I joined Instagram in 2010, and for the first few years I just posted random pictures from my life.
At the time, I was working for an educational technology company, so I was going to lots of conferences, and connecting with a lot of teachers. Then I went back to the wine industry, and fell in love with Jeff (going on 5 years of marriage now), his two dogs, and a cat. They quickly moved in with me in Santa Rosa and most of the pictures I shared on Instagram revolved around them, and our adventures.
I’m not sure when Instagram changed to become so focused on sharing the best parts of our lives vs. everyday things. But, somewhere over the years it became a JOB (and not just for me because I teach social media). Instagram feeds are now a controlled space--everything has to have the same filter overlay, everything has to have the same brand personality, everything has to look good next to each other. Everything has to be so perfect…and well, fake.
I definitely love focusing on the passions that make up my personal brand, in fact I teach brands how to create a consistent brand on Instagram. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. I’ve talked about it many times before, but social media engagement is where it’s at and everybody’s looking for hacks to get people to like and engage with your content and grow your social media following. Well... I have figured it out.
My Instagram Hack
Questions! People love answering fun questions. It can be as simple as asking if everyone is ready for happy hour to be here, or what's your favorite emoji to describe MONDAY. Fun questions encourage your community to engage back with you - and others within your social media comments. It is a physiological thing for people - the need to provide their two cents, and connect with others through social media. People simply just want to talk about their experience (see the post below about cilantro) because social media is about being social (if I had a dollar for everytime I have said this or written it, I wouldn't have to work anymore).
Cilantro one of those foods that is very polarizing. People either love the herb, or they hate it.
I am in the HATE category so I just want to know how people eat cilantro. In addition to asking the original question in my description, where people will either say yes or no, I then investigate further and ask them what type of dish they like cilantro with. I am generally curious, because maybe one of the dishes will encourage me to finally like the herb that (for me) tastes like a combo of dirt and soap. The second question is just as important as the first one because engagement is important. Yes, you can just ask your audience a question and get a few answers.... But, commenting back on what they have to say validates their response and makes people feel more connected. AND, it works both ways.
Known Fact about Social Media: People Love to Give Their Two Cents
On my Facebook page, I also look to get advice from my community for articles I’m writing for Sonoma Magazine. I’ve asked where to get the best bottomless mimosa, or favorite kids restaurants in Sonoma County. And a lot of the time, people are mentioning places I already know about, but occasionally there are surprises to me, so it creates a dialogue that is more than just me talking back to people. More importantly, it makes people feel like the are part of a community as well. That’s what I love about social media. The dialogue with people, the conversations with people I know and those I’ve never met in person.
After the article goes live, I’ll go back to that original post and share the link so everybody that commented can see it, because they’ll get a notification on their Facebook page. This type of content does a lot better than if I simply shared a link with no real context.
Questions Aren't the Only Part of Instagram Engagement
Commenting with people on their own Instagram pictures is important to creating a connection and getting them to want to leave comments on yours. So is timing. Make sure to spend a few minutes right after you post your own content to answer people back (best to do it within the first hour of you posting), and go though your list of friends or hashtags you follow and leave well thought out comments. You know, more than "Awesome pic."
If you are an Instagram Story lover like I am, you can use your stories to ask people to go to your feed and answer the question on your last blog post as well. It definitely works.. Especially if you have some fun with it!
Let’s Come up with Some Questions
Before you even think about pictures or branding or or anything like that, I want you to think of several questions you can ask your audience. Make sure it is relatable and fits with your target audience or your brand. Don’t ask about cilantro if you’re selling wine fridges.
But, if you are selling wine fridges, maybe a good question to ask is how long does wine last in your house? Or do you have wine stored in your living room?
This gets the target audience thinking about where they store their wine, or if they want to store more wine. It’s not a hard sell but it is the start of a conversation, which is exactly what every brand should want, the opportunity to have conversations with your customers, or potential customers.
Use questions sparingly and intentionally
I will say this type of hack for connecting with customers shouldn’t be used every single time. You also want to show a little bit about your personality in your content. And if you’re just asking questions for your audience then that doesn’t necessarily come across as genuine all the time. Download my free Recipe for Instagram workbook to help get you started with figuring out what type of content you should be posting to Instagram (and social media as a whole), and/or email me if you have any questions on how to create engaging questions for your own page. I always love to talk more about content!