Moyens I/O interviewed Laura Izumikawa, a lifestyle photographer and mom blogger who grew her Instagram audience from 0 to 600,000 followers with no special equipment or black hat tricks – just a family of four fact and dress-up fun.

Below, she answers questions about how she finds success on Instagram, being vulnerable online, and how she decides which parts of her personal life to share with followers. We’ve also broken down their answers into actionable tips and takeaways so you can immediately apply them to your own Instagram strategy.

Follow Laura’s Instagram adventures here and visit her website here.

How to grow from 0 to 600,000 Instagram followers in four steps

1. Develop a personal brand

Where did the idea for the Naptime with Joey photo series come from?

I first used Instagram as a tool to connect with clients and prospects as my wedding and lifestyle photography career was in full swing. When my daughter was born, I was always at home with her. Instead of taking the same photo of her while she was sleeping (she was always sleeping!), I decided to have fun and dress her in various costumes.

What’s your number one tip for aspiring Instagram influencers and marketers?

Find what you’re most passionate about sharing. Use your passion or talent and document it with photos and videos.

your move

Don’t limit yourself or try to imitate the success of others. You cannot take the same steps as everyone else and expect original works to emerge. If you find yourself stuck in a routine, brainstorm unique approaches to the content you love to post.

Read more:

How Do You Build Your ‘Brand’ Voice on Social Media?

2. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes

Your Instagram feed provides an intimate window into your personal life and family adventures. How do you decide what to publish and what not to publish?

Yes, my family life is private and I restrict what I share. I really like to share what I believe can brighten someone’s day or make someone smile.

your move

Aim to ignite the joy. Test posting different types of content to determine what your audience likes best. If you get lots of positive interactions with a post or Story, try to repeat that success in the future. Eventually, a content strategy will emerge.

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Read more:

A/B Testing on Social Media: How to Do it with Tools You Already Have

3. Be vulnerable

Your Instagram posts get more than 40,000 likes. What key elements do you think should be included in every successful Instagram post?

The most important thing is vulnerability and honesty. People use social media to connect with or at least relate to others. Being open and transparent will go a long way in helping you connect with your target audience.

your move

Don’t be afraid to show the behind the scenes or a less polished side of your life often. Remind your followers that you are a real person. It will be easier for them to relate and connect with your content.

Read more:

How Can You Be More Original on Social Media?

4. Build natural partnerships

You are often hired by brands to run Instagram Influencer campaigns. What makes branded content good on Instagram?

If you’re a fan of the brand and its work, and your audience can see a natural relationship, I believe that’s what makes branded content good. I often see influencers grabbing all kinds of partnerships, and who they are doesn’t always seem natural.

When considering brand partnerships, you should consider your target audience and what the partnership will add to or remove from your brand. I often reject brand partnerships because I don’t like the product or it doesn’t fit my brand.

your move

Followers can tell when content is challenging. When considering a partnership with another brand, make sure your shared goals are aligned. Aim to create content with a look and feel that naturally fits with the content you already post.

Read more:

The Complete Guide to Instagram Influencer Rates

Toolbox: Filters and Gear

What are you currently using to take your Instagram photos?

I primarily use my iPhone, but also use various dSLR cameras.

Filters? Yes No?

I love filters because they give my photos and videos a more cinematic feel or editorial look.

Do you use other apps or editing tools?

I like to use VSCO Cam for most of my photo and video filters. I like to use filter A4. I also enjoy using Unfold for stories on Instagram. I edit my YouTube videos with Final Cut Pro X.

What tips do you have for phone photography?

Find the light and see how it can improve a mood or appearance before taking the photo. Ask yourself if the subject of your photo needs anything added or subtracted to tell a story and make the whole image stand out.

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your move

The tools you use to develop your content don’t have to be expensive. Take photos on iPhone and edit using VSCOcam. Look for natural light and take multiple photos with different accessories to see what tells the best story.

Read more:

How to Take Good Instagram Photos
How to Edit Instagram Photos

See more from Laura

Viral Naptime was made into a book with Laura’s dress up Joey series. You can get a copy here.

Keep your Instagram presence interesting and save time by easily scheduling, editing and publishing your Instagram posts along with all your other social channels. You can also post content to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn from the same control panel.

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