow my following? I’m about to let you in on my secrets to getting 10,000 social media followers in my first year of travel blogging!


Be active

Be active

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the past year, it’s that social media accounts grow faster when you spend more time on them. For example, I’ve made it known that I totally love Instagram. I spend around 20-30 minutes per day on the app, and I currently have 4500+ followers.

As a contrast, I spend less than 5 minutes a day on Twitter and I have barely over 1000 followers.

The platforms you are most active on will grow more than the ones you shun, though one thing to keep in mind is that different social media platforms have varying growth rates. My Facebook following has grown much slower than Instagram, even though I’m spending a similar amount of time on it.

Be interactive

Be engaged

There’s no point spending an hour on social media and then not interacting with anyone on it. By which I mean, don’t post a photo to Facebook and then just hope that people are going to somehow magically find your page and like the photo. You have to make people aware that you’re around.

The best way to do this is interact with people. Find your favourite blogger and comment on one of their posts. Mention other people in your own posts. All these little interactions will build up to make your presence known to others.

As Amy of Two Drifters mentions in her post on Instagram growth strategies, engagement is the single most beneficial thing you can do to grow your Instagram.

Never underestimate the power of a valuable comment, which means more than leaving ‘nice pic!’ on someone’s Instagram photo. By showing interest in someone’s post and giving some decent advice, that person, plus any other people looking at the post, will be intrigued by you and want to know more. Hello, new followers!

Editorial calendar

Post consistently

There are always rules about how often you should be posting on your blog, and what the best amount of posts is for so-and-so social media network. Well, I’m here to tell you that all those numbers are bullshit, all you should be doing is posting consistently.

Consistent posts are about creating an expectation for your followers. Can they count on you to provide something new for them every afternoon, every few days, or every week? However often you choose to post, make sure you stick to that schedule.

I’ve fallen into a routine of posting on my blog 1-2 times a week, Instagram and Facebook 1-2 times a day, Twitter 2-3 times a day (it automatically updates with archive posts, new posts, and Instagram photos), and I pin around 2-6 things on Pinterest a day (including a mix of my original content and other people’s pins).

Share a variety of posts

Have some variety

There are way too many bloggers and companies that share only their own posts on Facebook and Twitter. From the perspective of a follower, this can be kind of boring. We want to be entertained, dammit!

So share posts from other bloggers. Share photos. Share infographics, interesting articles, or news stories. Share your opinion, or your views on a particular issue. Just don’t share the same old thing every day, because you won’t keep anyone’s attention for long.

Post quality content

top Quality posts

I’ve gone to a crapload of effort to always be improving the quality of my photos, my writing, and my storytelling, especially over the past few months. I think these improvements have been a major factor in growing my following.

Alongside quality content comes sharing. With better photos, you’re more likely to get them re-grammed on a popular Instagram account. With better writing, you’re more likely to get your post shared on someone else’s Facebook page. With better feature images, you’re more likely to have them shared on Pinterest.

People love finding the best of the best, so make sure every one of your posts, on both social media and your blog, is something you’re proud of.

I can’t emphasize enough how important quality is. Without quality, you have nothing.

Follow Unfollow

use Follow/unfollow

This is a tactic used by many bloggers to grow their following initially, and it seems to be kept a massive secret in the blogging world.

I have used follow/unfollow on both Bloglovin’ and Instagram. I started by finding a few popular bloggers that I thought were somewhat similar to me, then went through their most recent followers and selected about 50 per day. The next day, I went through and followed another 50, then unfollowed the 50 from the day before.

This might seem like ‘cheating’, but you’re not paying for followers here – all you’re really doing is making people aware that your blog exists by giving them a notification. If they like the look of your blog, then they’ll often follow you back.

I’ve had a few people in the comments speak out against follow/unfollow, so let me clarify. This tactic is not great for building a long-term following as it doesn’t encourage engagement, so it’s best to only use it to gain social proof when you’re starting out. Once you get to 1000 followers on any platform, it will be easier to get new followers without using follow/unfollow.

Group boards on Pinterest

Join groups

One of the best ways I’ve found to gain exposure on both Facebook and Pinterest is to join groups.

On Facebook, there are many groups where you discuss blogging tips and occasionally cross-promote each other within the group. I’m a part of Travel Bloggers Network and Girls vs Globe.

On Pinterest, I joined a few group boards (which can be defined by the grey people icon in the top right corner) where I can pin some of my own photos and content, therefore gaining exposure to people who follow the board and not just my account. The boards I’ve had the most luck with are Amazing Travel Spots and Travel.

Scheduling posts on Facebook

use Scheduling

This isn’t such an important point for growing a following, but it does help in keeping me productive. In total, I probably spend around 12 hours per week on social media, but I think that number would be higher if I didn’t schedule some of my posts.

Every Monday, I spend my morning finding and scheduling content for Facebook, and choosing and editing all my Instagram photos for the week. I also have an IFTTT account set up to automatically post my Instagram photos to Pinterest and Twitter.

By spending a few hours once a week on scheduling, I’ve freed up more time on every other day of the week for tasks like writing blog posts and working on my Etsy shop.

Remember, getting 10,000 social media followers didn’t happen for me overnight. This took an entire year of spending around 5-10 hours per week on social media, so don’t be disheartened if you have a week or a month where not much seems to happen. If you keep at it, and keep improving, you’ll eventually see results.


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Ashlea Wheeler

This post was written by Ashlea, a colourfully clothed and excitable vegetarian who loves photography and exploring the world. Find out more about me.

70 Responses to “How I got 10,000 social media followers in my first year of travel blogging”

  1. Kelly | Endlessly Exploring

    Thank you so much for your advice Ashlea! I definitely need to be more active and consistent across all platforms.

    Also, I’m totally with you on Twitter! I know lots of bloggers who swear by it, but I’m really not a fan! I’m in love with Instagram and Facebook though 🙂 x

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      So glad I’m not the only one who’s not a fan of Twitter! No matter how much I try, I just can’t get behind it. Instagram though – best thing since sliced bread. Thanks Kelly!

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Never underestimate the power of Pinterest! It’s one of the biggest referrers to my site even though I have the least amount of followers on there, and my success is largely due to pinning to group boards. Thanks, Tessa!

      Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thank you, Ola! I feel like most of the posts out there on gaining social media followers are a bit dry and unhelpful, so I thought really hard about the things I’ve been doing differently to others to grow my following. I’m so glad you found my tips helpful!

      Reply
  2. Meg Ten Eyck

    keep in mind that doing the follow/unfollow thing only works if you keep your engagement up with new followers. Brands are very invested in influence & if your engagement numbers are low compared to your followers that is a deadgiveaway that you games the system. You can monitor this by watching your Klout score and actively engaging with new followers.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s true, I try to give back to some of the people that follow me by going through and liking a few of their photos. It is easier to get new followers once your initial numbers are up though – social proof makes a huge difference 😉

      Reply
  3. Kaley

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips!! It is nice knowing that someone else doesn’t really enjoy Twitter for boosting social exposure!!! I’ve also been looking for Facebook groups to join!!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      So glad you agree – Twitter sucks! Well it does for me, no matter how many times I get told I need to be on it 😛 Definitely join some FB groups if you can, at the very least they’re great to network with other people in the blogosphere 🙂

      Reply
  4. Joanna

    I’m the same- love instagram, twitter? don’t even have an account! (maybe that’s a mistake?). I know you have to put a lot of effort (fair enough) into growing your audience…with a full time job though it is hmm…tricky! Thanks for all your tips! 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Joanna! It does get tricky blogging around a full-time job. I started off by going part-time at work, and eventually transitioned into full-time blogging and freelancing 🙂

      Reply
  5. Hannah Hirdes

    Thank you for this! I’m hoping to grow my following a lot this year and this post is going to help me substantially! I didn’t even know you could schedule posts on Facebook!

    Thank you!

    Reply
  6. Emma

    Great post – it’s nice to see a tips post with actual details! I love instagram and find if you post quality images you can really grow your social following – but it’s not so great for referring traffic through to your blog.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Emma! Instagram is my fave! You’re right about the referrals, but I find it comes in handy for other reasons – I use my Instagram photos for other aspects, such as in my blog posts and on Pinterest. I find this helps not only recycle my Instagram photos, but grow my following on Instagram too as people who follow my blog get to see the quality of content on my Instagram account 🙂

      Reply
  7. Lauren

    Awesome list, some great ways to gain followers! Congrats on your success 🙂 I’m not sure that I agree with the follow/unfollow tactic. I use the Crowdfire app…. if someone follows me, and we have similar interests, I generally always follow them back. But when I see a blogger/person then turn around and unfollow me…it generally leaves a really bad taste in my mouth, and I’ll unfollow them in return. I don’t really like playing these kinds of games with people!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Lauren! There’s a lot of people who don’t use follow/unfollow for that very reason, and that’s quite understandable. It is a risky way to gain followers due to lack of engagement, but as I mentioned to Milou in one of the other comments, it can be handy for gaining social proof while growing your initial following. Definitely not a good long-term action, but it has it’s uses!

      Reply
  8. Taylor

    This is so helpful! And definitely one of the better articles I’ve read about “tips” for social media. I am also not a fan of Twitter and feel awkward posting on it, I’m glad I’m not the only one who dislikes it. Knowing that I’m using and am active on all the social media accounts that you talked about makes me feel a lot more hopeful. Awesome blog, keep up the great work and I can’t wait to read more 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks, Taylor! I’m glad you’ve already jumped on the social media train 😛 Just keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll eventually see some great results!

      Reply
  9. Bart Steenbergen

    I followed/unfollowed you…. Please read my blog 🙂

    On a more serious note: please all visit and follow my blog, not only Ashlea..

    Ok yes, now I am really serious: thanks for sharing your tips with us.

    Reply
  10. Sanura

    Thanks for these great tips! As a a new blogger I definitely want to reach as many people as possible so thank you for sharing!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Jennifer! Good to know all my hard work on Instagram is appreciated 🙂 Do you enjoy using any social media platforms? Maybe concentrating on growing just one would be a good idea?

      Reply
  11. Milou

    I’m so disappointed you recommend the follow/unfollow technique to other bloggers. It’s not good for your reputation when somebody feels used by you (only for their ‘like’ and then you unfollow them), and some PRs actively boycott bloggers that use these kind of techniques to grow their following. It usually shows in a low engagement rate too, and engagement is becoming one of the most important things brands are looking at while working with bloggers. I’d recommend posting quality images, great use of hashtags and being very engaging with other users (and followers!).

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It’s true that follow/unfollow is not good for long-term engagement (especially if you don’t interact with your new followers) but don’t write it off entirely! I used it to grow my initial following, which was very important for social proof. For example, imagine arriving at a party and finding that there’s only one or two people there, hanging in the corners of the room – you wouldn’t want to stick around, right? That’s what it’s like for people stumbling across your Instagram feed when you have barely any followers. However, if you turned up at the party and it was crowded with people, it looks like a good party so you stay and find out who else is there, check out the cheese platter, and have a look around… social proof can make a huge difference new people stumbling across your account and interacting with it 🙂

      Reply
  12. Caitlin

    Oh my God – Twitter. Yes!

    I basically don’t use it an am thinking about just ditching it completely. I’m waiting until I actually start travelling to see if I’ll start using it more. I lack witty comments while I’m still spending 6 days a week working…

    Thanks for all the info too! I’ve already looked into the the ITFFF app – I totally need this. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Oh I feel ya! The only things that are going into my Instagram feed at the moment are automated (definitely check out IFTTT for this!). I also have the occasional witty comment, but I never think ‘oh I should Tweet that!’ because it feels so useless. Twitter must be for people who have lots of time on their hands 😛

      Reply
  13. Carolus

    “few hours a day on social media” – geez, sounds like full time job. How do you balance it with your “normal” life, travel and blogging?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Yep, blogging could easily be a full time job! I started out by working part-time at my “normal” job or whatever you would like to call it, and spending the rest of my time working hard on my Etsy shop and blog. You can read the full story of how I became self-employed here 🙂

      Reply
  14. LisaLDN

    These are all great tips! I’m horrible with Pinterest, still struggling to learn and like it, but I love Twitter and Instagram 🙂 Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Glad you found them useful, Lisa! If you don’t love Pinterest, then you don’t have to force it – it’s best to use the platforms you love to use as you’ll likely have more success with them. Also, it’s great to finally find someone that loves Twitter!

      Reply
  15. Zita

    I understand what you are saying about the follow/unfollow thing but I still don’t really like it. I’m like others and use crowdfire to monitor and I do get a little annoyed at people unfollowing after I’ve followed them and unless I absolutely LOVE their feed or am interested in the product I’ll unfollow immediately!
    I had not heard of IFTTT so am off to check that out now, as I find I do ‘waste’ time on so many of my social media apps..
    Can I ask what you do during your half hour or so on Instagram? Is it just searching relevant hashtags and finding ones to like and comment on?
    Also do you then share your Instagram link on Pinterest?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That’s fair enough, Zita. If you don’t like follow/unfollow, then it’s best not to use that method of growing your following. I was just stating the tactics I used and how they worked for me 🙂

      My time Instagram would be spent about 1/3 of the time editing photos and crafting descriptions, another 1/3 going through my feed and liking/commenting (I follow about 100 people regularly) and the last 1/3 going through hashtags, going through the feeds of any new people that follow me, and generally being interactive with people. Once the Instagram photo gets posted to Pinterest, I sometimes change the link of the photo to a relevant post on my blog, then pin that photo to group boards.

      Reply
  16. Tarah

    thanks for encouragement! It’s good to hear as a new travel blogger. It takes a lot of time to get your blog out there, but that’s all part of the fun right?! Great read!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      It is very addictive! It works well for getting your initial following up, but as others have said, not so great for engagement. I think you’ve just got to use what works well for you, so if it works, by all means keep going!

      Reply
  17. Roisin

    Great tips! Sometimes when you are just at the beginning of blogging, you don’t really realise how much ‘socialising’ that you need to do. But I love it! For me, instagram and pinterest are my favourites. Although I’m becoming a little obsessed with Pinterest! I haven’t delved into the pinterest collaboration boards, but I would love to get into it 🙂

    http://www.roisingrace.com

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Roisin! You’re absolutely right, online socialising is a huuuge part of blogging, and you don’t really understand the depth of it until after you’ve started. I enjoy it too, though it does get a little overwhelming sometimes.

      Instagram and Pinterest are great because they’re really based off visuals instead of text, so it seems that you’re a visual person like me 😉 Definitely check out the group boards on Pinterest, they’ve been so helpful for getting my pins seen by more people!

      Reply
  18. Fingal

    Great post Ashlea! Probably one of the best informed ones I have read in a long time with out all the jargon about best times etc.
    I have to say I have been struggling to get followers on Facebook of all places. My Instagram was slow to get started but since I have been focussing on it more, I seem to have new followers everyday.
    Any tips for improving Facebook followers?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Fingal! I found it really difficult to get started on Facebook too – I have to admit I spent way too much time getting my following up on there initially, but it became much easier once I got to over 1000 followers as people find it easier to follow someone who has that social proof. The best advice I can give is to get involved in some of the Facebook groups, and also write on other bloggers’ walls with a nice message and a link to your site. Don’t be pushy or anything, just say you stopped by to like their page, and this might be enough for them like you back 🙂

      Reply
  19. Elizabeth

    Thanks for sharing your advice and experience. It is good to know what someone was able to accomplish in 12 months. Just starting out it seems as though you will never get to anywhere like 10k followers. Consistency seems to be the key. When I focus on social media good things happen!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      You’re absolutely right, it’s hard to see where things will be in 12 months time when you’re starting from nothing, but being consistent will definitely get you somewhere! Thanks Elizabeth!

      Reply
  20. Hannah

    Hey Ashlea,

    That’s some really great advice! I’m trying to start blogging and needed some wise wisdom from the fellow bloggers out there. This is information you just can’t buy – so thanks!

    All the best with your career see you around in the bloggersphere! xx

    Reply
  21. Kelsie

    This is an amazing article with great advice! I just started blogging this past week and am trying to figure out if I should make separate Instagram and Facebook accounts for my business. I already started a Pinterest Business account for my website, but don’t have anyone following at the moment. I don’t really like the idea of mixing it with my personal accounts. Do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      So glad you enjoyed it, Kelsie! You should only use the social media accounts that you enjoy using the most, so if you like usinf Facebook and Instagram, then by all means start a blog account on them. I also don’t like mixing my personal and blog accounts, so I’ve made them separate 🙂

      Reply
  22. Emmalene

    Some amazing advice here Ashlea! After blogging for fun for ages (with only my husband and parents liking my work…) I’ve decided to be much more proactive and engage with social media platforms, so I’ll be referring back to your post frequently!!

    I’m trying to work out what works best for me – I like Facebook because I think you can engage with people more and instigate discussions – something that’s not really possible with Twitter. Good for building a contact list though!

    I look forward to reading more of your posts!

    Emmalene
    https://abrummiehomeandabroad.wordpress.com/

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Emmalene! That seems like a common way to get started on blogging, doing it as a passion and then turning it into something more substantial.

      Facebook is definitely good for discussion. Pinterest is great for driving traffic to your blog, and Instagram is great for gaining recognition. Each platform has it’s own merits, but it’s best not to spread yourself too thin by trying to use them all at once. It really all depends on what you enjoy using 🙂

      Reply
  23. Dawn

    I’m heading over to Bloglovin right after this to check if anyone has unfollowed me and will be getting unfollowed in turn. Thanks for the heads up.

    As for other social media platforms, I’m pretty active on twitter only. :/ I guess I need to be more active on other platforms too. Thanks for your tips.

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Dawn! It’s totally ok to only be active on one platform, at least you have influence in one area 🙂 A lot of people spread their time too thinly and never end up with a good amount of followers on any platform!

      Reply
  24. Jessica

    Ashlea! This is amazing!! I love your idea about IFTTT, but I’m running into a bit of a pickle. I’d also love to automate my instagram photos to pinterest, but I’m not sure how the make sure the link is done properly…. Please help a confused soul!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      Thanks Jessica! The link will automatically default to link to the image file on Instagram. I usually go into Pinterest and manually change the titles and links on the images to link to my blog posts 🙂

      Reply
  25. The Common Wanderer

    Some awesome advice here – particularly around using Monday to organise yourself, edit photos etc. Sometimes we get to 10pm at night midweek and suddenly realise we don’t know what we want to post to instagram! Taking the stress out of planning this is ideal. Just created a proper calendar!
    ps. funny that you dislike twitter – I find the opposite! Don’t mind using Twitter… Reaaaally don’t like using Pinterest!
    Just subscribed – looking forward to reading more posts 🙂

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      That still happens to me on occasion! Though noticeably less so now that I’ve started planning out my week 😛 I think the hardest thing is finding the time to go out and take photos for Instagram when you’ve got other things going on, or when you’re in between trips.

      It really is just a matter of opinion I think. Twitter works great for some, and not so great for others. And the same definitely goes for Pinterest, I know of a few others who really aren’t into it, but I love it!

      Reply
  26. Katie Featherstone

    Thanks for the practical tips. Funnily enough, I’m doing the best on twitter, but I don’t think it actually generates much blog traffic. Facebook and pinterest are definitely better long term investments!

    Reply
  27. Estefi

    Thank you for sharing these awesome tips! I am a new blogger and I feel that I have learned a lot of good ideas and tip with this post. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  28. Claire

    While I agree that the follow/unfollow method is effective, if I notice someone doing to me I find it very very annoying, bc I track unfollowers. It just seems so disingenuous. One girl even did it to me 10 times! Now if I noticed anyone doing it to me I unfollow them and then block them so they can’t do it again. I wouldn’t recommend it, just because people lose trust in you.

    Reply
  29. Bianca

    I started with my twitter account before blogging anything. I am almost on 8k followers in 1y. Have a look at http://www.twitter.com/welgraaf — I learned myself twitter very well. I share and follow people all day. I use statusbrew/unfollowers most of the time as my tool. I am now trying to schedule tweets with hootsuite. Without them I can’t get up to 8k travel content followers. At 10k of Twitter followers I will only work on my Instagram till 10k and keep a Twitter break and just schedule tweets 1x a week. In the mean time I work on Facebook and Pinterest as well.

    Reply
  30. Magnolia

    Best advice yet that I have found about gaining followers!
    Thank you, Ashlea. Looking forward to exploring more of your website and hopefully (eventually) I will find myself a large group of followers!!!

    Reply
    • Ashlea Wheeler

      I’m so glad you’ve found some good advice in here, Magnolia! Good luck growing your followers, it takes time but I’m sure you will get there eventually 🙂

      Reply

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