We now live in a day and age when your Instagram presence speaks volumes about who you are as a person. In fact, the age of personal branding is absolutely upon us. Whether we realize it or not, we look to people’s social profiles to give us a sense of what they do, and who they are. And the more followers and the bigger the audience you have, the more it’s established that you are someone worth paying attention to. You’re an “industry expert.”
What makes Instagram so powerful (and influential) is the fact that it is almost entirely visual. You can add a lot of value to people in what you write in the captions of your photos, absolutely, but unless you can hook them with your photos, chances are people will probably scroll right past your image and caption without stopping.
What also makes Instagram such a powerful tool is its seamless integration with Facebook’s ecosystem. It’s no secret that Facebook is the kingpin of the social media world, and as a mobile application there is no stronger platform to build an audience for yourself—especially if you’re looking to build yourself into an influencer in your industry.
But how does someone actually build an audience on Instagram? And more importantly, how do you build a massive audience—somewhere to the tune of half a million followers—without it taking years?
I recently chatted with Instagram star, Amanda Bucci, about her own Instagram strategy, and how she has attracted close to 500,000 followers herself. She is a fitness model and entrepreneur, active YouTuber, Podcaster, and well-established influencer on Instagram.
Here’s how she did it:
1. Create content around questions people are asking.
Too often, people on Instagram start posting content without really asking themselves who they want to reach, and more importantly, what value they want to provide them. They forget that the whole point of social media is to engage in a conversation—and just like if you were to go out to dinner with someone, part of a meaningful conversation requires listening.
“Especially in the beginning, I listened closely to what sorts of health and fitness questions people were asking, and catered my content around answering those questions,” said Bucci. “I wanted people to see me as a knowledge resource. I wanted them to feel like they were learning something new from me, every single day.”
2. Teach and inspire.
If you want to leave a lasting impact on someone, you have to find ways to help them, teach them, but also inspire them. You have to get them excited about what you’re saying and want to learn more!
“I think there is a major demand for people to have someone they can look to for guidance, not just in terms of information (in the fitness world, this would be eating and exercising), but also just how to attack their goals head on, or how to not get down on themselves when they fall off track.
When you provide tangible and teachable pieces of content, along with inspiring them to take action in their own lives, it’s hugely powerful for building a tribe/community,” said Bucci.
This means being open and honest, and sharing your own personal challenges—as well as how you overcame them. That’s what attracts people. They want to be able to relate to you, the influencer.
3. Create new content every single day.
“Being an influencer is hard work,” said Bucci. “Anywhere you make real money, is a real job. And for me and many other influencers, we do this full time! Creating content – every single day – that speaks directly to your ideal audience, takes time and intentional effort. You don’t just “get” followers, you have to learn what works, and do more of it, all of the time.”
Part of that learning process is the simple act of consistency! If this is something you envision yourself doing full-time (working for yourself, creating a brand and business around yourself and using social media to share it) you should always be striving to create something better today than you did yesterday. Ask yourself how you can make your posts even more engaging. Ask how you can make your captions even more inspiring and impactful. Always strive for improvement and don’t forget – consistency, is key.
4. Engage with those who engage with you.
“In the beginning, and all the way up until I hit about 70,000 followers, I responded to every single person who commented on one of my posts. That’s something a lot of people take for granted, and think doesn’t have a big impact on building a loyal audience, but it does. If you want people to care about what you’re sharing, then you have to care about what they say in response,” said Bucci.
Taking it a step further here, it’s valuable to start conversations with your followers. The key is to find ways to get them to speak up more, and with purpose, as to where they’d feel comfortable coming back again and again. Let me say that again – to get them coming back again and again. You’re not just acquiring followers for the sake of it. You’re building a community.
This, is social media.
5. Listen to feedback from your followers and adjust.
“I think a big reason why I have been successful on social media is because I actually listen to the feedback people provide. For example, if a large amount of people ask me about something, like how to stay confident while gaining weight, I will make sure to talk about it—whether that’s in a post, or a video, wherever. But the key is to listen to what people are asking, what they’re looking for, and then provide them value in that way. It’s a back and forth.”
This is definitely a piece of the puzzle too many aspiring influencers forget. Some just keep posting whatever it is they feel like posting, instead of taking the time to understand what content is resonating most with their audience.
Building a massive social media following takes some time, of course, but it’s these underlying fundamental habits that keep the momentum moving in the positive. Just remember to stay consistent, to always look for ways to improve, and to actively engage your community.
Brian is an Inc. 500 Entrepreneur, who built the 25th fastest growth marketing and advertising agency in America. Brian is an advisor to many startups and mentor to many entrepreneurs. He is a columnist at the world’s top publications. Brian is the Founder of Influencive and the Founder at BDE Ventures.