Instagram is seriously the real-deal if you sell any sort of product-- not only is is SUPER easy to use (just upload a photo and jot down a quick note!), but it also serves as a sort of extension of your shop-- you're giving people the opportunity to see your product in more than one ways-- which is GREAT for sales.
Gaining followers is easy enough (albeit tedious in those early days!), but creating an engaged community? That's the hard part. It's absolutely crucial-- because an engaged following means you have fans that will buy your stuff. No engagement? You're going to have a lot harder time selling. Today I'm sharing 6 key pointers on how to get YOUR Instagram community engaged + ridiculously excited for what YOU have to offer.
1 | STUDY YOUR FOLLOWERS
Whether you have 50 followers or 5,000, a quick study of your followers can give you some super-key insights into gaining a more engaged following.
If you’re unsure where to start, Iconosquare (www.iconosquare.com) is a FANTASTIC place to start. They offer plans for approximately $5/month (seriously— it’s even cheaper if you get a yearly subscription!) and have super key insights including:
- Measuring your follower growth
- Daily visual of gained + lost followers
- Top follower analytics
- Geographical location indentifyers
- Compare + contrast posts’ performance in real-time
- Keep track of likes + comments
- Measurements of hashtag performance
- Track your competitors
One of the BEST features about Iconosquare is that they analyze your audience engagement in reference to the times you post per day (+ can do so for your competitors, too!). Take a look at the example below:
The above photo shows us that the account featured has HUGE engagement mid-day (12:00 p.m. being optimal), early in the week (Monday + Tuesday). Not only is that great information to know about our audience, but it can also help us plan our Instagram content strategically. For example, we now know to:
- Launch new products + promotions early in the week for optimal exposure
- Focus energy into creating content during the weekdays vs. weekends
- Schedule Instagram posts to go out around 12:00 p.m. everyday
Iconosquare also has a million other features that can help you get your Instagram game in gear and start marketing strategically and effectively instead of by the seat of your pants (#guilty).
2 | COMMENT ON THEIR PHOTOS + ACCOUNTS
There is nothing more discouraging then posting some super cool new content only to have it flop in terms of engagement with your audience. While part of this can be traced back to the time of day or day of the week (use Iconosquare to track this), sometimes it’s as simple as a disconnect from your audience.
Whenever I find that my Instagram photos are seeing decreased engagement, I schedule out about 15 minutes a few times a week to comment + like photos from my followers. By letting them know that I care about their lives and the photos they are posting, it kind of creates a chain reaction and they’ll start commenting back on my photos.
I’ve also noticed that being that “first comment” is always the hardest— and the comments will start flowing once that initial comment has been added. One way to work around this is to join a social media boosting group (you can find them on Facebook) and partner up with some other small business owners to exchange likes + comments on each other’s Instagram posts. I’ve found this to be really helpful because (for whatever reason) people are much apt to like something once they’ve seen that someone else does to. Human psychology hack for the win!
3 | ASK QUESTIONS + KEEP THE CONVERSATION GOING
One of the main things I try to hit home when discussing Instagram strategy with other handmade shop owners is that you need a CTA (call to action) in EVERY. SINGLE. POST.
It almost seems annoying to think about (after all, if people are interested in your products shouldn’t they be exercising the initiative to click through and buy?!) but one thing I’ve learned over the course of DOZENS of Instagram promotions is that people WANT to be told what to do.— and I don’t mean that in a controlling sort of way! Simply put, it’s a mental thing. It doesn’t mean that your follower is going to immediately convert into a paying customer, but it DOES mean that you’ve planted the idea in their head and it’s now something that they’ve taken time to consider.
Things that make CTA’s more effective:
- Urgency (if customers think there is a limited amount of time to act, they’re much more likely to pounce on the offer quickly so they won’t miss out)
- Inclusion (it’s natural human tendency to want to be included, whether it’s a webinar, a group chat, or a Facebook group)
- VIP (People like to think that they’re special (I know I do!) so using phrasing like “VIP” or “Elite” will convey a sense of exclusivity that can bring people to take action).
Just a note: “Link in Profile!” and “New Item in Shop” are NOT CTA’s and NOT effective at converting into sales. #endrant
4 | RESPOND TO ALL COMMENTS
Instagram is a social media platform, so it’s important to remember to be social! Unless you have a gazillion followers (and if you do, please share your secrets!), you should have the time to respond to EVERY comment. Taking the time to acknowledge personal comments shows your audience that you are there to build a community with them + care about what they have to say. Plus, it makes wanting to comment on your posts that much easier because they know you’ll take the time to read them :)
Once you really start to use hashtags, you’ll probably start to notice a few comments here and there that are clearly “spam” or are so generic that the person posting them has probably posted that same comment a million times already. These are not necessarily comments you need to respond to, but if you click through to their profile and they actually look like a good fit (hey, it happens!), then definitely take the time to respond.
5 | USE HASHTAGS STRATEGICALLY
I feel like every article I read up on about Instagram encourages using hashtags and even tells you how many to use— but they never tell you exactly how to find them, or what to even be looking for in the first place!
Here’s the thing: If you sell on Etsy, then your first thoughts for hashtags are probably something like this:
#etsyshop #etsypreneur #etsysuccess #etsyfinds #handmade
And while none of those hashtags are inherently bad, they’re not targeting your ideal audience— AKA the people you want to buy your product :)
You need to be using hashtags to find the people that you WANT to find you— not just other Etsy sellers trying to make a name for themselves on Instagram (because let’s face it—only other Etsy sellers search for the hashtags I listed above! Customers aren’t looking for an only #etsy item— they have a specific item in mind).
Say, for example, that you sell nursery art. Instead of listing all of your favorite Etsy/handmade hashtags, try to think of what your target market (ie- a new mom-to-be) might be using + searching for (because, yes, people use hashtags to search for products!). Your hashtag list could look something like this:
#nurseryart #nurseryinspiration #newmomma #pregnant #nurserywallart #interiordesign #wallart
I try to think of hashtags like regular “tags” on Etsy— and phrases you use should describe your product, and you should use a mix of general + niche specific ones. Also, be sure to leave your hashtags in a comment, as opposed to in your caption. It looks a lot cleaner + less spammy if they are hidden in your comments (+ they’ll get buried in no time!)
It’s also important to note that you must be quick about adding hashtags to you photos— you’ve only got a couple of minutes (at best) for your photos to appear at the top of the Instagram grid, so use those moments wisely and get as many views as you possibly can with a quick comment of your hashtags. I keep a list of my relevant hashtags in a note app on my iPhone and just do a quick “copy + paste” after I post each photo. Easy peasy and super fast!
6 | BE YOU!
A cheesy tip, to be sure, but an important one :) If you want to have any kind of success on Instagram, ditch the corporate jargon + horrid stock photography and just be real. It is SO much easier to follow a human being (even if it’s under a company Instagram account) than an abstract, face-less company.
When I first started my LittleHighbury Instagram account, I was absolutely OBSESSED with sounding as professional as possible (after all, no one would want to buy from a company that was clearly "human," right?)-- I would write and rewrite and rewrite my captions over and over again so that they were absolutely pristine.
Guess what? They were also boring.
Boring enough that even I found them a bit dull to read through. You couldn't see my personality or the personality behind the company because I was too busy trying to hide behind professional jargon. Ask my how well that went over (hint: it didn't).
So my advice to you today? DON'T DO THAT!
Is your brand bubbly + full of personality? Then your posts should be, too! Don’t hold back from your audience— let them see the real you and they will love you all the more for it.