How to Build an Engaged Community on Instagram


One of our biggest goals when launching HAVEN, was to really, truly embrace our community. As a publication, our content is built from the work of creatives and we only exist because you come to us as a curated and credible source of inspiration. Thank you. For that reason, today’s post is an important one […]

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One of our biggest goals when launching HAVEN, was to really, truly embrace our community. As a publication, our content is built from the work of creatives and we only exist because you come to us as a curated and credible source of inspiration. Thank you. For that reason, today’s post is an important one to me because it’s all about embracing the mindset of engaging your community vs. gaining more followers. To dive into it all, we’ve invited our friend, Kait Fontenot of Kait Studio to share her expertise, tips and meaningful advice. Whether you’re a biz owner, side hustle blogger, or simply have a message to share through your platform, this one is for you. I don’t throw the term ‘must-read’ around a lot but this post absolutely is.

Photography: Kate Osborne for Studio McGee

From Kait Fontenot of Kait Studio… In a time where we’re absolutely overwhelmed with advertisements, sales in our inbox, and constant product pushing (ie: How to Make Your First 6 Figures!”), it’s important to remember our customers and how they’re feeling.

While it may seem smart to consistently push your products, it can be overwhelming and cause them to feel unimportant and overlooked.

I know you’ve felt it as well, that frustration of constant advertisements on your Facebook feed. And while we absolutely understand the necessity of it, I want you to understand your customers need something more than that.

Recently, on a consulting call, I mentioned to a client my method of passion & relationship first, profit second. I’ve lived by this method and talked about it often over the last three years, encouraging my clients to build a valuable relationship first and let the sale naturally flow in as their target market gets to know them and grow with them.

Because, connecting with your target market shouldn’t be hard and certainly doesn’t have to be. Your customers are yearning for a true, valuable connection with someone who’s business they’d love to support. We’re quickly losing that connection with our customers, forgetting that we also have a story to tell.

So today, I’d love to chat with you about how to create a captivated audience – one that values your product and mostly, values you and your input.

You’ve heard me mention a million times that the way to get the attention of your followers in 2019 is to make true connections with them, right? This means stop the spammy selling – stop pushing it and trying too hard.

Whatever you’re selling or attempting to share, I want you to stop forcing it. I know that sounds entirely counter-intuitive but it works 100% of the time. As difficult and strange as it feels at first to stop selling and start showing up, it becomes second nature once you get used to it.

Instead of pushing the sale, I want you to do these things:

Get your followers into your direct messages.

If you’re someone who has turned off the ability to accept direct messages, please do yourself a favor and turn that right back on. What if you’re a boutique and someone is wanting to message you about a product or an issue they had at your store? What if you’re a designer and someone is inquiring about your services? You need to leave that window of communication open. Ask fun questions on Instagram stories, create polls, ask for advice and tips for projects. When you can pull followers into your direct messages, it allows you to continue building a PURE relationship. Once they message you, don’t pitch a sale to them. Thank them for whatever they responded to and genuinely ask them where they’re from or what they do!

If you’re having trouble thinking of questions, I’ve curated a fun FREE PDF that gives you 150 captivating questions for Instagram. You can add them to the beginning of your caption or even in your stories to grow engagement. You can grab that here.

Start sharing your story!

Your story is what makes you stand out amongst the noise of your competition and I think one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to step back and think you don’t have a compelling story to tell – you’ll get pushed under the wave quickly.  Everyone has a beautiful story and by sharing yours (don’t worry, you don’t have to get too personal) you’re able to create that personal relationship and connection.

Share your behind the scenes moments.

No matter how boring you may consider your days to be, I promise you there is something you can share. My days consist of 4am wake up calls, work, a really hyper four year old, a lot of Moana + Elsa (cue Let It Go), gym time, consulting calls, laundry, dishes, and more work.

In my personal opinion, there isn’t anything exciting going on – but to my followers, they appreciate the realness of it. Embrace the imperfection and show the realness.

Start responding to messages with videos instead of emojis and text.

This would be my biggest Instagram takeaway from 2018. I listened to Chalene Johnson’s podcast earlier this year on a run and just fell in love with this mommy and son duo. Her son, Brock, mentioned how he responds to direct messages, when he can, with a video and I loved that idea. I began implementing this as much as I reasonably could in the end of this year and it really went over well. My followers felt important and heard and I love that.

Create a community, not a shop.

In 2019, people don’t want to be sold to, they want to be heard. They want value, human connection, appreciation, and support. By creating a true community, engaging with your followers, caring about their thoughts and opinions, you’ll eventually turn that community into a fan-base that wants to buy whatever you’re selling just because you’re selling it. Learn to come from a place of pure passion over profit and joy for what you do over pushing a sale.

Refer back to your analytics.

If you aren’t sure of what your readers are enjoying, refer back to your analytics always. Know that switching from a business account to a personal and then back to business will, in turn, clear out those old analytics. So be aware of that before doing so! If you’re wondering why people aren’t responding to the images you’re posting, try running a few test images.

Remember that with any test, you’ll need to give it time to yield results. If you switch things up and find nothing is working, just give it time. Don’t give up! With all of the tests I run, I try to give them at least three weeks to see what works and what doesn’t.

You’ll need to test days, times of the day, different graphic layouts, types of quotes, types of captions, lengths of captions, images, and even filters and styles of images.

Create compelling captions with a clear call to action!

You should always begin a caption with a clear call to action. The first line should be your CTA and the second should follow up with what your entire point is. Here is an example:

Tag a friend whose starting a business in 2019!

I love to work with business owners to create compelling & captivate websites.

You can even use that free PDF with over 150 compelling questions for this area.

So whether you’re a blogger, a business owner, or just a mom who’s passionate about sharing her values, the number one takeaway I want you to have today is that Instagram doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Let’s push community in 2019 and build our followers up consistently, encouraging them to connect with us. By foregoing pushing product and instead pushing a relationship, you’ll create an audience much bigger and more committed than you could ever imagine.

Photography: Kate Osborne for Studio McGee

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