If you haven’t been under a rock lately, someone has probably told you that you should network on Instagram. The digital world is bigger and badder than ever! That means it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with all the competition. There are so many solopreneurs fighting for business that we feel we have to be everywhere at all times. While this isn’t actually true, tools like Instagram help us to look like we are.
But it’s not enough to just post on a social media platform and hope that turns into results. You have to go the extra mile and actually NETWORK with your contacts.
What is networking?
A network is an arrangement of lines that interconnect. Networking is creating these interconnections. When we apply this to the business world, the lines become relationships. Networking is arranging connections into relationships for the greater good.
Social media has a way of being very one sided. You post content like it’s a billboard or TV commercial. Unfortunately, that’s just not effective. To get the most out of your social media marketing, you have to network.
Why network on Instagram?
First, let me say, Instagram isn’t right for every business owner. It’s the most visual of all the platforms. An effective Instagram strategy means you are willing and able to create a very visual story of your services.
Another thing to keep in mind is whether or not your target audience is hanging out on Instagram. If you work with female millennials, you are in. Old tech guys? Not so much.
We’ve written about some additional tips on how to find the best social media for your business.
But why is Instagram so great?
There are several ways to network offline. You could choose to go to a networking event or a seminar. However, these events are seldom free to attend. Even if they are free, you will have to pay for your transport there.
Most social media sites are free to use and even free, to an extent, to market your business. Of course, being free means there’s more competition but we’ll get to that later.
Great way to get referrals
One of the greatest ways of boosting your businesses is to get more referrals. Instagram can help you do just that. Imagine you are a life coach and someone puts up an Instagram story about something depressing. You can approach this person tactfully and help them improve their mood. Once they find out you are a life coach, you already have a potential advertiser.
About a billion users!!
Yes, that’s 1 followed by nine 0s. About 15 percent of the world population is on Instagram. This means that people from your target audience most likely have Instagram. Thus, it will be easy to connect with them and have them on as clients.
Of course, not the whole billion will fit into your target audience. But, even in the worst case scenario, about 0.0001% would still fit into that category. That is still close to 1000 clients that you could approach if you put in the effort.
Everything is online
If you try any of the offline business mixers, you will have to do the tedious tasks of putting on pants and shaking hands. Instagram makes this pain go away. All you need is your smartphone and you can start networking from the comfort of your couch and boxers.
It is also great for people who have major anxiety issues, especially when it comes to dealing with people in person. On the internet, these people can put their best foot forward and help their business grow.
Finally, doing everything online means you will be saving a lot of time. I mean you wouldn’t have to wait for long speeches, deal with traffic or pretend to laugh at that one guy’s horrible puns.
You can get straight to the point.
My favorite thing about Instagram is that there are fewer restrictions on who can contact you. In other social networking sites like Facebook or LinkedIn, the user you are trying to connect with will have to approve your request before you can do anything.
On the other hand, most of the accounts on Instagram are public. You can even message them without following. There are a few private accounts where you need their approvals first. However, people hardly ever reject a follow request unless they have a personal vendetta against you. Exes probably aren’t getting approved any time soon.
Facebook monitors your friend request activities and suspends your activity if it sees too many friend requests being sent out. On the other hand, LinkedIn allows other viewers to see who viewed their profiles. So, if you do try and analyze a potential client’s profile, you might get called a creep or a stalker.
There is no such problem on Instagram, you can freely browse other profiles. The only thing you need to be worried about is accidentally liking your crush’s photo from one year ago.
I could go on and on about why you should network on Instagram. However, let’s get to the crux of the article - how to do it.
How to Network on Instagram
Add people to your “following” list
Are you ready to learn how to network on Instagram? The first step is to build a network in which you can socialize with people. Think about it, you can’t network during a seminar where you are the only attendee. In Instagram, there are two kinds of people associated with you. The people you follow or “following” and the people who follow you or “followers”.
Odds are, you aren’t an Instagram influencer (or you probably wouldn’t be reading this right now) so we won’t focus on getting more “followers”.
It’s important to note that the number of follower and following is just a “vanity” metric. It’s a number that makes you feel better but doesn’t actually provide results. You can build a successful social media marketing strategy with only a handful of high-quality connections.
So let’s figure out who the heck we need to follow. Start with the basics, feel free to follow your friends and family. If you connect your account to Facebook or your email, Instagram will also make recommendations for other people to follow.
Once you start on square one, you will see that your feed starts filling up with posts from the people you follow. Every now and then you will come across a post that relates to the kind of business you run.
For example, if I’m looking to connect with other women business owners, I will look for posts that connect with that audience. It might be something like this one from my friend and client, @DebbiekPage:
This is when you start analyzing the people who have liked and commented on the post.
A person takes more effort while commenting on a post than when liking one. Thus, commenters are more active on Instagram. They also probably care more about that niche. That makes these individuals great people to follow and connect with.
With any luck, their profile will be public or you will have enough mutual connections for the person to accept your request. Either way, you need to focus on the three things beside the profile picture - number of posts, followers, and following.
Firstly, the number of posts needs to be high - this means they are relatively active on Instagram. Then you also need to see that the number of followers and following are roughly the same. This kind of translates into that person interacting with their followers. If their followers are significantly higher than their following, they are generally going to be less engaged with you and your content.
If all these things are good to go, add the person and move on to the next profile.
Sometimes all these figures might be towards the higher side, but the profile might be rather inactive. Check the dates from the latest posts and calculate how often they post. If the person posts frequently, you might just have a solid lead on your hands.
Another great way to search for relevant people would be searching for posts with relevant hashtags. Fortunately, only a very small fraction of the Instagram users don’t use hashtags.
You can use this feature in a very simple way. Imagine you run a travel agency which also sells adventure goods. Searching for the hashtag “#wanderlust” will give you millions of results. Then all you need to do is analyze the results and voila! You have officially increased the list of people you follow.
Instagram has a new feature that allows you to follow hashtags. Thus, your feed will have posts from new people of interest as well. You can then proceed to add them as well.
You should also use hashtags on your posts effectively to let others discover you. Don’t be afraid to spam your post with hashtags. Use tags with the highest search volumes and you should be good to go. Similarly, you can tag some famous users in the field in your posts too! Hashtags can open up a world of possibilities in marketing if you just use them correctly.
Instagram has a cool feature in the search section called “Explore”. Essentially it is a collection of posts that you might be interested in. So, Imagine you follow accounts usually under the auto industry category or the adventure sports category. You will get a series of similar posts. They are super easy to browse through too!
As you start exploring, you can find out which profiles are the most active and then start following them.
These tips should help you increase your following list quite a bit. You now have a network to finally start socializing in and soon get more connections. Let’s get down to it.
Start with comments
There are several accounts on Instagram with over a thousand followers. Accounts like these usually tend to get a lot of likes - more than they can be bothered to look at. However, only a fraction of these people who like a post, take the effort to comment on it. Thus, if you are ever trying to get someone’s attention, comments are usually the best way to go.
But remember, only the correct kind of comments is going to get you the attention you need. One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make while commenting on others’ posts is that they start marketing in the comments section.
This will most likely get you flagged for spam. Thus, please try and avoid it. You are only using the comments section to start a dialog with the person. Networking and marketing can come later.
Thus, you can comment something relevant to the post. For example, if it is a post about dogs, you could compliment them. Or, if the post is something about being stressed, you could try and empathize with the person.
When in doubt, throw in a meme reference. You will be surprised how far humorous comments can get you as long as they are relevant to the post.
Compliments are something popular accounts are always used to. You need to try something out of the box to get their attention. For example a comment on something in the background of the picture which others aren’t noticing. Such comments are more likely to catch the user’s attention.
Use Instagram stories
Instagram stories are a kind of temporary post that stays up for 24 hours after it has been posted. I prefer networking through Instagram stories because they offer more interaction with people when compared to normal posts.
There are features that allow people to play games, take polls, do ratings and even ask questions. Such things can help you network even more as they provide more topics of conversation.
There are two primary ways of using Instagram stories for networking. One is to reply to others’ Instagram stories. The other is to put up Instagram stories of your own. Let’s look a bit more into these.
Be creative with your replies
When you reply to a story, your reply is sent to the user in the form of a direct message. As DMs are a bit more personal than comments on the photo, I suggest you start with comments first - just so they know you exist.
Again, you need to use a similar strategy to the one you used for commenting. Come up with creative replies to their stories. Try and notice things others aren’t so they notice you. Of course, you would also like to put the marketing on hold while replying to these stories.
When someone puts up a story that allows you to ask a question, try and ask something insightful. Something to make the other person think a lot before they reply. Or if you have analyzed their photos and profile well enough, you should be able to ask them something specific about their interests. For example, if a person is interested in classical music, you can ask their preference in artists.
Put up your own stories
The second way to network stories would be to put up your own stories. You should know that stories are only visible to your followers. Thus it is important to have a lot of followers which increases your chances of interaction.
The content you put up on stories will differ depending on the type of business you run. However, a good practice would be to put up an attractive background and maybe a call to action. Ask their opinion on something in a picture or comment on something you witnessed today.
My suggestion would be to use the interactive features as much as possible. Starts polls or ask people questions and make them use the slider rating to choose an option. It’s not always important to get them to reply to your stories. Just getting them to engage with you is good enough for a start.
While I would say that marketing yourself through comments or DMs is a strict taboo, the same is not true for insta stories. You can post about your day and the number of people you helped that day. For example, if you are a fitness coach, you can post the photo of a client who has shown amazing progress.
Slide into their DMs
You can use posts or stories as great excuses to start a conversation with someone. Sometimes, you don’t need an excuse, you can directly start talking to them. Sometimes, you just need to walk up to the girl and start talking to her without using an excuse to do so. However, this works best if that person is an acquaintance and not a complete stranger.
But, you need to remember to be courteous and follow all the guidelines discussed in the article thus far. An important tip here is to be a good conversationalist. There is no point of getting into someone’s DMs only for it to end up as awkward as middle school prom.
Sometimes, you need a little something to grease the wheels of conversation. Just send them a meme or a hilarious post to get the conversation going again. Just be careful not to offend them with the joke. I know that is super hard in this day and age, but you have to try your best.
If that doesn’t work, as a last resort you can always bring up the topic of your business and how someone could benefit a lot from your services 😉
Instagram has a new feature that lets its users perform a live webcast to connect with their followers. Of course, going live yourself is a great idea to engage with your followers. But it is an even better idea to join someone live on Instagram.
There are tons of people who join the live streams of popular accounts. You can comment while you are streaming. The trick here is not to connect with the person doing the live stream but to connect with the hundreds of people who are watching the live stream along with you.
I know tons of people who have met each other on Instagram live and are close friends now. So, remember to socialize and try to connect with the people watching with you. With any luck, you will generate a rapport with the people there and probably even slide into their DMs soon after.
Networking on social media can be a tough task. You might be reaching out to a thousand people a day but only a few people might be responsive. Even fewer would generate actual leads. With practice, you will gain an understanding of which people are more likely to respond. Just remember to hang in there and keep trying.
If you ever get tired, there are thousands of memes on Insta to brighten up your day. There is no reason you cannot mix a bit of business and pleasure. To summarise, remember to follow the tips below.
- Don’t start off by marketing yourself
- Do not send out general and cliched messages.
- Keep it platonic - You are on Instagram, not Tinder.
- Use hashtags, posts, stories and live streaming to your advantage
- Keep increasing your following count so you can network with more people
There are several things to consider while you are networking on Instagram. You would need your own virtual A team to make the most out of it. But, the most important thing to remember is to follow up after networking. Don’t be that boyfriend who suddenly ghosts the girlfriend for no reason.
Well, don’t wait any longer. If this article gave you any new insights, then go open Instagram now and give us a follow @virtualateam! Oh, and start networking for yourself too, that is important as well 😉