I had almost given up on Instagram. With so much going on in my business I just couldn’t imagine adding another social media account to my already overflowing marketing plate. So I dabbled here and there, when I had the time to post, but never really committed to building my personal brand on Instagram until a few months ago.
I was in the process of revamping my entire business and brand and I wanted to start off fresh. I wanted to commit to using 2-3 platforms (not 20) consistently and in a way that was both fun and financially rewarding. The one thing about social media is that for it to work, you have to be social. I mean who knew! lol! So when the dust settled and I had my biz + brand plan in place, Instagram was one of the platforms that made the cut and it’s been giving me (and my business) life ever since!!!
Full disclosure: I am not “social” by nature. If I didn’t have an online business, checking my Facebook and Twitter accounts daily would be an after thought. Sorry to disappoint! But, the truth of the matter is that as entrepreneurs, we don’t have much of a choice. If you want to build a strong personal brand, you need to master social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest. But today, let’s focus on ONE. The ONE I believe is the best platform out there to build your personal brand. Instagram!
Now I’m not going to bore you with stats and facts on WHY you need to be on Instagram, (you can find that on any ole blog) but I do want to share with you HOW to use Instagram (as a beginner and without buying leads or ads) to build your business, grow your brand and sell more stuff. Hope you’re ready to grow.
TIP 01. BE YOU
I know this sounds super obvious, but you’ll be surprised by how many folks are straight up frauds online. Social media is the one place you can literally be anybody and in a world where “good side only” selfies, #foodporn and booty shots rule, you see a lot of folks acting out of character for a few likes. But when you’re building a brand – it’s important to realize that long terms success can’t be faked. The first step to creating brand magic is to get clear on who YOU are as a personal brand and stand in your truth. I mean really, how can you get other people to know, like and trust you, if you can’t even trust yourself to be real!
When it comes to building your brand “be authentic”. It might seem like a good idea to post a bunch of food pics and half-naked selfies — and it works for some — but if that really isn’t you, and you’re showing up fake and phony, your followers (potential followers) are going to see right through the charade. The biggest mistake people make when building a biz online is trying to be a clone of someone else. It’s tiring and you’re always worried if you’re going to be “found out”. So save yourself the stress! Only post stuff you actually care about. Post stuff that let’s people get to know the real you. Post stuff that will shine a light on what makes you unique and special and the people you attract will be the right people for you and your business. At the end of the day you can’t be all things to everyone, so why not be YOU. Let them own their success and you own yours!
TIP 02. BE COHESIVE
Your goal as an online influencer and brand builder is to create credibility around your brand. Showing up with a consistent tone and vibe is key to building that credibility. Your brand is a reflection of who you are, what you stand for and the value you provide others. You can’t be wishy-washy when it comes to building a strong, trust-worthy brand.
You hear me compare building a personal brand to planning a party all the time. And all really cool, memorable parties have great themes, right? So just image that you got all dressed up to go to a “biker” themed party and when you arrived everyone was sipping on Mai Tais and sitting under Tiki huts. Feels a little twilight-zonish right? Well that’s how your followers are going to feel if you’re always flipping the switch on them.
Whether you achieve this through color, font types, or imagery, there should be a cohesive tone and style to your Instagram account. For example, when you look at the Womeneur account as a whole, you immediately notice the orange, grey and white theme. This in itself makes her account memorable. The same for Grit + Virtue – there is a very distinct vibe going on here (one I personally love) and it is consistent throughout their entire online presence.
Now, I’m not saying you have to live some perfectly-scripted life to be successful on Instagram, but I am saying that people need to be able to connect to and recognize your unique personal style no matter where they run into you online. Would someone be able to pick out your post as they scroll through their feed and say, “hey, that’s a [insert your name here] post”? If not, you might want to see if there’s a theme — visually or conceptually — that you can create that is uniquely YOU. If you need help setting the tone for your personal brand style, check out the post I wrote on how to create a mood and brand board using pinterest. Here’s the mood board I created for my course Brand Girl Magic, but you can create a mood for your brand and even your Instagram page using the same techniques.
TIP 03: BAIT + HOOK BIO
You only have a few seconds to make a great impression so make it count. Your bio is one of the first things people will read once they hit your Instagram account. Make it pop! Now I know, I know, you’re not witty and clever enough to come up with a compelling bio that hooks people in and makes them want to follow and like all your stuff. I got you!! Here’s a quick and easy way to create a bio that bait + hooks people and makes them want to learn more about you:
- Add something UNIQUE about YOU
- Add something YOU DO well that brings VALUE to others
- Add something that lets’ people know WHERE they can find YOU
Super simple. Keep it pushing!
TIP 04. GET PERSONAL
Remove the mask and give people a glimpse into your life. People like to feel like they’re connecting to a person — rather than an idea, concept or logo. And personal photos — yes, selfies, behind the scenes shots, lifestyle pics and all other images from your personal life can help people connect with you on a whole other level.
People buy from people they know, like and trust. Cliché but true! Again, it’s totally up to you what bits and pieces you want to share with the world but, showing folks the face behind that brand definitely takes the edge off of you feeling like you’re always in “promote” mode. Remember, power players are people too. Don’t be afraid to get personal!
TIP 05. MAKE THEM LAUGH
Or at least smile! You don’t have to be Dave Chapelle or Chris Rock but being witty and funny goes a long way. Post images and quotes that make people smile. With all the stress and negativity in the world, social media is the great escape from reality – where people come to laugh and be entertained. Share a light-hearted quote, upload funny memes or use a little wit and humor in your captions every once in a while.
TIP 06. PIMP THOSE HASHTAGS
Hashtags are EVERYTHING on Instagram. Make them work for you. Spend some time seeking out relevant and follow-heavy hashtags related to your niche and theme. Then play around with them to see which ones give you the best response. You can use up to 30 hashtags and you should use them all. Recycle your hashtags every 4-6 weeks, adding new ones or using them in different combinations to expand your reach. If you’re really worried about looking tacky or spammy, here are a few tricks:
- You can always add hashtags, get all the likes in the first hour when they appear on people’s feeds, and delete them later.
- You can add hashtags in the comments sections of your posts, where they go unseen unless you open up the comments filter.
- You can add them in your caption but put a ton of white space in between the caption and the hashtags so folks have to scroll to see them.
The point here is simple. Hashtags rule!!
TIP 07. LEVERAGE BIG BRANDS
Most people don’t hop on Instagram with a HUGE following in tow. So if you’re a baby brand on IG, leverage the audience of larger, more established brands to attract followers who might be interested in your stuff too. Pay attention to the influencers in your niche that attract the same type of followers you are looking to attract
- Regram or repost a big brand (they may just return the favor).
- Use their photos as inspiration and give them credit for the image.
- Tag a big brand in an original post created by you – a great way to get them to regram your image and get your handle out there.
- Take a caption used by a big brand and turn it into a branded quote.
When tagging, don’t go crazy! You should tag purposefully and sparingly. We’re not trying to tick folks off. If, however, you make your own branded images or memes and think one would be perfect to tag a big brand in, a perfectly timed and relevant tag can be the spark you need to create tons of buzz for your brand!
TIP 08. MAKE YOUR IG HANDLE + SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILE THE SAME
An easy way to gain visibility is to make sure all your IG profile pics and social media profile pics are the same or similar. You want to be recognized EVERYWHERE! Folks on Twitter should be able to recognize your face on Facebook. It’s also better to use the same handle across your accounts so that people can find you more easily.
TIP 09. DON’T JUST SELF-PROMOTE
It’s not all about you!! Buuuuutttt, why in the world would you want to promote anything other than your business when you’re well, trying to get more eyes on your business. Here’s why. When you promote yourself ONLY, you can across as self-centered and self-serving. When you promote yourself ONLY, you come across as less-personable and money-hungry. Think of your IG account as your online resume. People don’t just want to know you got all A’s and how awesome you are, they want to know who you’ve helped, where you volunteered, what you did outside the classroom, your flaws and quirks, what you stand for – all the compelling stuff that makes you a well-rounded person. You get it?
Instead of just sharing your links, your articles, your accolades, and your products, ask yourself: Why would someone want to read this, tweet this, share this, like this? I suggest posting on Instagram 2-3 times a day and for every 10 posts, only 2-3 should be self- promotional posts. Throw in random quotes and images, share and regram other people’s posts. You don’t have to refer to or add a link after every caption.
TIP 10. ADD YOUR HANDLE TO YOUR EMAIL
If you’re sending out newsletters and emails on a regular, put your handle in your email signature. It’s super easy to do and you’ll be surprised by just how many folks will find your IG page through a simple email.
TIP 11. FOLLOW THE FOLLOWERS
Now what do I mean by this. Don’t just follow the influencers, follow the people who follow the influencers as well. Instagram makes it really easy to see who your followers are following and who the big brands are following. When you’re just getting started, you shouldn’t worry too much about following more people than you have followers (plus you can always delete folks you’re not engaging with or no longer interested in later). Take some time looking at who other people you admire are following, and follow anyone who seems relevant, shares a similar niche and has interests similar to yours. Start engaging and interacting with them by commenting, complementing and sharing their content.
TIP 12: THROW A GEOTAG ON IT
Want to get more eyes on your posts? Put a geotag on it. Geotaging is a great way to gain more exposure and build awareness around your brand – especially locally. For example, let’s say you’re sharing pictures of an industry event you’re hosting or attending. Geotag the site, add a their brand hashtag in the caption (if they have one) and also tag their account in the image. They may repost your image, and either way, more people will see it. You can also search for geotags that are not really “places” but more like keywords and phrases. So while you can’t create your own “made up” geotags anymore, there are tons of already created geotags like “Positivity”, “Tips For Success” and “Make Money Online.” Simply filter by “Places” and search for relevant geotags.
TIP 13: DM IS NOT A DIRTY WORD
Everybody has an opinion on how to handle DMs. Some people like them, other brands think they are super impersonal and non-professional. Either way, if you feel comfortable reaching out and creating a new e-connection on Instagram via a DM, do it. This is a quick and easy way to spark up a conversation, build relationships and introduce yourself to influencers. The key is to be personable and transparent. Don’t slide in people’s DMs asking them to do something for you. That’s spam! You should only DM accounts if you have something worth sharing with them, and if you’ve looked at their account long enough to know what kinds of value you can offer them and their audience.
TIP 14: SHOW OFF OUR STRENGTHS
Instagram is a photo sharing site, but that doesn’t mean you have to know how to beast out a flat lay photo. You can totally curate photos, regram photos and or hire someone to post photos for you – just make sure you’re giving credit where credit is due. The key is to leverage your strengths and leave the rest of the stuff to the pros. If concepts and captions are where you’re comfortable, don’t be afraid to hire someone on fiverr.com or ask your little brother for help. #noshame Plus, no one will ever know!
TIP 15: COMMENT + REPLY
Engagement is the key to success. People want to know you are paying attention to them. If they take the time to comment on your post, even if it’s just a cute little emoji – then take two seconds to reply. It will change the whole game for you! People remember you if you comment, and are more likely to follow you. It’s also a great way to share more of who you are and put a personal touch on your account.
So, even if you can’t do it right away, comment on every.single.comment (yep!). It shows Instagram and that ever-changing algorithm that you are present and being social – which is always rewarded! If you are strapped for something nice to say, a simple “happy face” or “thanks for the love” will do. Just like in real life – the point is to acknowledge people when they talk to you! It’s just good manners…unless they’re a troll!
TIP 16: CREATE PHOTOS THAT POP
There are literally thousands of apps for editing and enhancing your IG pics. You can make your images look whiter, brighter, older and sharper with any number of free apps. I mean the editing tools in the IG app alone can bring a dead pic to life. So, whether you’re posting a selfie, a pic of your products or what you ate late night, make sure the picture pops.
You want to have high resolution, eye-catching, pics with good lighting (the sun can help with that) and placement. You always want to make sure your picture is on-brand and fills up the entire image box as well – makes it easier for brands to repost. I like to create templates in Keynote that help me stay on brand. You can create your own templates in Word, PowerPoint, Canva, Google Drawings or PhotoShop. Check out apps like WordSwag, Overgam, Snapseed, FaceTune, Afterlight, and VSCO to help you get the best out of your images. If you’re not sure about a pic you want to post, just publish the image to see how it fits in your feed. If it looks out of place or disrupts your flow, delete it.
TIP 17: DON’T EVA, EVA, EVA BUY FOLLOWERS
So there is a difference between paying for followers and buying followers. You pay for followers by investing in Instagram Ads and paying for shoutouts or posts on larger IG sites. That type of targeted activity is okay. But, buying followers, is a NO-NO. You do not want to be seen as the person who has 100K followers and no engagement. Everyone starts at zero! Don’t be afraid to do the work to get the activity and engagement your posts deserve. You want targeted, highly engaged and “totally-into-YOU” types of followers.
My IG site is still small relatively speaking, but I still get sales on a daily basis directly from IG because I’ve built a following (organically) that resonates with my content. So when I post something, they are truly interested. Quality always trumps quantity, so avoid taking shortcuts just to pump up your numbers. Buying followers never pays off. Focus on developing an authentic voice, crazy cool content and an organic following that likes YOU and the value you bring. When the buzz begins to build, you’ll be glad you did!
Are you new to Instagram or struggling to get it going? Did I miss any tips? Share your comments and thoughts below.