How I Tripled my Followers in 3 simple steps
I was actually hesitating about tackling this topic. I don’t think the number of followers a person has is necessarily a good metric of their success or the quality of their work. At the expense of shocking some of you, there is life beyond the internet ;)
Having said that, I do admit that there is a lot of business potential and benefits that come from social media, so I decided to touch for this week’s post.
I am writing this entry specifically about Dribbble because it was an easy platform on which to perform the following experiment. I have been quite active on both Behance as well as Instagram over the course of the last 2-3 years, while I had always sort of neglected Dribbble. I didn’t have a huge success rate on Dribble, neither in terms of followers nor in terms of job referrals. Given that this last platform was the one on which I had been least successful I decided that this would be the platform on which to do this little experiment. Although, it doesn’t really matter on which social media platform you perform the experiment, the key principles are the mostly the same.
Yes, I am aware of the reviews that Dribbble gets from some designers, and the frustrations that it frequently incites. I’m aware that it’s hard or maybe even impossible to show on Dribble in-depth and serious design processes. On the other hand, this is still a very solid platform on which one can do a bunch of different things, but we’ll get to that later.
Ok, so let’s get down to business. Over the course of a 4-month period I tripled the number of followers I had. I started this experiment sometime around mid-January 2018 but for our sake let’s just call it all of January until end of April.
I started January with 1,800 followers and I finished April with 6,300 followers. That is to say, I have more than tripled the number of followers in this time-period. This was a serious spike when you compare it to the action of the same time period in the months prior to the experiment. In the time before the experiment, I would only log in to Dribbble maybe once every 2-3 weeks to upload a new shot and scroll around.
So what happened exactly? Starting in the beginning of 2018, I made a decision to start using Dribbble a little bit differently. I decided to keep track and record the journey of this change in method, and honestly it’s been an interesting experience. I didn’t become a superstar or anything, I didn’t break the internet, but the number of followers as well as actual interactions with followers/other creators increased quite steadily. These steady interactions also lead to a few job inquiries that came through Dribbble for the first time, which was great!
So here is what I did:
1 – PERSISTNCE
One of the most important things one needs to do on social media is to be a persistent presence and to be constantly publishing projects you’re working on. Now, obviously this is not always possible, we all have periods of stress, we don’t always have something good to publish. And if you don’t have something good or interesting, it is better to sit back and not upload something rather than upload something shitty.
But I think it is a good idea to publish 4-5 shots per month, if not more. If you don’t do this, then sections 2 and 3 of the advice I’m about to give won’t be very relevant. This is why I suggest you plan ahead and identify a period of 3-4 months where you know that it will likely be possible for you to achieve the above uploading goal and upload something interesting once a week no matter what.
-“But it takes too long! How can I do something interesting once a week when I have a fucking job to go to or I am studying like crazy?”
Fuck you! ;) it wasn’t easy for me too! This is why I decided to go for a simple concept that saves time and allows me to produce things quickly. I’ll tell you in a second what the idea was in the next section.
Long story short, it is important to have some sort of clear concept that you can run with for a long period of time and do so semi-automatically.
Example: Decide that you are only focusing on Icon Design or what not. Then you do one Icon for a given topic every 3 days. This way you will not waste time every week trying to think of new ideas for what to do next. This example also elegantly leads us to the next section of our experiment.
Honestly this is where I made the big change since January—focus! I decided to only upload to Dribbble a specific style of projects that I was interested in developing and exploring during this period of time. In my case, I was focused specifically on black and white illustrations.
In order to save time on finding ideas every week I laid down a few ground rules which helped me focus:
All illustrations will be in black and white. I would not get caught up in color schemes as it would have taken too much time.
I would always have an animal in the picture, because I love illustrating animals and I knew I would like to practice this more.
I would always include typography in the illustration, because it was something that I hadn’t done in a while and I enjoy the combination of both illustration and design.
And that’s it, these were pretty basic guidelines I had set out for myself which helped me generate content quickly. In theory I was limiting myself but in practice all these limitations just helped me focus and learn more. What was even more interesting was that at a certain point I felt like the whole feeling of being stuck with no ideas was no longer happening to me and rather the focus of thinking in a certain way made it so that ideas came more easily.
Finally, it’s also a good idea to make sure that the areas that you choose to focus on are relevant to the platforms where you invest your time. For example, Dribbble is primarily a platform for design. So I am not sure whether a series of editorial illustrations would be as successful as illustrations which combine typography, or posters, logos etc.
Take a look at the differences between the new illustrations I published on Dribbble (the ones above) and the illustrations that I published before conducting this experiment (see below):
It is true that even the above illustrations have a certain focus as my style already has taken some form. Nonetheless, the above pictures are much less uniform: there are three very “cartoonish” illustrations with comical characters a lots of color, all of which I made for magazine articles:
While on the other hand there are a few more “serious looking” / realistic illustrations, with rather different and a more restrained color palette, which is more suitable for posters:
There is also a picture of beer bottles for which I designed the label, which stands alone and is completely different from all the other uploaded pics.
But I make a ton of different stuff, I’m a creative soul, I don’t want to limit myself to only one thing! I’m not a fucking robot!”
Which is great, and I understand that. It doesn’t mean that just because you choose to focus on something for a while you have to commit to doing that for the rest of your life. Try it for two or three months and see how it feels. If you already have work for a client, even better, as you know that in the near future you will be able to publish let’s say 5 different illustrations that you did for them in a specific style—excellent! Now try doing 5 more illustrations of your own but in a similar style and you can publish this series of 10 different images over the course of two months. That’s it.
By the way, it’s not like I stayed 100% true to my focus all the time. After about 10 different illustrations with animals I suddenly had the urge to do something different and I did a couple of illustrations with people as subjects. I did them without typography either, but I did stick to the black and white rule and still stayed with similar technique.
I think there’s something about a focused portfolio which seems to attract more followers.
Imagine for a second, that some illustrator or designer logs in to Dribbble. Maybe just to kill some time, maybe he’s working on a new project and he’s looking for some references or some inspiration for his designs. Now imagine he happens upon your page and sees that you’ve been focusing on logos for quite some time now and you have 15 new logos in your portfolio. It makes sense that this random person would sit back and say “wow, here’s a really great designer that focuses on the things that I am interested right now. There is a ton of good reference material here in a coherent style and it’s probably worth it to keep track of this designer should I have any logo needs in the future”.
Another scenario, random person sees you make awesome GIFs and think: “this person makes really cool GIFs with funny characters. I must remember to contact him next Christmas for my studio’s newsletter”.
Focus really does help with getting through to your audience. People who don’t really know you don’t give a fuck about you, and will not remember you from Dribble or Instagram unless you tick some kind of “box” for them. Also, if there are other projects that you want to upload which don’t necessarily match the primary style that you are focusing on, no problem, just set them aside for some time, focus for two to three months, and then circle back to these set aside projects and publish them afterwards.
3 – Online Presence
Scrolling through Dribble and giving some likes is nice, hitting the following button is great, but taking the time on a shot that you liked and actually write a comment to say what you liked about it is about 10 times more effective.
When I think about it, there are tons of amazing creators that I have been following. Some of them have been inspiring me for years, since I was barely starting out as a student. If I were to meet one of these creators walking down the street, I would totally approach them and tell them how much they mean to me. So if that’s how we would react in real life, what does it cost you to spare the creator’s that you are a fan of 30 seconds in the online world to leave a comment, or to send them short message with a nice compliment?
Also, if you notice that someone that you interact with virtually happens to live nearby, why not invite them for a cup of coffee sometime?
I think that every couple of days it’s worth writing a few words about a shot that you liked, or even just a short message to someone you like letting them know you’re a fan of their work. You will see that when you start interacting this way with other people, they will start interacting this way with you. Whether it be a quick “thanks”, or a short conversation. Most of the time these people will end up visiting your profile and this leads to a welcome increase in traffic, exposure, and possibly eventually referrals.
I think the subject of online presence and interaction is the one that is least appreciated of the subjects I have covered so far in this post. Most people simply expect that if they publish good work people will simply follow them and “like” them consistently. So sure, if you are a rock star this may happen. But it’ll probably won’t happen that easily. Imagine if you dress up really nice, go to a party, and stand there still in the middle of the room without saying a word to anybody. Standing in the middle of the room and expecting people to approach you just because you’re well-dressed, even though you haven’t interacted with anybody, is simply ridiculous. Being friendly, interacting with other people who share your same interests is fun, and can go a long way!
That’s all for this time, here are the conclusions from my experiment: Persistence, Focus, Online presence. Some patience wouldn’t hurt either ;-)
I’m kind of hoping you guys will do this experiment yourselves and write back to me so I’ll know how it went. If your story is interesting I might even share it!
Hope you found this useful! Please feel free to Email me to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below with questions and ideas for what I should write about next.