Building Your Audience on Instagram

building your audience
“All companies have customers. Lucky companies have fans. But the most fortunate companies have audiences. An audience can be your secret weapon.”
— from the NY Times bestseller, Rework

When it comes to building your audience — and I don’t mean a huge number of followers, fans or evangelists, but an audience who genuinely is interested to hear what you have to say — your story is the single most important element. It’s the thread of your life, the passions that excite you and connect you to others. It could be a weekly trip to the flower mart, travel, your children, a love of art or wine … it’s all you and it’s all your story!

Believe me, I know it’s hard to define what our stories might be and why they’d be interesting to others, and even harder to begin to craft them. I personally am much better at see the stories of others than my own. When it comes to my own, I go through bouts of shyness when posting to social media channels. I mean really, how many posts of me working at a computer or in a brainstorming meeting does anyone want to see? It takes a lot for me to be able to step back and get objective. I’ve done some soul searching on why it doesn’t come as naturally for me to post as it does for others. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s part overthinking, part training.

Years of journalism in college and then editing a magazine drummed it in to me that the reporter | writer | editor | marketer is not the story. Of course, then Tom Wolfe and New Journalism came along to refute that, but that’s another blog post! But little by little, my visual story has emerged. For instance, I’ve found that my ongoing home renovation is a great source of revelation and inspiration that I can pass on. And I love learning about people who are passionate about what they do and then write about them. This includes my own clients who inspire me everyday. Which brings me to today.

We are ALL authors of our own story!

Realizing this has brought great freedom and fun to the marketing and content strategy I do now for clients and myself. We don’t need the middleman. We can take our stories direct to our audience. I still love everything about newspapers and magazines, but I also love being able to design and curate an authentic story and “publish” it myself.

At the moment, the best place to do this is on Instagram. Things might change, as it often does in social media, but right now Instagram has 500 million users with average users spending 21 minutes on it and generating 4.2 billion likes a day.

Yet it is a visual medium and that makes it hard for everyone to readily take advantage of. Certainly for me, as I marketing professional, consultant and writer, I’ve had to get creative with my own story. But for many of my clients – creative entrepreneurs who work in visual media from photography and lighting to fashion and flowers — the stories we can tell are beautiful, inspiring and informative.

building an audience

Crafting Your Story to Build the Ideal Audience

  1. Picture your audience. And I don’t mean what they look like. Go inside them. What do they dream of? Who are they? Who do they aspire to be? And how can they relate to what you are saying. What are you doing that they would want to know about and be a part of?
  2. Then write directly to them. Share information that’s valuable and relevant. Years ago when Twitter began, everyone used the hashtag #EIR – is the post entertaining, informative and retweetable? I think of these same three elements when posting now. Then, I try to give that person a way in, a way to comment, to relate and to share. The best way to do this is forego captions such as “Love this.” Instead, why do you love it? Does this rose remind you of one your grandmother used to grow? How does the image mean something to you enough to post it for others to see and enjoy?
  3. Look again at your profile bio. Does it give a clear idea of who you are and what your audience can expect to see on your Instagram story?
  4. Rather than posting here and there, schedule your social media Sunday night, or Monday. In an ideal world, it’s based around a blog you can direct traffic back to. Maybe it’s the story of an event you just finished, or a list of ideas or resources, or some wonderful lesson you learned from your family over the last week. Above all, have a story, or a theme, that runs through the week. Then pepper it with real time posts from something that happens during the week. View your Instagram feed as an unfurling of a story that has the audience coming back for more. I go into this more here.

Bottom line … don’t wait for the perfect moment. The time is now to release your inner editor! Look at your business, your life, your passions and your dreams as the source of material. Build slowly. When the time comes to get the word out about something important, the right people will be there.

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