Ep 9. How to Grow a Real + Engaged Instagram Following

I'm Ashley!

My mission at The Purpose Gathering is to help driven momtogs like you level up, so you can build a sustainable business AND a fulfilling family life. I do that through authentic brand photography for mompreneurs and my signature program for mom photographers: Side Hustler to CEO.

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In today’s episode, I am so excited to chat with you guys about Instagram, the platform we all love to hate. I don’t know about you guys, but it is so difficult for me to navigate Instagram and to understand how it works. So, I’ve been on a journey of trying to figure out what really is the most important thing to focus on when I’m on Instagram, and what is the best, most successful way to use the platform. So, in today’s episode, I really am going to give you guys the outline of how I think you should be using Instagram and what it can do to help you grow a real authentic and engaged following. Hey, Mama, I’m so glad to have you here with me today, I wish that someone would have told me all of this stuff I’m about to tell you right now so many years ago, because it would have saved me a lot of time. So, before we jump right in, I really want you to take an assessment, and think about how much time you are actually spending on Instagram every day. If you have an iPhone, I know it’s super easy for you to find this out. If you’re like me and have an Android phone, it’s a little bit more tricky. So, you have to have an app, and the one that I recommend is called Quality Time, and actually tracks how long you are on each app on your phone. So, you can get a really good idea of how much time you’re spending/ wasting in my opinion.
Now that you have a pretty good idea of how much time you’re spending every day, I want you to multiply that by seven and get a feel for how much time you’re actually spending every week. When I did this exercise, I was completely blown away. I want to say, I couldn’t even believe it, you guys, the amount of time I was spending on Instagram was astronomical. And to top it all off, the time I was on Instagram is not actually including all the time I was spending planning my Instagram, finding photos, writing the captions. Oh my gosh, you guys, the captions took me forever. I was spending probably around five hours a day between engaging on Instagram, storying on Instagram, caption, planning, all the things. It was ridiculous how much time I was spending.
Tip # 1: Focus on Your Insights
I was so focused on growing my following and having captivating content that I was missing the whole point what Instagram is really designed for. And that’s connection, more than content sharing. I was also a lot more focused on my following member, and I wasn’t paying attention to my insights, which actually is going to give you more information. So, tip number one is going to be to focus more on your insights, then your following count. So, if you’re not familiar with your insights, this is available for all business Instagram accounts. And it’s something that’s super beneficial for you to look into and to track and to just keep an eye on.
So, let me walk you through how to get to your insights. Once you’re on your profile, you can see your profile picture, you see your number of posts, number of followers, navigate to your settings. So, on my Android phone in the upper right-hand corner, there is three lines. If you click on that, you can see a drop down of a lot of different things like archive, insights, your activity, name tags, saved, etc. So obviously, you’re going to click on insights. This will take you to an overview page that includes your most recent posts and stories. So, what I recommend starting with is head to your posts and click see all. The default setting is going to show you all of your posts starting with the ones that received the most reach.
So, if you click on those photos, it’s going to tell you a little more information. So, you want to click View insights, which is right above the heart comment and airplane share button. Once you click that, you’re going to be able to see all of your post insights, number of likes, number of comments, how many shares and also how many saves. Of course, it feels nice for us to get lots of likes and comments, but the most important ones are going to be how many people shared it, and how many people actually saved it. And the next insight information that I think is super important is it’s going to tell you how many people actually viewed your profile from the post.
It also tells you how many people actually clicked through to your website from your profile. So, these numbers are giving you a lot of information. It’s telling your number one, if your content is relevant, and people are enjoying it. Number two, if you have a call to action, because if you don’t, people are likely not going to be going to your website, and then three, it’s going to be giving you a really good indication of what to post more of.
Tip # 2: Create Your Own Platform
Now that we’ve kind of taken her focus off of the vanity metrics and likes and follows, I really want to introduce you to tip number two, which is create your own platform. And I think a lot of people, we understand this, but we don’t really actually do it. So, let me explain it to you if you’ve never heard this tip before. Essentially, a lot of users on Instagram are creating their content to live on Instagram. And the thing about Instagram is that it doesn’t easily allow people to search for your content. Unless you’re going back through and re sharing these really awesome posts that you did on your stories, it’s likely that they’ll become irrelevant after 24 to 48 hours. And how absolutely sad is that, that we pour so much time and energy into creating this amazing content, that only gets seen for 24 to 48 hours.
You guys wrap your head around this for a minute. This is insanity, I did this for so many years. I have so many amazing captions and like I did like mini blog posts basically. And it’s, nobody cares about them anymore, unless I take the time to go back and really make it top of mind. People are not able to go through and search for that. Hashtags yes, but it’s not the same. So, I really want you guys to think, where can you send your people, you should not be creating enormous amounts of content that only live on Instagram. You should be creating content and then pulling from your content and sharing on Instagram.
So, the common platforms that people are using right now to point people to are blogs, YouTube channels, podcasts, even Instagram TV. That’s not something that I would personally recommend because also if Instagram shut down tomorrow, all of your IGTVs would be gone, unless you have them saved in a separate place. So, I absolutely recommend finding a platform that you own, that you could point someone to. I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and a place to share on Instagram, what I’m saying is that if Instagram is the only place your content lives, I totally recommend putting an end to that today. If you’re a newer business, I recommend starting with a blog. I think that a blog is somewhere where it’s really a lot easier to create content and send people there. If you’re a little bit more established in your business and you have credibility and expertise in a certain field. I recommend the podcast or YouTube route.
Really, I want you to think of maybe even just pull your audience and ask them where would you want to see me? That’s what I did with this podcast. I really thought I was going to start a YouTube channel but when I asked my audience, they wanted a podcast, because for busy mamas, it’s easier to listen to a podcast than it is to watch a YouTube video. If you decide to go the podcast or YouTube route, I think it makes sense to just add a blog because you’re already writing the content anyways, you have the outline ready, you have really good information. So, you might as well repurpose it onto a blog. And then you can use Instagram to drive more traffic to that platform.
Tip # 3: Increasing our Profile Visits
Okay, so now that we have gotten this out of the way, because I feel like it’s so important to create your own platform, I want to move on to how can we foster that engaged in authentic following. So, I want you to think back to when we were looking at your insights. And tip number three is going to be how do we work on increasing our profile visits, because that’s really was more important. The profile visits mean that people are actually coming to your program. file. Now there are two type of types of people who visit your profile. It can be prospective followers, and they just kind of maybe found you through a share or through a hashtag. And they’re checking out your feed to see if you’re worth following. Or it could be your current followers, and they’re coming to your feed to see something new that you posted about.
So, the most effective ways that I have found to increase my profile visits is to have a call to action on my stories. You may have heard this already, but stories are really where it’s at for Instagram. I encourage you that if you’re not using stories yet, switch your focus to focus on stories. Your feed is important, it’s your first impression, and yes, it helps kind of keep you relevant with your current following. But I think it’s so much more important to focus on your stories. Do a poll in your stories and ask people, do you look at feeds? Or do you watch stories? I bet the majority is going to be stories. They’re just so much more interesting to watch.
So, what I’ve been focusing on more is storying every day, posting a few times a week, and then sending that post to my stories with a leading caption that make people want to click. So instead of giving them all the information about what my post talks about, I want to give them just a teaser to make them want to click through to my profile. So I will send my post to my Instagram stories, and I will put a title on there that says something like, Oh my gosh, you will not believe what just happened to me with a gift that says new post, and that makes people be like, oh, what just happened to her I want to go click through and see what she’s talking about. So, this increases your profile visits dramatically. It’s also really important that each of your stories have a caption, trust me, it’s so annoying, I get it. I wish there was an easier way, but there are so many people who listen to stories on silent, and they read the captions, and they will only turn the sound on if they’re interested in what you have to say.
So again, you want to make sure that your captions have something enticing for them to actually want to turn the sound on. For example, a couple of months ago, I did a story and the caption said, the most embarrassing return I just had to make. And then people of course, are like, ooh, what the heck was it? I got to find out until they’ll turn the sound on to listen. Lately, I’ve been captioning everything because I’m getting a lot more engagement when I do that. But I’m also having a call to action. And essentially a call to action is telling your follower what to do next. So, the most common call to action that I use is Visit the link in my bio. And what do they have to do first, to get to the link in your bio, they have to visit your profile. So again, that’s increasing your profile visits, it’s increasing your website clicks, it’s showing Instagram that your account is having more engagement. And so, they will filter you through the algorithm higher when you have more engagement on your profile.
Tip # 4: Find More Targeted Followers
Okay, so let’s move on to Tip number four, which is find more targeted followers. And this is something I think everybody wants but nobody really wants to do the work to attain. So gone are the days where you’re going to just go through and just like people’s stuff and follow them just for the sake of following them and then hoping they’ll follow you back. That is not an authentic way to find followers and I want you guys to focus more on authentic relationships. So, when you sit down to engage and grow your following on Instagram, I want you to spend 15 minutes going through hashtags. This is the best way to find people, hashtags and location tags. So, I want you to do a little bit of research, take a little bit of time, and find the actual hashtags that your ideal client would be using.
So, for me, my ideal avatar is a mom, business owner. So, I’m able to go in and search hashtags like mompreneur, work at home mom, female entrepreneur. And what I do is I go through and I find posts of people that I actually want to be friends within real life. I go into their profile, if they have content that I love, I follow them. I also will like three to five of their posts and then I will go in and comment on one to two of their posts with actual meaningful comment. So no, so cute, I love this emoji like no. Like, I really take the time to sit down and write a very heartfelt comment. And the idea of commenting, just to give you this tip, the idea of commenting is not for just a statement. You want to start a conversation in the comments. So be authentic, ask questions, really get a conversation started. And that is the absolute best way to leave great comments. And if you want to take it a step further, because you really resonate with this person or you absolutely love their content, send them a DM, give them a very heartfelt message. Even better send them a voice message.
I think it’s so much more personal when I get a voice message from someone saying my name, telling me you know that they found me in the hashtags and they love what I’m doing and they want to hear more about me. Like this is really how you start digging in and getting authentic engagement from your followers, is being authentic with them first. Take the first step, reach out, get to know people, that’s what Instagram is really good for. Instagram is really good for connection; Instagram is fantastic for that. You guys, if you’re not using Instagram in that way, that is going to be the biggest driver of engagement in your business on Instagram. So definitely don’t feel weird about it, Instagram is all about that. People kind of expect it and they love it, it’s a breath of fresh air. If people are going to be weirded out by other people reaching out and saying hey and giving them compliments about their content or their feed, then you know what, they don’t belong on Instagram. So, don’t let that hold you back, people are not going to think you’re weird, I promise.
Here is the favorite message that I love to send people, and I may have actually sent it to you because this is how I connect with so many people on Instagram. I write to them with something super authentic that says something like this. Hey, Rachel, I just found your amazing profile. I was searching hashtag mompreneur, you came up and I love your feed. I love what you’re doing. And I really want to know how you got started in this design business. And I just want to know more about who you are and what you do. So, I can’t wait to hear from you, and I hope you’re having a great day. Who wouldn’t want to receive a fun message like that? You guys I’m telling you, it works, it’s a great handshake and it leads right into some really amazing conversation.
Tip # 5: Share the Love
Okay, leading right into tip number five, share the love you guys. It’s so important that we share other people because Instagram is really, I scratch your back, you scratch mine. You have to take that first step, if you share the love and you reach out and just show people who you love, who you follow who you care about, they will in turn reciprocate it. Even if it’s not right away, and that obviously shouldn’t be the only reason why you’re doing it, but the people who share the most for you, don’t you just feel like you want to share about them because they’ve shown the love to you? So, here’s the most common mistake I see when people share other people’s posts. They go to their profile, they find something they want to share, they click the share button, and then they hit post. And that’s all they do.
Now, maybe you weren’t aware of this, but if you share a post like that, the person doesn’t see that you shared it. The only way they see it is if you tag them in that post. So, what I recommend doing is when you share someone’s content, write something super nice about them. Take a few minutes to write out a shout out to them. For example, one of my favorite fitness and nutrition people is KMore Macro, Krista Moreland. I love shouting her out because I think that her content is amazing. So, when I share her posts, I’m going to say something like, Krista, thank you so much for sharing this amazing Instagram TV. I want all of you to go check her out, follow her, she gives the best advice, and then I will, and I will make sure to share her Instagram handle. And what that tag does is sends her a notification that I shared something from her feed. I’ve tagged her so she can go ahead and reshare it if she wants to. So that’s a really pro tip if you guys want to get reciprocation. If you want to get visibility from other accounts, you have to tag them in that share.
Tip # 6: Save Content You Love
Okay, one more strategy that I want to share with you guys about how to do this, is anytime that you come across good content that you love, like a quote, or a really good caption that resonated with you or a meme that you thought was funny, go ahead and save it. Put them into a folder titled reshare. That way, when you’re getting ready to maybe post about a reshare, you have a bank of amazing content. You don’t have to go search for things. It makes it feel less desperate when you’re searching for something like oh, what should I share today, and you already have that saved. So, I recommend re sharing someone’s content every single day. And again, make sure you tag them, and they might possibly reshare it in their stories as well.
So just to recap, I know this was a lot of information, but tip number one is to focus on your insights over your vanity metrics, the insights are going to give you so much more valuable information than your following count ever will. Tip number two, create your own platform. Instagram is a really great place to share content, but it’s not a great place to create content to live. So be sure that you’re pointing people off of the Instagram platform onto your own platform. Tip number three was to focus on increasing your profile visits, and that was through a number of different ways using stories with captions, call to action, and link in your bio. Tip number four was gain targeted followers by actually authentically searching for people using hashtags to find your ideal target clients and really taking the time to reach out to them, start authentic conversations and connections with them through DM and comments. And then finally, tip number five was to share other people’s posts, spread the love. We All love when other people share our content, so do the same and really be authentic with the way that you’re sharing their content. Don’t just share to share, share to actually increase awareness about this other person’s profile, and encourage your audience to follow them as well.
I hope that you found these tips helpful today. I know there’s so much information about Instagram, and there’s so many different ways to connect and plug in with it. But I just hope that you’ll take these tips to heart and realize that Instagram is not where we should be putting a lot of our focus. Instagram should be a vehicle for us to get our content out into the world. But we should be focusing more on our content creation on other platforms. If we haven’t had a chance to personally connect yet, I want you to head over to Instagram and follow me at The Purpose Gathering and introduce yourself. Start a conversation with me, step outside of your comfort zone if you’re one of those people that think it’s strange to just randomly reach out, I’m giving you permission right now. I would love to hear from you.
As always, Mama, I’m rooting for you. And I want you to know that you’re not alone on this journey.

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My mission is to help fellow momtogs (mama photographers!) experience success in business and in motherhood. As an Arizona brand photographer for mompreneurs, I’m passionate about capturing authentic images that show off my clients’ unique personalities so they can connect with their ideal clients. And as an online business coach for momtogs, I LIVE for helping mamas experience incredible transformations that help them build a business they love, without sacrificing their precious time with their littles.

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