building your audience with Instagram

The New Orleans style of @VickyCrease

In New Orleans last month to speak at Catersource, I was able to get to the iconic New Orleans institution, Cafe du Monde on my last morning there.

It was early and chilly enough to make my eyes water as I walked from the hotel. All I could think of was a hot cup of chicory coffee. The streets were empty, but the place was packed. A lot of people were sitting at tables, waiting for cafe au lait and beignets piled high with powdered sugar. But there was not one waiter in sight. I sat for five minutes, waiting. After no one arrived, I noticed a takeout window. The walk over with no coffee left me ravenous. So I opted for the takeout window versus the total experience. Instant gratification! Although … not so gratifying. Memory was much kinder to Cafe du Monde than reality. A classic case of the magic versus the moment.

Building your ideal audience with Instagram

Vicky Crease is one of my faves to follow … her world is a golden glow of celebs, fashion, food, beauty, and intelligence.

Building your ideal audience on Instagram falls somewhere between the two. Certainly, the story we tell has to be magical, beautiful and compelling. But we also need to be telling it from who we are … from the reality of the take out window, so to speak. This is how we build an audience — not fans, not passers by, but people who will tune in time and time again to hear what we have to say.

Don’t think you have an audience? You’d be surprised. Build it and they will come. Here are three takeaways from my presentation (heavily laden with food shots for my audience at Catersource) I really think are so important today to brands and individual today. There’s something here for someone just beginning their Instagram meal and something for the experience culinary voyager.

You Talkin’ to Me?

Great photos, yes, but it’s also in the way you present those photos. Do you just put them out there with one hashtag and rely on your viewer to understand what you are trying to say? Or, do you write a thoughtful caption, keeping in mind WHO YOU ARE TALKING TO.

building your ideal audience with Instagram

In this caption, Patina is talking to a person, AND it is directing traffic. Oh yeah, AND it’s a gorgeous photo!

This is an effective technique. I’m actually picturing you now as I write. You are a seasoned creative entrepreneur in an expressive field with a lot of opportunity to create dynamic content and images. You are excited by the possibility of Instagram, and even have started a feed, but you see it as “just one more thing to do.” You might not be sure how to use it or what to say. Maybe you are wondering about all those hashtags, or you don’t think it can bring you business.

I’m here to tell you that right now, Instagram is the BEST place to be. It has 58 percent more engagement than Facebook, grows at a faster rate organically than Facebook, and people remain on it longer. I also love a couple of the new options — Instagram Stories and Instagram Swipe.

At our core, we are simple creatures that flock towards entertainment. Instagram is a platform that highlights that by focusing on imagery over words. It’s a platform that’s “easy to swallow” at the end of a long or draining day, and it tends to keep away from heavy political discussions which can be an awkward place for brands to pop-up.

That said, it’s algorithms are changing to reward written content as much as imagery. Whereas I still love what I call the Power of Three on Instagram, I’m equally in favor of each image telling it’s own powerful story. To that end, let’s look at content and what to post…

Here are some ideas for building your ideal audience with Instagram:

  • Taking your audience behind the scenes into a world of events, art or lifestyle they might not otherwise see.
  • Giving tips and trends that make your audience feel like both an insider and an expert.
  • Creating mini stories that show your audience a work in progress (Instagram swipe is great for this, or you can post one at a time to draw out your content).

Showing the process:: Instagram world of @chefericl

Stories :: Instagram world of @andrewspurgin

Behind the scenes:: Instagram world of @imagesbylighting

Driving Traffic

Now you have an audience. What is the next step? The bottom line is that “likes” don’t pay the bills. The ultimate goal with any social media is to lead the reader back to your website, landing page or other page on line where you can collect emails from people who want to hear from you more often and on a deeper level.

Which means, most social media should begin with original content. Of course there are the times when you are at an event, at a show, or out to dinner when you want to post something of interest. What I’m talking about are posts that account for about half of what you are postings in a month.

And you are in the right industry for this, that’s for sure. The event and lifestyle industries both generate a lot of gorgeous photos around which you can build content.

The following is an excellent example of taking your audience deeper into your world, a world don’t forget, that they want to know more about. As a catering company with the Oscars for a client, Wolfgang Puck’s @WPcatering optimizes that fact by creating a special website just for Oscars content. Their audience can travel even deeper into content through a series of clicks … from Instagram > oscars.wolfgangpuck.com > www.wolfgangpuck.com.

Building your ideal audience with Instagram

This is content-driven marketing. Content marketing is simple the act of creating valuable content that attracts a clearly defined audience. It’s about driving traffic back to your website, blog, videos, books, podcasts and more. For the catering audience at Catersource, I also suggested driving viewers back to their menu pages and online photo galleries.

The Ultimate Goal

But just directing them here is not enough. Ideally, each of those pages will have a call to action for them to sign up to receive emails from you with more great content.

Building Your ideal audience with instagram

Call to Action on the blog page

building your ideal audience on instagram

A call to action on the home page

Some thoughts for you (choose one!) for building your audience …

  1. On the home page, create a sign up form to download a free look book (or photo book)
  2. On the blog page, have an opt-in for a free 2017 design guide
  3. On the side bar, a place they can sign up with an email for a free 15-minute consultation on their next event
  4. A floating offer for an ongoing giveaway such as this one from Salt and Pepper Co.

Or … take anther tact altogether.

Email offers are pervasive, and a very good idea, but there are no rules about it. I love what Jonathon Fields says on his email opt-in … “You don’t need a bribe to join my tribe…”

He’s offering his audience, i.e. tribe, inclusiveness and proximity.

But at the very heart of all this … all these actions build an audience that trusts you. They know that you will give them compelling content. That’s what will get them to give you their emails.

And THAT is the ultimate goal — creating an audience that wants to hear from you. An audience that wants to connect, engage, be inspired and informed by you and with you on this journey!

Next…

More tips for engaging with your audience. #staytuned

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