If you’ve ever chatted with me (including social media feeds) you know I have a heart to help small business. With 14 years and counting in the fashion and retail industry, I have been fortunate enough to experience nearly every aspect of process. Obviously, my passion is styling but I do have an extensive understanding of most of the major components of a successful fashion brand and small business. BIZ101 is a new series to the blog featuring tips and how-to’s for growing your brand, whether product or lifestyle.
If you ever want to chat, I’m happy to listen! Shoot me an email at orders [at] tothemoonkids [dot] com to see what we can do to help you grow.
Anyway, one of the questions I get the most is usually ‘how to grow on instagram.’ How can instagram help me grow my business? How do I network on instagram? Instagram, instagram, instagram! Sounds like Facebook made a smart purchase. While it is still believed that Facebook is where you need to have a presence, Instagram really is revolutionizing the way small entrepreneurial types get their brand directly in front of their customers. How do I know? Because I’m currently watching my IG feed grow at a 12% compounded weekly increase with hardly any effort on my end. Who am I? Just a stay at home mommy blogger with a small handmade business. That business is growing rapidly, and I owe the majority of that to Instagram.
The Three Methods
From my experience and personal opinion–I’ve done a bit of research, but am not an expert in any way–growing organically on Instagram breaks down into three methodologies: Organic Networking, Giveaways/Promotions, and The Hashtag. This segment is all about…
Organic Networking – Instagram is like a social mixer—do you want to speed date or find that true someone?
The Instagram community is all about that, community. People want to be seen and feel like they are heard. Get to know your target market! For me its parents, specifically moms, who appreciate fashion with an emphasis on handmade, homeschooling, and faith-based living. So you won’t see me commenting and interacting too much on accounts that don’t share those interests. This does not, however, mean you should be fake. While ALL social media outlets represent a curated snapshot into someone’s life, I’m never dishonest or fake with my interactions. People can tell when you are, and even if you can fake it–I personally would rather grow with people who know the real me vs. people that are just there for me to fill them with fluff. Not my cup of tea.
I do recommend: Finding accounts with similar interests and interacting with them (following, commenting, and liking their photos). Check out those same accounts following and followers lists. I guarantee you will find people that you will want to connect with. Don’t be afraid to comment and interact with them! PS – Private accounts are private for a reason! This is also where the #hashtag can come in handy. Exploring photos via the # gives you a very focused result. So while utilizing hashtags is methodology of its own, exploring IG via hashtags helps you find exactly what you are looking for. On the flip side, take time to respond when someone comments on your posts as much as you can. However–this is not a scalable practice! I’m sorry, its just not. As much as I want to respond to everyone, and I do try—comments will get lost. See below for more on that. And lastly, be patient. While you can explode overnight–and let’s be honest–if you did, would you be ready for it? Let your IG grow…organically.
When I come across a shop or IG influencer that I want to work with or just support, I always make sure that I follow them, like some of their media and comment where applicable. That way, when and if I email them, they may have some recollection of prior interaction.
I DO NOT recommend: Following people just to get them to follow you back. There’s no substance to this. As I mentioned above, do not be fake. People can totally sense that. If you have to force a comment, then you’re probably better off waiting until you can comment on something that is genuine. I say this in reference purely to growth–there will be times where giveaways/contests/etc require you to comment, in which case, that is totally up to you and that is more of a personal IG thing not necessarily growing your account. I also do not recommend BUYING your followers. Again–where’s the substance? Just because you can pay for likes or use apps to generate your likes, how does that help if it doesn’t get your posts circulating in your desired demographic? Instagram is based on algorithms, the more focused you can be with your posting, tagging and interactions–the more your posts will circulate in those same explore pools.
And on that note, their algorithm is pretty right on. My explore feed never leaves me hanging. I always find a new account to follow and strike up conversation with.
A Few Take Aways…
- Instagram can not be your main form of communication! Even if you are using a web based client, like Iconosquare, to help you maintain sorting through your comments and interactions, when you have 5k, 10k, 100k followers–comments will be lost in the magnitude. I am, by no means ‘huge’ (yet ;), on Instagram, but I miss comments all the time! And it’s not intentional, I just don’t see them. Don’t be offended if someone doesn’t comment back or acknowledge your response. If you really need an answer, most profiles have their email address listed. I suggest sending an email.
- Instagram is not the place to complain/call out a business on their IG feed. If you have an inquiry or issue with your order, give that shop the courtesy of an email and the chance to resolve things before you just call them out in a public manner. And if they don’t respond on IG if you do this, then refer back to number 1. IG shops are usually one man/woman shows, that’s a lot of hats to wear as one person. And I guarantee you, since you are working with a real person, they will do what they can to remedy the situation and make you a happy customer, you just have to give them a chance. I would also suggest that if you want to work with a shop or blogger, giveaway sponsors, product reviews, etc, that you should email them directly. Do not ask these types of questions on their feeds. Because when the side effects of number 1 happen, it makes the shop/IGer look like they are ignoring you…and in most cases, they aren’t. However, if you have emailed, waited, and had no luck with response – then I do believe that social media is an appropriate outlet to try and get someone’s attention and it usually works. No body wants negative attention.
- Instagram is a visual marketplace. Your content should be captivating and compelling–without overgramming. You want your feed to be a curated snapshot of your business or if you are a blogger, your life style. It is far better to have 1-2 posts a day that are captivating, than 12 that are chaotic and will probably trigger people to unfollow you. Put into perspective that some of your followers are only following a few hundred accounts—so if you are ‘gramming something every 15 minutes–you are doing to drown that person’s feed. A few of my favorite IG feeds that are perfect examples are:
Curated Product Dominant
@SnapBibs – Not only does Katie know how to produce excellent product photography, her entire IG feed is compelling without being overwhelming. And guys, she’s taking ‘essentially’ the same photo every day. But–they are captivating, no? When you are posting think about your IG as a whole, what will your feed look like when someone see’s your profile–on their laptop? iPad? phone?
Streamlined Lifestyle Dominant
@KenziePoo – Rachelle has a very clean and modern aesthetic to her feed, which I love. As Editor-in-Chief of LaPetite Magazine, it is clear she knows how to curate her style for her followers in a way that is engaging and relevant to both her career and personal life. It’s not just all about the magazine, but she has a wonderful balance of daily living, behind the scenes, and of course, style.
Balanced Lifestyle + Product
@RileyClayDesigns – Not as planned and curated as the above two accounts–and that’s a good thing–definitely well done. RileyClay’s feed is the perfect blend of life accounts and behind the scenes from owner Nicole, product happenings and relative lifestyle/inspirational posts. There’s not too much of any one thing going on, and there’s tons of lifestyle relevant photos of people rocking their brand. You can browse thru quickly and know what they are selling, and who they are as company. Mission accomplished.