Eight months ago I remember reading something online (whether it was an intelligent news article or a Buzzfeed quiz, I couldn’t tell you) but I saw the word “suitcase” and I thought about how much I really liked that word. People use “backpacks” or “luggage” but to me a suitcase is something old and battered that has a story. In that second I thought Samantha’s Suitcase has a nice ring to it and I decided I wanted to do something with it. I knew I was tired of sharing #traveltuesday photos on my personal Instagram account so I started with a fresh account and @samanthas_suitcase was born. At that point I knew nothing about Instagram other than I loved the Clarendon filter. So on January 31 I posted my first photo of a train platform in Japan. I put six hashtags, it got 14 likes and one comment (from my mother).

May 22. It took nearly 4 months just to get 1k!

Fast forward eight months and a few days and I now have hit that illusory 10,000 follower mark. And not just 10,000, but 10K. That little K is what we seem to all be after in the beginning and it finally happened. Getting hordes of followers was never a goal per se, but sharing my travels with as many people as possible who care about my photos and what I am doing was. If you’re going into this to be Instafamous, I’d say you’ll be disappointed.

Here is what I’ve learned over the past eight months:

1. It’s frustrating

Instagram, at some point, will make you want to rip your head off and throw your phone out the window screaming. With its constantly changing algorithm, updates, and things that are just generally out of your control, it’s very easy to get disheartened. They also are notorious for terrible customer service and and all around leaving users in the dark when things do go sideways.

I still need to remind myself of this sometimes, but even if one of your photos tanked or engagement dropped a little bit, that it’s probably just temporary and not every follower up and decided to hate you now. Ride it out, maybe tweak some things and hop back on that train, champ!

2. Don’t compare


My biggest problem is comparing myself to other influencers. Why did it take me eight months and not six? @________ gets 1,500 likes on each photo and she only has 8,000 followers what! Her butt is so much better than mine…and so on and so on it goes until I drove myself crazy.

What you need to realize is that there is a lot under the surface of those smaller accounts that seem to be doing so much better than yours. I’ll give you this, there are some super good accounts out there that are just growing at lighting speed and their engagement is genuine, but a lot of the times…it’s not. A ridiculously high follower to engagement ratio isn’t common and it’s likely, if not probable, that they are buying likes. Maybe not buying followers, but buying engagement. It sucks because we (and brands!) may not know otherwise and it just makes us feel shitty. So know that if an account looks too good to be true, it probably is. But truly, just keep posting quality content and you will continue to light up the Instagram world. And thinking of…

3. Post quality content

I have a confession to make. 90% of my Instagram photos are several years old. Several years old = taken on old point and shoots or phones back in the day when I didn’t know “influencing” and “perfect Instagram photos” were even a thing. I travel a few times a year, but most of the time I’m posting really old content that I (am still learning how to) edit into something half presentable. I have recently come to be the owner (sorry, mom, borrower) of newer, nicer camera equipment, but I still rely on all my years of past travels to be my main source of content. That being said, I attempt to edit my photos to at least somewhat look awesome even if they are really old.

It can’t be said enough, but Insta is a visual platform. If you want to get those followers you need to make sure your feed is a beautiful one. Whatever aesthetic you’re going for whether it be moody, bright, colorful, muted or what have you, stick with it. Edit your photos to all look similar and to flow. It’s a bit of trial and error and I’m still always tweaking, but as long as things appear cohesive (and interesting!), people will like what they see. Don’t scroll too far down in my feed because you’ll see exactly what NOT to do.

4. Don’t forget why you’re doing this

It’s really easy to get caught up in the rat race. You’ll start gaining followers, you might join some groups, you’ll start watching your follower count more closely, you’ll start obsessing over the numbers…don’t. If you’re posting awesome stuff, the followers come! Just always keep in the back of your mind why you started your account to begin with. If it was just to see how many followers you could get in the shortest amount of time then awesome, but if you started it for a reason, whether to build your business or to put your voice out there, don’t let that slip away while you’re watching that number at the top of your screen go up one by one or you’ll lose your mind. Trust me.

If you want more details or a personalized one-on-one coaching on growing your Instagram, head over to my Services page!


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