Two of the key questions I get asked as a content creator are: “how do you successfully build a community on Instagram, and how do you increase your engagement rate?“
And we’ll cover both in today’s post, because in my opinion, the answers are tied tightly together. I believe an increased engagement rate is a direct reflection of how well we are connecting with our audience, i.e. how well we are forming a community.
But before I share some tips on how to build a community, I want to talk a little bit about why it’s so important to shift the way we look at our Instagram following.
If you strictly look at your following count as your “fan base” or a set of numbers that measures how popular you are, then you’ll never be satisfied. You’ll always be focusing on your next milestone.
It also sounds like you’re the ✨ centre of attention ✨ and nothing (or no one) else really matters. It is reflective of you forming a one-sided relationship.
If this is the kind of dynamic you have with your followers, it’s a lot harder to gain their trust.
And that’s not a good thing if you’re looking to be a paid influencer! You want a mutually beneficial relationship. And really.. if you aren’t serving and connecting with your audience, what’s the point? That’s the BEST PART.
Related Post: Is Instagram Dead? (i.e. Should you be wasting your time on all of this?)
How To Build an Engaged Community on Instagram
If you want the video version of this post, where I share how to build your community on Instagram, check out below!
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*Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.*
Instagram Community Versus “Fans”
In order to build a strong community, it’s important to remember that a community is not all about you. The goal isn’t to have a bunch of fans that feel distant from you–disengaged.
A community offers a more connected experience.
Its members supports and uplifts each other. There’s rapport and there’s give and take, and above all there is trust.
You’ll also find that if your Instagram following is made up a true community, then you won’t need as many people in it to be able to make a living. See Kevin Kelley’s concept of 1000 true fans.
In fact, one of the biggest misconceptions about being an influencer is that you need millions of followers to secure brand deals.
So let’s get into the tips on how to increase your engagement on instagram. If you consistently do these next five things, you will build a community in no time!
1. Be Authentic
Please don’t roll your eyes at me, but you need to be authentically you.
I know authenticity is a buzzword that is overused on social media (and the internet as a whole), and it’s been used without depth or elaboration so often that I’ve wondered “what does that even mean?”
And for me it means not being afraid to show up as myself and not trying to fit into somebody else’s mold of what an influencer looks like.
I’m not afraid to be silly, to be vulnerable, to share my hot takes.
People truly enjoy others who are unapologetically themselves and who are not cookie cutter replicas of everyone else!
Another element of authenticity that we don’t talk a lot about is the things that you don’t do–what you say NO to.
That might mean not hopping on a trend just because it’s trending.
Or maybe it’s saying NO to brand partnerships that don’t feel true to you or your audience.
It’s crucial to be genuine and to not accept every offer that comes your way, especially if it doesn’t align with your values and the content your followers are used to.
By being authentic, you will build a community of like minded individuals and your engagement rate on instagram will increase!
2. Help Others
Another important way to increase community and engagement is to boost others without expecting anything in return!
And I know you might be thinking that…you want to grow your audience, or build a community… so obviously you want something in return for your support.
But I want you to stop and think about how you could uplift other people in a way that makes sense for your platform. Think about what you can do that gives more than you gain in return.
If you’re a fashion creator, maybe that means regularly shouting out your favourite looks on your stories.
Or you could dedicate a post to shouting out small businesses in your niche.
*This rings especially true during the holidays*
Some things I’ve done over the years have been compiling lists of different black owned Etsy shops (Check out these black-owned candle companies!) and sharing Canadian natural hair care brands.
Brainstorm things that are not only helpful resources for your community but that also shine a light on others.
I’ve also found that in creating these lists, those who are featured are likely to promote the list themselves and connect with each other, which all just helps deepen the sense of community around your content.
Actively engage with others!
Like, share, and comment. All of the things that you are wanting from your audience, you should be doing for others.
Make sure you pay engagement back and pay it forward.
You shouldn’t just be engaging with other creators, you should be engaging with your followers, with brands, with small businesses. They are more likely to engage with you and support you when you’re doing the same for them.
Again, I do want to stress that you should be doing all of this without expecting anything in return!
4. Questions, Questions, Questions
Another tip that will help increase your engagement rate on instagram is to ask QUESTIONS!
A community is a connected experience, and to connect we need to hear from each other.
So get your followers talking.
You can do this in your Instagram stories, your reels, as well as through your captions.
But the idea here is you need to actually respond. If your audience takes time out of their day to engage with a question, that’s your opportunity to start a conversation.
Remember that the people commenting on your content, or sending you DM’s, are actual people, they’re not just numbers.
You need be actively communicating with them, showing that you value their input and time.
In the end, our followers are integral to our success and you want to make sure they are acknowledged.
If they feel unheard, why would they want to answer you the next time around?
5. Diversify Communities
Last but not least, my favourite tip:
Build a community off of Instagram and separate from the app.
Creating a community on another platform takes a lot of work, which is why a lot of people don’t really do it.
But consider creating a space where like-minded, or like niched people, can get together and connect with each other. You could make a Facebook group, a Tailwind Community, a Discord, or a WhatsApp group.
Many years back now I started a Facebook group for Black bloggers. A place to come together and support one another and from that group, a Pinterest group board also formed, as well as a Tailwind community.
And though I have neglected it quite a bit, at it’s prime it was so valuable to have community connected across different platforms.
And when they saw each other’s content (and my content) show up on their feed, they felt more inclined to show support.
So take some time to think about what you want your community to look like and see if you can assemble one on one of the many platforms at your disposal around the internet.
And when it comes to the group I’ve created I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately because I do want to try to revive it.
But I’m thinking of rebranding it for Black creators instead of Black bloggers…or maybe starting a new one for like-minded creators of all races and backgrounds.
Is that something you’d want to join? 👀
Final Thoughts On Building a Community on Instagram
Honestly, when it comes to building an engaged community on Instagram, it really comes down to selflessness.
You need to connect with others in order to be successful. Without followers, we wouldn’t have our job and we want them to feel appreciated. You can’t just show up online and expect people to fawn over you.
I hope these tips have set you on the right path!
Until next time!