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Hello? Is anyone there?
If that’s how you feel every time you put out your latest Instagram post, you pour your heart and soul into it, press, go and publish it into the ether and hear nothing back, then you’re not alone.
It can be really difficult to start to get engagement on Instagram, especially if you’re not doing some fundamental things that can make it a bit easier. It’s just not easy to get people to talk to you on a social media platform where there are millions of other people all vying for attention. But if you want to improve the engagement that your Instagram posts are getting, there are some simple things that you can do to help you. And I’m going to talk about them. There are three things I’m going to talk about in this podcast episode that you need to be doing if you want to improve your Instagram engagement.
- Tell your story
Now, this is so important because stories are what make us unique. They’re what people buy into when they buy a product. People don’t usually buy just a product. They buy the story behind it, particularly when it’s a creative business they’re buying from or it’s a handmade item, they’re buying into that story. They’re paying more, usually because they’re buying into that story. They’re buying into the story of the product.
And I believe that when a product is made, it kind of accumulates stories that have been absorbed into it. So obviously there’ll be the raw ingredients, which are part of its story and you put it together, so your story will be attached to it, as the maker. And then as it goes out into the world and gets bought by someone, and their story becomes a part of that object, too.
And so that object becomes so much more than an object.
It’s got meaning. It’s got a story, and its purpose also informs its story as well. So, for example, if you wanted a pen now, you could just go and get a cheap biro from the supermarket. That would cost you, I don’t know, 20p each or a pound for five pens. And that’s what you would do if you needed a pen. But if you want a special pen, then you pay a bit more because you want a pen that you’re going to write down your dreams with, that you’re going to create some amazing work with that. You’re going to journal your deepest desires – then that pen is no longer ‘just a pen.’ It’s a tool to make your dreams come true! So you can see how even a pen is not just a pen. It’s a way of creating your dreams.
You might think I’m going a bit overboard on that, but it just goes to show that every single product we have, everything we have in our life, can have a story behind it. And it’s really important that we tell those stories. Now, when we’re close to those stories, we don’t think about them at all because they’re so familiar to us. I know when I used to run my blog and I used to tell stories of jewellers, and I used to go to all the big craft fairs and meet jewellers and say to them, “I want to tell your story in my blog.” And they would all say to me, “I don’t have a story.” But they do. And you do too.
We ALL have stories, but it’s really hard to see it sometimes.
And we need to be telling those stories in our Instagram posts. That’s both in our captions and in our photos as well, because photos sometimes are the first thing that people see. So the photo needs to tell the story, but also the caption needs to go into it into more depth.
So what do I mean by story?
Recently I posted a post about me, and it was just me talking about looking back on the last two years. I’d posted a photo from two years ago and said I couldn’t believe everything that happened in the last two years. And I listed all the things that had happened to me since I posted that photo. And so many people engaged with that post. So many people engaged with my story. The story of what happened to me over the last two years.
Now, your story doesn’t have to be a story of what’s happened to you over the last two years. It could be something that’s happened to you that day. An interesting incident, something that happened that week. Or it could be something that’s going on in your life. It could even be something you’ve heard.
But the fact is, stories engage people. People want to know about stories.
So if you want to increase your Instagram engagement, you need to be telling a story. And as I said, that’s both in your captions and in your photos. If you look at a photo, what story does that photo tell? If you’ve got a photo of your product, that’s great. But talk about the story behind that product in your caption. You need to be telling people stories because like I said, there are millions of people out there on Instagram and you need to stand out from everybody else. You have a unique story. Nobody else has your story. Nobody else is telling the story the way you do.
You need to learn to tell your stories in your posts and it can be a little bit overwhelming. That’s true. It can be a bit scary. But just talk about your day. Start by talking about what happened to you last week, and you will start to exercise that storytelling muscle, which is what it is. It’s a muscle. We need to teach ourselves to recognise what the stories are and to tell them to people. And we’ve got to start somewhere. So even if that’s just saying what happened to you last week, then tell it.
But tell it in a way that would be of interest to your customer. There’s no point in saying to someone, I had beans on toast for dinner last night because the story is not really going anywhere, is it?
Okay, yeah, you have beans on toast – so what?! But what if you said, “I had beans on toast last night because I saw this amazing TV program that says beans are the most nutritious foods that you can possibly get. And I really wanted to do a bit of an experiment. And I’m going to have beans on toast every day for a week to see if it makes any difference.” That shows there’s a deeper story behind eating beans on toast! I’m really not saying go out and post about beans on toast or eat it every day, but I’m just saying – you need to think about what is the point of your story?
What’s your story and what point do you want to get across to people?
For example, if you make beautiful cushions, you could tell the story of your cushions, how you make them. You could talk about the story of where you source the parts for your cushions, the names of your cushions and why you picked those particular names for them. You could talk about the fact you made a cushion yesterday and this thing happened. There are just so many different stories you could talk about. And not only YOUR part of the story. As I mentioned, I believe a product kind of absorbs stories from its past, its present and its future. So you could also talk about where it’s gone, who’s bought the cushion and why have they bought it? Where have they put it in their home? This is also a brilliant way to get photos to use on your Instagram account of your products actually being used.
So if you make beautiful cushions and you know somebody who has bought your cushions, you can ask their permission to post their photos on your Instagram account.
You do want to be a bit selective about this, you want to pick someone who you know takes photos well, or puts cushions together in a beautiful way and in their interior. But if you know somebody that has placed your cushion somewhere, and it looks amazing, ask them for the photo.
But also the story behind why they bought the cushion and what they love about it. It could be when you get talking to them, they could say that they bought the cushion from you because they wanted to put their wedding rings on it when the ring bearer was walking down the aisle at their wedding. Now, isn’t that an amazing story? And straight away it makes people want your product because it’s more than just a bit of fabric sewn together. It’s a treasured memory as part of a very special occasion.
So, yeah, when you’re thinking about telling your story, think about the photos. What do the photos say? If you’ve got a mug that says be inspired, then that mug, that’s not just a photo of a mug, that’s a photo telling you to be inspired. Think about what the photo says.
Think about also your captions and what story you’re telling in your captions.
What’s the point of the story? And think about your part of the story, but also the product’s history and the product’s future. The customers that have gone on to buy that product. So, for example, if you make engagement rings, what’s the story of the proposal? If somebody bought an engagement ring from you, how did they go on to propose with it? Have you got a photo of it? That’s an amazing story to tell. And that’s something I see a lot of engagement ring designers do, and it works really well.
So the number one way to get more engagement on your Instagram posts is to tell your story.
As I said, it’s not something you’ll get straight away. It’s a muscle that needs to be exercised. Just like any kind of writing or anything you do, you need to practice. So just practice telling your story. Today, what can you post on Instagram that tells a little bit of your story and, you know, tell your behind the scenes because people love to hear behind the scenes of a business.
- Show your face.
When people go looking for products or businesses to work with online, they’re looking for three things before they buy from you. They want to get to know you, they want to like you and they want to trust you. Now, nothing breeds trust more than actually seeing a face. You know yourself from buying online. When you see just a business and you could just see a product, but you don’t really know anything about it, you haven’t had any recommendations, you don’t know the person. Then you’re a little bit skeptical to trust that business and buy from them unless it’s a very small priced item.
If it’s a bigger-priced item (particularly one that’s a very important item), then you’re going to need to really trust that person. You need to know their story, as I said before, but also to see them. And if you can see their face, that happens so much faster. They don’t necessarily want to buy from Claudia Schiffer or whoever the top model is at the time.
They don’t want to see your face so they can judge if you’re good-looking enough to buy from. That’s NOT the reason they want to see your face.
Don’t worry about that. They just want to know that they’re buying from a real person and that they can trust you. And for some reason, in our psychology, we tend to trust people more when we can see their faces. And if we can see someone in their working environment just proves to us that they are more trustworthy somehow.
So you really need to show your face. I’ve had high-performing posts on Instagram recently because I’ve shown my face. Do I love having my photo taken? No, I absolutely hate it. I’ll be the first one out and about saying, “Don’t take a photo of me,” because I always hate photos taken of me. And if you take 30 photos, I’ll probably quite like just one. So yeah, I don’t like photos taken either. But I do know it’s really important. So there’s two great tips I can give you:
- Learn to take photos you’re actually happy with.
There are some techniques that you can use to give you a bit more control of the way you look. For example, as long as there’s not bright sun coming through, take a photo of yourself facing a window. You’ll get a beautiful light that’s much more flattering on your skin. Also remember that to a camera, whichever part of your body is nearest, is going to appear the biggest. So if you don’t like your arms and you think they’re big, don’t put them right in front of your body or face because they will look bigger than they are.
If you put a camera in front of you to take a photo and you put your hands next to your face, your hands are going to look massive on the camera because they look as though they’re as big as your head.
In reality, they’re not, but that’s just the way they’re going to appear on the camera. So use some tricks to create photos that you like. If you’re conscious about the size of your body and you don’t think you look great, firstly, don’t be conscious of it, you’re gorgeous! But if you still feel self-conscious, lean over a chair towards the camera and your face will look bigger, but your body will look smaller. There are so many tricks that celebrities and photographers use all the time to take amazing photos of these people and we don’t know these tips. So just get to know your camera. Play around. Remember that whatever is close to the camera is what is going to appear biggest.
And the other trick is really just to get a professional to do it because it’s so much easier and it takes away all the stress.
There are so many brilliant brand photographers out there and there’s bound to be one near you. And what they will do is talk to you before the photoshoot, tell you what to expect, find out a little bit more about your business and your brand (and what you want), and advise you.
On the day, they’ll guide you into taking amazing photos and they will take amazing photos for you. And it actually is not as expensive as you might think. The brilliant thing about this, is not only do you then have photos you actually like of yourself and you want to put out there, you also end that kind of procrastination when you come to post on Instagram or social media or your website or wherever, because you’ve got photos you actually like and you don’t have to think about it. You just schedule them in, and then you can write your story for your caption and you’re away.
Those are my two tips. You need to show your face. Either learn to take photos that you actually like of yourself or get photos done by a professional, which is really easy and actually not as expensive as you might think.
It just takes the stress away and it takes the procrastination away every day. And if you’re clever, you can use those photos for several months unless you massively change your hairstyle or whatever. And it will just keep you going and make your business look really professional as well.
- Engage with other people
It’s so easy when we’re on Instagram to just focus on ourselves. We’re thinking about what we’re churning out to the world, we’re thinking about our products. We’re thinking about showing people what we’re about over and over again. But when was the last time you actively went out and engaged on other people’s posts? When was the last time you shared stories from other people? When was the last time you commented on stories to other people?
Commenting on people’s posts gets you noticed by other people, people that you want to attract.
So you really need to engage meaningfully. And when I say engage meaningfully, I mean more than just putting emoji on their posts, because they’re not really going to notice that. But find people that you align with, either people that might be your potential customers or people that you might want to work with. And if it aligns with your business and it feels right, then comment on their posts.
Go through writing meaningful, helpful comments on their posts.
You want it to be authentic. So you don’t want to just write comments for the sake of writing comments. But see if you feel moved to make a comment or make a contribution, then do that and really go for it and try to do it multiple times every day if you can. What that will do is it will start to build relationships and those people will get to know you. They will start to recommend you, they will start engaging on your posts and you will start to see your engagement improve.
Now, I’m not talking about joining pods where you all agree to share each other’s posts or you all agree to comment on each other’s posts because that doesn’t work. It’s not authentic. And if you are just commenting on someone’s post because you have to, it won’t feel authentic and it will feel like a chore.
You need to find posts that you feel aligned with or content that you want to share with your audience.
So for example, when I was serving a lot of jewellers, I would find people that I knew would be useful to them and I would share that stuff with them. I would share jewelers that were creating amazing work, I’d constantly be sharing that on my Instagram stories. I’d share about festivals that were going on and looking for makers. I would share opportunities with them. And I shared all of that to help my audience but (unbeknownst to me at the time) that also got me on the radar of some really amazing people running these festivals and that led to opportunities for me later on. That’s not what I planned at all, but it did. And it also helped my engagement and it helped people realize that I was an authority as well and that these amazing people were sharing me.
It’s like anything in life, if you want people to do something for you, you need to do something back for them too. It needs to be reciprocal. It needs to be two-way. So if you want people to comment on your posts, you need to comment on their posts too.
If you don’t want to get sucked into the Instagram vortex (which we all do all the time), then what you need to do is set a timer and go through and make comments.
A great way to find posts that align with you is to search on a hashtag. I used to search on #contemporaryjewellery, and I used to go down and flick through. And any posts that kind of spoke to me or I felt aligned with, I would comment on. As I said, I wouldn’t do it for the sake of it. But if I felt compelled to write something or share something, then I would do that and I would do that regularly. And I would also regularly share a lot of different jewellers’ work on my Instagram stories. I used to have a rolling Gallery and that used to get me a lot of engagement.
So do it, however is best for you. But the point is you need to go and engage with others if you want others to engage with you. It’s almost quite selfish to put yourself out there and out there and out there and expect OK, why is no one talking back to me? But you’re not talking to anyone else, so why should they talk back to you?
There you go. There are three ways that you can improve your Instagram posts’ engagement.
First of all, tell your story both through your pictures and your captions and start small and just build up. Number two, show your face. People trust faces. I don’t know why, but there’s something in-built in us and a natural instinct that people trust faces. So get those photos out there.
It doesn’t need to be every single post, but certainly, I would try and do one every week. A photo of you and there could be photos in different places. It could be photos of you out and about.
Photos of you out and about. I think they tell a really good story because they really are interesting and they’ve got an interesting background and there’s a whole story there.
When someone’s flicking through their Instagram feed straight away, they can see there’s something interesting going on. “Where is Vicki today? Oh, she’s at this event, that looks interesting. I’ll read the caption.” It’s going to intrigue people. So make sure you show your face.
And the third one, go and engage with others. You can’t expect people to come to you and comment on all your posts and say how wonderful they are, if you’re not doing the same with other people. What goes around, comes around. That’s what they say. And I totally believe that’s true on Instagram.