Instagram is a brilliant way to build an audience of engaged, supportive followers for your business. Often, though, social media marketing can fall by the wayside if other business-building activities are deemed more important.
This is a huge mistake.
Instagram (IG) is one of the biggest social networks in the world. But people aren’t just using it to keep tabs on what their friends do on the weekend. Some 70% of shoppers use Instagram to discover new products. And the brands that meet Instagram users on the platform, and build relationships with them, often claim the purchase.
Want to get in on the action? In this guide, you’ll learn how important it is to build relationships with Instagram users, along with some tips you can use to implement this relationship-building strategy into your business.
The power of relationships with Instagram users
Social media is a brilliant way to build relationships with your target audience and customers.
Instagram especially offers several advantages when getting to know your customers. That’s because you can reach, engage, and build relationships with people at all stages of your buying funnel by:
- Raising brand awareness and getting your products in front of new audiences.
- Nurturing leads at various points in the sales journey and converting customers.
- Developing brand advocates who actively promote your business, products, or services to their own audiences.
Pretty powerful, right?
How to use Instagram to deepen relationships with your followers
Now that we know how important relationships are for brands on Instagram, let’s take a look at 12 ways you can build one with your audience.
- Encourage users to comment.
- Use Instagram stickers to encourage messages.
- Respond to direct messages promptly.
- Post consistently.
- Post when your followers are active.
- Test different Instagram post types.
- Go live.
- Use relevant hashtags.
- Be personable and relatable.
- Share user-generated content.
- Interact with your followers’ content.
- Share exclusive discounts and offers.
1. Encourage users to comment on your posts and respond to stories
Comments are a key indicator of your content’s quality. Instagram’s algorithm takes comments into consideration when updating feeds; if you’re able to spark conversation in your post, it’s more likely to be placed higher in a follower’s feed. This increase in visibility alone can help to build meaningful relationships with your audience.
So, how can you get users to leave comments? The answer is simple: Ask them.
By simply including an instruction, such as “comment below” or “tag a friend,” in your caption, you greatly increase the chances of people responding. In fact, Instagram captions with the word “comment” tend to generate more comments and likes than those without.
One thing to note, however, is that not everybody reads captions. Instagram is a visual platform first and foremost — hence why 65% of users admit to sometimes bypassing the caption altogether.
To reach those caption skippers, consider including a text overlay on your image. A question or call to action can be enough to grab their attention and convince them to comment on your post.
It’s no secret that getting people to comment on your Instagram post is much easier than asking them to send you a direct message (DM). Part of the resistance to sending a private message is the amount of effort it takes — followers need to click your profile, find the Message button, and type out their message.
The good news? You can remove that entire process and divert conversations to private DMs with Instagram Automation by ManyChat.
The Comments Growth tool will send an automated message to anyone who comments on your public Instagram posts. You can use it to deliver free content, share product information, or enter a giveaway (like the example below):
2. Use Instagram Stories to encourage direct messages
With over 500 million people using them each day, Instagram Stories are another great way to build relationships.
Encourage people to start chatting with your brand using stickers. These overlays allow people to submit questions, take part in polls, and respond to your Stories. (Pro tip: The poll, emoji slider, and question stickers usually drive the highest engagement.)
The best part? By using Instagram Automation by ManyChat, you can automatically respond to people who start conversations with your Instagram Stories. For example, if you ask people to enter an emoji to read your new e-book, automations deliver it via direct message in just a few seconds.
3. Respond to direct messages promptly
Sending DMs is a huge part of social media. Part of their appeal is that users can open the app and chat with anyone, regardless of where (and who) they are.
Research shows that 40% of consumers expect brands to respond within an hour of sending a message via social media. Turn on Instagram notifications to make sure you don’t miss any new conversations.
Take Instagram messaging a step further using Instagram Automation. With ManyChat, you can configure keywords to trigger responses to Instagram messages. This can satisfy followers, giving them a great first experience messaging your business, without taking up too much time.
4. Post when your users are active
When building relationships with your followers, It’s crucial to think about the timing of your Instagram posts. After all, they’re unlikely to engage with your content if it posts at midnight, and your content will be buried in more recent posts from friends and family come morning.
“What’s the best time to post on Instagram?” is a question that comes up frequently. While there are guidelines that suggest weekday evenings are the optimal time, you’ll need to do some trial-and-error testing yourself to see when your Instagram content sparks the most conversation with your target demographic.
If you’re a fitness brand, for example, early morning motivational posts might be best for driving good engagement rates. A company selling luxury chocolate might see better results from late evening posts.
The best thing to do is to test your content at different times and see what generates the most engagement. Social media analytics tools, like Buffer and Hootsuite, can do this for you, by creating a queue that automatically schedules Instagram posts at your optimal times.
5. Post consistently
Regardless of when you post, the key to building Instagram relationships is to be consistent. Research from Union Metrics suggests that brands that post consistently often see the best results.
So, how do you do this while also building a relationship with users? Set follower expectations by regularly posting content every day, week, or month. The frequency doesn’t matter so much as being consistent.
Create a social media calendar to help plot ideas and map out your future ideas. Here are a few examples of engagement-worthy posts you can schedule for your Instagram profile:
- Ask colleagues and team members to contribute their ideas.
- Repurpose your blog content into visual formats for Instagram posts.
- Jump on trending hashtags or topics and get involved in the conversation.
- Share user-generated content (more on this later!).
6. Experiment with different post types
They say variety is the spice of life — this rings true with Instagram too.
Though primarily thought of as an image sharing platform, Instagram offers a wide range of features that can improve reach, increase engagement, and build profitable customer relationships.
Alongside standard image posts, consider using carousels — a selection of images (up to 10) in one post. Research has shown carousels are the most engaging content format on Instagram:
(Pro tip: Encourage followers to start scrolling through images in your carousel by writing “swipe left” in your caption.)
In addition to carousels, experiment with video content on Instagram. You can do this in a carousel or standalone post, but Instagram launched newer video creatives such as Instagram TV (IGTV) and Reels (a TikTok rival).
Some 70% of marketers are looking to invest more in video content, and it’s no surprise. More than 500 million Instagram users watch Stories every day with a third of those most-viewed videos coming from brands.
7. Go live
Just like Stories, Instagram Live broadcasts are surfaced at the top of a user’s Instagram feed. But there’s one big difference: When you’re broadcasting, you’re given prime placement ahead of all the other Stories from other accounts your audience follows.
You can use the live feature a few different ways to increase your engagement and build relationships with users. For example, you could go live to:
- Show behind the scenes of your business.
- Publicize new product launches or feature releases.
- Interview industry experts or customers.
- Run live Q&A sessions with your followers.
- Provide how-to or informational content to your users.
One great example of Instagram Live in action comes from Chipotle. They use live video to connect with their audience, delivering cook-along recipes with one of their chefs.
8. Use relevant hashtags
Are you using hashtags as part of your Instagram marketing strategy? If you’re not, you definitely should be.
Posts with at least one hashtag receive 12% more engagement than those without. Plus, hashtagged posts are much more likely to be featured in Instagram’s Explore feature (visited by 200 million people per day), exposing your brand to potential new followers.
Posts are limited to 30 hashtags per post, and advice varies greatly as to the perfect number of hashtags to use. While the optimal number of hashtags is inconclusive, focus on quality over quantity.
Don’t overdo it and use dozens of different hashtags just for the sake of it. Instead, use super-relevant hashtags in each post — ones your target audience is likely to be scanning.
But a word of warning: Don’t use the same hashtags over and over on each post. It can seem spammy to your users and result in a shadowban, which limits your profile visibility and content reach, or even a total suspension from the Instagram platform.
9. Be personable and relatable
Everybody’s heard that old sales line, “People buy from people.” That couldn’t be more true in the digital age. It’s important to show your business’s human side through your Instagram content rather than coming across as a faceless corporation.
This doesn’t always mean plastering selfies across your business accounts. (Even though one study found posts with human faces gain 38% more likes and are 32% more likely to generate comments than those without faces.)
Make your brand relatable by developing a tone of voice and attitude that makes it easier to recognize your content.
Organic drinks company Innocent, for example, does this well, especially in a relatable post published after the UK’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions eased.
10. Share user-generated content
You know you’re doing a good job when your audience and customers start creating content for you. User-generated content (UGC) is content made by individuals who reference your brand or products, and can be a powerful tool for building your Instagram audience relationships.
Get your audience talking about you by incentivizing them to do so. This could be through entries to a giveaway, discounts on future products, or bonus loyalty program points when they upload a photo of a product they purchased.
Use Instagram Story mention triggers in ManyChat to handle this entire process.
Once your audience starts talking about you on their own Instagram profiles, share it to your business account. Not only does it make you look good, but it also gives that user a boost by having their content shared. It might even encourage others to do the same!
11. Interact with your followers’ content
You already know it’s important to respond when followers message you or comment on your content. So why not start the conversation yourself?
Relationships are a two-way street. Follow relevant industry influencers, experts, and leaders from your business account before interacting with their content.
Share your views in a way that will keep the conversation going (without being spammy or pushy) to trigger future responses.
An added bonus here is that you’ll get your business in front of another account’s followers, too. The new set of followers might see your comment, visit your business’s profile, and hit “follow.”
12. Share exclusive discounts and offers
If your Instagram followers are not already customers, they’re potential customers.
Continue to build customer relationships by incentivizing them with exclusive offers, such as discounts and flash sales, to give your followers the VIP treatment — something 97% of customers look for during the sales journey.
For loyal followers and brand advocates, why not include them in your product launch process? For example, offer them early access to new products, or involve them in tests or betas for new software.
You can also ask your followers for feedback on your customer service or products, which is another way to ensure they feel valued.
Kickstart your Instagram relationship building
It’s simple: There’s no point in having an Instagram account for your business if it doesn’t improve your business in some way. Whether you’re trying to increase brand awareness, drive sign-ups, or get repeat customers to purchase again, it all comes down to relationships.