I warn you - this is going to be a long one, so if you're not looking for all of the information behind my tips and tricks, scroll straight to the bottom for my summary!
Without Instagram, I truly do not know where the cheese community would live and grow. This platform is an integral tool for our connections, inspiration and expansion. So why are followers so important for this process? There is no rule that says you can't run a successful business with a small Instagram platform or without Instagram at all. However, in this day and age where social media rules all, I believe that followers are a representation of trust, legitimacy and positive culture for your small business or hobby.
I started The People's Platter with the intent of it being a side hobby, in my spare time I began researching some basic tips for growing on Instagram and I quite quickly found what worked for me and allowed me to turn The People's Platter into my full time job. Please note, I am absolutely no expert on social media, this is simply what worked for me! So with that being said - here are my top 5 tips for organic growth on Instagram.
1: Use and understand your insights.
If you haven't already, ensure that your Instagram account is switched to a business profile to access these tools (It will roughly take a week to begin receiving insight information).
The first tool you will want to look at is "your audience", more specifically "Most active times". This is going to indicate the times your followers are online each day, I choose the two most popular times and use this as my 'prime times' to post 2 x a day.
The most important insight to ignore is your unfollows! This is going to happen naturally, do not let it affect your perspective of your page - it is not always a realistic representation of your quality of content or hard work!
My other favourite tool to monitor is my "content interactions", this is going to be displayed as either a positive or negative percentage - your goal should be to always keep this as a positive percentage! This insight provides information regarding the actions other accounts are taking on your page, I truly believe this is more important than follows/unfollows and this is why...
2: Interacting on your timeline!
This is the key to absolutely everything, I swear by the methods that I use and I consistently use the same techniques every single day. Interacting on your timeline happens in three different forms:
- Following other local and relative pages.
- Commenting on posts with similar content and potential target audiences.
- Interactive content on your stories and highlights.
Lets dive a little deeper...
Creating a culture of support within your local community can be extremely helpful for both growth and positive reinforcement of your page. I highly recommend following local pages including restaurants, boutiques, influencers, cafes, and other small businesses like bakers, crafts, foodies and more! In addition to local pages. I also suggest following accounts related to platters, cooking blogs, dairy's/creamery's, as well as pages that provide products you may use on your platters such as meats, jams, crackers and equipment.
Now that you're following a good variety of pages - it's time to interact with them. I always try to interact on the time-line roughly 20 minutes before and after posting during my designated 'prime times'. By interacting, I simply mean liking and commenting on these pages posts - let a food blogger know that you love their recipe, tell a local restaurant that their dish looks delicious and show a little love to some local boutiques and their new styles. Doing all of these things, not only creates a positive culture surrounding your brand by supporting these businesses and boosting their profiles, but also generates opportunities for new followers to potentially visit your page.
Once you've begun consistently interacting with other pages, let's get them invested in your page and allow them to connect to your brand. The simplest way to do this is with interactive content on your Instagram story. Some great ideas include: Suggesting wine and cheese pairings and allowing them to vote on their preference, building a platter through poll votes, asking about peoples favourites etc. Keep the questions/votes simple and you'll find this is a great way to increase your page interactions!
3: Make it a little personal.
As awkward or 'un-professional' as you may feel, Instagram is popular for both personal and business accounts - so why not blend a little bit of the two together. I have found that my followers and customers enjoy learning a little bit about me, my work history and my journey with starting the business. It allows them to feel more connected to me and adds to the basis of trust that you are working hard to build for your brand.
I achieve this by talking on my stories, creating small Instagram stories about 'getting to know me' and occasionally posting a personal photo to my time line introducing myself and my vision for my page.
4: Influencer collaborations and Giveaways.
I have always found this point to be the most difficult of all, expectations can be very easily let down and it's important to ensure you aren't being taken advantage of. No matter how big or small your page is - If you are offering free product or discounts in return for post collaborations, always ensure that you are compromising a fair deal for yourself.
I believe it's extremely important to note that it is just as valuable working with smaller pages that are also in their growth stages, as opposed to only trying to collaborate with the biggest pages in your area. I typically aim to budget myself at least one content collaboration per month and will do so either in the form of discounts or complimentary products in return for posts on their story and time line.
5: Planning your newsfeed.
Whilst this may not have a direct impact on growth for your page, I personally find that it helps me stay organised in a way that allows me to apply all of these methods in my online activity. I use 2 x free applications including "Preview" and "Feed Preview" to plan out my timeline and schedule my posts.
Both of these applications also allow me to plan my captions and hashtags and send me an alert when it's time to post. I always schedule this alert 20 minutes before my 'prime times' so that I can begin interacting on the time line.
I know that was a lot to take in. So here's a quick summary:
- Use your insights to project your prime times for posting.
- Follow a good variety of local pages and accounts with relative content to create good support base.
- Like, comment and interact with local accounts in order to support those businesses and expose your page to potential customers and followers.
- Create fun interactive content on your stories to encourage your followers and attract attention to your account.
- Add a personal touch to your time line, let your followers get to know you to build trust.
- Reach out to local food blogs and influencers to create genuine connections and collaborations to promote your page and business.
- Use giveaways for your milestone celebrations to generate attention to your page and excite/thank your followers and customers.
- Plan your time line in order to implement the above methods and grow your page.
Whilst it all may seem extremely tedious, it really is a basic formula that is both time consuming and effective. I have been implementing these tips and tricks with The People's Platter since I transformed my page into a business account in November of 2019 and reached my goal of 10,000 followers by October of 2020. Fast forward to today and my page has grown into an account with over 16,000 followers that I truly feel connected to in ways that are so much more important to me than sales.
I can very easily say that I do not have the answers to everything, and I can almost guarantee you that there are more effective ways to achieve organic growth - but I felt it was time to share with you all what has worked for me in hopes that it will work for you too. There is nothing I love more than supporting other small businesses and sharing my success with the charcuterie world!