By Grace Givan, executive entertainment editor
When sophomore Lauren Ellstrand’s grandmother, a former artist, came to babysit her, Ellstrand was taught how to draw animals. Out of all the animals she was taught to draw, cows stuck out to her because they were both the easiest to draw and the most fun. Her grandma gave her books that taught her how to draw, which encouraged Ellstrand to draw even more of the spotted-creatures.
This jumpstarted Ellstrand’s love for cows, and she made an Instagram account dedicated to them called “cows_” in 2013 to show it. In the six years she has had the account, it has gained 30 thousand followers.
“You know how there’s that meme, ‘There’s always that one girl that obsessed with horses?’ That was me with cows,” Ellstrand said.
In order to grow her account, Ellstrand attracts more activity to each of her posts by saying “tag a friend” in the location of the post. She also grows it by using a multitude hashtags, which allows for more people to discover her account when they look up farm-related hashtags.
People can also find the account on Instagram’s Explore Page. Ellstrand wants to increase her chances of appearing on people’s explore pages by posting more.
She also follows other successful farm-accounts to see what they do in order to grow, and she has learned that they post very consistently. She has made it a goal of hers to post three times per week so she can increase her following.
Obtaining a big following allowed the possibility of sponsorship for Ellstrand, and she has earned over $100 from her sponsors.
The main company with which she is currently working is called Syler, which sells sweatshirts, t-shirts and hats through an affiliate link that she put on her account. She puts the link in her biography for 24 hours, and whenever someone clicks on it, she gets commission.
Affiliate links are not the only way Ellstrand makes money with her account. She recently received $65 for posting a picture with one of her friends wearing a sponsored T-shirt and hat. The hat and shirt had the word ‘farm’ on, as Ellstrand only wants to advertise for things related to the account’s theme.
According to her father David Ellstrand, Lauren manages all of the financial components of the account on her own, and it is often a topic amongst friends and relatives.
“Once it started, it was like lighting fire,” David said. “We were just amazed at how many people initially started [following the account]. It started with tens, then hundreds, then thousands, and we were just blown away by the number of people.”
She has gained a very large following compared to the average Instagram account, which has 843 followers, according to Optical Cortex.
“It was in sixth grade when I first got 1,000 followers, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is more than just a random Instagram [account],” Lauren said. “But I realized it was a big deal when different accounts were DMing me and asking for shoutouts and to advertise products.”
By acquiring such a large following, Lauren has made multiple acquaintances with people all over the world.
In fact, Lauren has talked to two memorable fans from Idaho in 2016 when they Direct Messaged her to take a look that the fan account they made for her. The account is called “cowsrback,” which doubles as both a finsta and an account dedicated to cows.
“[My account] lets me talk to so many different people,” Lauren said. “I think it would be a shame if I didn’t use it to expand my horizons and get to learn more about other people in other places.”
Lauren also used to connect with her followers by doing live streams during her freshman year. During these live streams, people asked questions about the account and she would get to know her followers.
They would usually get around 500 views, however she stopped doing live streams that same year. She was uncomfortable with answering questions about her life, and she decided she didn’t want to be personally-connected to the account.
“It was fun because they would be so surprised that I wasn’t some old country-boy,” Lauren said. “But then again, I would be so disappointed if I went to see a livestream with a little, suburban girl.”
Her interactions with followers have actually built the account to be what it is now. Instead of finding materials for her posts via Google, she always gets her pictures from her followers when they Direct Message them to her.
“It’s a better way for me to interact with people,” Lauren said. “And I think it is a better reason for people to follow me since they want to share their love of cows with other cow-lovers.”