I’m sure you are familiar with (atleast I hope you are) my #WomenInBusiness series that I launched on Youtube. You can check it out here if you haven’t. Why I started this campaign is another story altogether and rather long to get into here but to sum it up minus-ing all the emotion – this is where I’ll be talking about one of my greatest passions – the business of fashion, extensively.
Today we’re talking about how to gain real Instagram followers and increasing your engagement.
This topic is obviously really close to my heart AND to my work. These are insights, discoveries and the secrets that I have gained in all these years of working and earning via Instagram. I’m aware that there are thousands out there who aspire to build a business out of this very platform and hence I decided to shell out my secrets, no holds barred. If I could contribute to your career, or your journey in this little way, I will consider my mission accomplished. Just one women in business helping another women in business out.
Without further ado, breaking it all down into points for you to understand better.
1. Find your purpose.
I think it is very important to have a purpose when you are setting up an Instagram account. What is it that you want to use your Instagram account for? What is it that you want to influence the people about? Would you like to influence the people with your fashion, art, photography, your brand, your startup or your design? What is it that you want the people to follow you for? I think this is an extremely important question that you need to sit down and ask yourself: what is your exact purpose for having this Instagram account. For example, before marriage when I was living in India full-time, my purpose was to influence people through my style, my fashion, my outfits and my lifestyle. My end goal was to become one of the top influencers in the country. But then I got married and I now live between Europe and India and I feel like my purpose has changed. Much as I still love influencing people through fashion I also have this new purpose of wanting to inspire people through my journey. I want to achieve this by talking about things that I am passionate about like gratitude, life, the business of fashion (like this particular post you’re reading right now). One more thing that has changed in my purpose is that from wanting to be one of the top influencers in my country, India, I now want to be one of the top influencers in Europe too! I feel like my purpose has definitely changed. Whether it has gotten smaller or bigger is inconsequential. What matters is that it’s given me a absolute direction in terms of what direction I would like to take my content in, my readers in, the direction I want to take in all my communications, from captions to hashtags and everything else involved. This is definitely an important step no. 1. Predefining your own purpose with yourself shall help you project it better when you build your account.
2. Focus on building a relevant audience.
I believe one must always be focused on creating an attractive and relevant audience. Not just for the sake of your own account but also for anybody else that you would be prospectively working with. This shall hold utmost importance when you’re growing your account. When you have authentic followers, they’re following you because they’re genuinely interested in knowing what you’re saying, discussing or speaking about the passion and purpose that drives your account to influence them. This audience, devoid of fake profiles you’ve picked up through apps, or random people you’ve started following, is the basis of your honest readership. It’s extremely easy to gain followers through apps that will send out mass likes, mass comments, or will do a follow to follow or give you brownie points to buy followers from. But that is not very long term because fake profiles may die out, random followers might unfollow you because these aren’t readers, they’re just onlookers that do not serve any purpose at all. Being honest is the quickest and most efficient long term solution; which is why, I cannot stress enough on the pros of gaining a good audience. How to do it? Refer to step 1! As simple as that. Do some research. A little shall go a long way in deciphering how to narrow down on the exact audience for your product, brand, blog or area of influence.
3. Differentiate yourself.
I think we can all agree that the social media universe is exploding with content, brands, influencers and tons of beautiful images. Despite all this, I still feel that there is scope to make it big, be successful and to be on the top of your game. Easiest way to achieve this is to strive to be unique and have that one factor that sets you apart from the rest, hence making all the difference at the end of the day. In my opinion, I don’t think this should be difficult at all. For instance if you are a travel photographer or a travel blogger and you travel the world and share your memories and stories with your readers then you can have this unique style of taking photos that is synonymous within all your images. This would be amazing because that’s what would set you apart. Finally, when your reader is scrolling through millions of images but comes across yours, they would be easily able to distinguish yours thanks to that one tiny factor that has made a mark on their minds. This implies that you’ve successfully built your brand, ensures recognition and brand retainment which are both indispensable to consequent growth. For example, how I try and differentiate myself from others is that I always give the background story of things; like in this post right now, I’m giving you a background story of what goes on behind Instagram. When I got married and did a virtual wedding concept around it, I took my readers behind the whole picture of glamour, fun and family. I made them a part of my journey where they could actually see how I experienced it all at from personal and emotional level as a bride firsthand. Similarly, all my blogposts are extremely personal. I believe my keeping it all extremely personal and insightful is what sets me and my content apart from the rest. Everyone is unique by default. But that uniqueness shall not manifest itself unless you’re able to translate it from thoughts and personality to action and then the readers’ perception. Finding this balance is also extremely important.
4. Give people a reason to follow you.
Everytime you put up a post put yourself in the feed of your readers and think, is this something that I would find interesting? Is this something that I would find engaging? Is this something that I would like to read or would find unique? Does this serve me in any way at all? Adhere to this and only then post. Let’s say I’m a fashion blogger who posts awesome outfits all the time and my style is adored. But what if I don’t share where the outfits are from or where my reader could buy it from? In such a scenario, my relevance and engagement immediately drop. Thus, make life easier for your reader or customer by giving them all the details of where to buy your product, or be able to purchase pieces inspired by your outfit, etc. So, you’re not only converting a reader into a prospective customer but also giving them the incentive of information to follow you on your Instagram account. You may have a brilliant idea but to be able to translate that to your reader in the form of an incentive to follow is key to retaining that reader too. Things like, I shall do a DIY every Monday, or launch a new product every Thursday or I give you a new recipe every Wednesday, or I’m going to give you a guide to the best restaurants and so forth. Make sure to give them the reason, stick to delivering it and spell it out every time you post too.
This is one of my favourite points. Why, you’d ask? Because it took me very long to abide by it and make consistency a habit more than practice. Consistency has direct results in the form of gained and retained following. You cannot go to an Instagram worthy cafe once, click a ton of different amazing pictures and make them last through the month. That makes no sense. You need to create related and relatable content constantly. If daily is daunting then allocate one or two days of the week to efficiently schedule creating and strategically planning your content. The sooner you tackle this, the more confident you shall be about what you’d like to put forth.
6. Collaborate with your community.
A great way to gain authentic followers is by collaborating with your peers and other like-minded people from the community you belong to. First, if it is a like-minded account then the category and the audience shall pretty much be similar. Second, I personally feel that I have gotten to learn a lot from collaborations with my peers. From brands that we all work with, to tools we use that could be more helpful, almost everything under the sun, but with an enriching perception of another person. Do shoots in collaboration or work together on a certain topic you share your passion about or shoot a video on a shared topic of interest or co-brand a collection! There are endless interesting ideas out there to help you engage with your peers. This not only helps in gaining followers but is also key to building a mutually healthy relationship with the other person.
7. Study your analytics.
If you’re currently reading this blogpost then I’d like to assume that you’re very serious about your Instagram account. You may also probably have a business account already. If you don’t, then it’s extremely easy to do so from the settings button on your Instagram. This has a load of advantages, so I insist that you go do it. One of the best things that Instagram business accounts offer is Instagram analytics. The analytics explain and help you understand and study your followers. From where your followers are coming to their age, gender, location, what kinds of posts they’re liking, what posts aren’t doing very well, what’s their level of engagement across your feed and so much more. This is essentially your outline to planning your content and directing the readership constructively. You can literally gauge what your readers would like to see more of and less of, helping you work on your account better.
8. Value your existing readers.
Ensure you value what you already have. I feel that in this chase to gain more new followers, we overlook the value of our already existing followers. We often forget to engage with them, which to me isn’t healthy. To avoid this, I try and reply to as many comments, messages, DMs or even mails I receive no matter how occupied and busy I am. I know that for me and my business, my readers are the most important priority for me. If I don’t respond or engage with them then it doesn’t really serve the purpose of it all. I feel like just recognising this important factor is step no. 1. Of course consequent step no. 2 is taking action to ensure that step no. 1 is adhered to. On a personal level, I know that if an account strives to ensure engagement with its readers then it knows their value as well and for that plain reason, I would follow them. It’s simple. When a reader knows that they’ll be replied to, they’re more encouraged to comment hence increasing engagement. It’s all interconnected.
This was part one in the #WomenInBusiness series. You could alternatively watch the video. Stay tuned for more in this series guys!!!