Women struggling with social anxiety most often experience stress when interacting in person, but that doesn’t mean reaching out online is always stress-free! While face-to-face connection will always be the most powerful and effective way to build relationships, there’s another reality of connection we can’t ignore.
The world of social media is a massive player when it comes to connecting with others and building your brand, so it’s crucial we be intentional there too. Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform, with 90% of users being under the age of 35. This means it’s an extremely valuable way to understand and connect with your audience, and entrepreneurs targeting millennials can’t afford to skip engagement!
Networking on Instagram plays another valuable role, too. For many female entrepreneurs, the only other biz babes they know are on Insta. In a world where “it’s who you know” isn’t just a cliché phrase, it’s crucial to have the skills to convert Insta peeps to real-life connections.
If you find that after you (or they) hit the follow button, the conversation seems to grind to a halt, you’re in the right place. I’m going to teach you how I continually transform strangers on Instagram into connections, partners, and friends, anxiety not included. 😉
However, before we dive in, we have to deal with one major part of Insta interaction – manners.
Instagram Ethics (or “How To Not Look Like A Scumbag”)
Let’s get one thing straight, shall we? No follow/unfollow crap!
Playing that game is NOT how you get followers, it’s how to look scammy. I can’t tell you how many times “people of value” follow me and then after a few engagements, peace out, thinking I won’t notice. (Ummm, hello, there are apps for that, people! I ain’t dumb. You BUSTED.)
As soon as I see these people drop off, any respect I may have had for them, their credentials or their content, drops like a brick of cement in the ocean. (#unfollow) It doesn’t matter how you brand yourself – if you’re not acting like a person of quality and integrity, no one will believe you are one. Your actions matter!
This is crucial in social media networking. You can’t just look the part, you have to prove you’re worth that follow or like by earning it. Quality, respect, and reciprocation is crucial. Without them, people will hit that unfollow button for sure.
If you want to grow community and followers, you need to prove you’re a person of value and integrity, and that kind of person doesn’t hit and run. Genuinely follow those you’re interested in (and pass over the others), but don’t be sleazy. Be intentional when you hit the follow button. They’re responsible for themselves, but you are responsible for you. Be a good human. 🙂
Ok, now that we got that out of the way, let’s dive in! Here are the exact strategies I’m using to grow my following and my business, engage with influencers, start friendships, and land features in other people’s publications.
Instagram Networking 101
If you’re serious about using Instagram to grow your audience and connect with others, you need to get an app that tracks who follows and unfollows you. There are tons of options out there (some free, some not), but find one you like and start playing with it. You can buy all sorts of fancy features, but all I really use are the follow/unfollow trackers, which are usually free.
While you don’t technically need an app, it makes tracking people much faster and easier. Being able to differentiate between people reaching out to build community and people playing the follow/unfollow game is crucial when it comes to filling your tribe with people of value.
The Nitty Gritty: Why You Should Send a DM Right Away
No matter who initiates the follow process, I almost always reach out right away with a DM after we’re both following each other. This helps demonstrate that you value connection and that you’re not just blindly following/reciprocating.
All of my messages follow the same general pattern, but I make sure to personalize them and really make a genuine effort to engage. People can spot a copy/paste message a mile away, so put in the effort to make them feel special.
Let’s say I’m reaching out to Anna, an entrepreneur, mom of a 1 year old boy, who lives in Seattle.
“Hi Anna! So great to connect with you! I love meeting other boss babe mamas who are tackling motherhood and their other dreams – SO INSPIRING! I saw that you have a little boy. I have one too! Weston is almost 2, and he’s my dream boy. I bet you’re so in love with your little guy, he’s so cute! Anyways, so great to Insta-meet another PNW gal (I’m from the Portland area). I’d love to hear more about what you do!”
Easy peasy. Nothing super complicated, but I’m making a genuine effort to show her I’m engaged and excited she’s there.
Not everyone will engage with a DM. Some people respond with one emoji, some with a “Aww thanks!” In my experience, people who respond like this tend to try to sneakily unfollow after a few days. I’ve even had so called “influencers” energetically chat back and forth, and then a day later, I see them unfollow. It’s annoying, but all they’re doing is showing you their dirty little secret – they grow their following by faking community to hook you, then they slip out the back door. Barf.
Don’t be discouraged. Not every DM will result in a relationship, but the more you try, the more chances you’ll give yourself to connect. I used to get super bummed when I’d get an unfollow, but now it weirdly energizes me. Think of it this way: they just helped you by removing low quality followers/connections (umm THEMSELVES) from your tribe. Now you can focus on the people of quality who really matter. WINNING!
Others are stoked to connect, and their DM responses will prove it. I’ve started some amazing friendships through DMs, and both of our lives are so much richer for it! Striking up convos has led to blog features/interviews, Instagram promotion, personal development, and the start of life-long friends for me. Never underestimate the power of a genuine DM!
P.S. Sometimes you can tell right away that a new follower is worthless (example: @get_insta_followers2000). Just ignore those!
“Adding value” is one of those weirdly vague-yet-meaningful phrases that can mean different things to different people. At its core, though, it comes down to one crucial mindset: being committed to investing in others.
If you want to dive deeper into what adding value means and how you can do it powerfully as an entrepreneur, I wrote an article just for you. For right now, though, let’s dive into some unique ways to add value on the ‘gram.
It could be in a post, in your Stories, or in a comment, but telling your followers how valuable someone and their content is to you is a simple yet fantastic way to build them up.
Has Person X created some amazing content? Why not heap on some public praise? Repost it (always, always credit anything you repost) or share a link and explain why you believe in it and why others need to join the party! Tag the creator and let the praise flow. Everyone loves to feel appreciated, and doing this publicly will demonstrate that you’re a valuable connection.
But the most powerful language of love on Instagram can be summed up in one word: engagement. No amount of shoutouts and tags can build connection like engagement will! Let’s dive into what that looks like.
Following someone is just the start of your new connection. Now you have to nurture it!
Be on the lookout for their posts in your feed. Don’t blindly stab the like button, but make a genuine effort to show their posts some love!
This can vary from post to post, but intentionally liking and commenting establishes you as an engaged, supportive connection, fostering camaraderie and increasing the likelihood they’ll return the favor.
A Note about comments:
Avoid leaving comments that show you didn’t even read their caption. For example, comments like “wow, nice!” on a post where I share something deep and personal shows they’re just trying to get attention. It’s annoying and they’re just gonna get ignored. Don’t be like that. Put thought into your comments!
One of the best things to ever happen to Instagram? Stories! I LOVE the way Stories allow you to provide an inside look into your day. Because I treat my feed as a more curated, branded presentation, Stories gives me the chance to play with different content and be more spontaneous.
I’m not the only one to use Stories this way. Many influencers post prepared content once a day, then use the Stories feature so their followers can tag along for more fun. Interacting with their Stories shows that you’re invested in more than just a like or comment, so don’t be afraid to respond when they ask for feedback or let them know that their random “why don’t guys aim in the toilet” rant was hilarious. They’ll appreciate it!
Another way to engage is to use your Stories to bring attention to other users. I often screenshot a profile I love to follow and tell others they need to check it out! There are endless ways to engage others via Stories, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Create an Instagram Connections Contact Sheet
The longer you’re on Instagram, the more connections you’ll form. But as tempting (and easy) as it may be, don’t fall into the trap of using the app as your contacts list. Doing so is a risky mistake – if Insta closes up shop, your hard-earned network evaporates. Is that a risk you want to take?
As an entrepreneur, your network is a huge part of helping your business thrive, so don’t gamble with it. Take the time to create an Instagram Connections Contact Sheet. It can be as simple or as fancy as you want, but it should have these key pieces of information:
- The person’s real name
- Their Instagram handle (@…)
- Link to their website/blog
- Email address (they may offer this as you chat, or you can grab it off of their profile or site)
- Notes (any info, conversation points, or tidbits that help you remember them well)
Creating a document like this is invaluable. Not only does it help keep track of who’s in your sphere, but it allows you to intentionally reach out to those people outside of the app. Instagram is great, but as an entrepreneur, your goal should be to get people off the app and into taking action (visiting your site, collaborating with you, subscribing to your email list, buying your product/services, etc). Unless you’re dream is to be an Instagram star, the app isn’t your endgame – your business is!
Don’t forget, this goes both ways! Healthy relationships are two-sided, so be sure to hop off the app and reach into their world, too. 🙂
A Note on Email List Etiquette
NEVER EVER subscribe someone to your email list without their permission. This is sleazy and a mega turnoff. Keeping their email for communication is great, but don’t be tempted to grow your list this way. If you think they may be interested in what your list has to offer, ask if you can add them to it.
Mastering The ‘Gram
Instagram isn’t just a fun way to pass the time (although let’s be real, it totally is), it can be a valuable tool for growing your network and helping your business thrive!
By being intentional with your interactions, you can prove to others that you’re a must-know gal who makes those around her better. This leads to meaningful connections and a world of opportunity for you and your business.
Want help getting started? Download my FREE Instagram Engagement Checklist below so you can quickly and easily create meaningful DMs that deliver maximum impact!