Eighty-four percent of consumers rank recommendations from friends and family to be their top source of trustworthy advertising. Building up a loyal community is an important aspect of any marketing strategy. Happy consumers lead to more happy consumers.

On Instagram you have an unique opportunity to create a community that can extend beyond your brick-and-mortar store.

The most important part of building an Instagram community is to talk with your community, not at your community. You can do this in a variety of ways, including soliciting opinions, launching giveaways or thanking them for their purchases.

When you’re just starting out, you may find that you want to test the Instagram waters before investing more money into the social network. Executing your Instagram marketing strategy needs to deliberate, especially when you have a low budget. With the new Instagram algorithmic feed, it’s even more important to pay attention to your actions.

You don’t want to waste time and money and end up with no results. You’ll need to:

  • Learn about your audience
  • Decide on your strategy
  • Create content
  • Interact with your community

Learn About Your Audience

The first step for working on any social media channel is learning everything you can about your audience. When you know the audience you want to target, you are able to narrow your strategy down, saving on both money and time.

If you have an established physical or online store, pull analytics to learn more about your current customers.

Here are some excellent ways to research your audience. Many of these options are free!

Use Sprout Analytics Tools to Learn More About Who Interacts With Your Posts

Each of our connected social media channels have social media analytics as part of your report. The Hashtag report can clue you in on what types of topics are driving conversations.

Sprout hashtag report for Instagram

Use Facebook Insights to Find Who and Where Your Fans Are

Facebook Insights’ “People” tab will break down your fans by country and city. It’ll further divide the fans up by the People Reached and the People Engaged. This feature is free for any Facebook business Page.

facebook insights example

Use Native Twitter Analytics

On the native platform, Twitter Analytics is free and has an Audience tab that will break down your followers into useful categories. The most useful part of this is their consumer behavior tab, which allows you insight on what else they buy. For example, if the consumer buying style name “fresh and healthy” ranks high, then you can incorporate an all-natural juice mix into one of your Instagram photos.

twitter demographics example

Use Google Analytics to Find Common Behaviors

There is a lot of information that can be unpacked from your free Google Analytics account. For the purpose of this exercise, focus on the Audience category and its subcategories like “Demographics” and “Interests.” Be sure to note the top two or three categories in the overview. This exercise should give you a good idea on what your web visitors are interested in.

google analytics demographics example

For each of the above research sources you use, keep a document open to note down the important demographics. With a table, you can easily analyze trends across networks.

This is what an example research table could look like:

instagram community demographics chart

Now that you’ve created your table, take note of the similarities and establish this as your target audience for Instagram.

Remember your audience constantly changes, so it is important to check in on your analytics every so often to see if your audience has shifted.

Decide on Your Strategy

We’ve talked before on how to create an Instagram for business strategy. When you know why you’re using Instagram, it’s easier to create the content that reflects that.

At the most basic level of your Instagram strategy, establish 2-3 goals. Example goals include: increased sales, brand recognition, and more online engagement. If you’re just starting out with building your Instagram community, pick one goal and stick with it for several months.

After establishing goals, create metrics for each one. Without known metrics, you will have no way of determining the success of the strategy.

And finally, determine your story. This can be as simple as Nike’s slogan, “Just do it.” When you establish your story and you pair that story with your Instagram goal, you can easily decide on the content you want to use.

For example, Everlane’s story is all about knowing what goes into your clothing’s manufacturing process. This story permeates into their Instagram bio and through every photo that they use on their Instagram page.

At this point, you should have an incredible amount of information about your audience.

What’s next? Determine your content. Take the goals you established earlier, plus the story you want to emulate, and brainstorm all the associated content you would like to publish.

Let’s take Shoes of Prey as an example. Their goal is to sell more shoes and their story is all about creating customized shoes. Their brainstorming session could look like this:

  • Showcase details on shoes: Glitter, unique sole, uncommon materials being paired.
  • Wedding shoes: Bridal photography with shoes peeking out of dress, bride strapping on the shoe.
  • Comfortable shoes can be attractive too: Model wearing fall weather boots with a warm sweater, woman strolling along sidewalk on an errand.
shoes of prey instagram example

Now, take 30 minutes to brainstorm your own content.

Create Your Content

Onto the fun part! Creating and sourcing your content is one of the most important parts of Instagram. The Instagram algorithm values highly engaging content, so if you’re on a low budget, putting out excellent content should be a top priority.

Once you’ve created top-quality content, you’ll need to analyze it. Hopefully the metrics that you established during your strategy creation will help here. You can also use our Instagram reports to help you learn which hashtags are the most engaged.

instagram hashtag reporting

A free tool for Instagram analytics can be found if you’ve converted your profile into a business account. At the top right of your profile page, there’s a little graph icon. Over the past week’s worth of posts, these statistics will give you insight on what the top posts were.

Underneath each photo you’ve posted, you also have the ability to note important metrics like impressions, reach and engagement.

After several weeks of taking a look at your analytics, visual trends should begin to emerge. If you’re a cafe, perhaps your audience really enjoys photos of puppies and coffee. If you’re a clothing store, maybe you find that photos with people in them, paired with clothing descriptions, outperform the photos that are lifeless with promotional language.

'The End' is just something they put on movies. #justdoit

A post shared by nike (@nike) on

Engage Your Audience

You can’t create a community without audience engagement. In a time where there are large corporations, you stand out when you engage with your consumers on an individual level.

More importantly, there is no price on excellent customer service.

There are many ways to keep track of your engagement. We mentioned before about the per-photo analytics you can find inside of Instagram.

Here are some free, excellent ways to engage your audience.

Reply to Their Comments

This seems like customer service 101, but there are a surprisingly number of brands who do not engage with customers on their own photos. A simple thank you goes a long way in a consumer’s mind.

When a double-tap would’ve worked fine on your photo, the community member took a few moments to type out a comment. Replying to the comment shows that you are listening; therefore, creating a bond with your community.

Involve Your Instagram Community into Your Business

Whether it’s asking for opinions on a new menu item or soliciting feedback for their favorite movies, the more involved your community feels, the more loyal they are.

One example of this is Kit and Ace, a clothing company in Vancouver. On their Instagram page, they often highlight the community members who wear their clothes. Interviewing these people sends a signal to consumers that they care about their community and are happy to highlight their accomplishments. In turn, the highlighted members receive marketing and become unofficial brand ambassadors.

Track Those Hashtags

When you incorporate your company hashtags into your Instagram captions, you start to see your own customers taking up on those hashtags, too. Now make sure you are engaging on those hashtagged photos and the people who are posting them.

For example, the Life & Thyme community is all about stories and food. The Life & Thyme Instagram account will often repost these images – which then encourages their community to post more.

At the end of the day, building an Instagram community is much like building your own friend circle. You want to create impactful, trusting connections with an audience that will promote your brand to their friends. With a little research and time, you can build an Instagram community on a low budget.