They say find your tribe and love them hard and this rings so true. Building your community is THE most crucial part of your success on an online platform. You need to build trust and loyalty with your followers and always provide value!
In my last post I shared with you how to push your creative boundaries + write meaningful captions and how to collaborate with brands + my free media kit, and the response has been incredible!
Now the next step is identifying your niche and building an online community that will support you along the way. You can check out the fourth part in the series about growing your blog and email list.
HOW TO FIND YOUR NICHE OR PILLARS
The first thing I tell people when they ask me how to grow online is to think about what value you bring to people. If you’re struggling to find where your strengths lie, don’t stress. Think about what do your friends come to you for advice on?
Maybe you’re the stylish one in your group. Maybe you’re amazing at DIY on a budget. What are you an expert at/most knowledgeable about?
Next, where do your passions lie? What would you be happy doing even if it always stayed a passion project? Be aware that you might be working on it for a while without making a cent from your work. If you don’t have a passion for it, you will give up before your hard work pays off.
When I started out, Instagram was a creative outlet. A way to escape my 9-5 job and combine my passions for photography and travel in one. Back then I never thought this could be a career, but I was happy even if I never made a dime.
I actually started with fashion as that’s the industry I was working in, but eventually, travel took over. I still integrate fashion into my page and photos, but my desire to explore the world is what really got me here.
Think about why are you creating content in the first place? One of the worst things I hear is when someone tells me I want to be an “influencer”. If you’re getting into this industry for the sole purpose of money, that’s not passion. Your goal should never be to become an influencer but rather to share your knowledge, inspire others, or help teach others something.
Whatever you are passionate about – beauty, cooking, travel, interior decor, outdoor adventure, etc. – hone in on your expertise. Think about how you can provide value to others related to your passions. That’s what you should build around.
Next, define the pillars of your business. These are smaller sub-categories that will support a broader niche. For example, mine are travel and lifestyle.
If you’re a food blogger maybe your pillars are vegan – sustainability – healthy living. If you are a wellness coach, maybe it is health – well-being – positive mindset – coaching.
The nice thing is that it is possible to pivot once you get started. For example, I started out very much focused on travel. Now I mix in some fashion and beauty with my travels as well as editing and photography tips. Anything I can use to give my audience value based on their interests.
You want your pillars to be clear from a quick look at your feed. You also want people to know right away that you are a business account and not a personal account even if you are just using a cell phone to take your photos.
Here are some examples of feeds with clear niches and pillars. See if you can guess their niche and pillars before looking at the caption.
CONSISTENCY IS KEY
Try showing up for your audience every single day in different ways. When I first started out, I would post 1-2 times a day and rarely missed a day. Nowadays I’ll admit I haven’t been as consistent, but keep in mind, your audience wants to know when they will hear from you again.
I know that can be overwhelming. You might worry about how you can post every day, especially if you are in travel and unable to travel right now (you can check out my tips for self-isolation here). When you have a chance to travel again, try to build up content for future posts.
Get creative at home when you can’t travel or even explore your own area. If you are in another niche, take a day to shoot as many photos as possible to have for future “rainy days” when you can’t get out to shoot for a while. The longer you are working on content creation, the more content you will have to pull from when you need it.
Granted, I’ll be the first to admit I’ve slowed down a little with posting. This past year I’ve been faced with some challenges that have forced me to slow down and focus on myself. I’ve communicated this to my audience through posts and stories, and I have to say my community has been so understanding and supportive.
The best advice I can give is to stick to a posting schedule regardless of what schedule you commit to, whether it is posting every day or Monday-Friday and taking weekends off. Find your groove and stick to it.
If you don’t have enough content right now, make your schedule more spread out, but stay consistent. Regardless of what posting schedule you settle on, I always recommend showing up on Instagram stories every single day. Trust me, even if you have nothing to say, they want to hear from you.
If you ever feel like you have nothing to say or just don’t want to be on camera (trust me, I’ve been there), I like to play some games on stories. Think about posting a Q & A box so they can get to know you better. Share inspo and have them choose this or that.
Or even poll your audience with a game of you control my life. For example, what should I wear? Avo toast or Oatmeal for breakfast? You get the idea. These always do really well and are really interactive.
ENGAGE WITH YOUR COMMUNITY
To build a loyal community, you need to invest time in getting to know them and interacting with them. Make sure to reply to their DMs and their comments.
Go one step further. Take the time to return the favor by leaving a comment on their recent photo, especially if you are trying to grow. This tends to bring them back to your page again the next time you post.
Talk to them in stories and get their opinion. Ask questions using the Instagram polling options. Use all the features of Instagram stories to make them fun and/or to add value to your audience.
As mentioned earlier, my favourite way to enroll them is to ask their opinions on things like outfit choices, home decorating or having them control your life for a day! Those always get people really involved.
Connect with them on a personal level too. Honestly, I’ve never felt so connected to my audience as I have these last few months. Updating them throughout my breakup and healing process has given them a very real look into my life, and I’ve connected with so many others overcoming personal struggles right now as well.
I know it can be hard to share such a vulnerable side, but sometimes it helps your audience see you as someone like them. Share your successes, inspire them, build them up, but don’t be afraid to share your struggles as well.
View this post on Instagram
This is me – raw, real, no makeup, in hysterics and completely terrified to fly. I’ve never been someone who has anxiety over flying. In fact I’m one of those psychos who gets a thrill from turbulence… like it’s some rollercoaster. Crazy I know! :::::: But today was my first time flying since my accent and I was TERRIFIED! I cried before the airport, at the airport, to the gate agent, to a friend I ran into, in the bathroom, on the flight and when I landed. (If you missed all the hysteria swipe left) 😭 #MsBoot :::::: I realized it wasn’t the flying that scared me and it wasn’t the injection (though it was a stressor). It was the blood clot. 💉🩸The severity of a blood clot instilled such a fear in myself that it nearly stopped me from doing what I love most. :::::: All I can say is that I have the most supportive family and friends who got me through today. My parents came in the airport and waves as I went through security as if it was my first trip. 👋🏼 My best friend who’s been diabetic her whole life walked me through the entire process of injecting myself and my mom held my hand and calmed my nerves while a tried to do it myself. And although Mel wasn’t sitting beside me, she was with me the entire way. 👭🏻 :::::: I’ve always been so independent and happy to travel alone but today I felt alone, scared and as if I didn’t have my support system. But I was quickly flooded with so much love and support from you guys reminding me – YOU ARE ALL PART OF MY SUPPORT SYSTEM! You guys are always by my side through every hurdle I face. :::::: YOU REMINDED ME OF MY STRENGTH WHEN I DIDNT FEEL STRONG! I love you all so much for reminding me of that! #tribelove #bestcommunity #iloveyouall – Xx Lisa 💋
Another way I find really essential to connecting with your audience is responding to your DMs. Every week I get messages saying “I can’t believe you responded!” Not only does it excite your audience but it makes them feel more connected to you.
Personally I’m a huge fan of responding to people in a voice message. Hearing someone’s voice really personalizes it so much more than a text, plus it’s much faster for me when answering. I often will spend the first 30 mins of my day still in bed sending you all voice messages (sorry if I have ever sounded groggy!)
PRO TIP FOR STORIES: I often get a lot of questions on how to add photos to my stories when I’m talking (see photo 3). All you have to do is choose the photo you want to use for your camera roll, hit copy and go back to your story. It will pop up for you to then add.
KNOW AND UNDERSTAND YOUR AUDIENCE
Understanding your audience analytics is essential to the success of your business, especially when it comes to monetizing. Do you know everything you can about your audience? How old are they? Where are they from? What are their goals? Are they living their dream life? Are they working towards their dream job? Are they entrepreneurs?
You can find a lot of this information on Instagram itself. If you have a Creator account or a Business account, you can easily view your insights to get audience demographics.
However, polling your audience and getting to know the people who interact with you is important too. Not everyone who follows you will be an engaged follower. Know your target audience and then see if that lines up with the people who engage with you.
If you want to start scaling your business to make money online (digital products, clothing line, online course, etc.), you need to understand what they want to see most from you. For me that was my photo presets!
I found this out by showing before and after photos in my stories. I also did some Instagram Lives showing my editing process. As I got more messages about my edits, I started asking my audience about their interest in presets.
I sold my presets for a while and then took them down when they no longer represented my editing style. After I got even more messages asking for them, I started asking my audience about what they liked, what kind of packs they wanted, how much grain they want in their images, etc. That helped me release presets that people actually want to use.
When you are thinking about releasing a product, see if your audience is even interested in it first. You don’t want to put in the time and effort to create it only to have it flop.
Once you find out they are interested, get their advice on the product to make it even better. You can even speak with some of your ideal followers to have them check out the product early for a discount or even for free. Then get feedback to improve it before releasing it.
For me, I did this by having my followers send me photos to edit. It gave me a chance to see how my presets looked on photos with different skin tones, backgrounds, locations, and shooting styles. It also let them see what my presets look like on their photos for free before purchasing them.
Once you do release it, if you have an audience that truly loves your product, you can set up an affiliate program for them. They get to keep a percentage of their sales, but they also are then helping introduce your product to people who may not have seen it otherwise.
***If you are interested in being an affiliate for my presets and earning 20% from each sale, sign up here!
FIND YOUR TRIBE!
You can’t do this alone, so network with other creators within your niche. They will become your best friends. Seriously, I have met some of my best friends on this platform! These people will become essential to your growth and your sanity.
Most people in your world will not understand you spending all your time on social media. A lot of friends still don’t understand how I can be making a full time income from something like Instagram. That’s why these people you meet online are so essential.
Trust me, your boyfriend who never goes on Instagram doesn’t want to hear about this all the time. These people become the ones you go to when Instagram is being glitchy, you’re struggling with a new algorithm change, or just to bounce ideas off each other.
You might be wondering how to find these people. Part of it goes back to engaging. As you spend time engaging on Instagram and messaging people, you start to form relationships.
If you find someone you vibe with, start reaching out to them or keep the relationship you already have going. Maybe think of a way to collaborate on a project or even take a trip together. Reach out to them when you are having a rough day or struggling with something, and be there for them when they do the same thing.
If you already have some people you think of as your Instagram friends, you could always ask if any of them want to be in a WhatsApp group chat. I’m in several with friends, and it is great to always have this group to message throughout the week.
HOW TO BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY ON INSTAGRAM
First, take some time to figure out your niche and pillars. Even if you want to focus on multiple things, figure out what those are so that you can start building a feed that is on brand and an audience who cares about your passions.
Then, start figuring out a schedule for Instagram. How often can you post with the content you have and are able to create right now? Set goals for when you will post. You may need to adjust this some at first, but at least find a place to start.
If you are in the travel niche and cannot travel right now, post with what you can and then adjust your schedule once you can travel again. If your area opens up, see if you can create content where you are at least for now.
Once you’ve got your pillars and posting schedule figured out, start engaging with your current audience and your target audience. Show up for them and provide value for them.
Get to know your audience as you engage with them. Pay attention to your analytics and use your stories and posts to see how you can provide value to them going forward.
While you are engaging, start paying attention to who you want to be your tribe. Start looking for people to form a deeper relationship with and for people who you can support along the way and have them support you in return.
Now that you have a plan, go start building your empire! If you get stuck on creating content to fit your niche and writing captions, you can find my best tips here. Once you are ready to start working with brands, don’t miss my free media kit and tips for working with brand here. And if you want to diversify, get my tips for growing your blog and email list.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions about Instagram and if you are enjoying my Instagram tips series! I’d love to get more ideas of what you want to see from me in this series. I’m happy to add more to this series if there is more you want to learn!
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