Being Boss 101: How To Organically (and Ethically) Grow Your Instagram Account [Pt. 1]
Using Instagram as a business platform should NOT be about winning a popularity contest. It’s true, IG is the fastest social media platform around these days and that when we first establish out IG accounts, no one is following us. Having a larger Instagram following can mean more sales for your business, more views on your blog, and a stronger community for your brand. Ever wonder how in the heck how some people have thousands of Instagram followers posting what they wear every day? Some of that has to do with the brand they may have already built up outside of Instagram (see: popular Mommy Bloggers), or they’re a ‘celebrity’ within their niche, or they’re a popular indie brand, or even a popular corporate one. In this article, you’re going to learn some simple and ethical ways to build a SOLID, LOYAL, audience (aka: ‘followers’) on Instagram. (Tomorrow, in Part 2, I’ll be sharing what my favourite iPhone and Android photo apps are and how to use them as the core necessities they are to rocking your IG feed!)
1. KNOW THIS: YOUR WHY, YOUR NICHE + YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Who is your ideal client/customer? Reader? Follower? That’s your target audience. What type of added value (we’ll get to that in a minute) are you going to share on your feed? For example, I’m a health and business coach so I share tips, videos, ideas and articles on holistic wellness, nutrition, recipes, social media, etc., etc., etc. I share personal glimpses of my life in regards to my fitness journey and life as a mom. I love to craft, so I share the occasional DIY. You get the idea. Anyone who is into these things fall into my NICHE MARKET. So moms, small business owners, Indigenous creative and artistic professionals, crafty peeps, nature lovers, foodies … are all a part of my target audience. If you’re here, you’re reading this because you’re serious about cultivating your IG as a business platform, then you need to know who your ideal client or customer (follower) is. For example: if you’re a serious photographer, you should probably only post quality shots using your iPhone, state when you don’t use your iPhone and share in your bio what pro equipment you use. Most IG’ers find success in posting small snapshots of their daily life in a way that their followers can get to know them better, it puts a personal touch to the brand. It is very important to do so in an authentic way, that comes from a place of wanting to genuinely share your story and add value into people’s lives. Captivate them. Not just shill your products and/or your brand.
Think about why you need more followers. Is it because Instagram is boring when nobody is following you? Is it because you want to promote your brand, that blog post, or your next webinar? Do you want to get more exposure and more clients? Those things are well and good, but you should also want to build COMMUNITY. You should actually want to engage in conversation with other people: share stories, tips, ideas, support others in the same way you hope for others to support you. This is HUGE in self-marketing and for small business entrepreneurs.
Basically, treating your IG as a business platform is just what I call a, “being boss move.” However, doing it to stroke your ego or show only the best parts of you is annoying and likely won’t work for you, because A-lister, you are not. Give yourself some street cred and be real. Be you. Get vulnerable. Show the messy bits just as much as you would share the glossy bits.
2. PICK + STICK: FOCUS + THEME
You need to have a clear focus, be visually thematic and consistent if you want to be successful on Instagram. If your goal is to showcase photography, don’t constantly post pictures of yourself partying, memes or other people’s photography. Your target audience only wants to see YOUR great photography! There are some key defining differences you should pay attention to if you’ve really taken your time with STEP 1. For example, if you really know your niche as a photographer, you won’t be posting pictures every day of your lunch, I don’t care how artsy or well-styled it is. (Unless of course, you’re a food photographer, but I digress.) The exact opposite of this is true for myself, since many of my followers stick around for healthy food inspiration and recipes. Generally speaking? I recommend posting awesome photos that people in your industry or niche market want to see, (like product shots), tips and ideas to inspire, while occasionally giving people a little peek into your company’s culture to build more personal relationships. This builds trust and credibility, naturally. Authentically.
3. DO’S + DONT’S
DO: Use the same filters, not a bunch of different ones. Imagine when someone lands on your IG feed for the first time. You want it to look like a well-curated magazine, not a noisy classified section. Do an audit. Delete photos that don’t belong. Be honest with yourself about it and just get to it! Decide how many quality photos a day or a week you are going to post and stick to it. Follow a formula. For example, I cycle through the different types of content I share each day. I avoid inundating my audience with any one type of photo/post.
DON’T: Post poorly lit and blurry photos. Work that composition yo! Get creative. Be bold. This is especially fun if you are a hobbyist photographer like me. I have a few fav photo apps that I use daily for posting to IG and Facebook. (I’ll be sharing these in Part 2!) Less is MORE. Don’t post photos one right after the other, spread it out. 2 or 3 posts each day instead of 10 crap ones is what I’m talking about. Quality over quantity.
4. PRO TIP: ROCK THAT EXPLORE TAB
Go to the explore page (click the little search/magnifying glass icon found at the bottom of your screen) of your IG account, (this is an aggregated feed showing you little carbon copies of the types of accounts you’re already liking and hashtags you’re already using. This would be IG Algorithms at work!. Use this to your advantage.) You can look at other people’s accounts or featured content based on who you follow and who they follow. These are the people who could be your ideal followers. (Customers!) Do some ninja work! You can sort this feed according to hashtags or users. Play around with it and spend some time clicking on those profiles and checking out what kind of content they’re posting, and what hashtags they’re using. You know what I’m saying here, right? Stop using random or popular hashtags and zone into using the ones that will garner you new followers instead of worrying about likes.
5. HASHTAG HACKS: Time is Money + Likes Don’t Matter (But Geotagging Does)
This is my current fav hack for IG regarding those pesky hashtags. Ain’t nobody got time to be typing them out every time. iPhone users can use the Text Replacement functionality to their advantage! The function is found under Settings > General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Tapping on Text Replacement presents a screen with a few preconfigured shortcut options arranged alphabetically, as well as a search bar for navigating previously created pairings. This is great for texting too, of course. Big time saver. Take some time to craft what you want your hashtag lists to be based on your content (that formula I spoke about earlier.) and save time in the long run, over and over again. If you want to build your audience, you need to get your IG content in front of the right eyes! The easiest way to do that is through hashtags. Like don’t matter. This isn’t a popularity contest. Don’t be spammy with your hashtags (as in using too many or only popular ones.) I like to put my hashtags in the comments of my photos so that they are not included with my original post.
Do some ninja work within the depths of IG. If you’re a healthy living blogger, search for other healthy living bloggers using hashtags such as #foodismedicine. If you’re a wedding photographer, look for people who play golf using hashtags such as #weddingphotography. If you’re a wedding photographer in BC, use the hashtag #BCweddingphotography. Check the usability of hashtags before using them. And ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS geotag when possible. Both with the hashtag for the location and tagging your photo to the actual place. Use keyword hashtags to get leads: they are searchable in Google and each social media site. Uses hashtags containing the names of the cities your hope to serve or connect to and your type of business to tag the pictures you share! For example, if I’m looking to connect with other moms, I would add the hashtags #torontomoms or #barriemoms, or #torontohealthcoach or #barrieweightloss to a photo post. Giving away allll my secrets now! You do know most social media ‘gurus’ make you sign up for every list and webinar under the sun and usually charge for the info, right?
6. MANDATORY CTAs: In Your Description + In your Posts!
Your profile description is the first thing people see when they click on your profile. You don’t have to think too much about it, just tell people who you are and what they’re going to see from you! Or what you do. You can change your bio daily to promote different things too. I often chance my bio to include a direct CTA (Call To Action) for different groups or webinars I’m hosting, article or recipes I’ve written! Your IG behaviour should include a CTA every single day. A CTA can be something simple as including questions in your post. As if you’re in a relationship with your viewer. Engaging them in conversation is a sure-fire way to spark that. Even asking them to do something as simple as, ‘like this photo if you agree!’ … WORKS. This conditions all those eyes on your photos who might not otherwise like, comment or follow, to take YOUR LEAD. They need to know that you’re there and that you care. Apply the 80/20 rule: Suggest that people join your email list. (Quit sending them in a circle, have them subscribe to your email list if you have one! Give them a freemium for signing up! It might be a podcast, It might be an e-book, a free menu-plan, or free printables. Bottom Line? You have to connect to provide value.
7. FINALLY! Now You Can Actually Socialize
It ain’t called social media for nothin’! Respond to the comments you receive and leave comments of your own on others’ work. Rather than something stale like, “cute dress,” try to leave genuine comments that encourage them to post more photos. You will get the same in return and THEN SOME. Accounts with many followers are used to getting likes all the time, and they don’t often pay attention to them. If a photo has more than ten likes already, only the total number of likes is displayed and probably no one will notice your like. Moral of the story? LEAVE A COMMENT, and make it the last one! Leaving interesting and thoughtful comments works for users with big and small business alike. Those with less followers will certainly notice your comment and check out who left it. But if you leave an interesting comment on a recent photo of someone popular, their audience will also get curious about who left such a great comment! True story!
8. TIME MANAGEMENT: Use Instagram Online
It’s faster than typing on your phone or tablet. I can fly my fingers across a keyboard, but not texting, I’m all thumbs! Time is money and while spending some time on your Instagram account should be considered as a business activity, you should be swift about it. There are many platforms for using IG on the web, but I like plain old Instagram online the best. Some might argue that Iconquare is great for this too – but then you fall down the whole rabbit hole of checking your analytics all the time to see who unfollowed you and whatnot. And while that’s mighty tempting and I completely understand the pull, unless you have willpower of steel to avoid doing that … it’s a total WASTE OF TIME. I repeat, checking your unfollows on IG is the exact OPPOSITE OF A BEING BOSS MOVE. Just search for a relevant hashtag and start going through the photos and leaving comments whenever you have something to say.
9. JUST SAY NO: Spams + Scams
Grow your audience organically using the steps, tips and techniques I’ve shared with you today. There is no easy way out. Ya gotta do the work if you truly want to build a solid, loyal following and nurture client leads. Forget about buying followers, begging for shoutouts, trading likes for follows, and so on. None of that works.
10. LINKAGE: HOOK UP YOUR IG ACCOUNT TO YOUR OTHER NETWORKS
This will help your followers on other networks discover and grow your Instagram account — and proceed to follow you there, too! If you’re really feeling BOSS, make your Facebook profile public. It goes without saying that your IG profile is public, right? Because all of this will be a complete waste of time for your business if it’s not!
1. Instagram isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay
2. Instagram is like a magazine. Pick your genre. Pick your “topics”
3. Be consistent with your photos:
– Editing style: Pick 1 or 2 filters and stick with them
– Picture format: square, rectangle, borders, etc. Pick ONE
4. Use hashtags to reach the communities that are your niche demographic
– Use the EXPLORE function to find your ideal followers and the hashtags they’re using
– Use Text Replacement on your phone (this works for Android users too) to quickly access your hashtag groups. Or use the notes on your phone for ease
– Post your hashtags in a comment instead of in the caption
5. Don’t inundate your audience with selfies or any ONE TYPE or THEME of photos. Remember to mix things up (just like a magazine!) What are your hobbies? What are your interests, what do you naturally shine at? This keeps things AUTHENTIC. So for example, I post about my life as a mama, some parenting tips, health and wellness tips, recipes, inspo quotes I make myself since I’m into graphic design, etc. What DO YOU shine at?
6. Honour the importance of giving people added value. We shouldn’t just be talking about ourselves all the time! Get into the habit of posing questions at the end of your post, showing people you really care about what they think too. Added value means anything that you share with your audience in ways that informs them or enriches their lives in some way with new info or tips or ideas.
And THAT my friends concludes this session of DEEP SECRET SHARING for the week! Ha!
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