When it comes to Instagram, it seems like everyone is on the hunt for the secrets of "how to make it." I've been there before... searching high and low for the answers. However, the truth is that there is no secret. In fact, growing on Instagram and on any social media platform is quite simpler than a lot of us make it out to be. Don't get me wrong, I don't have thousands of followers, but I have something that means so much more to me... I have a community.
I'll be completely honest with you and let you know that when it comes to growing on Instagram and making it your side hustle or even career, it's not about the amount of followers you have anymore. It's all about engagement! Think about it.. if you have 10K followers, but only a few people leaving comments and engaging with your posts, the purpose behind it all goes out the door.
If you're wanting to grow on Instagram, your focus should be shifted from your following to your engagement. From building connections, allowing people to get to know YOU, and forming a community. Maintaining an engaged audience is something that takes a lot of work, patience, and dedication, but it doesn't need to be a difficult process. Here are some ways YOU can start boosting your engagement rate starting today!
1. Respond to Comments
This is probably one of the most important things when it comes to engaging on Instagram. There use to be a time where you could post a pretty photo and then put your phone down, but that just simply doesn't cut it anymore. Instagram is switching the focus to CONNECTION instead of COMPETITION, which is a major part of the whole "algorithm" fiasco. Even if you don't understand how the algorithm works (I don't think we will ever keep up with it), the best thing to do is to focus on the audience you have in front of you, growing the connections you have with them, and being a part of the community!
When you post, you want to make sure you're making TIME for these connections. It is best to respond to comments as they are coming in and be there for your audience in real time versus later that day or the next day. This will help people feel like they're actually talking to YOU and it will show that you care what others have to say. Obviously, don't just add a short "thank you" as a response to your comments, but rather you need to be YOU, be GENUINE, build CONNECTIONS, and start CONVERSATIONS!
2. Keep up with Stories
This is something that I struggled with for the longest time. I know it can be intimidating showing your face on Instagram, but what I have learned is that people want to see YOU! Yes, the curated photos on your feed are amazing and your audience loves them, but they also want to know the person behind those photos! Instagram stories give you the opportunity to do just that and share behind the scenes, your everyday life, things you are loving, your lifestyle... the list goes on! Stories give you a chance to show your REAL life and allow others to connect with you on a different level than your feed allows you to, so take advantage of that if you really want to grow your community and boost your engagement. Not only that, but Instagram stories also post in chronological order, so the more you post on your stories, the more you will show up on other people's story feeds. I don't suggest posting every minute of the day of course... you don't want to over do it, but posting a few times a day and keeping up with the stories is the way to go!
3. Engage with Other Creators
I am all about community over competition and always will be. I think there is enough room for all of us and every single one of us brings something unique to the table! That's why I believe the reason why my engagement rate has been doing pretty amazing lately is because I have shifted my focus from that follower count to nourishing and building upon my community.
Again, this doesn't work if you don't put in genuine effort. You have to be YOU, start conversations, and really engage. A lot of smaller content creators feel as though they can't engage with bigger account, but that's not true! From my personal experience, most of the bigger creators I have left comments for or even sent a DM to responded to me and we've built connections. There is room for everyone and you just have to work at finding your place, building up your community, and genuinely caring about your audience.
4. Captivate YOU in Your Captions
People want to know YOU! Those short captions like "Happy Monday" with a cute emoji just doesn't cut it anymore. Your captions give you the opportunity to show your audience who you are as a person and your heart. This is your chance to open up and let people see WHY they should be following you/your brand.
For me, I like to use "content buckets" in order to plan out the key topics I want to talk about for each post and then create my captions based off of that. It not only helps me stay organized, but it allows me to plan out what I want to share with my audience better than just hopping on the app and typing a random caption. I get to plan out what I want to say, put thought into it, and really try to connect with my audience!
5. Don't Skip on Hashtags
Some people love hashtags and some people really don't like them. I use to be one of the latter, but I realized it was only because I wasn't being STRATEGIC with my hashtags. I didn't exactly know how to use them and which ones I should be using. After some research, I can say that I absolutely LOVE hashtags now and add them to every post I post in the comments sections (this gives your post a cleaner look).
Here are a couple tips when it comes to using hashtags:
1.) Use smaller hashtags. My rule of thumb is to avoid hashtags that have over 300K or more uses because the higher the number, the more likely my post will get buried and stay unseen.
2.) Don't use random hashtags. Make sure the hashtags you are using actually correspond to your post. For example, if you're posting an "outfit of the day" type of post, don't use #travelblogger. Instagram can recognize this and it will only hurt your post in the end.
3.) Use local hashtags. The more you use hashtags based on your location, the more likely you are to find other people who are in the same community as you as well as local opportunities to take part in. For instance, if you lived in Chicago, you wouold want to make sure to add #chicagoblogger or #chicagocontentcreator. This will help you grow your community and find people you can connect with!
What it comes down to, is being YOU! Don't worry about that number above "following" on your Instagram anymore. Instead, focus your attention on showing your audience WHO you are and what you have to offer. The more you focus on this, the more people will WANT to follow you and become a part of your community. Just be YOU, create amazing content, and the rest will fall in line! You got this!
In the mean time, you can also find me here:
Pinterest: Becca Isdale