Rachel Dacosta x SelfLoveSupply: Growing rapidly with an engaged audience
The first step to loving anything in life is loving yourself.
No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to get over the fact that you come first. You can’t help anyone without first looking in the mirror and demanding assistance.
People are stubborn, and sometimes, they need a gentle push in the positive direction. For Rachel Dacosta, creating an outlet for help began with struggles with her mental health. She didn’t have a place where she felt comfortable and safe to talk about the things that mattered most for her sanity.
To combat this, Dacosta started Self Love Supply in 2017. The movement of discussing mental health was taking off on Instagram, and Dacosta joined the conversation with perfect timing. The platform included a blog and over 30 contributors when it began. As the pandemic strengthened its grip on the planet, more people searched for a channel where they could be heard.
Rachel started 2020 with 10K followers on her Self Love Supply page. By March 2020, she had already grown to around 65K followers. Today, the page sits at 140K followers with no plans to slow down.
I caught up with Rachel to discuss her journey, working with brands, and the challenges of being a creator during the pandemic.
Leveraging an engaged audience to facilitate growth
The pandemic was a catalyst to the rapid growth of Self Love Supply. Millions are still stuck at home scrolling social media for an escape. But according to Dacosta, the foundation of her audience was also a big reason she reached critical mass.
“I had an engaged audience. No matter how small it was before the pandemic, they were engaged. I think that foundation was what facilitated the most growth.”
Dacosta went on to say that a lot of early Instagram users expect growth to happen quickly. Unfortunately, not everyone will have the benefit of being reposted by Kim Kardashian. If you are trying to grow organically, it’s generally quite slow. Her advice?
“Find your audience and cater to them. There are so many accounts on IG that start from 0. If you're making your audience happy and they want to come back, that's going to help you in the long run.”
As Dacosta rightly pointed out in the interview, engagement only slows down as you grow. It is a sad reality of Instagram because if you look at someone with millions of followers, their engagement rate is typically around 1%. If they have 1,000,000 followers, they might get 10,000 comments or likes on their image from their audience.
It’s all about balancing your growth and keeping your audience engaged for smaller users looking to grow organically. Times have changed. Quality reigns over quantity, and the higher engagement of an audience, the more valuable it is to brands and organizations.
Working with brands
Over the years, working with brands in the influencer marketing landscape has evolved. It’s not just about how many followers you have; it’s the kind of audience you have. More so than ever, what you post about matters.
What your audience is engaged with matters even more.
Rachel has to be very selective with the products/offerings she promotes to her Self Love Supply audience. The account has 140K followers, but most of the audience is not looking to get sold to. This has inspired Rachel to use the platform to increase more good into the universe.
“I’m way more inclined to promote organizations, other pages, charities, and things that are helpful to the world. It's been interesting for me to work with brands because I don't know how it's necessarily going to go and how my audience is going to respond.”
On Self Love Supply’s page, you will find body positive thoughts, content shared from other creators, and giveaways to help ease stress and combat depression. The collaborations aren’t numerous, but they are less about money and exposure and more about giving back a little good to the world. Rachel did not want the page to contribute to the feelings you receive from being sold to constantly.
Due to Self Love Supply’s rapid growth, many brands started to show their faces after the followers already arrived. But interestingly enough, Rachel receives way more brand inquiries on her personal Instagram account. Even though her account has 1/10th of the followers Self, Love Supply has.
Still, she recognizes the necessity to specialize and cater to an audience. There are a million other fashion influencers on Instagram, so the competition is fierce.
"I started in the fashion space but have found that there are more opportunities in home, lifestyle, and beauty. I have a passion for interior design, and I've learned that my followers love to see this type of content. So experimenting in this space has helped me grow and find my voice on my page.”
Operating in a duel-sphere, Rachel has the benefit of being able to separate her personal Instagram from her professional ventures. She can both operate as an influencer of products and as an influencer for body positivity and self-care.
The ever-changing Instagram algorithm
The ever-changing Instagram algorithm has been a hot topic for years now. We recently wrote a piece about Instagram removing likes, and I naturally stumbled upon the algorithm in my conversations with Rachel.
What did I learn? Well, things haven’t changed. Or more like they have continued to change.
Rachel mentioned that she has noticed engagement has dropped in January and February. When she reached out to her audience to poll if the content was still relevant and valuable, many bigger accounts reached out to her.
They were all in the same boat. Engagement on Instagram sucks right now.
According to Rachel, the only thing you can guarantee is that you’re connecting with your audience and giving them what they want to see. The constant shifting of requirements and guidelines by Instagram is infuriating for most creators.
However, the shifting algorithms allow those who create quality content for an engaged audience to survive while new options are presented. For Self Love Supply, competing with the other thousand self-care accounts on Instagram while algorithms shift is just another day's work.
The future of Self Love Supply
While Self Love Supply provided an outlet for thousands during the pandemic, the goal was to transition the platform into some version of psychotherapy or counselling. Rachel is currently completing her internship to become a Psychotherapist and has begun providing online counselling through Relationship Therapy Mississauga.
As we move back to normalcy in the world, Rachel is looking for ways to keep the Self Love Supply community together. The scary truth: If Instagram disappeared today or banned her account, she would lose years of hard work. And she’s not alone, and there are millions of users in the same boat.
Their only safety net? Cross-promotion and growth on other platforms.
It’s clear the future for Self Love Supply, and other creators rely on their ability to stay connected.