If I had a dollar for every webinar, free download, or five-day challenge out there promising you more Instagram followers I could spend my days traveling the country visiting every Target from sea to shining sea.
It’s one of top ways most marketers get entrepreneurs like you and I to join their latest course or program - “get 1,000 more Instagram followers this week” or “how to 10x your Instagram followers this month.” There’s the race for more. The desire to have as many followers as what’s-her-name has. And don’t even get me started on how hardcore people are lusting after that coveted “K” to go along with their number of followers on the ‘gram.
But, for most folks, it’s the wrong conversation.
Because racking up Instagram followers is like racking up Monopoly money - it doesn’t do much.
Sure, you can buy Park Place. But you’ll still need Boardwalk and you know your cousin who plays the banker is going to get it before you because he spends the entire game as the banker, sliding $500 bills under his butt every time you turn away (yes...hi...I was that cousin).
You don’t need more Instagram followers.
You need the right kind of Instagram followers.
You need followers who know you - really know you - and get your business. People who understand what you do and why you do it. Folks who get what you’re saying and why you’re saying it. You need followers who are so passionate about what you offer the world that they tell their friends, family, and colleagues about it. A fan club of individuals who do the work of marketing your business for you.
Because, here’s the thing: vanity metrics and “looking cool” on Instagram will never mean as much to your business as having the right kind of people as part of your tribe.
Instagram isn’t about having more - it’s about being more.
Being more genuine and real.
Being more intentional and focused.
Being more engaging and supportive.
Being more honest and approachable.
Being more conversational and community-minded.
Your followers want to know you and understand what you do. They want to connect with real people doing real things - not inaccessible Instafamous pseudo-celebrities who don’t engage with others. They’re craving engaging and valuable content that contributes positively to their lives. And they want to share your profile with their friends and colleagues - they want to be your advocate. That means you have to take your Instagram strategy from needing more followers and likes to craving more comments and direct messages.
The goal is real conversations with real people.
Social media causes us to forget that relationships are the backbone of marketing. Without human connection and dynamic communities filled with brand advocates, businesses fail. Consumer research powerhouse Nielson reports that people are 4 times more likely to to buy when referred by a friend and that over 90% of consumers trust referrals from someone they know*.
Imagine having a fan base for your brand that markets who you are and what you do on your behalf.
Wouldn’t you rather have 100 raving fans on Instagram than 100,000 followers who don’t understand what you offer? I know I would! Imagine how it would feel to speak directly to real people who get it - people who get you. How incredible would it feel to know you’re creating content for an audience that cares about your business? People who are willing to tell anyone who listens about what you do and how they can benefit from your products or services?
The goal on Instagram should be on creating fans, not gaining followers.
When you shift the focus from followers to fans, you can create content with ease and intention - knowing it’s speaking to the right people with the right message. You can focus on creating “me too” moments - those opportunities for your followers to raise their hands and say, “Yes! Me too! I get that! You get me!” Community and relationships occur more naturally because you’re focused on connecting with real people - not just a number on a screen. And your business grows because people finally understand who you are, what you do, and why you do it (while also doing the work of marketing your business on your behalf).
So, how do you do it? How do you create more fans and stop worrying about followers?
Here are three ways to get started right now…
Remember There Are People Behind Those Screens
It’s easy to forget that each account that follows you, likes your content, and leaves a comment on your Instagram account belongs to a real person. Technology has made it easier than ever for us to separate ourselves from the reality of relationships online. Instead of thinking of your followers as a number - a metric for you to measure or a goal for you to check off a list - think of them as people with goals, dreams, fears, wishes, and desires. They’re just like you. Speak to them - not at them.
Create Content for One
Lacking clarity on who you’re speaking to is one of the quickest ways to lose out when it comes to marketing your business online. If you’ve never done the work of getting clear on your audience, do it now. Don’t wait until next quarter or next year. Get out a piece of paper and write out a persona for your dream customer or client. Think about who they are, what they value, and why they’re following you. What problems do they have and how are you able to solve them? Ask your current customers or followers -- get their feedback. Now, create content for that person and that person alone. Realize that you can’t make everyone happy and your goal should never be to attract anyone. Your goal is to attract the perfect person for your business.
Foster Conversations and Build Community
Now that you know who you’re speaking to and you’re focusing on them as real people, start creating relationships online. Respond to comments and answer direct messages promptly. Ask questions in your posts and Instagram Stories to foster more conversations. And spend more time engaging on Instagram than you do posting. The goal is to build that fan base - developing a community of people who care about what you do and are willing to market your business for you.
As you start to turn your focus from gaining followers to creating fans, you’ll find that the people you’re connecting with on Instagram mean more to you than ever before - and you mean so much more to them. Your content strategy becomes intentional, your engagement on Instagram happens with purpose, and the reason for what you’re doing becomes clear.
That means no more wasting time mindlessly scrolling and no more chasing that elusive K.
Instagram finally becomes easy again.
Want to learn more about turning followers into fans?
The Follower to Fan Society is an online membership community of creatives focused on using Instagram with intention to build relationships and create community. The Society is the place to be for the resources, education, and support you need to build a fanbase on Instagram and turn your fans into paying customers and clients. Membership includes access to a full online training library, monthly content plans and editorial calendars, done-for-you comment pods, monthly hot seats and masterclasses, in-person events, and much more. Join the Follower to Fan Society at followertofansociety.com.
This post was crafted by our friend, Tyler J. McCall.
Tyler J. McCall is an Instagram and social media marketer, strategist, and coach for creatives. He teaches his students and clients how to use Instagram with intention to grow their community online, grow their list, and grow their business. Tyler focuses on using Instagram and social media to tell stories, build relationships, and convert followers to fans, drawing from his 10 years of experience in non-profit marketing and management and community organizing. Tyler is based in Chicago, where he lives with his partner Eric and their dog Douglass. When he’s not coaching or teaching or Instagram strategizing, Tyler enjoys Target runs and road trips…that he documents on his Instagram Stories.