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Among the candid celebrity shots and photogenic pets, one aspect of Instagram has always intrigued me: the Popular page—a continuously changing mosaic of current top posts. After checking the page, I often wondered what made those photos so special that they were shown on all 150 million users’ screens. Impulsively, I made it a goal to be featured. I, an unfamous teenager from the suburbs, wanted to crack the system.
The following three months were the beginning of an experiment on how one joins the ranks of the “rich and famous” of the Instagram world. Combing hourly through the list and taking note of patterns, I realized two key facts. First, pages featured had lots of active followers. Second, followers had to interact with the photos through comments or “likes” to be considered active. With that in my mind, I created a specialty account—a page devoted to nail art, a niche subject with a passionate fanbase. Besides featuring my own admittedly mediocre work, it would be a highlight page that spotlighted other (more talented) artists, too.
That summer was my crash course in marketing. Through trial and error, I learned the importance of concepts like hashtagging, brand image, and content curation. Ultimately, my account acquired over 17,000 followers and was featured on the Popular page multiple times. Most importantly, though, were the greater implications of achieving my goal. I had empowered myself to reach something that once felt unattainable. The improbable has turned possible and, thenceforth, I would never limit my goals again.
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