It’s no secret that social media has become one of the main resources people use to meet, communicate, and inspire one another. It’s been my personal experience that through sharing my content on social media I have been able to accomplish all of those things with people I would have otherwise probably never met. And the even better news? This little app of squares isn’t going anywhere.
When I first started blogging I wanted answers right away and to everything. How do I do it? Where do I start? When do I incorporate social media? Do I have to have a Facebook Business Page? All questions I wanted answers to, and as soon as I’d check off a list of questions another page’s worth would swarm my brain. I wanted to create this post to share with you some tips that have helped me in growing my audience and engagement, day in and day out. You will see (and probably already have seen if you’re anything like me) a lot of statements online like “you’ll want it to happen overnight, but it won't!” or “do this and you’ll be famous overnight!” Exhale, I’m not out here to tell you either statement does or doesn’t ring true. But before we dive into anything you should know I have no hidden agenda, and I too am learning. I am simply writing this to share with you a few handy things I’ve learned so far just on my own, because I’ve been there as a beginner, confused and overwhelmed and I remember how badly I wanted to just take the leap.
The tips in this blog post won’t guarantee anything, but they are ways I have been able to generate genuine and real connections with actual people sans buying followers or likes or any of those crazy shenanigans. I use my blog platform as the TED talk and my social media accounts as the meet n greet. I strive to be real, raw, and genuine in my real day to day life and I don’t see any reason to act differently online. Transparency and vulnerability, being YOU, will always draw the right audience towards your art. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s dive in!
1. stay real
Stay true to you! I get asked for advice all the time on what to do first when starting a blog or social account. It’s okay to not have a specific “niche”, it’s okay to not know exactly what you want to write about or take pictures of or just what to create in general, and it’s OKAY to make changes after you start! Focus more on keeping your content consistent to YOU and who YOU are before making sure your content follows a certain aesthetic, niche, or theme. If you get too caught up in following what you think your blog or content should be, you end up losing the YOU aspect, which will then deter your audience because the heart and passion in your work gets lost and the content eventually becomes dry because you’re trying to have your content reflect your audience when it should be reflecting what’s on your heart. Your audience can feel and will be attracted to your passions because passion attracts passion; it will speak to them. There is a bit of tug of war when it comes to engaging your audience and letting your audience naturally become engaged; you don’t want to pressure anyone but you also want to remain open. Stay genuine and stay vulnerable. And have grace for yourself!! You are embarking on a new adventure, don’t get caught up in making it perfect or not knowing everything yet. Just take it step by step, and ask questions! Be flexible and open to change.
2. targeting your audience
It’s become common field practice to engage with bloggers, photographers, and for lack of a better word (I know, I know) influencers that are within the same niche or genre or field that you are in. Several folks will tell you to engage with other creatives in your niche because they are likeminded and will most likely enjoy your content. And on the one hand that’s GREAT-I love engaging and developing relationships with people who enjoy similar things to me! But it’s kind of like being a fish in a lake versus being a fish in the ocean. Think about how many other people you can encounter when you BROADEN who you are reaching out to? Why engage with everyone who is doing exactly what you are doing? You’re basically just communicating and reaching out to everyone who is posting and writing the same kind of content that you are. Branch out! See who is engaging with your content, who is messaging you about your blog posts or photo shoots, and see who THEY invest in and involve with! Get to know your audience on a level even beyond your personal interaction with them. This requires a bit of investigating but it will broaden your content much further than just reaching out to everyone in your creative circle! A good way to do this is hashtag searches (check out hashtags that other users who enjoy your content are using, in addition to hashtags relevant to your content!), this gives you the opportunity to spread your name and content outside your niche neighborhood and into the next town over.
3. engage with your audience
I am absolutely guilty of working my butt off on a blog post, editing a photo shoot, writing the perfect caption, the whole shabang and then as soon as the blog is live or the Instagram post is active I walk away from my computer or my phone. It’s kind of like “whew! got that out of the way”, and it’s easy from there to kind of forget to engage. Engaging with your audience swiftly helps you in two ways: first, it encourages your audience to come back! Think back to your own experiences, do you notice more when someone comments back to you quickly or someone who gets back to you hours even days later, or maybe not at all? I know too often I comment and don’t even expect a response! You post to engage, so be engaged! Keep those connections alive! Besides the numerous bot accounts (🙄) these are typically real people behind those comments that have taken the time to check out or read whatever you’ve shared. So engage! Second, engaging quickly (rather than hours or days later) tells the instagram algorithm “hey! this person’s post is getting engagement! wow fire look at all of these conversations!”. It’s my understanding that just getting comments doesn’t trigger any specific engagement level within the alogorithm, but when we mutually engage back and forth with people commenting and liking our posts that tells the algorithm “hey hey hey look over here”. So just keep that in mind next time you’ve got that wicked post in your back pocket! Stick around a minute. The most recent statistic I read is that Instagram will share your post with 10% of your audience first, and then depending on how well your post does in the first hour the algorithm will gradually expand that percentage to a broader audience. The Instagram algorithm is always changing, so keep that in mind as well. Regardless though, engaging with your audience is only going to help you!
4. best times & best hashtags
Staying up to date on when to post and what to post. The instagram algorithm is ALWAYS changing! Knowing when your best times to post are and what hashtags are working best for you is a major indicator and guarantee you are doing your part in the algorithm dance to give your content its best shot. I’ve read a lot of disputes on how many hashtags to use or which ones (most popular or least popular), so I’ll just share my personal strategy. Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags per photo, and I use all of them! I try to stray away from hashtags with over a million uses. I keep my hashtag popularity range to have a minimum of 130k and a maximum of 800k posts associated with it. This number can be found on the explore page when you search a hashtag. There are also a lot of discussions online about how often to switch out your hashtags. Instagram will occasionally whip out “dead”hashtags, where the hashtag you’re using is no longer accepting commissions. No one knows why ig does this, but it’s my guess it may be for oversaturated or bot-ridden hashtags. Either way, my strategy is to have a set base of maybe eight to ten hashtags, and every month or so I swap out the other twenty! This keeps my feed fresh and lets ig know I’m not a bot or on any sort of automation.
5. UTILIZE YOUR STORY
Honestly, I’m still getting used to this one myself! I usually use stories to post funny memes, relatable stories, and pictures. The real gold mine (and what statistically your audience wants to see!) is VIDEOS. Most of the time my hesitation with this is I plan out everything I post, so when it comes to stories and being on the spot I often times forget. I’m getting better though! One of the things that really helps me is to take pictures or videos in the moment and to maybe post them a little later when I’m not in transit or hanging out with friends in the present and I don’t want to be on my phone. This takes away a lot of the stress of wanting to share your day while also wanting to be a PART of your day!
There ya have it! Five tips that have helped me time and time again to grow my audience and maintain a steady engagement. Let me know if any of these worked for you, they are things you have already tried, or if you have any favorite tips you’d like to share!