When it comes to social media, audience is everything. Below we're breaking down how to build a strong Instagram community comprised of members that will engage around your content and feel strongly about your brand. Also known as high quality followers.
Get out your notepads!
Gangs of the 'gram.
While Instagram is a strong brand vehicle on the brink of becoming a monetizing channel, one highly important and often overlooked factoid remains: the app was built on the premise of community. To maximize this consumer touch point, members of your audience should be observed as your community. The sisters in your sorority. The neighbors in your 'hood. The members of your club... You get it.
Regarding your Instagram account as a place where your fans can congregate around your brand is the key to not only attracting high quality followers, but retaining them as well. Treating it like a transactional one-way street is doing yourself a disfavor. There are a lot of things you can do content-wise to ensure that you're pumping out great, representative images, but today we're going to focus on core Instagram efforts to help you foster an engaged audience. Because without it, you're just another blip in a sea of 500 million users 😳.
Come Together Right Now
To build a community of folks that care deeply about your brand, whether you're a publication or selling something, the number one way to get people to love you is to forge an emotional connection with them. Once feelings are involved, you have to learn to nurture that relationship, just like real humans would.
But first, you need to attract the people that will eventually become smitten with you. You can't work on a relationship prior to finding a partner, duh. You'll find two sections below: gain and retain. Together, these two points will encompass the foundation of the community you're looking to create, aka any Instagram account's raison d'être.
Give me a C! Give me an O! Give me an M! And so on...
Building a strong community begins with attracting members. I mean, how else would it go down? In order to woo followers who will become active members of your audience and engage around your content - aka high quality followers - you need to be proactive. Discovery is a great Instagram functionality, but it can only get you so far. Start adding new members to your community now by trying the following.
- Use popular hashtags.
I know what you're thinking. Hashtags are such a faux pas 🙄. Think again, my comrades, for they are not. As a matter of fact, they're a pretty darn excellent way to get noticed. There are a ton of great ones that revolve around each particular Instagram niche. Find them to maximize your exposure and to save yourself the embarrassment of using #instacool.
Here's what you need to do: first, research which quality hashtags pertain to your industry, but resist the temptation of the widespread. If a hashtag seems to be getting a heavy load of traction, there's no point in using it if it's doesn't relate to your content. Your goal is to acquire followers that will be interested in your posts, which is important to bear in mind when determining which pound signs to service.
Once you've done the field work, it's time to apply your findings. Relevant hashtags inside your caption is ok (no more than 5 though), using all of them in there is beyond gauche. Instead, create a hashtag cloud to insert in the first comment under your caption. You have an allowance of 30 hashtag spots. Use it wisely.
- Create a custom hashtag.
If your account is already a decent size, consider creating your very own unique hashtag. This works best if your engagement rates are high, or if you're peddling a product, but it can also be used to spread your brand message (Outdoor Voices does this with #DoingThings). A custom hashtag can not only bring more exposure to your account, especially if users are adding it to their caption, but it can also encourage your audience (aka customers) to use it and tag you. This is a prime way to expose your brand to different audiences and to reap UGC in the process 👊.
For example, Frye asks their consumers to use the hashtag #InMyFrye when posting images of their shoes. It's a win-win-win: it yields more impressions, thus expanding their brand equity, all while reaching their followers' audiences and igniting in them the desire to connect with the brand.
- Engage in the community.
A lot of people are very forgetful of Instagram's primary purpose: to connect with users and form a community where people who have similar points of interest can exchange. If you're looking to gain brand equity, being actively involved in various Instagram circles is a fail-proof way the get discovered by users.
Spread the love by abundantly dispensing double taps, leave comments on posts you find particularly compelling and answer the ones you receive on yours, return the follows, create ties, feature content from other users and #regram your UGC. The opportunities are endless, just make sure you do it tastefully while staying within the bounds of your brand voice (more on that later).
- Use influencer marketing.
The ultimate secret to building an audience is to be exposed to another user's followers. It's no wonder influencer marketing became ubiquitous. The stuff cool peeps hawk is deemed cool by association, it's the nature of the beast. The more influential people are mentioning your company, the more awareness it will garner.
That said, there are a few ground rules to examine before hiring an important instagrammer, as they can cost you a pretty penny these days. When choosing the right influencer to push your product, evaluate your goals and devise a strategy. Consider micro-influencers instead of going for the power behemoth - not only are they more affordable, but they're also a better bang for your buck: their engagement rates are sometimes more than double those who are more well known.
Finally, riddle yourself this: what are impressions worth if they're not quality impressions? You want your dollars to get you conversions, not just eyeballs.
- Make your gallery attractive.
Ok you guys, this is an important one. You can draw in a follower with a hashtag, by engaging with them, or via influencer marketing, but unless you have an aesthetically pleasing grid under your bio, good luck converting anyone 💁. Once a potential follower lands on your profile, it's critical to compel them to hit follow. One way to do that is to post images that have visual continuity. This can be achieved with killer editing tools, as well as by sticking to a content strategy.
Once you have all those high quality followers within your audience, prioritizing their retention is of utmost importance, obviously. Here's how you can do that.
- Find your voice.
Would you be friends with someone who is devoid of personality? Didn't think so. Your voice is your brand's personality, and it should run through your account's veins. It will help you develop your narrative and sharpen your visual storytelling abilities, two things that make for a strong gallery.
Drawing your audience in with a captivating flow of content is what this social platform is all about, but it's important to remember that authenticity, or appearance thereof, is crucial to survival. Failing to telegraph your company's Insta persona or coming off as forced will likely stump your growth.
For example, Reformation developed a cheeky brand of humor that's fun, authoritative, and reverts back to their brand mission 👇.
- Get to know your followers and engage with them.
As a brand on Instagram, it's your responsibility to treat the medium as not only a marketing conduit, but as as customer incubator as well. This is the first time in history where companies are granted direct access to their target market. Not making the most of that is a missed opportunity, to say the least. Engaging with your audience and harboring a community on the 'Gram is essential to your efforts paying off. The proof? Take Glossier and Everlane, two brands that have understood and unlocked the power of a social media community.
To forge those connections is to strike marketing gold. Once the members of your community have feelings for you, their bond with your company strengthens. These relationships will lead to higher engagement, and eventually, loyal customer conversions. It's imperative to get to know your followers to be able to tug at their heartstrings and give them what they want.
- Post quality content.
This point is multifaceted because quality content manifests in a multitude of ways on IG. There's the aesthetic component we mentioned earlier, an imperative element to master when looking to gain new followers. Your gallery needs to be pleasing to the eye as a whole to get folks to both tap follow on your profile and keep them around. Honing in on a cohesive look that visually ties your content together will make people feel FOMO if they leave you.
Being aesthetically concerned can make or break you on Instagram, but you should also be maintaining a tight content strategy - the why, the who, the where, the reason for all of your efforts. How can you reach your target market without a content strategy? Exactly.
Determine various content pillars that contribute to your brand narrative and that will take your audience onto your brand journey. Your posts need to telegraph what you're about and let users know almost immediately if they're interested in following you or not. Once they're locked in, you have to ensure that every single post is literally a high quality image. Nothing blurry, good lighting, on-brand pics. Your posts have to visually captivate your followers to keep them coming back for more.
- Bring value.
One of the most important things you want to do with your content is show your audience that it's worthwhile to follow you. Offering value with your posts is an almost fail-proof way to keep users interested, whether you're a publisher, a retailer or a service provider.
For example, the smart folks over at Vanity Fair have built an Instagram account that is equal parts informational and aspirational. Meanwhile, they're staying true to their publisher roots and redirecting their followers to their website with breaking news 👇.
- Stay focused.
You've collected and produced all of your quality content, but beware! One moment of weakness can lead you astray. Stick to the path: remaining on topic is paramount to Instagram success. While bringing value to your audience, you also want to be relevant to your niche. People are following your account because they are interested in the area in which you operate. Don't let them down by veering off-subject.
- Stay Consistent.
In order for your community to get well-acquainted with you, it's important to be visible. While you shouldn't be spammy and over-post, getting in front of your peeps at least once a day is necessary if you wish to remain on their radar. In this day and age, the balance is tough to strike, but a good rule of thumb is no less than once a day, no more than three. A content drought should be a non-issue with a solid strategy in place.
A great way to guarantee consistency and frequency is to plan your content ahead of time. The Dash Hudson scheduler is an awesome tool that allows you to program your posts and turn them into traffic drivers. Preparing a content calendar will help you execute your strategy, make your life easier, and best of all, enable you to preview the overall aesthetic of your gallery before hitting publish. This is a no-brainer.
- Use a CTA.
Few things are as powerful as a call-to-action in this life. They're a great way to make your followers feel like they're involved with your brand, and they're a way for you to be an authority over them - which they like, btw. It's important to keep your narrative and visual story in mind when giving your audience direction. Use this tactic. It works.
For example, Revolve is using a CTA in the caption of this post while providing their followers with value (showcasing holiday dresses on sale). We'll bet they sold a lot of those frocks 👇.
When it comes down to it, the most important thing to remember about Instagram is that there is no one size fits all way to go about things. What works for one company might not work for another. As long as you've devised a strong content strategy and are executing it accordingly, Instagram success should be at your finger tips. Put these pointers into action through trial and error, and go for the gold ✨.