The missing piece of the Instagram puzzle for so many small businesses and creative entrepreneurs is engagement. All the hashtags and pretty photos in the world are super awesome (and really important), but they won't get you far if you're not building your audience with engagement.
Engagement is the best way to grow an audience that doesn't *just* consist of spam accounts, people who don't really love you and people working in your same niche creating the same thing as you. And we need regular followers and regular people in order to grow a devoted audience who will support you and buy from you!
So often when I ask someone if they are engaging on Instagram, they say "well yeah, I answer comments if that's what you mean." And yes, it's part of what I mean, but it's definitely not all of it. If the only people you are engaging with are people that comment on your posts and people that you follow, you're missing out on some big opportunities!
THREE MORE PLACES TO START A
CONVERSATION ON INSTAGRAM
1. YOUR FOLLOWERS
Chances are that most people who follow you will not always comment on or like your photos. This means that you don't always see them, but it's super important that you still show them appreciation for following you. You do not have to follow them back (the follow for follow game on Instagram doesn't really work). You can do this by simply clicking on your follower count, clicking through accounts and leaving genuine comments on photos that interest you or on accounts that you believe would be your ideal audience/customer.
2. THROUGH HASHTAGS
Yup, that's right. You can use hashtags as a search engine. Click through to hashtags your ideal audience/customer might use and start commenting! This might not always be the same hashtags that you use to categorize your photos. A good way to find these types of hashtags is through your own followers - check out which hashtags they are already using! See if you can find any trends.
3. YOUR COMPETITION
Now, I am a total proponent of community over competition, but for the sake of this point, I want you to think of who your competition might be. What other influencers are producing similar content or are writing on similar topics to yours? They don't have to be exactly the same - for example, if your ideal audience is creative entrepreneurs, they might be following people (like me) that post about social media, but they might also be following people who teach them about blogging, web design, etc. Simply click on their follower count and proceed as we did in number one.
It's so amazing how many awesome people are out there on Instagram and we don't even know about them. It is so much easier to go out there and find your people than to sit around waiting for them to come to you!
Now, you might be thinking that this sounds incredibly time-consuming. And it can be! But I am going to urge you to set a time limit for your intentional engagement on Instagram each day. I strive to do this for about 15 minutes each day and I find so many amazing people - sometimes I follow, sometimes I like, sometimes I leave a really genuine comment (this always brings me back the most in return). But I don't ever expect anything in return and I think that's the key. No more follow/unfollow methods or asking for follows back - just genuine, truthful, kind engagement. Your people will see you if you let them.