Instagram Community Management 101: The Ultimate Guide

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Community management is the sole missing piece of a well-rounded social media marketing strategy that many agencies and freelancers won’t offer, and that many clients who are not well-versed in digital marketing won’t notice missing. 

In 2021, with all of us spending most of our free time online and on social media, one-sided communication just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Instead, what you want to do is establish a community where your followers like to come back not only to see what you post, but to hear what you have to say, ask questions and make a meaningful connection. After all, having tens of thousands of ghost followers is as good as having zero, while having 50 engaging and loyal followers who are potential prospects to become your clients, consumers, or network associates (or are just simply users that really, really love your content) are much more valuable than the trailing zeros you can add to your “growth” statistics.

While a regular posting cadence, great visuals, catchy captions and a well-researched hashtag repository are all necessary (because nobody will follow a dead account that last posted a year ago, either), if there is no human interaction behind the account = people are going to notice… and hit unfollow real quick. Here’s your ultimate guide on how to avoid that scenario.

Test your target audience – come out of the shadow

Sometimes, without paid advertisement or influencer marketing, accounts simply stagnate. If you’ve just created your account or you see a plateau in engagement for quite a while, it’s time to knock on a few virtual doors to make yourself seen. 

While we advocate quality over quantity, that doesn’t limit you from how many accounts you’re going to reach out to. Chances are that the algorithm has already shown your account to the followers of your current followers, and they obviously haven’t been interested, so it’s time to change the “marketplace” and increase your account’s visibility through interaction with new accounts. 

screen capture of a post on instagram

Start off by scooting through the explore page and looking at some recent posts that contain hashtags related for your industry or hashtags that your prospects may use, in example – if you’re a marketing agency, you may want to look at #founders or #entrepreneurs, or if you’re a bakery start looking at #foodlover or #foodstagram*… and drop some comments down on a couple of posts with good engagement, just to get your name out there. If you see the same account using the hashtag on a regular while also regularly having users debating in the comment section, give them a follow and join the conversations. You can even share some posts on your stories, chances are they will appreciate the gesture and do the same in return.

screen shot of popular food hashtags in instagram

*Protip: you can look at hashtag volumes directly in the Instagram app by typing in your target keyword in the search bar, then selecting “Tags” = the number of times the tag was used (aka how popular it is) will be shown under the search result.

Like for like, follow for follow

Have you ever posted a selfie on Instagram wearing your favorite t-shirt, lipstick, or necklace, and then noticed later that the brand liked or commented on your picture? Did you feel somewhat special in that moment? Were you happy to see they noticed? Has that made you love the brand more? You see where we’re going with this. 

If you notice a couple of people sticking out from the crowd with how interested they are in your business, give them the love back. Like a few of their pictures, even if it’s just a shot of their morning coffee. Give them a follow back. Give them the hinge that you notice them and appreciate them sticking around. 

screen shot of a conversation on instagram

This strategy is also especially important with B2B businesses. Like you, the businesses on Instagram that follow your account may have done so wanting you as their future customer or partner. If you don’t become their prospect, they will at least expect to see some engagement from you and have you in their Instagram network. If they don’t, they will probably turn their efforts elsewhere. A simple double-tap on their latest post may convince them to stay.

Be authentic and don’t spam

Don’t do #f4f tag trend. You will very quickly learn that it will bring you a huge wave of users who want to rise to the influencer status and just want a follow back to increase their numbers. They aren’t your consumers, and their loyal and engaging followers more often than not have nothing to do with your business. Make sure to stay relevant and only connect with (and follow back) the people you actually want in your community.

This also means carefully selecting accounts for your cold outreach. Instead of commenting on people’s pictures asking for a follow back or messaging someone based on only one post you stumbled upon on the explore page, open their account and see if it was an exception or if they’re really involved in your niche. That extra minute could save you (and your brand) quite some embarrassment. 

screenshot of a DM conversation in instagram

Answer those DMs

Many businesses don’t view their messages on social media simply because they have other means of communication set in place, but users’ logic is that if you have an account, and there is an option to send you a direct message = you are available for direct messaging. 

According to Hootsuite, 64% of social media users of all age groups prefer to text businesses rather than having a call or sending an email. If your inbox keeps cluttering and you keep ignoring it, or even worse leaving people on read, you may come off as unapproachable. 

screenshot of a DM conversation in instagram

The same rule applies to comments. Sure, if you have a large account with thousands of followers, replying to every comment is almost impossible, however, if you see multiple users repeating the same comment or question, you can always reply to one and pin it to the top for others to see. 

screenshot of a conversation in instagram comments

Make your content a living CTA

Community management does not only mean responding and reaching out, it’s also making sure the way your content is presented is inviting. There are SO many ways to make your content engaging, and even minor details can turn it from a fun poster to a call to action. In example, if you’re presenting a statistic, let’s say “90% of Instagram users follow a business” (via Instagram Business) you can put a question in the caption to encourage communication in the comments, such as: “Do you follow business accounts on Instagram?”, “What kinds of businesses do you follow on Instagram?”, “What do you think of Instagram business accounts?”. If you’re posting on your story, slide in a poll or comment box wherever you can. 

screenshot of an instagram stories post with a poll sticker

You can make post or story challenges, brainstorm your own potentially trending hashtag, or even post more carousel posts as carousels have the highest engagement rate on Instagram.

Ensure your community management reflects brand voice

Your Instagram account should be a reflection of your brand voice, not just in your content and design, but also in your community management. If your brand prefers a serious, professional tone, then you will lurk to find serious businesspeople and engage in an eloquent manner. If your branding screams “up-beat” and “fun”, then so should your followers, and the way you communicate with them. 

Bottom line is, when doing Instagram community management: 

  • Make sure that you never stop reaching out to more new users to spread your brand awareness.
  • Make sure that your current followers feel heard and valued.
  • Encourage, and engage in, conversations on both your own posts and posts of people you want in your community, either as a general part of your network or as a potential customer/client. 
  • Never leave your brand voice and values on the back burner. 

And as a final point – just enjoy the experience. You will meet many new faces, gain valuable feedback on your work, and learn a lot both about your audience and even your business niche. Allow yourself to become invested in your online community and build strong connections that will set you apart from accounts that exist just for the sake of hopping on the trend of having a social media presence. Subsequently, you will see your engagement rate rising, and probably your prospect list, too.