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Marketing on Instagram can be a depressing experience for many creatives. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers and the comparison game – I have totally been there! However, I recently had the simplest perspective change that was a game changer for me. I realized that the same principles I use to network and make friends in real life probably work online as well. So I changed the way I approached social media, and it was really successful! Using the same principles I use in real life, I’ve made amazing connections with creatives in my industry and found new clients through Instagram. Finding success on social media is surprisingly very similar to finding success in socializing in real life. That being said, here are a few easy ways to reclaim joy on Instagram and authentically grow your audience!

Refine your definition of success

Let’s stop and think about this. What role does Instagram play in your business? Unless you’re an influencer who receives payments for posting and sharing, chances are that Instagram is a supplementary marketing tool – not the main focus of your business or a source of income.

If this is true for you, this means that we can take a different approach to Instagram. We can view it as a powerful networking tool instead of a seemingly impossible popularity game. Instead of being focused only on the number of likes and followers, we can measure it in more meaningful ways, like how many colleagues and brands have you met and interacted with? How many people in your current network have you reached out to and strengthened your relationship with? How have you connected with potential and current clients, and how have those relationships led to more work?

I think the more we focus on those meaningful ways we can utilize the platform, the more the numbers will naturally grow. Maybe not to a million, but building these metrics will help you gather a following and community that’s genuinely interested in you and what you have to offer – and they’ll end up becoming a resource to you as well!

Let’s change the definition of success and reclaim control. Instead of passively waiting to see how many likes or comments your images get, let’s take charge of putting ourselves out there and making connections.

Simple Ways to Succeed on Instagram

Think of it this way: what basic social skills do you use to find and make friends in real life? How can you use those skills to build your network online? Think about that while you read on.

Put Yourself Out There

In order for people to want to be your friend, 90% of the time you HAVE to put yourself out there. I know this can be really hard, especially if you are shy or introverted. But if you go to a party, and just chill against the wall sipping a drink while you watch everyone, you probably aren’t going to meet very many people or make lots of new connections. There’s nothing wrong with that in real life – I’m totally the person who would rather be home snuggling with my dog than at a party, haha. But if you want to succeed in building a following and connecting with people on Instagram, you have to be the person who puts yourself out there. You can’t just show up and expect people to like you and want to talk to you. You have to put in an effort.

Identify Where Your People Hang Out

When I was a new college student trying to make friends, the best way I did this was by going to places where people I liked and related with were hanging out. Most of the time, I would end up meeting someone and having a good conversation with them.

The same thing applies to Instagram. Think about your ideal audience (aka creatives you want to network with and/or brands you want to work with). What things are they interested in? What accounts are they following? What hashtags are they probably using in their posts?

After identifying some of these places where they are probably hanging out, it’s your job to go and introduce yourself to them! This brings us to the next step:

Build a Connection

You can do this by:

  • Search hashtags they’re using in their posts, and start engaging with all of the posts with that hashtag. For example, if you’re a product photographer who wants to work with growing brands search “#smallbusiness”. Chances are all these posts are created by small, growing businesses who might need a photographer. Start engaging with all of the posts in the hashtag. Go the extra mile – don’t just like their posts! Head to their account, like a few of their posts that catch your eye, and even comment with something genuine to say.
  • Go to an account that your ideal audience probably follows. You can be as general or specific as you’d like, but the more specific you are, the more effective it will probably be. For example, a small to mid size company your clients are interested in would probably be a better resource than a huge corporation with a massive, more generalized following. So if you are a wedding photographer looking for brides in your area, I would go to maybe a popular local shop’s account that matches the age range and interests of your brides. Go to their followers and start engaging with them. Just do the same thing – like posts, genuinely comment, and even give them a follow.

You can use this principle in so many ways. Think of all the ways you can find your ideal network, and start showing up and being present in those places. That can also be through searching by location, etc.

Nourish Existing Relationships

Once you’ve found new connections, it’s important to build them! This creates networking relationships, helps followers become clients, and builds a strong audience. The best way to build and keep relationships is by consistently showing up and engaging with them. The nice thing is, on Instagram this can be REALLY simple! Just keep track of accounts that you want to continue building a relationship with, and engage consistently with them. Comment on their new posts, respond to their stories, like their posts, etc. They’ll really appreciate having a genuine, authentic follower, and chances are you’ll build a good relationship with them. This is the best way I’ve found to reclaim joy on Instagram, because I’m using it as an avenue to connect and build relationships.

With Instagram’s algorithm, you can’t control whose posts show up on your feed. The easiest way I’ve found to make sure I’m engaging with all the accounts I want to is by saving their accounts in a folder. I have a saved posts folder called “Accounts to Engage With” that I’ll go through once a day and like/comment on their new posts. This is the best way I’ve found to make sure I’m touching base with the people in my network!

To Summarize:

Networking and building relationships on Instagram isn’t as hard as we make it seem. We can simplify it and think of it as building a network, just like in real life. Simple steps to do this are:

  1. Create Your Definition of Success
  2. Identify Where to Find Your People
  3. Build a Connection
  4. Nourish Existing Relationships

This process helps you reclaim joy on Instagram by defining success through your efforts, instead of the numbers. I’ve found that doing these steps naturally improves the numbers, but that’s not the focus or the why of my efforts. I’ve been taking 30 minutes a day to go through these steps consistently for a while, and my numbers have been consistently growing – even when many other accounts are seeing a dip in engagement.

My favorite part of this process is that it changes using social media into an active process with a purpose, instead of a passive time sucker.

I hope you guys found this helpful! What ways have you found to reclaim joy on Instagram and authentically connect with your audience?

For more tips, check out my blog here!

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