Community is essential for brand growth. Creating a following of engaged and interested customers who care about your brand provides the foundation for sustained growth, continued brand awareness, and a stable source of sales. Naturally, social media provides a great platform through which to achieve this, and Instagram is no exception. Read on for four essential tips for building a customer community through Instagram in 2020.
This post is a contribution from a guest author.
Make hashtags essential to your strategy
One of the best (and most essential) ways to build a customer community through Instagram is with a solid hashtag strategy.
Hashtags are the threads that connect everything on Instagram together. They create a network that connects people with the photos, images, videos, accounts, and topics that they care about.
As such, hashtags are the bedrock of a solid customer community on Instagram. But to maximize your hashtag strategy’s value, you should strive for an approach that combines diversity and relevance. Hashtag research is crucial here.
A scattershot approach to your hashtag strategy is a waste of your time and energy. Research helps you identify those hashtags that offer the most value to your business.
As an example, let’s say you operate a pizza street food stall in San José, and you want to build a customer community online via Instagram.
General hashtags such as #pizza are relevant to your business, but they’re also very broad. They might get you visitors from all over the world, or users who want pizza recipes — neither of which are useful to your brand.
But you could also include more specific hashtags, such as #sanjosestreetfood. This helps you connect with nearby customers who are interested in street food. As a result, you get traffic from relevant users who are more likely to engage with your content.
Strive for a diverse and relevant hashtag strategy, and aim for between 9 and 11 hashtags per Instagram post. This is the optimum sweet spot that gets your posts the attention they deserve.
Get to know your customers through genuine conversation
Social media is exactly that — social. But it’s easy for some businesses to forget that being social means an active approach to their customers.
Instagram is a two-way street. Rather than passively posting content and letting followers comment, brands should actively engage with their audience and respond to those comments — this is crucial for positive customer experience in 2020.
Of course, not every business has the time or resources to reply to their customers. While chatbots go some way towards resolving queries via private messages, it’s not possible to automate genuine human interaction via public comments (yet).
But that’s not a problem. Simply respond to a few meaningful comments, rather than striving to answer every single one. What really matters with this strategy is that other followers see your conversations.
When you reply to one comment, you don’t just show that one person that you’re engaged with your audience — you show the rest of your online community as well. This ripple effect helps you build a community with only a modicum of investment of your time.
The key to having successful conversations with followers on Instagram is to simply be human. Eschew stiff, formal language and speak to them as you would anyone else.
It’s worth looking into your buyer personas here. Understanding how your customers speak, what references they use, what interests them, and so on will help you better understand how to pivot your tone of voice.
Buyer personas notwithstanding, as a rule of thumb, strive to be friendly and personal without slipping into slang words or unnecessary informality. Use emojis, but sparingly. Little touches like these go a long way towards fostering and strengthening a close, personal customer community for your brand.
Lean on UGC for content that resonates
Instagram is all about visuals, this much is obvious. And it is high-quality visuals that really stand out — there are billions of photos and videos on the platform, and getting your content seen above the rest can be a struggle.
But it takes time, patience, and no small amount of skill to create beautiful, eye-catching content.
User-generated content (UGC) offers a content creation shortcut that also bolsters your customer community into the bargain. By sourcing and cascading content from your customers across your Instagram, you build customer loyalty and strengthen your relationship with them.
In the same way that having conversations with your customers on Instagram builds your community, sharing their content on your feed pays homage to them and makes them feel a part of your brand community.
UGC is considerably easy to source too. A UGC competition, in which customers submit a photo in return for the possibility of winning a prize, is quick and easy to set up.
Beyond saving you time and money in content creation, UGC has the added (and crucial) benefit of appealing directly to your customer community, by virtue of it being created by them.
Embrace Stories as a content channel
More than any other social platform (except perhaps TikTok), Instagram has a dazzling array of creative features to help brands connect with their customers. But perhaps one of its most effective and dynamic features is Instagram Stories.
For those not in the know, Stories are ephemeral video clips or images that stay on your profile for 24 hours. After this, they disappear completely (unless they’re saved to your Highlights reel).
These Stories are often given text overlays, various Stickers, emojis, and so on to market offers, promote events, encourage participation, and so on. These creative additions let you engage your audience, either by sourcing input (with Poll or Question Stickers), by showcasing UGC, or simply creating a series of clips or images that pique audience interest.
When you regularly update your Story, it appears at the front of your followers’ Story feeds, helping keep your brand in their mind at the same time.
This creates an opportunity for customer community building. By regularly and frequently updating your Story, you turn it into a content channel in its own right. As a result, your followers will check-in regularly for the latest updates, further strengthening your community.
Instagram is a powerful platform for building and nurturing your customer community. Take note of the tips above and build them into your Instagram strategy, and enjoy the benefits of a flourishing, growing customer community in 2020.