Your Peers Aren't Customers & Why You Get the Wrong Instagram Followers (Part 1)

You've been working hard, hustling to grow your following on Instagram. You've read all the advice out there-- use hashtags, post great photos, don't overpost, post regularly. You are nailing it! And you're excited because you are attracting people who really admire... they're peers who have been doing what you do longer and making things you love!  

But are these the followers you want? Or at least the followers you want to be in the majority of your followers? One of the common Instagram misalignments I see with clients is that they find it very easy to grow a following of people who are like them (essentially peers or competitors), but those aren't people who are likely to buy what they are selling. So how do you actually get people to follow you who will buy what you are selling? Well, let's first address why this is happening.

Why is this happening?

Well, there are likely a few reasons. Below are likely the main ones.

Your competition is keeping an eye on their industry

This should not induce paranoia or feelings of ill will, but let's face it... social media let's us be nosy in a completely polite way. And it's likely that you have peers and others following you because you are now part of your industry's "ecosystem" and it's just smart to keep an eye on what's happening there. You are probably doing the same. This you just can't help. But it does explain why you probably are attracting a fair amount of likes and followings from peers.

You're thinking and acting like you

"Whoa! But I thought I was supposed to 'be me'?", you say. You feel like that is all the social media advice you get these days. And yes, this is true in as much as you shouldn't be NOT you. As in don't be a person who doesn't resemble you at all. Be you, but be the you that is having a conversation online with people who will want to buy from you.

Think of it this way, if you went to a cocktail party you would likely find yourself talking to other people who had similar interests to you and shying away from people you don't see having a lot in common with you. The people you are talking to probably share your educational background, type of job, preference for certain types of activities and/or political beliefs. You feel comfortable being the "you" that most naturally rises to the surface with these people because you feel like they get you.

But what if a very famous and important owner of a business came into the room that wants to invest in YOUR business. Their investment could change everything for you. This person is nice and friendly, but you know she is not of "your world."

Her education, social scene, tastes and how she spends her free time are completely different from you. So when you talk to her you look for common ground and approach her in a way that is you, but a you that is looking to be trusted with money to grow a business. You don't approach her as the you who isa "free-spirited-cocktail-party-friend you" who was talking politics and job woes with the buddies you made earlier. You also don't put on some weird charade of a person who you are not just impress her (because we all know this will likely not impress anyone and just be awkward).

The same goes for courting customers online. For the vast majority of us, our peers are not our target demographic. That means when you want to visually "talk" to your customers through Instagram, you will need to learn how to find common ground and understand their interests. In communication studies, it's what think of as being "receiver oriented."

I know there are some of you out there who will very much resist this idea on the grounds that we need to be "real" and "ourselves" all the time. But the truth is that we are very complex people and our whole self can't be made manifest at all times in every place even if we tried. So, in fact, we are never fully "real" to everyone. And quite frankly it's selfish when we don't try to relate to other people in ways they will understand. 

You're getting positive reinforcement to post photos from people who aren't your customer

This happens a lot! You post photos you love and get jazzed about. Guess who else will get excited about these? Your peers. They like the crap out of that stuff! And so you post more like them because you got so many likes. But those are photos the your customers might not "get" or excite them.

Your hashtags are off

You are coming up with great hashtags for your photos that you think are completely relevant. And maybe they are to you, but your customer certainly isn't searching those hashtags. This goes back to the whole idea of the cocktail party... you're putting stuff out there that that your customers just don't care about.

You are passively waiting for customers to find you

Ooo weee, this is a big one. Your competition and peers are more likely to proactively seek you out because they want to be aware of the trends and happenings in their industry. Your customer is likely not seeking you out. They don't know you hold the key to a problem they have or can enhance their life. So you need to find THEM and reach out to them. You need to be obsessed with knowing their likes and dislikes. Understand how you can participate in conversations they are already having. Encourage them. 

Stay tuned for part 2

Alright, so now we've covered why you are probably getting more peers than customers as followers, but how do you change this? We'll cover more in Part 2 next week! In the meantime, has this ever happened to you? Is it a problem you currently face? Or are you one of the lucky ones whose peers are their customers? Let us know in the comments!

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Read Part 2 here.