Instagram. It is fun and beautiful but can also seem daunting if you don't know what you are doing. With over 1 BILLION active monthly users, Instagram is one of the best apps to get your blog and business noticed.
I first joined Instagram back in January 2011 and I loved the sense of community it brought. Being able to see photos from someone's everyday life in Japan was eye opening and really made the world seem smaller for just a moment. I made a lot of friends in those first few months and some I am still following 7 years later!
The app has definitely changed since back then, and now is a crucial requirement for any small business looking to build their brand. Having an engaged community is essential as a small biz owner or bloggers. Our followers become our family. They can be our biggest supporters.
As with any social media account, the key to all of this is you have to be social! Algorithms and black magic make up the framework of Instagram now and so you have to be willing to put in a little bit of work to have a truly winning account.
I am going to go over some legit ways to get your Instagram community engaged and excited over what YOU have to offer.
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Stunning pics and witty captions will not get you that far if you don't have followers who are into your brand. If you are not set up as a business account yet, please do so. One of the best aspects of this is being able to see some stats about your followers. You can see where a majority of them are from, which photos are most liked and what might be a good time to post. Also if you don't have an ICA or know who the hell you want to talk to, you gotta get that sorted first.
2. TALK TO THEM
Asking questions on Instagram is one of the most effective ways to draw users in to engage with your content. People like to know that you value their thoughts and opinions. No one wants to just be spoken to. They want to actually have a conversation. The best way to create an engaged community is to engage!
Ask your followers how their day is going. Take a snap of what you're working on and ask them for their opinions. Share about an upcoming trip and see if your followers are headed anywhere, too or even better if they have any recommendations for where you are going. Anything to get them talking. It may feel a little awkward at first, hell, it may be freaking crickets, BUT KEEP GOING. In no time at all, people will start to reply.
Creating a challenge is a great way to expose your account to lots of new eyes. Make sure you are present with those who are taking the time to participate by liking and commenting on their photos whenever possible. Don't be a dick.
If you're nervous about people not participating, you could pair up with another Instagrammer to host your challenge. You could also reach out to a few of your currently engaged followers and personally invite them to join in.
RENEGADE TIP: Asking followers to tag a friend not only encourages comments but brings more users to your content. The more users that see your content, the higher reach the post gets.
3. GET YOUR HASHTAG GAME ON
You really only have one chance to get your photo noticed in the grid before it gets lost so I always suggest using hashtags that are between the 80k-500k range. Why? They will be large enough that they are active but small enough that your photo isn't going to just disappear in a matter of seconds.
Also, and this is probably the most important, GO INTO THE HASHTAGS and engage. As soon as you post a pic, those people are going to be around and active. Comment on their photos. Not only will you get some engagement back, but you could also get a new follower in return too.
RENEGADE TIP: Keep a note in your phone with hashtags you use often so that you can easily copy and paste them in a comment without having to retype them each time you post an image.
4. USE THE TOOLS AND STAND OUT
Remember, you are awesome and your personality is what makes you unique. No one else is you. That is your superpower. Use this to your advantage and have fun. Don't take it too seriously. Being unapologetic and just being yourself will set you apart from the rest and offer something of value to your audience.
Having trouble finding something that makes you unique? Get more specific about who you are and what your brand is. It's difficult to find something that will set you apart if you think in really broad terms.
Make sure your captions are relatable. People relate to feelings and emotions a lot more than seeing a pretty picture of a baby toy you are trying to sell They like to know they are not alone. If you aren't going to share about your life on Instagram, you will find it much harder to build a loyal following.
RENEGADE TIP: Using Instagram stories or IGTV for your business will be a great way to show up more on your account. You can be more visible and in my opinion, it is way easier and faster to create a story. You don't have to think about what caption to write or if the colors are aligned with your feed. Just go for it. The highlight feature from stories is awesome too! Your most important message or product can be on your story highlight for more followers to see. Existing followers rarely visit your Instagram profile after they've followed you, so it's important that you encourage them to check out your highlights because they might not know they even exist if you don't tell them!
5. RESPOND TO ALL COMMENTS
Last but certainly not least, be sure to respond to all of the comments you receive. Chances are if you follow the steps I've mentioned above, people will start commenting on your photos. If you ignore their comments or only respond to a couple here or there, it shows them that you're not interested in building a community.
If someone asked you a question face-to-face, would you ignore them? Responding to people's comments will lead to an even stronger connection and more engagement. If people ask you a question about something on Instagram, freaking answer it! Really get in there and chat with everyone. It shows you care about them and appreciate their energy and friendship.
Am I asking a lot here? Yes. However, this is it, Renegades. You have to be present. You have to show up. If you want your account to grow with engaged followers, you are going to have to do the work. If your followers are going to take time to connect with you, the least you can do is connect with them, too.