Like many thriving businesses, the accessory and apparel brand Valfréstarted off as a side hustle. It was created by Ilse Valfré, originally from Tijuana, who began her design journey by sharing her cartoon-like sketches on Tumblr.

Over time, her social media following grew, and her artwork transformed into vintage-inspired fashion designs.

“Our page is all about what it’s like to be a girl and we make sure that our content reflects the theme,” she said.

Now, Valfré is distributed in over 250 stores in 28 countries around the world. The Valfré Instagram page also has over 650,000 followers.

However, it wasn’t always an easy journey. Valfré made her way to LA on an expired tourist visa, and earlier this year, Forever 21 was accused of ripping off her designs. However, she paved her way to success by mastering Instagram and creating a brand that resonates with hundreds of thousand of people.

Business Insider spoke to Valfré to get her top tips on optimising your social media use to build a following.

These are the six things she says you should keep in mind.

1. TELL A STORY.

Valfré in her studio. Young & Reckless / YouTube

The Valfré brand started with artwork, and so it’s important that it remains the main source of inspiration behind all of the products on the website.

“Every brand should have a unique story that sells it, and the social media content should be a visual reflection of that story,” Valfré said.

For example, one of their products — a phone case called The Selfie Control Pills — started off as a drawing. On social media, the case was promoted with the original illustration, and with a photo shoot that resembled the drawing.

“Connecting the artwork, product, and photography is very important to us and allows us to tell our brand story and set a tone,” Valfré said.

2. MAKE SURE YOUR CONTENT IS BALANCED.

Valfré says if you’re a brand or you’re selling a product, there should be a balance of different things on your social media pages. For example, Valfré mixes in images from cult classic movies and characters, as well as lifestyle posts and pictures of new products.

“We want our feed to be a place people can relate to and laugh, while also acting as a mood board,” said Valfré.

3. USE INSTAGRAM ‘STORIES’ EFFECTIVELY.

Instagram stories are a fun way to show off your personality, Valfré says, so post more of them. It also gives your followers something to look forward to, and the content can differ quite a lot from your regular posts.

“We love Stories because it gives followers a chance to really feel like they are a part of Valfré,” she said. “We show behind the scenes of photo shoots, tease upcoming products, give an inside to our blog, and highlight our customers or ‘girl crushes.'”

4. WORK OUT WHAT PEOPLE LIKE.

You should pay attention when posts are getting engagement, and then try and create similar content. For example, Valfré noticed that the best engagement is with artwork and lifestyle posts.

“Ultimately followers do not want to be sold to, so it’s important to us to give our followers more of what they like,” she said.

Instagram’s new algorithm means that posts are analysed for how much they are being liked and shared, and pushes more popular posts to the top of the feed. So the more engagement the better.

5. USE HASHTAGS SPARINGLY.

Valfré says you should only use hashtags when they’re relevant. Don’t go hashtag crazy.

“Hashtag usage is necessary but unless it’s relevant you won’t really be bringing interested and engaged followers to your page,” she said. “We use hashtags like, #GirlCrush and #GirlPower because we think they really resonate with our brand image.”

6. REMEMBER — QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.

According to Valfré, quality is more important than quantity. Each post should resonate with the audience, and if it won’t, you probably shouldn’t post it.

“Think of when you’re watching your favorite television series and they drag it out for another season. You always want to end a good note.” she said. “[If] your followers are left wanting more, you develop an engaged following.”

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Mike Johns is a pioneer in the field of mobile media and digital technology with more than fifteen years experience in consulting, content strategy & acquisitions, cross-platform engagement, business, and legal affairs. He has a proven track record of successfully spearheading content strategy and acquisitions for major corporations including T-Mobile, Nokia, Microsoft, Real Network, Fox and Newscorp. An industry go-to guy, Johns is a highly sought after consultant and speaker worldwide.