Plant-based Instagram influencers have huge social followings and are fans in a way most brands can only dream of.

So what’s their secret?

In this episode of Hootcast, some of Instagram’s best-selling vegan influencers — best-selling author Lauren Toyota, Virtulous Pie marketing director Lia Loukas, and vlogger Steph Yu — share insights on their success and tips on how to increase your followers.

Hit the play button to listen to the full show, or if you don’t have a headset handy, you can read some tips from our talk below.

Instagram lessons from 3 vegan influencers

Engage with your community using the right hashtags

“Early, I realized that hashtags are a thing, and if I use hashtags like #vegansofinstagram or #whatveganseat – there were a few popular ones – I started getting followers. I also commented on everyone who commented.

That’s how I found the Vegans of Instagram community and other people with bigger accounts than me at the time. I’d look at larger accounts and observe what they’re doing, hashtags, or the type of descriptions they’re posting. I wouldn’t copy them, but I’ve gained an understanding of what people are doing on the platform.”

– Lauren Toyota, hot to eat

Be consistent with your shipping schedule

“When I opened my YouTube channel, people said, “You have to post at the same time, the same day every week,” and I didn’t believe them. ‘No, no,’ I thought. I just want to render the content when I want it.’

But the most important thing is consistency. You just have to be on the platform and give people something because they expect it. When people follow the heat for food on Instagram, they want to see new food inspiration every day. I knew this and stayed on the platform and did this. Then I got engaged again. I did not ignore people. I answered in real conversational manner. ”

– Lauren Toyota, hot to eat

Build a strong visual identity

“I immediately wanted to have a strong visual identity. We spent a lot of time figuring out what we wanted our brand to look like so we could be fun and creative while staying true to our visual identity.
I think this is important if you have the resources to devote to some high quality images. If not, think ahead about what kind of content you want to create visually. If you’re thinking about Instagram and a post, think about your color palette, filters, and how you want to create a consistent brand image.”

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-Lia Loukas, Virtuous Pie

Take the time to prepare your photos

“You should always ask yourself: Is this Instagrammable? When we approach design with our restaurant, we think about the lighting, table materials and coverings we use. Will it complement the dishes in the photos?

One of the things that I believe has definitely become the signature of our brand is the pizza board we use. And we actually worked with Pat, a local Vancouver friend of mine who created them for us. I think it’s important to show people how they can photograph your food and give them that inspiration.”

– Lia Loukas, Virtuous Pie

be authentic

“When I relate to people, I try not to think that I am relating to them, if it makes sense. If I start to think that I am talking to 200,000 people, nothing good will come of it. So I just think, share my thoughts.

For me it was always being honest about what I went through and sharing my story, sharing my message, sharing my struggles, sharing my ups and downs. I know for other people it’s more focused on food or makeup, so you just have to find what feels natural to you.”

-Steph Yu, happy and healthy 96

Stop worrying about being original; tell your story

“Many of us are really worried about being original, and it’s hard to find an area in life that hasn’t rested yet, because everyone has already done everything. But it’s not about originality. You just haven’t told your story yet.

Let’s say you want to start a food blog but say, ‘Oh my god, this food blogging industry is so saturated. There are too many food bloggers out there.’ That’s not the point. The thing is, you haven’t done it yet. If you stay true to yourself, you will have a unique spin on it. You will have a different perspective. You will share different things.”

-Steph Yu, happy and healthy 96

Make decisions based on your mission and values

“If you focus too much on followers and numbers, it won’t work for you. At the end of the day, it has to come down to who you are and what you want to say, what you can share and what you can offer.

Came from a warm organic real place to eat ‘I love vegan food. I want to share. I want people to be encouraged and motivated to adopt such habits, and how can I do that?’ You just have to get back to your personal mission and passion and align with it and not worry about other things. Because if what you do is right and honest, all other things will come.”

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– Lauren Toyota, hot to eat

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