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Let’s talk Instagram. It’s my favorite tool to connect and engage with people, It’s where I am able to find new friends and new customers, and not to mention it allows me to share my story each and every day in a collage of little squares. Today I am going to teach you 3 things you can do to grow your Instagram account and ultimately scale your business to new heights.
I really do love this app but I also know that it causes so many people frustrations and confusion. You are tired of fighting that dang algorithm and just want to start enjoying it for what is again, social media, right?
Instagram is a hot topic during my one on one coaching sessions. Time and time again I hear the same questions and concerns and sounds of desperation of how to make Instagram work for your business. And I find myself a lot of the time having to remind my students that Instagram is JUST social media guys. And while it can be such powerful tool for business, we need to remember the roots of what makes us fall in love with it.
But if you really are struggling with how to use Instagram for it’s intended purpose, and you want to know how to work smarter, not harder, then this episode is for you!
In this episode I am going to be teaching you 3 simple yet powerful things you can start doing today to boost your instagram engagement and start gaining more followers. Sound good? Let’s do this.
I remember first creating an Instagram account for my photography business and thinking that I could just hide behind my work and it would speak for itself. And maybe for a little while it seemed to work as was getting pretty regular clients. However, after time went on and my business wasn’t so shiny and new anymore I got totally lost in the crowd.
Photography, a lot like other creative businesses is a very saturated industry which means there are a lot of photographers in the world and even in the tiny area that I lived in. I felt that competitive pressure and began to copy what other photographers were doing.
And of course what I considered success at that time was the amount of followers someone had. I assumed that anyone who had over 10 thousand followers was making a really great living and they were getting a lot of business.
But over the years and after meeting a lot of people who have a lot more than 10 thousand followers I learned that some of them don’t make any money at all from it.
Followers are great and can definitely help your business BUT only if you know how to actually turn those followers into paying clients and keep them wanting more from you. KEY WORD HERE is YOU!
YOU can have 1000 followers and make a 6 figure income if you know how to utilize what you have at your fingertips. If 1000 people gave you one hundred dollars each, you would make one hundred thousand dollars.
However that is obviously easier said than done. I know you are thinking, “yeah Sarah that’s all fine and dandy but how does one actually get them to want to buy what I have to offer?” Which brings me to my first tip.
Tip #1 – Show your face.
Too many of us (and I say us because I did it too) are hiding behind what we do, instead of sharing who we are.
When I was in the thick of trying to be like every other Photographer out there it gave me some serious comparison issues and feelings of worthlessness. I doubted myself and thought that maybe photography just wasn’t for me.
But one day I kicked my butt into gear and listened to a lot of podcast episodes, spoke with the Lord and decided to unfollow any accounts on Instagram that made me feel anything less than Joy when I saw a photo of theirs pop up.
I started to show my face more on my feed and in my stories and just became my weird, goofy self. And do you want to know what happened? The posts on my feed where I would show myself, got SIGNIFICANTLY higher engagement, and would bring in double the amount of followers. But why?
When you, the business owner, show up on your feed and in your stories, you are showing that you are a real person. Not just some robot sharing pretty photos. And because industries such as photography are so saturated sometimes the only difference between your business and someone else’s is you.
If a client reaches out to you and another photographer (I am using photography as an example but this applies to everyone no matter what your business is) and let’s say you both send your pricing over and you both have roughly the same prices, the same amount of followers, and a similar style…. What is going to make that client want to choose YOU over the other photographer?
Answer: probably nothing. It is a 50/50 shot at that point. BUT if you are showing up on your stories talking about how much you love dogs and the client just so happens to be a major dog lover, I bet they are going to pick you because they can relate to you.
The same situation can be applied even if you are charging a lot higher for the same service than the other photographer. And thats because anyone who really values good work and good business is not just going to choose the cheapest option, but they will choose someone who they feel is relatable, someone they can understand and who makes them feel understood.
Humans crave connection.
Stop filling your Instagram feed with your work only. A good rule of thumb is that your face should be shown at least one time per every 9 squares. But the more you can do the better.
Please don’t feel like this is being narcissistic or self serving. Instead believe the truth which is that people WANT to see you. People want to learn about you and become familiar with you.
Posting a photo of your smiling face being happy in life doesn’t mean you are obsessed with yourself and it can still be done in a very service oriented way.
Another thing I want you to keep in mind is that perfection is such a lie. We are often held back from sharing photos of ourselves because we don’t have a fancy camera, or we don’t have anyone to take pics of us, etc.
However, let’s be honest, iPhones these days are pretty dang amazing and can take super nice quality photos. Don’t be afraid of messing up your “perfect” feed with a slightly lower quality selfie. Again it traces back to people feeling like they can relate to you!
Show up in your stories, talk about your day, give a behind the scenes look at your work, or just talk about how you have gone to Starbucks 5 times this week. Do not over think this. The best part about stories is they only last 24 hours.
Tip #2 – Engagement
We often times get so wrapped up in what we are going to post and spend so much time writing out the most amazing caption and pairing it with a great photo that we forget about those on the other side of the screen.
How can we expect others to engage with us, if we are not going out of our way to engage with them?
It sounds a little weird, but you have to train your followers to engage with you. You can do this by putting call to actions on your posts, and in your stories, but you can also do this by reaching out to them directly.
Comment on their posts, and their stories, send them messages, or share things with them that would be helpful.
Keep in mind the algorithm favors comments of 4 or more words. Don’t just slap a heart emoji under every post on your newsfeed and call it good. You want to be intentional and meaningful behind your comments. Read their captions, fully take in their photo and respond accordingly.
Make sure that when someone leaves a comment on your post you are responding to every single comment. You don’t have to do this immediately, but I like to set aside 20 or so minutes a day to just engage with others. It’s so important that you are acknowledging the fact that someone took the time to respond to your content. Don’t leave them high and dry by ignoring it and moving onto the next.
Tip #3 – Alternating Topics
Along with posting photos and videos of ourselves, we want to make sure we are alternating topics or in other words, we are going to create content based off of our branding pillars.
Now I wont go too deep in this right now but basically you are going to want to choose 5 topics that represent who you are. For example, if you are a coffee connoisseur, and you just love getting your Starbucks drink everyday or whatever your jam is, that could be a branding pillar.
Other topics such as being an animal lover, fashion guru, being a mom, or a wife, work as well. They do not have to be fancy or totally unique. In fact, the more relatable they are the better.
Keep in mind that these topics you are choosing are not all related to your business. If you are a photographer, then only one of your branding pillars should be related to your photography business. The rest are whatever other titles you carry are or the things you enjoy doing outside of work.
Once you have your branding pillars, you can list them out and underneath them, you can list content ideas for each of those topics.
For example, if one of your pillars is motherhood, then your list could include things like:
- Tips for new moms
- What you feed your kid in a day
- How you manage your time as a working mom,
- The story of your child birth
Once you have that done for each topic, you now have caption ideas for Instagram. Post about motherhood on Mondays, photography on Tuesdays, the gym on Wednesdays, photography again on Thursday , and your dog or whatever else on Friday.
I like to keep a list of hashtags related to each category pre made on my phone so that I can post them below the photos and attract different audiences that will enjoy that topic.
When you are just posting about your work and using hashtags only related to your business (let’s say as a photographer), you are only attracting people that are looking for a photographer in that exact moment. Which means you are limiting yourself for serious potential growth.
If you are speaking to more audiences than just your photography clients, your account will grow and your audience will have a much wider variety.
This helps you to attract people who can relate to you to then which you should nurture those relationships for what they are at that time. As time goes on, and you speak about what you do as a photographer one of those people who followed you for your love of coffee, might end up needing a wedding photographer down the road and now you are in the front of their mind.
Remember, there are people who are watching you from afar, who may not be ready to book you yet, but they are waiting for that moment when they can.
3 key points from this episode on how to grow your instagram account.
Number one – Show your face on your feed, your stories, make instagram reels, IGTV, all the things. Just show up for your people.
Number two – Engage with others. Never just expect people to engage with your content if you are not engaging with them. Be a real human being and remember there are actual heartbeats on the other side of those usernames.
Number Three – Have alternating topics so that your content is always fresh and can serve a wider range of people and grow your audience in new ways.
I'm Sarah Elrod
I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.
I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.
I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.
When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.
There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.
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