Your followers are more than just a number; they are part of your online community. Viewing them as such will influence how you engage with and treat them. Growing your online community takes time and patience, and while there are some shortcuts that you can take to boost your following in the short term, these can have detrimental effects on your brand. We unpack some of our dos and don’ts when it comes to growing your social media community.
Know Your Audience
This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised by how many brands and businesses don’t know their target audience, especially online. It’s important to be specific here – considering “everyone” as your target audience will only make it harder for you to create content and engage with them. Define your target audience’s age bracket, their interests, the challenges they face and so on.
Thoughtfully Engage with Your Audience
Knowing your audience will help you appropriately engage with them. Create content that is relevant to your followers and give them the opportunity to get to know the real you. Ask them questions, and ask for feedback on products or services – creating a poll on Instagram is a fun way to do this.
No one likes being ignored, so when a follower asks a question, sends a DM or tags you in a post, it’s important to respond. Taking the time to do this will also show that you care and value them. Meta Business Suite allows you to have saved replies for generic questions, and you can also set up an auto-reply for any DMs sent outside of your working hours. We recommend checking your inbox at least twice a day – once in the morning and the afternoon.
People connect with people, and sharing your story will help you build a stronger connection with your audience based on shared values and interests. Your community wants to know that you are not just a faceless brand – share the people behind your brand, share your story along with your struggles and successes.
Collaborating with Other Brands
Collaborating is not just about working with a brand or influencer that has a huge following. Quality is as important, if not more important, than quantity. Choose like-minded brands or people who your audience will relate to. Instead of paying large amounts of money for influencers, consider working with brand ambassadors who genuinely believe in your brand and will tell their friends and family about it. Your audience trusts you and looks to you for sound advice, don’t collaborate with brands you don’t believe in.
A common way to collaborate with other brands is through a giveaway. Remember, the goal is to widen your reach and acquire new followers that may turn into customers. To do this, you need to collaborate with a brand that will expose you to a new audience that will also care about your product or service.
Don’t Buy followers. Ever
Yes, you can buy followers, but this is against Instagram’s terms of service, so the price you pay could be more than monetary. At worst, it could cost you your Instagram account and, at best, a decrease in engagement. When you buy followers, they are mostly bots and inactive accounts that won’t be adding any value and what good are thousands of followers who don’t engage with you? Engagement is key to how Instagram’s algorithm shows posts to users. Without likes or comments, your post probably won’t show up on your audience’s newsfeeds and it won’t show up on any Explore Pages. Other users may also be deterred seeing that you have thousands of followers and no engagement, which is why you should get followers the right way.
Don’t Play the Follow/Unfollow Game
How is this game played? By following accounts in your niche every day hoping that they will follow you back. After a few days, whether these accounts follow you back or not, you unfollow them to lower your follower/following ratio to make your account cleaner and manageable. This may seem like a good idea, but there are some major downsides! Instagram can detect how many accounts you are following and unfollowing, so they will block your page if they find you are taking shortcuts. You’ll lose the trust of your followers because this shows that they are just another number to you. You’ll also waste time keeping track of which accounts you have followed/unfollowed.
Followers need to be acquired the right way, through engagement, authenticity and quality content. Don’t be afraid to ask people to follow you too, you can work it into your content by pitching what your audience will get if they follow you or by hinting at upcoming content that they won’t want to miss. Sometimes people just need a nudge.