How I Grew My Instagram Following to 20K in One Year

Today is a special day for me – it’s the one year anniversary of when I officially launched my Instagram page Style Miss Molly. I remember the day vividly, opening a package with a pair of white pointed toe pumps, inspired by how essential they are to my wardrobe. In that moment, I decided to start my fashion blog and post my first Instagram photo (no judgment). “I’m finally going to pursue my dream and just do it,” I thought. My following on Instagram has grown exponentially since then and I’ve learned a lot. In honor of celebrating how far I’ve come, I’m sharing with 10 tips for how I grew my Instagram following so fast. White Lace Top, Jeans, and HeelsLet me start off by saying there is no magic formula. I wish I could give you a package that says, “Here, do this and you will be successful,” but every blog is different and will progress at its own pace. Honestly, I can only share with you what I have done and hope that it helps you or another blogger on their journey.

  1. Identify what sets you apart.

    With a largely saturated market of fashion bloggers I knew right from the beginning I had to do anything and everything to separate myself from the crowd. I didn’t want to be “just another fashion blogger.” I have done worksheets on what makes me unique so that I can develop a consistent brand (Fashion PR Girl has a great one here). Knowing what I do and why I do it has helped me determine a part of what makes me unique.White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  2. Define your brand.

    Branding is a critical part of blogging. I have found ways to remain true to who I am and recommend you find what the unique thing is within yourself. Is it humor? Is it inspiring messages? Discover what most represents you and stick to it. Knowing your brand will ultimately strengthen who you are as a blogger.White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  3. Engage, engage, engage.

    Comment in the community. Commenting on other IG posts (ALL the time) and replying to comments personally is always huge. It has drawn so much traffic to my IG and makes people want to stick around because they see that I reply…and not just saying thank you, but treating the visitors like my girlfriends and creating tailored replies for each friend. I have met a lot of blogging friends this way!White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  4. Utilize hashtags.

    This was huge for me, especially when first starting out. Not only did I make sure my images associated with relevant hashtags, but I sought out other bloggers with the same hashtags and spent time engaging with them. I never used the follow-for-follow strategy as I find this technique to be completely ineffective and it does not build the authentic relationships I am ultimately seeking.
    White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  5. Be personable.

    Showing my personality is huge to any “online persona”. Followers love seeing that I am more than just pretty pictures. Because everything is typed out, I have worked hard on developing my voice in writing. Telling a funny story, sharing a personal experience, being heartfelt wherever I can is an absolute must. White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  6. Appeal to your readers.

    While still remaining true to my overall aesthetic and style, I fine tune things towards what I’ve noticed people wanting to see or read. If you look at my feed from the beginning, it was VERY dark and colorful. I started to soften the photos a bit, because that seemed to be what people were liking more. It’s still a balance, because I don’t want to wash out my feed, as I too like it remaining bright and cheery!White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  7. Visually design your feed.

    I have worked hard to make the appearance of my Instagram aesthetically pleasing. Using same color tones or filters (if you use any – I try not to so that the colors of the high quality photo can still show) all across the board is really important for consistency. Also, be sure to pay attention to how your feed lines up. It’s amazing to think about, but if people see too many of one in a row, not enough variety, or a lack of balance in the feed itself, it can hold them back from clicking the follow button. People can be so fickle! I use Planoly to visual plan my feed and LOVE it!White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  8. Be consistent.

    Not only is it important to be consistent with your branding, but also how and when you post. Posting regularly shows followers that they can look forward to your posts. By analyzing the times when the engagement is highest for me, I can be successful at making the most out of what I post! Definitely post with an eye toward quality over quantity though. It is much better to post ONE great picture a day that people love to see in their feed, rather than photos that just fill a feed without a real purpose.
    White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  9. Collaborate.

    Networking and making connections in the blogging community is a huge part of success. We can’t do it without each other. Whether it be by doing a shoot with a local blogger or co-writing a post with a blogger further away, these connections will help build your following too!White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

  10. To giveaway or not to giveaway?

    In complete transparency I’ve done three giveaways. I don’t want to rely on them to grow my numbers so I’ve stopped doing them. The way I see it is that you will gain a lot of followers in a giveaway. After the giveaway, people will unfollow of course and to be honest, that’s exactly what I want if they don’t like what they see. In the end, it gives others the opportunity to find you. If they like what they see they will stick around, and that’s awesome!

White Lace Top, Jeans, and Heels

Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. I’d love to help answer them!

Keep smiling!


Lace Top: Shop Sosie  (Use code “molly20” to get 20% off) | Purse: Kate Spade Elissa |  Bar Necklace: Charming CharlieEarrings: These beautiful Loren Hope earrings are on loan from my Rocksbox! Haven’t heard of them? It’s an amazing jewelry subscription service to get gorgeous gems like this! Use my code “stylemissmollyxoxo” to get your first month free.

Molly Lawson

I’m Molly Lawson! I live in Seattle and am an optimist, adventurer, and bold lipstick wearer. I created this space to inspire and empower women with words of encouragement known as #MollysWords and share inspiration through my personal style. I always want my readers to leave with a smile and I hope you do!

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Facebook



  1. Robin Lee
    April 18, 2016 / 8:52 am

    Thank you Molly for sharing these tips! These tips are surely needed especially since I am still very new to this! Quick question, do you recommend having several social outlets and do you think it is needed to reach out to other viewers? I have been very hesitate about this for two reasons.
    1. I don’t want social media to consume my time. How do you balance this?
    2. As a middle school teacher now a days most of my students have social media outlets and it is a bit nerve wrecking knowing that they will eventually find me lol. Any words or motivation will be greatly appreciated! Congratulations on your one year blog, I really enjoy your content and personality! You have been such a sweet and kind blogger friend and I am blessed to have come across you! God Bless You!

    • April 18, 2016 / 9:56 am

      My middle school students have found mine = I got asked a few weeks ago “are you a model” by a student who tried to follow ( I normally just block) When this happens I normally tell my students I write a blog but it’s for adults. They are usually pretty respectful of this! 🙂

      • Robin Lee
        April 19, 2016 / 2:58 pm

        Aww that’s cute! That’s definitely an option if this occurs! Thank you for sharing, feels nice to know that there are other bloggers who are teachers ❤

      • May 3, 2016 / 9:55 pm

        Too funny Victoria! One of my students said the same thing to me because their parents found my blog! I’m pretty sure everyone knows now except for the principal at my school lol

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:55 pm

      Thank you Robin! Sorry I’m a bit behind on answering your questions – clearly I’m not the best at finding the time to manage all my social media accounts but I sure try! Right now I link my Instagram to Twitter and FB. I started out at IG and definitely wish I had started linking and building my following on other accounts sooner, that way people who exclusively follow me on those can still see me active. I love to tweet at times and post snaps throughout the day on my Snapchat, but my suggestion is stick to one media and get good at it before moving on to the others. Then chose another one to focus on. It can definitely be so overwhelming and a full time job in itself! Love you girl!

  2. April 18, 2016 / 9:55 am

    Great job on this post Molly!! You have grown your blog in a way that just amazes me. You really have an eye for how things should look and how colors go together when all the photos line up in their little rows. It’s really impressive! I wish I had an eye for the photography stuff! Your tips help though!

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:56 pm

      Thanks Victoria! I love love love blogging, just not finding the time for it! Love you girl!

  3. April 18, 2016 / 9:55 am

    Great tips! I really need to get better about posting more consistently!

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:56 pm

      Thank you Rachel! Posting consistently definitely does make a difference in my engagement levels I’ve noticed!

  4. April 18, 2016 / 10:00 am

    These are fab tips. I need to get better at visually designing my feed!

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:57 pm

      Thanks Angela! I use Planoly to visual design it. Love it!

  5. April 18, 2016 / 10:51 am

    I think engagement is going to be the key to any social media. You’ve done an amazing job! I also love hashtags – they are such a fun way for me to find people posting similar things and who have feeds that I’m interested in.

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:58 pm

      Thank you Becky! You are so right. It’s all about engagement!

  6. Heather Gullett Denniston
    April 18, 2016 / 10:55 am

    Rare I actually see a fashion blogger wear something I could wear. i love everything! You look wonderful!

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:58 pm

      Aww that’s such a sweet thing to say Heather. I’m glad you would wear this 🙂

  7. April 18, 2016 / 11:01 am

    Great tips! Congrats on such an incredible following and brand, reading your blog always makes me smile. I’ve had my instagram/ blog for almost 2 years and I’m nowhere even close to this kind of a following/ readership! It’s so much fun though. I’ll have to try some of your advice here!! 😀😀

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:59 pm

      Thanks Ellie! Your kind words always make me smile! Congrats on blogging two years. I can’t wait to be on my year two and accomplish so much more! #GOALS

  8. Casey Oakley Bennevault
    April 18, 2016 / 12:05 pm

    Congrats on your one year mark! Thanks so much for sharing what’s worked for you. Your Instagram feed is lovely and definitely caught my eye the first time I saw it and compelled me to follow you:) Your success is inspiring!

    • May 3, 2016 / 9:59 pm

      Thank you Casey! I’m so appreciative to hear that my feed caught your eye. You are SOOO sweet! 😉

  9. April 18, 2016 / 12:11 pm

    This is a sucha a great post Molly. It could not have come at a better time.
    As comparatively new on Instagram, I was lost on how to reach out to more people.
    I think I started understanding how it works, and your post just makes it more clear for me.
    I came across your blog and was instantly drawn to it as you present all your outfits in such a unique and fun way. Also, I think you are always true to youself and never write stuff just for the sake of it.
    Congratulations on your anniversary and keep up the good work!
    Richa |

    • May 3, 2016 / 10:00 pm

      Thank you Richa! I’m so glad I was able to make it a bit more clear for you. I also appreciate how you’ve noticed that I am authentic in my posts. Means a lot to me girl! Best of luck on your IG ventures!

    • May 3, 2016 / 10:00 pm

      Wow thanks so much Allison! Hope it could help you some!

  10. Danielle
    April 18, 2016 / 12:29 pm

    Congrats on your one year anniversary!! That’s amazing. Mine will be in July. These tips are super helpful so thank you so much for sharing! They go more in depth than the basic reply from most bloggers which is great.
    What are you thoughts on the more general hashtags like thatsdarling or my mybeautifulmess ? Do you have any suggestions of specific hashtags?

    I would love if you could take a look at my Instagram and see if you could tell me what I could potentially change?

    Keep Sparkling✨
    Sparkling Southerner
    Find me at : Instagram

    • May 3, 2016 / 10:04 pm

      Hey dear! Thank you so much for your compliments and congrats on almost making it to one year too! I’ve used #thatsdarling before but I find that specific hashtags work the best. For example, I used a lot of local hashtags and find so many local followers this way (geotagging works too!) When I was doing my teacher outfits in the beginning I had a lot of teachers follow me from teacher hashtags. People love to find a way to connect and be more personal. Your feed looks great! Feel free to e-mail me for more specific advice! I’d love to help!

  11. April 18, 2016 / 12:47 pm

    What an amazing accomplishment! These are all such great tips 🙂


    • May 3, 2016 / 10:04 pm

      Thank you Cristina for all of your support! Glad you enjoyed the tips!

  12. Kait Elizabeth
    April 18, 2016 / 2:08 pm

    Thanks for all the tips Molly!! You do a fantastic job, here and on your IG. I’m so glad we connected through all of this. Keep up the great work love! Hugs, Kait

    • May 3, 2016 / 11:09 pm

      Thank you Kait! I am extremely glad we have connected too! You are a gem of a friend! Can’t wait to meet you in person someday!

    • May 3, 2016 / 11:10 pm

      Thank you, Taylor! Lots and lots of hard work for sure, but well worth the effort!

  13. April 18, 2016 / 2:52 pm

    Thanks for these tips! I’m working on Instagram but it’s the hardest social media for me.

    • May 3, 2016 / 11:10 pm

      You’re so welcome Susannah! I hope some of the tips helped you on your own IG journey!

    • May 3, 2016 / 11:11 pm

      Thanks! Glad you liked the tips! Girl you got this! Just remember.. Every journey is different. Appreciate the beauty of your own individuality and growth. It will be so much more enjoyable that way!

  14. April 18, 2016 / 7:02 pm

    It’s still a work in progress but time has been helping me with determining my brand. I still find it hard to put into words so just trying to figure that out. Also, I feel similarly to you regarding giveaways and f4f. I have done a little f4f when I first started but nothing too crazy. I don’t like it. I want genuine followers. Same feelings for the giveaway. I’m currently a part of my first loop giveaway right now but I don’t foresees myself doing a lot of these in the future. Thought it would be good at the beginning of my blog.

    Congrats on 20k in one year, girl!

    • May 3, 2016 / 11:12 pm

      Isn’t it always a work in progress!? Time is a key element in this. We are constantly improving and growing. Even the big time bloggers still grow! Thanks for the support girl! Appreciate you so much!

  15. April 18, 2016 / 8:17 pm

    Awesome tips, girl!
    Instagram is a tough platform to build up so props to you for hitting 20k in a year – that’s so impressive.

    xoxo, Jenny

  16. April 18, 2016 / 10:24 pm

    So many great tips! And that growth is amazing! My big issue at the moment is consistency. I just don’t always have fun, beautiful photos to share so sometimes I’ll do a day or two without posting anything. It’s horrible. I really need to get better about it!

  17. April 18, 2016 / 10:28 pm

    Wow, trying not to have blogger envy but that’s awesome! You’ve only been doing this for a year? Way to follow your passion and thank you for sharing your tips:-)

  18. April 19, 2016 / 9:48 am

    Such helpful tips. I am looking for more ways to grow my following on Instagram and also drive traffic to my blog as well. Staying engaged with the community is a huge deal. I do find it difficult at times because I’m so busy and not doing this full time. But also I look at other pages for inspiration as well..

    Thanks for the helpful tips!!

    Meghan |

  19. April 19, 2016 / 9:57 am

    This is Wonderful advice Molly..I have been doing blogging and instagram for 18 mos and still low numbers…I am taking some instagram courses to help that and trying to be more intentional.. the time to balance it all is what I struggle with! Congrats to you and I especially enjoy your inspiring messages1

  20. Mandi
    April 19, 2016 / 10:40 am

    Thanks for the tips! I’ve been steadily growing mine and hope to work towards the numbers youve achieved, thats fantastic! Also, LOVE those jeans. And the blue house!

  21. April 19, 2016 / 6:41 pm

    Such wonderful tips, I have already learned so much from you this year. Thank you for always inspiring me and for being such an amazing friend!!!

  22. BettyCook
    April 19, 2016 / 7:08 pm

    I love lace outfit, and you are so beautiful


  23. April 19, 2016 / 8:00 pm

    molly–GREAT post. i will be retweeting it. i am giving you e-hugs and celebrating your success in such a short amount of time. YOU GO GIRL! i am so happy and proud of you. it’s a journey for sure, and each of ours is different. you give the perfect tips and i found myself nodding my head at each one. i for one, really believe in the TAILORED response! yes!!! it’s all about the tailored response! but that comes with time as you get to know your followers and form that connection ya know? number 5 is absolutely important. the personal voice is extremrly important. it’s what sets you apart from everyone else. thanks for sharing! and… CONGRATS my dear. xoxo,

    janna |

  24. Carmel Parente
    April 19, 2016 / 8:41 pm

    I think what shows most is your sincerity, in your blog writing and in your IG posts. XXXX

  25. adriana nudo
    April 20, 2016 / 10:53 am

    I love these tips! I haven’t done any major IG giveaways but I’ve been considering it, love what you say – it’s more of a way for people to find your account!

  26. April 20, 2016 / 11:45 am

    I adore this! Blessed to have met you with Instagram – and now friends! You work so hard, Molly, and it shows! I am so excited for what the future holds for you, my dear!

  27. April 20, 2016 / 3:12 pm

    Instagram really is a beast and it is not one bit easy to do what you do, Molly! I have said it before and say it again, it is totally your hardwork and perseverance. You do such a great job at connecting with people and bring a smile on their face, even though they are on the other side of the computer, I say that is huge besides all the great tips you have shared here! Keep doing what you are doing babe, and more #hugs
    xx, Kusum |

  28. April 20, 2016 / 4:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing your tips. It does take work doesn’t it? I’ve been working on my IG this past month and I’ve noticed much more engagement. In the early stages, did you delete inactive and fake accounts?

  29. May 3, 2016 / 11:09 pm

    Thank you Natasha, That means a lot to me! I love what I do and it’s so much fun being in the fashion community with inspiring women! Love you to pieces!

  30. Eppie Shepherd
    May 16, 2016 / 4:38 am

    Thank you for such a wonderful post! Instagram is my trickiest social media to grow. Finding a theme or way of consistency is a challenge. I’ve not heard or Planoly so definitely going to check that out!

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