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Creating an Instagram community for your business is one of the best ways to gain brand loyalty, boost engagement, and stay connected to your customers.

And with social distancing measures still in place, there’s never been a more important time to create meaningful connections with your audience online. 

In this blog post we’re sharing how and why you should build an Instagram community, as well as 6 tips to help you get started:

Why Build an Instagram Community

Investing in an online community can be one of the most valuable moves any brand can make for long-term success. 

A community is something your audience feels part of — it’s so much more than being a one-time customer or a disengaged follower. Community is about shared interests and meaningful connections. 

By crossing the bridge from followers to community, brands can see a much deeper sense of loyalty from their audience. Community-orientated brands become so much more than just the value of their products — they’re an expression of identity.  

Glossier, Summer Fridays, and Create & Cultivate are all powerhouse community-orientated brands who have seen huge success on Instagram and beyond. 

Members of their communities are proud to show their love and appreciation, taking the brands from a provider of products and services to a personal alignment of lifestyle and ideals.

And it isn’t just large-scale brands seeing the benefits of a community-first mindset. Independent businesses like Paynter Jackets have built hyper-loyal and engaged communities around their brand values and a transparent approach on social media.

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This picture was taken two years ago on the 19th of May in the garden of @wrightsfood 🥪 Before we get to talking about jackets, it’s probably worth setting the scene so you know where Paynter came from. 👇🏼 Huw and I met in March 2018, at a @thedolectures workshop in London. My boss was on the workshop and felt ill, so I said I’d cycle over and take notes. For some reason I’ll never know, I walked in and gave Huw a hug. We’d never met before… I guess it was good energy?! 🙏🏼 Luckily, we got on well. The next day I went surfing in Sri Lanka for 2 weeks. We messaged everyday. The week I got back, I headed up to North Wales to see my family, and Huw joined us for 3 days. Yup, our first date was 3 days long. It was either going to be a disaster, or great. 🤞🏼 On day number 2 of our first date extravaganza, we started talking about brands (as you do). What we liked, what didn’t feel right, what we were bored of and wanted to see more of. We got onto what we’d each want if we had a brand of our own. We definitely didn’t want to create stuff people didn’t want. We wanted to create something small and interesting. 👇🏼 Fast forward a few weeks and we’re on our way to North Wales. This time, Huw whips out an amazing vintage blue jacket. That jacket was one of a few workwear jackets he’d been collecting. Huw had been making his own jackets since before we met, using scraps of raw denim from underneath the cutting table at @hiutdenim. 👖 He’d bought the jackets to take apart, to learn how they were constructed, so he could remake the iconic French workwear jacket. But, that blue jacket was too special to cut up. It was a slimmer fit than your average boxy jacket. It was softer and obviously made to last. But, like most side projects, Huw had got busy, and put his jacket project to one side… 🧵 If you’re still reading, head to the link in our bio to see how it continues. ☀️

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Having a thriving community at your fingertips isn’t just about driving customer loyalty and sales though. Brands with strong Instagram communities are often the most attuned to what their audience want, who they are, and how to add value to their lives.

Ready to start building an Instagram community? Here are our 6 top tips to help you get started: 

Instagram Community Tip #1: Make it Personal 

The first step towards creating a strong community on Instagram is to make it personal

Everyone knows that there is at least one real-life human behind an Instagram account, so removing the anonymity and sharing the faces of your brand is a no-brainer. 

It can humanize your brand and help create a deeper, more emotional connection between you and your community. 

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I was completely convinced I had lost and I was really okay with it. . A few years ago in 2013 right at the very start of Chupi when it was just me and friends helping out I was nominated for an @image Businesswoman of the Year Award. When Brian & I arrived I was overwhelmed by the other nominees, i was the epitome of imposter syndrome. I lost that night and it really made me think did I want it? Did awards matter to me? And I decided they did. I knew I wanted to build a strong kind business that could make a difference 💪🏻 . Getting ready for the #BWOTY19 awards again on Monday was a blur, it’s been a busy week and I was convinced I wouldn’t win. There were some truly brilliant women on the shortlist and I knew it wasn’t my night. Luckily despite my conviction @unaoboyle didn’t believe me and caught the moment we found out on video! . Over the last few years I have won some incredible awards, but I’ve lost three times as many. But in a crazy way losing has taught me more about myself, about what I want than winning ever has. I hate that on here we only see the highlights, not the lows. So here’s to winning and losing, today I’m taking a moment to celebrate the joy of winning such an amazing award 💫 . Lastly I have to say a heartfelt thank you to Image, who have given me so much support since that first article when I was 17 ⚡️ To my incredible team of 35 people (cheesy pictures included!) without whom none of this would be possible 🥂 And lastly to you guys, who have trusted us to celebrate your milestones and moments, thank you ❤️

A post shared by Chupi Heirloom Jewelry ✨ (@chupi) on

If you’re not sure how to make your brand more personal on Instagram, think about how you would interact with your customers in real life. 

The advice, tips, recommendations, and small talk you’d share naturally are all important parts of your brand personality that you can bring to your Instagram strategy — whether that’s through conversational captions, a series of chatty Instagram Stories, or a new IGTV series.

Providing valuable, targeted content is another way to make your Instagram more personal. During COVID-19 we’ve seen brands (like Missoma, below) going above and beyond to help support and entertain their communities on Instagram, often with no direct sales incentive. 

TIP: Use engagement-boosting Instagram Stories features (like Poll and Question stickers) to encourage more interactions from your community.

Looking for tips on how to navigate a global pandemic as a business on Instagram? Read our blog post: Social Media & COVID-19: How to Communicate During a Crisis.

Instagram Community Tip #2: Champion Your Brand Values 

Knowing what your brand stands for and being open about it with your audience is an effective way to strengthen your Instagram community. 

This could be advocating for a social cause you care about or simply championing the lifestyle choices your brand supports through your content strategy — there’s no right or wrong way to do it, as long as it’s authentic to your brand.

Having clear brand values is a great way to attract an audience of like-minded people who are more likely to connect with you and one another about the subjects they care about. 

For example, PANGAIA put their mission to design a better future for the planet at the forefront of their content strategy on Instagram, creating a hub for sustainability advocates to join.

Not only is this great for engagement, but it also means your community will be more invested in your brand mission — and much more likely to stick around for the long haul. 

Instagram Community Tip #3: Listen to Your Audience 

The key to a strong community isn’t just about sharing your story. Creating opportunities to listen to the voices of your audience is just as important — engagement is a two-way street.

And this isn’t just important for your audience. It can also be a super valuable way to gain insight into what your followers care about the most too.

For example, Summer Fridays regularly ask their audience to share what products they would like to see next — using real-time customer demand to shape their go-to-market strategy. 

Instagram community 2

One of the most effective ways to demonstrate that you care about your audience is by replying to comments and DMs in a meaningful and thoughtful way. 

At Later, our social team tries to respond to every comment and DM possible — no matter how trivial they may seem. It’s important to show your followers that you’re listening to their voice and appreciate their input. 

Instagram community 1

It’s also a good idea to set up comment filtering on your Instagram account. This will protect your community from offensive or inappropriate language, creating a safer space for your audience to interact with one another.

TIP: Allocate time to review and reply to comments and DMs at least once every day. You can also save time with Later’s Conversations feature, which allows you to review and reply to all of your most recent Instagram comments in a feed on your desktop computer.

Instagram Community Tip #4: Develop a Consistent UGC Strategy

If you’re not sharing user-generated content on your Instagram account, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity to build brand love and strengthen your online community.

UGC is brilliant as it allows specific community members to feel like VIP contributors, while the wider community benefits from seeing real people using and enjoying your products or services. 

Sharing UGC that reflects your audience can help members of your community to feel represented, which can also be a powerful way to show you’re here for all of your followers regardless of shape, age, gender, race, orientation, and beyond.  

TIP: Encourage your audience to create more UGC by hosting a daily or weekly competition like Sezane and creating a dedicated hashtag. 

Speed Up Your UGC Collection with Later

Struggling to find the time to gather quality UGC for your content strategy? 

Later’s UGC tools automatically pull in all the posts you’ve been mentioned or tagged in into an easy-to-use dashboard.

You can even search for posts that include a certain hashtag, or add any cool posts you find just by copying and pasting a post’s URL — which is great for when you find a post that fits with your aesthetic even if your account wasn’t tagged or mentioned. 

Later will maintain the high-quality resolution of the original post (no screenshots needed here) and will automatically add the handle of the user who originally posted it.

Improve your UGC workflow with Later’s user-generated content tools — source, schedule and repost UGC to your feed in minutes! Upgrade to Later’s paid Business plans to get access now!


Instagram Community Tip #5: Go Live on Instagram

Going Live on Instagram is one of the most direct and unfiltered ways to connect with your community, which is great for showing the more authentic side of your brand. 

Instagram Live views doubled in one week during the COVID-19 lockdown, creating a huge opportunity for brands to provide support and entertainment for their community in a new and creative way. 

Revolve has been sharing daily workouts, recipes, meditations, and styling sessions since social isolation came into play, demonstrating to their community that they’re here to provide helpful content that goes beyond boosting their bottom line.

TIP: Broaden your reach and grow your community by partnering with like-minded brands or creators in your next Instagram Live broadcast!

Instagram Community Tip #6: Find Creative Ways to Give Back to Your Followers 

Giving back is a great way to show your gratitude for the engagement and support you receive from your community — and it doesn’t have to break the bank to be effective. 

Loyalty programs, discounts, giveaways, and even donations to social causes are all simple but effective ways to reward your community for their loyalty.

For example, stationary brand wants their community to take a “mental vacation” during COVID-19, so they’re offering their followers a 25% discount on their summer collection.  

Similarly, brands can use Instagram Checkout to reward their Instagram community with exclusive products drops that aren’t available anywhere else. 

SoulCycle has started sharing limited edition product drops that are only available through Instagram, creating a unique offering for their audience. 

However you decide to give back, keep your community and their needs at the forefront of your strategy — and you’ll have a successful campaign that drives value for your brand and your audience. 

So there you have it!

By consistently following these 6 top tips, you’ll be able to create a loyal and engaged community on Instagram over time. 

And although there’s no such thing as overnight success when it comes to building meaningful customer relationships, this is one long-term strategy that’s well worth the investment.

Ready to level-up your Instagram strategy? Don’t forget you can plan, schedule and auto-publish to Instagram with Later — for free! 


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Written By

Jillian Warren

Jillian is a content marketer at Later based in the UK. She is an aficionado of London brunch spots and an avid listener of true crime podcasts. You can connect with her on Instagram @jillwrren.

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