Your Peers Aren't Customers & How to Get the Right Instagram Followers (Part 2)

Last week we talked about how it's often the case that we easily get followers who are peers (which is great!) but getting customers to follow is a much harder process. If you identify with this problem you are not alone, because we got a huge response from people wanting to correct this. Let's hope this post will help! 

When you are attracting people to you who you won't be buying your product, there is often some kind of disconnect between your product and you (you being you "the business") and your customer. This seems to happen to people who often do the "right" things in terms of practice but don't have their strategy aligned with their customer.

The post below is largely about branding and marketing basics, but I feel like nailing these on Instagram is way more vital than on any other social media. It's certainly important elsewhere in your business, but really if you don't get this on Instagram it will be a very frustrating process for you.

Understand Your Brand and Your target Market

When people talk about branding they often confuse it with marketing. And while there are a lot of differences and similarities, for this conversation your brand is the identity you are creating-- the thing you want your customer to immediately associate with you. It is something that you are largely defining (though it is often based on a customer you want to attract). Marketing on the other hand is a process of identifying your customers and then strategically selling to them (or "marketing" to them). 

So before you ever have a conversation with your customer, you better be crystal clear on who YOU are, which is understanding your brand. What makes you different? Why do you exist? What's your personality? If you don't know this you won't even know who your customer is, let alone be able to talk to them. 

Once brand is established, you can start to reverse engineer who your customer is likely to be-- the people who will be your loyal followers and become your biggest fans. What's hard about reverse engineering your customer is that it will be a lot of guesswork in the beginning and as you actually get to know your customer (from online sales, in-person craft shows, interactions on social media, etc.) you can put more edges and definition to this. Don't give up if you're not totally nailing it in the beginning, the main thing is to keep thinking about it.

Get Into the Mind of Your Customer

Now that you know who you are and who your customer is, you'll need to start putting yourself in their shoes. This will be especially hard if your customer isn't you, so you will need to "go native" a bit as anthropologists call it. Understand their routines, how they spend their free time, where they live, their hobbies and interests, read the blogs they read and shop where they shop (you don't have to buy). How they live their life is going to largely determine what they want out of your business. Are they a busy mom who wants small indulgences? A young fashionista on a budget? A corporate powerhouse with money to spend on luxuries?

There are two Creative Live courses that both have sections (sorry, you'll have to watch the whole thing, but both are excellent!) on identifying your customer that I would highly recommend. The first is Kari Chapin's "Start a Handmade Business," which as the name indicates is really great if you are in the beginning stages of your business. The other is Megan Auman's "Sell Your Products to Retailers."  As the name suggests, it covers the basics of wholesale but it also has some pretty fundamental marketing lessons and this one is a bit more "next level." Both of these links are affiliates, but I've watched and loved both and would not recommend them if I didn't.   

Apply It to Instagram

Okay, so now that you understand your customer you can actually start connecting with them on Instagram. Here are a couple ways to do that!

Find your customers with hashtags

Hashtags are a two-way street. They are both used for finding and getting found. Often we only use hashtags as to get found and put hashtags in our photos so that people scrolling through them will discover us. This is great but it's only half of a hashtag strategy. And honestly, the other half of the strategy, in my experience, is the most important.

Actually figuring out the hashtags and engaging your customers through them (liking their photos and commenting when appropriate and not creepy) is a much more active approach. You are finding them instead of hoping they find you. 

For instance, if your customer follows Design*Sponge and uses their hashtags (#dscolor, #dspattern, etc.) on photos they love, go ahead and like that photo! Tell it looks great (don't lie if it doesn't). Even following them when it makes sense. Most people enjoy a virtual "high five" now and again and are excited that you like what they are up to... but obviously don't be a stalker with it.

When you comment, also beware to not be a spammer and immediately talk about your product and try to sell people on it. It's probably happened to you from someone else-- so don't do it to others. It takes awhile to build a relationship with someone and will probably take a bit of time for them to become familiar with you and your product before they buy.

Post relevant photos

Your customers want you to be putting images in front of them that love! And guess what-- they love your product, so you're already halfway there. Photos of your product can be of your product being made, in use, in everyday situations, etc. Things that inspire your product are great too (member Remy and Rose does a great job of this with using nature and mantras that are part of the ethos of creating her soaps). Don't think they just need to be sales-y shots. 

Remember too that now that you know who your customer is you can find ways to identify with them through your photography. For instance, if you sell gourmet chocolates and you know your customer is a foodie, then when you cook a great foodie meal or use a foodie ingredient then take pictures... really awesome pictures! Finding these points of connection will not just bond your customer to you but also will have you excited to create things for them.

Just make sure you aren't weirdly trying to make your product and your customer align. If your customer is a foodie, but you make baby clothes then maybe you try to find other areas of overlap that seem more natural. They are there... promise!

Momentum & Strategy

You can't be passive about your Instagram. It's a living, breathing thing with people who are interacting with you, so make sure you are interacting with them. Respond to comments. Thank people. And "reward" customers with more good posts when you see they respond to something (just try not too pander, as this great article details why).

As you get more followers who are customers and interact with them, you will start to alter to how, when, what and why you post. You'll fine tune it and this will usually lead to more growth as their followers see them interacting with you, or your photo gets shown to more people because it is well liked, etc. Then you keep fine tuning as it becomes even more clear who your customer is.

Think of it like compound interest, but for social media.

This is hard stuff-- even for big companies

I will say that there's no "magic trick" to this. There are companies with millions of dollars at their disposal who can get this stuff wrong. It's some trial and error and quite frankly the more you sell and interact with your people, the more your customer profile will become incredibly clear. 

You will always have outliers that won't fit your profiles, but when you have zeroed in on your core you are at your strongest. Don't worry about how the rest of them fit in as much or how to craft a product for them. The people who are fans-- who can't wait to see what you do next-- they are the ones you want to make sure you please. 

We have two Instagram resources in the shop if you're interested in going deeper a bit. And if you are in the LA area we'll be doing a DIY PR and Instagram workshop on 3/14 and we'd love for you to attend!

  • Instagram for Makers: Finding Your People Worksheet  If you are interested in trying to brainstorm some hashtag ideas, this worksheet that might help.
  • Instagram for Makers: Ebook  Do you understand the basics of Instagram, but have no idea how to use it as a business tool? This guide is designed to help creatives use Instagram in a strategic way for their business. It goes beyond the basics of the platform and focuses on getting followers and finding your visual voice. 

What are the challenges you face finding your customer? Let us know in the comments!

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