Dear Socially Stephanie,
I have a startup, and I'm about to launch a product. I know it is going to be a huge hit with the Instagram crowd. The only problem is that I have no photos to share just yet. How can I build a following and community on Instagram without having my own photos to share?
Insta-Impatient in Indianapolis
First off: Go Hoosiers! I know Indianapolis is 40 miles from Bloomington, but for this Cali girl, that's close enough. Okay, I had to get that out of my system. Now let's talk strategy.
I love Instagram, and I'm happy to hear you do, too. Instagram is one of those non-intrusive networks that is just good clean fun. But beyond being fun, it can be very effective if used correctly. Which brings me to my first point. What does effective mean on Instagram? Well, that's up to you to decide. One thing that we know for sure is that it's not an effective tool for driving traffic. Rather, look at Instagram as a branding and community building tool. As you are in pre-launch phase, building buzz and excitement is the first step to getting your product off the shelves and into the right hands. And Instagram is great for that.
The strategy I'm about to share with you is an organic one, like all my social media strategies. It's not going to bring you a million followers overnight. But if you know anything about me, you know that I think anything that brings you a million followers overnight is a flat out scam.
Instagram is perfect for community building because Instagram is, in and of itself, a community. And because it is nonintrusive, Instagram users are generous and reciprocative. Instagram users want their pictures seen. They want them liked. And they want you to comment on them. By liking and commenting on Instagrammers' posts, you'll see them return the favor. You know, it's like that age-old saying: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Now now, don't get ahead of yourself and start liking every picture from every Tom, Dick and Sally on the network. You want to be targeted, which means that you should focus on the people who would actually buy your products. This is your Insta-target market.
So how are you going to find them? Forget the Benjamins, it's all about the hashtags, baby. That's right, you will need to define the keywords or hashtags that people who would buy your product would use. Want to reach foodies? #Foodporn will work. Want to get in front of style mavens? Try something like #OOTD (outfit of the day). Once you define your keywords, you can start liking and commenting to your little heart's desire.
But beware, you will want to make sure you have something for them to look at and like when they come checking you out in return. I know you told me you don't have photos to populate your page with -- don't worry, I'm getting to that. This is where Instagram curation comes into play. Reshare other people's photos who have used your defined keywords. Make sure you keep their username in the description so they are notified. While Instagram doesn't have a built in reshare button, you can easily regram pictures using a tool like RepostWhiz or Regram.me. Believe me, the people whose photos get featured will love it and hopefully begin to follow you.
Once your community and following starts growing, you can think about running a fun contest to further enhance engagement. One Instagram page that does this very well is Infatuation. They ask you to share your favorite #EEEEEATS of the week and feature it on your page. I love what they are doing, and have seen it grow week after week.
That's just one idea of many. Feel free to get creative with this! What are you waiting for? Get Instagramming. Good luck!
Do you have a question for Socially Stephanie?
Please email [email protected] and let Stephanie help you solve your social quandaries, queries, and boondoggles. (Questions may be edited for length and clarity.)
Illustration by Jesse Wells