If your brand has only done a little experimenting on Instagram, there’s no time like the present to really do the work and engage with relevant Instagram communities. Worried about how to identify and get to know a new community on Instagram? Want to learn how to participate in a way that won’t get you ignored or shunned? We’re here to show you just how to do that.
How to identify Instagram communities
First, identify the Instagram communities that are relevant to your brand. If you’re a sportswear company you’ll obviously want to get to know the various fitness communities on Instagram, a pet supply company would want to get to know #petstagram, and a clothing line the fashion and beauty communities. Many of these start out as big umbrellas- #fitness, for instance- and then break down into particular niches you can find by their hashtags like #instarun, #yogagram or #boxinglife. With Instagram’s improved search, including the ability to search on desktop, it’s easier to find secondary hashtags associated with the bigger communities you know are relevant.
You want to check out a mix of big popular hashtags and smaller niche hashtags; bigger tags will give you more exposure, and niche hashtags higher engagement, if you connect with the community in the right way (and don’t worry, we’re getting to that).
While you’re searching hashtags, take note of popular influencers and other brands in that space. Influencers are those you see popping up again and again in a certain hashtag, and generating a lot of engagement on each of their posts. Pay attention to how they and other brands in the space post because that’s how you get to know them— which you might notice is the title of next section.
How to get to know Instagram communities
Once you have a good idea of who the big personalities are in a given community- influencers and other brands especially- you can learn more about them by paying attention to how they post. Is there a specific style that’s common, like dynamic outdoor shots? A lot of selfies? Does everyone share a similar sense of humor, specific slang, or embrace emojis on posts and in comments? How many people are posting videos vs. static images, or experimenting with Layout and Boomerang (Instagram’s two standalone apps)? All of this is part of the language of the community and you have to listen and learn it before you can begin to speak it.
You also want to take the time to see who those brands and influencers in the community are connected with that you might have missed. These are the accounts you should pay attention to not only to learn the language of the community from, but to follow and interact with. You might notice some accounts that are very active in a certain community but don’t get a ton of engagement on their posts; they’re still important as possible up-and-coming influencers, or at the very least, worth paying attention to because of how active they are. (We can call them “community cheerleaders”.) This might just be one of their many interests. Not everyone has a niche account they post only specific niche-related content to. Some opt for a more all-purpose, life-encapsulating Instagram account, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth nurturing a relationship with.
You also want to pay attention to where else members of an Instagram community like to hang out on the Internet. Are they also active on Tumblr? Are many of them members of the same Facebook group? Do they post things encouraging each other to follow them on Twitter too? Listen in wherever else they have a presence, and consider also being active in that space if you have the resources to invest in a multi-channel presence and strategy.
How to participate authentically in Instagram communities
Now it’s time to use what you’ve learned: When you post, use the same tone, hashtags, and style as the community already does in way that’s appropriate for your brand. You want to balance the language of the community with your own brand values and voice. And don’t just sell; follow community members and interact with them as appropriate, liking photos, leaving comments, and even considering influencer partnerships where applicable. Consider attending or hosting an InstaMeet, or collaborating on a photo project. Share relevant photos from the community on your own account (with explicit permission) as a regular feature, part of a contest, or just as a way to boost your audience by drawing in that community member’s audience.
Experiment with your content within the parameters of the measuring you’ve done and your own brand strategy, measure the results, and incorporate those results into ongoing content plans. Be friendly, be funny, be personable if that fits your brand.
The bottom line? Actually be a part of the community. Ultimately there’s a person- you- behind the account, even if you’re using a brand voice that’s not completely your own. Treat the community like you would any that you’re a part of in your own life.
Want more Instagram resources for brands? We have whitepaper featuring data from 55 top-performing brands on Instagram you candownload for free. You can find out how you’re doing on Instagram right now for free here, and if you still have questions, feel free to find us on Twitter at @UnionMetrics or shoot us an email. We’re always happy to help!