When it comes to Instagram, it’s easy to obsess over the algorithm, whether you’re a brand new creator or you’ve been using the platform since its 2010 launch.
After all, that pesky algo is always changing. From originally prioritizing a chronological feed, to posts only being shown to a small percentage of your followers, to now having the luxury of both a “following” and “favorites” feed, it’s hard to keep up.
That’s why you should turn your focus to something more important—building an amazing community on Instagram.
The algorithm can be altered more times than you have hot dinners, but once you have a community of followers who love your content, their loyalty is forever.
Keep reading to learn how to create lasting connections on such a fast-evolving platform, with tips from creators who know best.
Want to focus on building your community without stressing about getting hacked?
Learn about Notch's Instagram insurance for creators
Being consistent with your content posting builds the foundation of community growth. Make a plan according to your weekly schedule and commitments, and stick to it.
You can use scheduling tools like Later to help you do this.
“I post on Instagram at 8pm everyday, and I like to have my content nicely prepared. But there are days where I’m too busy, and don’t have time to prepare anything in advance. So it gets to 8pm, and I throw something together, write down a caption quickly, and publish. Those have been some of my best posts, going way more viral than the ones I spent 3 hours thinking about and perfecting! So hold yourself accountable to your content schedule and try not to overthink things”.
You wouldn’t ignore someone when they’re trying to talk to you in real life so try not to do it online. In other words, reply to as many comments and DMs as you can.
This may be easier said than done if you have thousands of interactions. However, being proactive by engaging one-on-one with your audience is essential, according to Kumba @wholeheartedsocial.
This deepens and strengthens the relationships you have with individual users, building trust.
Trust is the magic ingredient to success when you’re cooking up the best community on Instagram. If your ideal follower trusts you, they’re more likely to continue engaging with your content for the long term.
Plus, if you're already in a position to work with brands on sponsored content, research shows that 76% of consumers are more receptive to brand ads if they trust the account. Ultimately, this leads to an increased number of successful brand campaigns and opportunities later on down the line.
Katie @trendytouristuk claims: “If you don’t engage with other people’s Instagram content, don’t expect them to engage with yours.”
She continues, “It works both ways not just with your followers but potential followers too.”
Let’s face it, it’s called “social” media for a reason. To build a community of like-minded people, you have to become part of the conversation.
Katie suggests searching hashtags in your niche for content and profiles that are similar to yours. You can also use Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 strategy where you leave “your personal .02 cents” on the “top 9 trending Instagram posts” for 10 relevant hashtags.
The idea is that you don’t end up just leaving .02 cents, but $1.80 of value across Instagram in your respective industry. This can help you build a name for yourself across the platform, generating interest from more users and resulting in more profile views.
It’s super important to “find your people” on Instagram.
Actually seek out your dream audience, whether it’s on the Explore pages or through your followers. Then follow people and interact with their content consistently so that they remember you.
Although it takes courage to put yourself out there, it’s worth it. Kylie @ohmymummy co-runs a parenting and small business community, and by following relevant creators she's been able to attract more members and get valuable feedback.
One of her top tips for community building is not to think of similar creators as competition: “Make real connections and support like-minded creators in your niche.”
Don’t just follow these creators but converse with them through comments and even DMs. Lorraine explains: “Many can become great friends and your biggest cheerleaders!”
Reaching out to influencers in particular and growing friendships can drive their followers to your profile.
You might be interested in: Instagram hacked: What to do if someone breaks into your account
Sharing the content of other creators is one of the simplest ways to kickstart a positive, long-lasting relationship.
Lorraine @lilliaserendesigns says, “I support other designers by commenting on and sharing their work, which often results in them reciprocating.”
That’s just the psychology of human beings, after all. If someone does you a favor, you naturally want to repay their kindness. For Instagram creators, if a user shares their content, their natural instinct is to reshare.
Katie @trendytouristuk highlights another example of this in action: “There have been Story chains where you share a creator's post in your Story. You then ‘pass this on’ by acknowledging the creator who tagged you and then tagging another creator to invite them to join the chain.”
The idea is to spread awareness of other creator accounts that you follow in the hope that you can leverage each other’s audience to enhance your own community.
If you already have a community on Youtube, Twitter, or TikTok, post about your Instagram account regularly to encourage more follows and interaction.
The nature of social media is that once you’ve gained a loyal supporter on one platform, they’ll follow you on every platform they’re signed up to.
Consider the following:
Oh, and don’t overlook captions or video descriptions! These are the perfect place to drop your handle to drive those who don’t already follow you to your Insta profile.
Your caption is valuable real estate on your Instagram profile. It’s essentially the first impression you may make with a potential new follower, and a way to communicate with your ideal audience in text form.
Helen @honestlyhelen advises against “writing an essay in the caption that people can’t be bothered to read.” Instead, she recommends “making your caption fit the picture.”
It’s all about adding value to your visuals and sparking an online conversation through a Call-To-Action, such as a:
“My best tip would be to make sure you have questions in the caption of your posts,” says Tamsyn @tamsynx.
Catherine, Instagram manager for her husband @tommytiktok88, who has 1.7 million followers across Instagram and TikTok, agrees. They mostly post videos from her husband’s account so she adds: “Asking a question from a video generates comments and I always take the time to like and reply to these comments.”
A CTA is pointless if you’re not going to respond when your followers do what you ask, especially when it comes to questions.
Try to have back-and-forth with your followers because it can really enhance the relationship and make them feel cared for. If they feel cared for, they will continue to care back.
Videos are essential for creating a stronger relationship with your audience instead of just a surface-level connection.
The best thing about videos is that they’re more personal, especially if you show your face. Showing your face allows your followers to get to know you as if you were friends in real life.
If you don’t like showing your face often, using your voice and focusing on audio-based content has a similar effect.
The intimacy of Stories means you can talk to your current followers one-on-one, which can consequently drive views, likes, and DMs. For this reason, Catherine @tommytiktok88 has been focusing on posting stories more frequently since the last algorithm change and has started to notice increased engagement.
Above all, it’s important to be yourself in any video or audio content you create.
“Authenticity is the first step [to community building on Instagram]”, says Angela @imamusaller. If you’re not being genuine, other creators will pick up on this and—ultimately—you’ll struggle to grow your account.
Taking the time and effort to build a community on Instagram is worthwhile for two main reasons:
1. It protects you (to a degree) against any changes in the algorithm.
2. Having the foundation of a strong community helps set you up for success when it comes to creating high-impact branded content and earning revenue from your content.
Plus, a big bonus is the fact that you get to converse with like-minded people online every day that may end up becoming offline friends too.
When you have a strong community, you also own a valuable asset. It’s important to be aware that hackers frequently target such assets and steal Instagram accounts, often holding the owners to a ransom. Unfortunately, when this happens, Instagrammers are usually left on their own with no real solution. That’s why we created Notch - the first insurance for Instagram creators against hacks.
We help ensure your account is as protected as possible, and pay you every day for up to 90 days if you do get hacked. At the same time, we work night and day to retrieve your account so you can get back to creating content ASAP.
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