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How to start & grow a successful Instagram page organically: lessons from Cardiff Brunch

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We’re big fans of the Instagram account @CardiffBrunch here at BrandContent and we’ve been keenly watching their follower numbers and engagement rate shoot up throughout the various lockdowns and tiered restrictions in Wales this year. 

We interviewed them to find out more on growing a successful influencer account from 2,000 to almost 12,000 followers in just a few months, and during a global pandemic. 

First of all, what inspired you to create the Cardiff Brunch account?

More often than not I’m eating out and about in Cardiff, and I always take photos for my personal Instagram account – especially of brunch. My friends have always asked me for recommendations on where to eat because I know the Cardiff food scene so well. When I started to spot a handful of foodie accounts pop up across Cardiff I decided to give it a go myself! In the beginning I only showcased brunches, but fast forward a year or so, we now have a great virtual community of foodies sharing recommendations about where to eat locally.

 

It’s been a difficult year for the food and hospitality industry, but a great year for your page! How have you been able to grow your following so substantially whilst so many of the places you cover are closed or offering a reduced service?

I think it’s important to keep asking yourself why your page exists, and what kind of content your followers want to see. Throughout the pandemic our followers ultimately still wanted to order and eat restaurant food – even if they had to do so from home. We tried to make that as effortless as possible, creating guides to collate all the places that were still serving and reviewing restaurants offering takeaways (instead of dine in options) to give suggestions of where to try next and how to continue to support the local community.

 

It sounds like the proactive guides did really well. How much of the work you put into the page is usually proactive and how much is reactive? Which do you think gets you the best engagement?

I think it’s been really helpful to ask followers what they want to see, or maybe even test out new ideas using the polls feature on Stories. But in general I think the best approach is just to get stuck in and try something new and see how it performs. In my experience, people don’t always know what content they want to see – or honestly care enough to reply to every Q&A.

I also think that looking at accounts outside your usual bubble really helps.  It can be easy to get caught up on what’s hot in your feed and forget that there are so many other accounts to take inspiration from. That being said, you need to remember why the content will be interesting for your audience and be consistent – if you’re a food account then tell your followers about a great meal you had – not what you think of a new book you’re reading.

 

Do you think Instagram is the best platform for Cardiff Brunch?

Definitely! Instagram is such a visual platform and deciding where to eat is often based on the look of a place and the food they serve more than anything – just look at the space that Google reviews and Tripadvisor dedicate to customer pictures: it speaks volumes.

 

Since you’ve branched out quite a lot from just brunch, and even now get featured alongside FOR Cardiff and experiences like Alpaca My Boots, do you ever consider changing your name?

100% – it’s something that I’ve considered many times as the page has grown and transitioned from where it first started. That said, the more the account grows the harder it is to part with the name as it’s recognisable to followers – it’s something I’m mulling over for sure!

 

There seem to be lots of paid partnerships and influencer campaigns on Instagram at the moment, particularly during lockdown. Do you think influencer campaigns on Instagram work? In your opinion, what makes a successful campaign?

Influencer campaigns can definitely work if the brand takes the time and effort to figure out how and why the partnership is a good fit. Partnering with the right influencer can be an inexpensive way to reach prime candidates to buy your products. 

However, if you don’t take the time to check out the pages you work with you may see mixed results – there are a lot of fake accounts out there who buy likes and follows. It’s safe to say that if you partner with these kinds of accounts and influencers, you are not going to have a very good ROI!

On the other hand, if you partner with a genuine account which is run by a real person, then you’re on to a winner. I’d recommend checking the account’s engagement rate instead of just the number of followers they have. An account with “only” 3k followers could be super valuable if those people are all really engaged, whereas an account with many more followers could be getting far less engagement and would be therefore much less valuable.

 

Instagram is changing all the time, and it’s well known that making use of the latest features is great for engagement. What have been your favourite and least favourite recent changes?

It wasn’t actually that long ago that Instagram mimicked Snapchat with the Story feature. That would definitely be my favourite addition as it’s a quick and dirty way to share info and content without the time and effort needed to create a full post. My least favourite has to be the Rooms feature – name one person who wants to video chat via Instagram…? I’ll wait.

 

We love Stories but a lot of brands push back on using them because they take time to create and don’t last on the grid. How do you measure the success of a post or Story on your page? 

I have found it hard to find a platform which really summarised everything well and prefer to stick to Instagram insights to get a feel for what’s working and what’s not. It’s free to use, which is really important when you’re still a small account. That said, I do think it’s useful to check your engagement rate occasionally (I recommend Phlanx’s free tool for this) as it is a good indicator of how much your audience like and respond to your content.

 

And finally, what advice would you give to someone looking to grow their page the way you have?

I think the really key thing is to know who your followers are and what they want to see. Getting clear on what you post about and what you’ll reveal is super important. Be detailed: as a food account are you a home cooking influencer or offering inspo for eating out? Knowing what you are and what you are not will really help.

The other big things are to post regularly, and to spend time taking good quality pictures and editing them where necessary. On Instagram it really is all about the pictures after all!

Finally, be patient and be consistent – most pages stall at a few thousand followers and you need to just keep pushing through and getting better. Don’t get too hung up on what others are achieving – it’s not healthy and much better to focus on how you can make your account better and better instead.

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