Authentic Online Marketing

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Authentic Online Marketing with Ruthie Gray
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Ep 47: The most effective way to build your Instagram following

Let’s talk Instagram following! Have you watched someone go viral only to see your own Reels dive? Do you wish you could gain more traction but the growth seems painfully slow? I get it.  It’s tough gaining 5 followers but losing 10.  In episode 6 of season 1 way back in the summer of 2020, we did an episode called, “The most effective way to build your Instagram following.” I made a bold statement: Slow growth is good and necessary!

Do I still believe that statement now with the rise of Reels and seemingly overnight successes? I’m going to share my thoughts with you based on current research.  But first, we’re going to do an AOM Rewind and play this episode for you again, because honestly it’s REALLY good, and we’ve picked up quite a few followers and downloads since then.  It’s still relevant, and even if you listened way back then, trust me, you need to hear this again, especially in light of the ever changing Instagram algorithm and Adam Mossori’s ever confusing updates!  This advice is timeless and evergreen, so listen in! 


Listen to Ep. 67: Top 5 Instagram Features For Marketers In 2023

Listen to Ep. 63: Leveraging 2023 Instagram Trends

Listen to Ep. 76: Convert Instagram Followers into Email Subscribers: How It Works

Listen to Ep. 66: Gain Organic followers with Live Video

Engaged followers are the best kind of followers

Engaged followers save, share, and comment on your posts. They look forward to them.  

The conversation continues in the dm.  You build deeper connections.

And the more followers connect with your account, the more Instagram shows it to the world 

You’re sharing encouraging, entertaining, or educational content that brings value

With quick growth come follows/unfollows, those aren’t your people.
They won’t engage with your content!

Why you need engaged followers

Algorithm puts you lower

 You’re left at the bottom of the pile with zero engagement

 IG won’t show your stuff to anyone

Slow growth is good and necessary. 

Next, I’m going to share best and worst practices for gaining true fans, but before I do {ding}.

If you’re enjoying this podcast, would you be open to leaving a review? Simply scroll to leave a 5 star rating, write a title, and then jot a few words about the value you’re receiving from Instagram Insider Hacks.  Then, hit submit, and it’ll show up in iTunes a few hours later!  I can’t tell you how much this one small action helps!

Best practices for gaining true fans:

Share encouraging, entertaining, or educational content that delivers value – Serve your followers (it’s not about YOU – it’s about THEM)
DON’T post and ghost!
 Speak to the needs of your avatar – age, likes, dislikes, pain points 

Worst practices for gaining true fans:

 Follow for follow threads with no common ground (choose those whose content you’d be happy to share and that delivers value for your fans and compliments your content)
 Follow Trains

Likely you’ve participated in a follow train, and for more info on this check out my IGTV Frozen Episode 1 on Loops and LIkes for likes.  

Good side:

Designed specifically for your niche and you meet some nice folks to collaborate with. Also potential clients.

Smaller follow threads are better and you can connect at a deeper level

These have their place and time – but only a limited place and time because:


 They take up a tremendous amount of time
 Most are there for the quick follow – and then they unfollow

This hurts your engagement

When your engagement dips, 

This gets you frustrated

You decide to back off posting

Because you’re not active, IG penalizes you and doesn’t show your stuff when you decide to post

People aren’t interacting with your stuff because you’re not constant and more unfollow.

You quit.

And in a moment, I’m going to give you a pro-tip about unfollowers!

Remember when I referred to the two types of people on Instagram?  The two types of people on Instagram are the speed dialers and the steady pacers.

The speed dialers are there to win.  They follow a bunch of people one day and unfollow the next to see who’ll stick.  They join share threads like they’re going out of style and they drop emojis for comments.

You’ll never see a speed dialer leaving a long comment because they’re not on Instagram to build connections, they’re there to get to 10,000 followers and build status. Their posts have little to no captions with several nebulous hashtags, and almost zero comments.  If they do have comments, they’re mostly the emoji type – like hearts, fists, or flowers. Speed dialers are there for themselves and no one else.  Do you know a speed dialer?  If so, don’t be jealous, because they’re not winning.

Steady pacers slow their roll.  It’s important to take time to leave valid comments (more than two words and 5 emojis).  They think about what to say that brings value to others, both in comments and captions.

They schedule their posts and create cohesiveness in the feed.  Additionally, they take time to share themselves in stories and share and tag others.  These users deliberately visit follower accounts to comment and give love. 

They spend time on the app and don’t dash off to the next social media platform.  Steady pacers are dedicated to the Instagram platform and delivering value to their tribe.

Choose authentic growth instead. 

How to grow your community authentically and organically

  1.  Nail down your avatar and search for people that fit that description
  2. Use hashtags specific to that avatar and research hashtag hubs 
  3. When you find these people, follow them and leave genuine comments
  4. Continue to serve your current audience by engaging on their posts and answering your own comments
  5. Keep delivering value in the feed and stories
  6. Get on video – you will reach a different audience and gain followers each time
  7. Be consistent – post each week

And that pro-tip about unfollowers – the ones who follow for follow?  You don’t always catch this right away and I don’t advocate 3rd party apps for this because Instagram doesn’t love 3rd party apps.  So build this into your schedule:  Spend time once per week perusing your followers on Instagram and checking to be sure they’re still following. (See this Instagram Video for more insights.) Let me walk you through this.  First, You’ll need to go to their account profile and click “following” and see if your name is there. Then, if it isn’t, check out their bio to make sure she’s your ideal avatar.  If she’s not, go ahead and unfollow (if you’re following).  And if she IS your ideal avatar, you can do one of two things:

  1.  Continue to follow and nurture her posts for a period of time (I advise this) or
  2. Go ahead and unfollow.

To wrap up, remember: 

 Slow growth is good (and necessary!)

Engaged followers mean Instagram will show your account to more potential followers

To build engaged followers, deliver valuable and useful content, comments, and just be social!

Get clear on your Avatar – and if you need more help on that, let me know in the Instagram dm so I can plan another podcast episode around that topic!

Don’t waste tons of time on follow loops 

BE CONSISTENT!   Benjamin Franklin said, “He that can have patience can have what he will.” Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Don’t be a speed dialer.  Be a steady pacer.  

The way to get engaged followers is by building community.  And that takes time, friend. It takes answering comments, going and dropping comments, and actually being social on social, and then hanging out in your stories and connecting with people.  Building relationships.

True confession: I have yet to go viral.  I’ve had clients and students go viral, I’ve even had staunch podcast listeners go viral just by using my advice.  But I still bring in business.  How is that so?

Because I take time to connect with people.  This is of utmost importance for customer relations, social media, your brand, and for getting followers on your email list.  If you’re still looking for best ways to get followers, be sure to swing by and snatch up our follower growth kit, for 4 best practices in 2022 for gaining traction.  We’ve got a training video, show notes, and 40 quick ideas for growing your Instagram following. And you’ll especially want to listen to point number 2 of the 4 best practices, which will get you sharing consistent, relevant content that your followers will keep coming back for!

Thanks for listening to this AOM Rewind, and don’t be discouraged because of slow growth – it brings the best, most dedicated followers!  Until next week, be sure to share your message your unique way in your own authentic voice!

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