Are you looking to become an influencer with a supportive community of followers and sought after brand partnerships? Read on to learn about how I used Instagram to share my passion and connect with others, developing into a nanoinfluencer along the way.

So what exactly is a nanoinfluencer? This is a highly niche subcategory of social media influencers who typically have between 1,000 and 10,000 followers. Nanoinfluencers are often regarded as a more authentic alternative to major influencer accounts since they often start out like I did–as personal accounts focused on a genuine passion.

Passion and a deep understanding of my topic area came first. I had been investing heavily in non-toxic products for skincare and household and I knew others were interested in learning more based on the highly engaged conversations I was having.

From this starting point, I was able to take my story of a journey to non-toxic living and build an engaged community while using my company, Sprout Social’s product to optimize my strategy. Below are some highlights from Clean Beauty Republic’s first month:

  • Over 1000 organic followers
  • Up to 100 comments on each photo
  • 21% Engagement rate
  • Over 80 partnerships with brands

Set a clear content goal

Wondering how I did it? First, I set a clear content goal: to share my knowledge with others, engage in the community and test products from up and coming brands with a focus in the non-toxic product space. I found a name that no one else was using with keywords I was targeting–clean beauty–and created both an Instagram Business Profile and Gmail account for brand engagement. I set up my profile description to mention relevant hashtags such as #cleanbeauty and #nontoxiclifestyle to optimize search. Finally, I added a profile photo of myself to humanize the account.

Use Insights to drive strategy

I began to plan out my photo strategy. As an employee of Sprout, I wanted to put our platform into practice for my own account and see what types of insights I could gather. The Instagram Top Messages Report showed that my posts get more engagement when I use natural light so I plan content around the weather. I set aside an hour or two to shoot as much content as possible when the sun is out. By capturing a variety of content in bulk I am able to use the Sprout calendar to schedule posts which is a big time saver. It also allows me to preview my posts on the grid so I can schedule in the most aesthetically pleasing way. I typically post five to six product shots followed by an image of myself to connect with my followers. A surprise visit from my cat every so often boosts engagement and gets the conversation going.

Photo setup

I purchased a few basics for my setup – a ring light for selfies and a few yards of fabric for a clean backdrop. I use a Canon to shoot but many people use their iPhone. I ensure my images look consistent by using Adobe Lightroom and some presets I bought on Etsy. I make sure all my images are sized 1:1 per Instagram’s best practices.

How to reach the widest audience

My audience insights show that my audience is most active from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. so I post daily around 9 a.m. I then share my post to my Instagram Stories knowing only a certain percentage of followers will see my post in their feed. I use a GIF overlay to tease my audience forcing them to click the image to see the full post. Motion is also said to drive higher engagement.

Hashtag strategy

After experimenting with various clean beauty and nontoxic living hashtags I used Sprout’s Instagram Outbound Hashtag Report to understand which ones had the highest engagement.

From there I created an iOS keyboard shortcut so I can easily add the hashtags to each of my posts using text replacement. I then add additional custom hashtags based on the content and relevant themes of the day, such as #texturetuesday, to drive engagement. In addition to using hashtags to mention brands I also tag them in the images so my audience can click through and purchase a product. I frequently revisit the report to see how it changes and modify content types.

Building a following

When getting started, I found a few accounts with similar focuses. I looked at their comments and followers and started to engage with and follow their followers. I browsed various hashtags such as #discoverunder500 and #discoverunder1k to follow similar accounts knowing these are smaller accounts who are more likely to engage and follow back. I also frequently visited the ‘Suggested for You’ section at the bottom of the Activity tab which are curated based on my account.

Mind your ratio

Follower ratio is important when getting started. I was careful to keep my following just below my follower count to avoid looking spammy. I use a tracking app to see when people unfollow me so I can remove the excess following from my account. I only follow back accounts with similar interests knowing they are more likely to engage. A large following with low engagement will hurt your overall engagement rating which may affect the Instagram algorithm.

I also pay attention to follower ratio when following an account. An account who is following equal or less than their followers will typically engage and follow back. If they follow less than half or more than double, they either may not follow back or could be spamming with low engagement. I also check their comments to see whether or not they reply and engage with their followers. Before I follow someone I always engage with their content by liking as many photos as possible or commenting before following as they are more likely to follow back.

Be authentic and create connection

The key to supporting and building up a community while keeping them engaged is to stay as authentic as possible. Connecting with my audience is key. I share bits of my life and feelings about health, weekend plans, stresses, work. I also speak to topical events that everyone can relate to whether it be news, a holiday or weather. I respond to all DMs and strike up conversations with my regular followers. When posting, I am transparent about whether a product works for me regardless of it being promotional and I always aim to ask questions to drive conversation.

Keeping your audience engaged

I aim to respond to every comment received on my content. I batch responses out 2-3 times per day so it feels like I am responsive but also allows me to focus on my day job. Responding helps continue the conversation with my followers and it also encourages people visiting my profile to follow me since they see that I am engaging regularly. I also aim to visit my closest followers daily and interact with their posts.

I show support to my community by sharing my followers’ feed posts that inspire me to my Story. This will tag them, allowing my audience to click into their photo and engage. Often times they will reshare to their story giving visibility to my account. If I am notified that my photo is shared in someone’s story I repost it to my story. This shows credibility and engagement in the community, which encourages others to do the same.

Another way to drive engagement is by doing a giveaway – either solo or in partnership with a brand. By giving away product, I can set rules to encourage people to follow me, tag friends and share the post to their stories. Brands also love to partner on giveaways to drive traffic to their pages and will typically handle the cost of product and shipping.

Key takeaways

My Instagram journey to becoming a nanoinfluencer has been extremely eye opening and has allowed me to build an entirely new community while sharing my knowledge with others. It has also given me the opportunity to better understand our product and develop empathy for our customers. Sprout’s Instagram Business Profile Report has given me the insights needed to optimize the types of content I capture, the way I craft messages and ensure I am always posting at the optimal time based on my audience, which has truly taken my engagement to the next level.

I hope you enjoyed the glimpse into the intricacies of building and maintaining a social community. I encourage you to find your passion and share it with others, as the connections made along the way are both fulfilling and inspirational.