Some say that the secret to reaching record numbers of Instagram followers is mastering the social platform’s hidden tools and latest features. Uhm well, not entirely. The truth is much simpler yet harder to grasp.
The truth is that there are no secrets.
Only the secrets that stem from your audience.
It might sound trivial, but understanding how your Instagram followers think, act and what they want is the most vital thing in social media marketing. Without these insights, no tactic, tool or feature is going to save you, no matter how cool, fresh or exciting it might be.
Let me stress that again: truly understanding your Instagram followers is the secret to great marketing.
That means building a followers-first strategy, rooted in real insights and behaviours. It also means leaving your brand-ego aside and recognizing that no matter how beautiful-amazing-extraordinary your product is, that doesn’t mean anything. Instead, what means everything is how beautiful-amazing-extraordinary your Instagram followers are.
Here are 10 things they wished you knew.
1. Instagram followers don’t owe you anything. Attention must be earned.
The first thing your Instagram followers wished you knew is that they simply don’t care about your offer. At least not yet. Sure, you have an incredible product. But so does your competitor. And your competitor’s competitor. And guess who else? A dozen others.
Even if your service/product is unique, it still doesn’t mean your Instagram followers are under any obligation of falling to their knees in praise. Especially when they – surprisingly – managed to survive without it their entire lives.
To have your Instagram followers recognize just how valuable your (personal) brand is, you must tread carefully and put in the effort to win their attention. That means creating thoughtful, relevant and useful content that answers real needs. It also means putting in the extra creative effort to surprise them with original postings and stories.
2. Followers can see right through stale marketing talk. Show, don’t tell.
I know you’re eager to tell the entire world just how great your brand is. Word of advice: reconsider. Boasting about it, especially if you decide to use buzz-words, will get you the opposite effect of what you were aiming for.
Instagram followers react to authenticity and engage with brands that transpire genuine care for their needs. To earn their trust, you must up your copywriting game. Create meaningful content. Post videos that offer a broader background. Share your knowledge. Decipher new ways to prove that your brand is an answer to a question they’ve been asking for a long time.
3. To win hearts, build a community. It’s a long-term commitment.
There’s an African proverb that says that it takes a village to raise a child. Likewise, it takes a community of Instagram followers to build a brand. That’s because an audience that’s united by the same values will become your most avid promoter.
To build a tightly-knit community, include in your strategy tactics of interactions that help your Instagram followers engage with one and other. Help yourself by helping them connect. For example, you can use Instagram fundraisers to gather people around causes they care about and fuse them into a community.
4. Instagram followers are the jealous type. Speak to them directly.
I keep saying “Instagram followers”, but you should think about each individually. Sure, they’re connected by similar views, values and motivations. However, each one feels unlike anybody else. Each wants to be heard and addressed directly.
When a user, let’s call him or her or them Andy, enters Instagram, it’s their world. Andy looks for thrills, for entertainment, for a way to wash the day off their minds. So what meaningful story do you have for Andy? What trick can you use to ease Andy’s worried mind after a day’s work? Seize the moment and speak to Andy through comments or DMs or tags. Make Andy feel heard.
5. Comments are trusted more than captions. Reply.
Maybe you have been born with writing skills that would have made even Shakespeare torment himself with envy. However, if you spend all your writer’s zest on captions and ignore the comments section, you won’t get very far.
The comments section is where opinions are made or broken. Pay close attention to what your Instagram followers say and how. Make sure you write back and get the conversation going. By actively participating with comments, you’ll be able to stir the discussion in the right direction, eliminate confusions and earn trust.
6. Everybody wants your Instagram followers’ time. Offer them yours.
In our day and age, the most valuable commodity is time. Better said: time plus attention. Everybody wants a big piece of this delicious combo. And you should create content with this thought in mind. If you think that by posting a story or promoting a post you’ve done your job, think again.
To win your Instagram’s followers time, you must offer yours in return. Get to know them, pin-point their troubles, needs, what makes them happy and offer content attuned to these insights. Your followers will appreciate a thoughtful, relevant post and remember you for it, even if it doesn’t mention your product at all.
7. Followers are not looking to buy anything. They seek stories.
How many times have you opened Instagram and thought to yourself: “Ah, I can’t wait for a brand to sell me something?!” Yeah. Same goes for your Instagram followers. The time they spend on Insta is their “me-time”. A blissful procrastination moment (or one full hour) in which they simply want to unwind and be entertained.
There’s no faster way to lose your followers than by regularly posting out-of-context “shop now” content. I know that your main goal is to sell, but take a step back and look at the bigger picture. To convert, you need to be creative and attract your Instagram followers into a narrative. Use Instagram stories to stay top of mind, but make them relevant and memorable. Sure, the “shop now” CTA should appear at some point, but it should only be the “…and they lived happily ever after” to your story.
8. Instagram followers need to be seen just as much as you.
Remember Andy from a couple of paragraphs above? Andy’s what you’d typically call an ego-centric follower. Full disclosure, all Instagrammers are narcissists to a bigger or smaller extent. They want the likes, the comments and the engagement just as much as you do. So, while you’re busy gathering appraisals, don’t forget to also turn the spotlight on all the Andy’s in your audiences.
Use quizzes, stickers, questions and whatever else you can to get your Instagram followers seen. Contests are the perfect way to make them feel special and, the more creative the dare, the bolder the result.
9. You’re unique, that’s cool. But what’s in it for your Instagram followers?
This is the good old case of “benefits, not features”. Even if you’ve cracked the numbers and you’ve blown your own mind realizing just how fantastic your business is, don’t forget others haven’t calculated its awesomeness. And they’re not keen to.
Instead, you need to translate your superb features into a story that highlights the benefits. That’s the only way Instagram followers will pay any attention to you. They need to understand precisely how your business can help them. Use the visual power of Instagram to show them the benefits. Use Instagram stories to create snippets of real-life situations. Create an Instagram Live and dig deeper. Use the tools, but make sure that you’re guided by the right reasons.
10. It’s not about you. It’s about them.
By now you must have taken the hint. The fastest way to building a strong brand on Instagram as a business is by focusing on your Instagram followers. Whatever you do, start with their needs in mind. Sure, you want to sell more stuff on Black Friday, but why would they buy? Answer yourself that, and your job will be half done.
Take some time
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