How to be popular on social media, even if you aren't IRL

Social media stardom is something relatively new, but millennials have now definitively ranked online celebs as cooler versions of your old fashioned Brad Pitts and Jennifer Annistons (is this a dated reference? Asking for a friend…)

Being popular online doesn't just make you seem cool AF – it can lead to things like endorsement deals with companies, discount codes for your followers, partnerships with large, global brands, and so, so much more.

If you're looking for that little slice of online celebrity, there are a few rules that you can follow that'll up your social media game. Here's how to be popular on social media (even if you really aren't IRL)!

Comment, like, and engage

There are two types of people that frequent social media: those who creep silently and watch what others are posting and never actually post themselves (they rarely even like things), and those who create the content that the people in the shadows are silently watching.

While social media is great because you can opt to be as engaging or as silent as you like, people who tend to respond to comments, like posts, and even share something on their Facebook or Twitter once a day (Instagram is different – for the best results, you should be posting every second or third day) are typically ranked higher clout-wise and are more visible to a larger audience:

They're the ones that share breaking news, so they become a news source. They're the ones that share new fashion and makeup trends, so they're hip and keeping up with the joneses. They're the ones posting encouraging messages and content, so they're the daily motivator.

Engaging and posting when it's appropriate helps your personality come alive online and shape the persona you're trying to display.

Rule of threes

If you're talking social media popularity, the first app your mind should go to is Instagram (and then Twitter, and then Facebook). The social media app has over 500 million monthly users, people sharing around 95 million photos per day with posts with at least one hashtag averaging 12.6% more engagement than posts without one.

Maeve Keirans, MTV:

Instagram [has] proved itself as the platform for tapping talent. Celebrities used the photo-sharing service to discover everyone from makeup artists to music video costars [in 2015]. Brands, likewise, crowd-sourced entire campaigns from Instagram submissions. Success on social media has already been confirmed to be integral for established models like Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid, but it is quickly showing itself as the perfect platform for artists, designers, and models to be discovered, whether by a celebrity or brand.

One thing you'll see Instagram-famous people doing is posting in threes, or the rule of threes. This simply means posting three photos from a series of shots you've taken in a row so that your Instagram profile looks a bit more uniform and pleasing to the eye.

Subsequently you could also follow the rule of color if you're patient enough. Check out Kat Von D's cosmetic brand on Instagram and you'll start scrolling through a rainbow of images.

Pose, play, photograph: Get creative

Whether you're someone who prefers posting photos of that beautiful lunch you just had with your boyfriend, of if you're someone who posts stunningly crisp architecture photographs of old brick buildings, or if you're someone who loves a good selfie, it's important to step out of your comfort zone and get creative.

Having pictures and videos that stand out from what's normal and boring on your newsfeed will encourage someone to stop and look at your picture a little more carefully. Their curiosity could earn you a like or even a follow if you make it to the featured page!

To help up your creativity with your posts without breaking the bank or forcing you to go through 400 pages on Pinterest to brainstorm ideas #yay, you can always pick up a mobile lens kit . They'll force you to take pictures from different angles and really get creative.


I. Cannot. Stress. This. Enough:


YouTuber and Game Theorist Matthew Patrick AKA MatPat talks about how he is often hired by companies and other content creators to help them get more likes and followers, and generate more revenue, etc. One of the first things he tells his clients to do is delete half their posts and content, and cut down from making five videos a week to making one or two.

Why, you may ask? Because sometimes less is much, much more.

Posting constantly, re-posting news articles and feel-good videos 24/7, flooding feeds with 8 or 9 selfies at a time (when they're not in an album or scroll-through IG post), constantly updating your Twitter status: all these things are insanely annoying.

"But Cella!" I can hear you saying, "It's my social media and I can do whatever the hell I want!" While you're not wrong in the slightest, it's just good to keep in mind that if you're chasing those likes, your multiple posts might be getting under people's skin; you actually might be chasing your followers and traction away.

Wat's ur ~aesthetic~, brah?

Are you a minimalist? Do you like white backgrounds, marble, hints of brass and gold, clean lines? Do you prefer loud color, bright images, vibrant videos, or messy artwork? Do you keep everything in black and white, with every post mimicking a film noir movie? Do you only take pictures with a certain filter overtop, washing out the color contrast, or adding a bright layer of purple to your images?

Having an ~aesthetic~ online can help define your personality and your social media persona or 'brand'.

Whether you're only tweeting out funny things and memes, or reposting strange facts and videos, someone should be able to go to your online profile, see one of your posts, and go 'okay cool, I know what they're all about!'

Instagram Stories / Snap = A "clean" peek into your life

I'll admit that when Snapchat first came out and my friends told me about it, I laughed in their faces and told them an app that disappeared your photos and videos after a certain amount of time was DUMB. I mean, why spend all that time creating content if it's just going to freakin' vanish after 10 seconds?!

Fast-forward to now, and features like Instagram Stories and Snapchat (and yeah, I guess Facebook Stories and Messenger Day count too…) are more valuable than ever for content creators and people who are looking for some social media popularity.

While things like your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram may follow a strict posting format (or ~aesthetic~), temporary posting features allow you to get strange and silly, give you a platform to talk more casually on, and add a bit of a more genuine flare to your social media.

Social media can be like a beer commercial: everyone is always smiling and having a great time, and everything always looks pretty and perfect. While your social media may reflect that, Stories allow you to get a bit more 'raw' and real with your followers, something they'd probably really appreciate. Honesty online can be tough to come by – especially when everyone wants to be internet famous.

What do you think?

Do you think aiming for online stardom is super stupid and a waste of time, or do you think there's some merit to having a large following on social media? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

Cella Lao Rousseau

Cella writes for iMore on social and photography. She's a true crime enthusiast, bestselling horror author, lipstick collector, buzzkill, and Sicilian. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @hellorousseau