How to Build a Community as an Influencer
Let’s start with a little time travel. The year is 2010 and Instagram, a humble app for photo sharing, was just created. Its co-founder Kevin Systrom’s ambition was to bring together photography enthusiasts but not only. This space was meant to allow users to share their photos, work, daily lives and to facilitate interaction regardless of where you are.
In her book “No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram”, Bloomberg journalist Sarah Frier tells the story behind the app’s beginnings. While today we see it more as an advertising space intended to connect consumers with brands, 10 years ago, things were very different.
Back then, Kevin Systrom dreamed of building a real community around Instagram. The word “community” was of utmost importance to the co-founder. So to build it, he came up with ‘InstaMeets’. These real-life meetings were held in different cities in the United States, as well as in Europe. Selected participants became Instagram ambassadors, providing the teams with feedback and insights on the discussions that took place during these informal meetings.
The two co-founders even took the time to come and talk directly with their users. The first such gathering took place a short distance from their office. These InstaMeets’ main objective was to gather new Instagram enthusiasts. The second goal was to encourage participants to promote the photo-sharing social media application to attract new users. These meetings continued over the years to retain the most relevant creators.
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Since its launch, building a community has always been one of the top priorities of the photo-sharing app. And to this day, it remains one of its main objectives, even if some of its focus shifted, as the meaning of ’community’ itself changed.
How do we now define this term? Why should influencers build a community?
Read on to find what it means to build one and how to cater to those that make it up.
What is a social media community?
A clear definition of the word ’community’
When we open an application and come across a new account, we have a few impulses: Scrolling down for several minutes to check out most of the content, liking a few posts – provided that you like them – and checking the number of people following the account. It’s hard to not to pay attention to this number as it directly tells us whether or not the user is popular.
The followers count is what we call a ’community’ on social media. It’s the number of people who follow the life and work of a content creator. Since its arrival on social media, this number has not stopped growing: when initially only relatives and acquaintances would follow you, nowadays strangers are interested in the virtual lives of other people. Even if these people do not know the content creator personally, they usually have things in common with them: perhaps they’re interested in the same subjects, have the same interests or have some similarities in their daily lives (a similar lifestyle or career…).
For example, Cédric from @MakeinFrance”, shares his own work and work he does for clients. His community is like him: they are craftsmen or handymen.
His community is nothing like Lorylyn’s who shares her life as a mum. Her followers are mostly parents or people who like her advice on how to feel good about themselves.
Communities as seen by brands
Without these communities behind them, these content creators would never be able to work with brands the way they do now. Why is that? Because their followers are a valuable commodity for advertisers. While influencers see it as lots of people being interested in the same thing as them, companies see it as a selection of target consumers. Indeed, if we take our two previous examples, this conclusion seems obvious. On one side you have craftsmen, on the other, parents. With the help of influencers, the former will be “communicated to” by DIY brands, the latter by parenting brands.
At the same time, social media communities can be understood in a broader sense. For example, we talk about gaming communities, booktubercommunities, beauty influencer communities. In the minds of advertisers, people who follow each other have so much in common that they can be considered one and the same. Those who follow streamers will be keen to discover new video games and tips. Those into beauty will prefer to discover the latest products and find out if they’re any good. But again, this brings us back to influencers’ followers.
Today’s content creator are not much without close-knit communities that react to their posts and appreciate their content.
What a community brings to influencers
On social networks, without interaction, content will struggle to gain visibility. What helps content creators stand out from the crowd is their creativity, but also those who react to what they post. The more people who take the time to interact with the influencer’s content, the more they’ll rise in the platforms’ algorithms and be promoted. Content creators are aware of this and are quick to thank their community when they make the effort to increase their content’s visibility.
Social networks don’t hide from the fact. The more interaction the better! Here’s what Adam Mosseri explained in June 2021 about Instagram’s algorithm. “The algorithm takes into account the posts you’ve already liked and the time spent on some of them. The more time you spend, the more likely the algorithm is to recommend a second post from the same account. This is also the case if you regularly leave comments on the same account. When it comes to stories, the more you engage your community and the more they participate, the more your stories will be promoted.“
The more visibility you have on social networks, the more your content is viewed and the more chances you’ll have to collaborate with great brands. As mentioned earlier, communities are the gateway to attracting advertisers who want to communicate with their target customers. That’s why content creators take the time to reward and entertain them with more and more fun and creative content.
Taking care of your followers
But how do you take care of your followers once you start growing? Micro-influencers (accounts with fewer than 50,000 followers) are fortunate to be able to respond to all the comments and messages they receive. Once this becomes too difficult, how can you still satisfy your community? This question is on the minds of many content creators. Some have found solutions to not lose this connection despite their growing popularity.
Get your followers involved using social network features
Let’s take the example of creator The Ginger Chloe. In January 2022, she announced to her community that she had just bought an apartment. She posted a photo:
Her post received nearly 400 comments. Looking closer, Chloe managed to respond to some people, but obviously not everyone. To be able to do this, she set up an FAQ in her stories. Her community was free to ask her questions about this new purchase. She chose to answer around 20 of them, believing that the remaining questions were similar and that her followers would find some of their answers there. These interactions can still be viewed today in one of her top stories on Instagram called “appart.”
In 2022, Instagram wants to prioritise community interaction features. Currently, you can set up FAQs, reply to comments and private messages or be notified when your content is reposted. The team is working on a new way to group PMs to make it easier for content creators to sort through them. For now we don’t have any more details on this.
Share exclusive content
Another way to interact with your community is to make them happy. If someone follows a creator, it’s because they appreciate their content, but also because they are fond of their personality. If you start sharing a little about your personal life, they’ll often want to know more. In order not to disappoint them, you’ll need to share moments of your life with them now and then.
That’s why pregnancy and wedding announcements are always unique pieces of content. It means giving a piece of yourself to the thousands of strangers who follow you and who’ll share in your happiness. Afterwards, they’ll be waiting to find out when the baby was born or how the wedding went.
In January, creator Emy Ltr revealed her pregnancy. She made several videos about it, including one on YouTube about this new lease of life after a difficult ordeal last year.
Another example: filming yourself sad after a breakup. The trend started with Swan Périssé who made a short film about it, now taken offline. Horia did the same. Their followers see a part of their intimate lives and feel closer to these creators. Content creators meanwhile create this content to let go and move on.
Storytime content arose on social networks from our need to always know more, or for a bit of drama. Creators look back on a moment in their life that they find dear, amusing or that will help others learn about a specific topic.
How to build a community?
Having said all that, perhaps it’s time to get down to business? How do we create a tight-knit community in 2022? Here’s a list of tips for success:
- start by choosing a niche topic: a large majority of accounts on Instagram, for example, talk about lifestyle. To get started and grow your followers quickly, make sure you stand out. Choose one of your passions and talk about it on social media. Your first followers will be those who are also passionate about this subject and with whom you can begin to interact and grow your account.
- create quality content: it’s hard to draw people in if you don’t have quality content. Take the time to think about your posts, work on the photos/videos, but also the captions.
- stories: we don’t often think it, but stories, especially on Instagram, are the best way to get closer to your community. You show yourself, you share more easily and interactions are more natural.
- spot trends: take the time to consume content created by other creators, especially foreign ones, to spot new trends and get inspired. The more you surprise your followers with amazing content, the more they’ll reward you.
There’s really no mystery to it. To build and grow a community, you have to be yourself, enjoy what you do and not do it out of obligation. Interact as much as possible with those who follow you. These efforts will feed the algorithms of social networks and get your content promoted.
Conclusion on influencer communities
In 2010, community was important to Instagram, who were desperate to grow. More than 10 years later, its users are using the same strategy to grow their businesses and visibility on social networks. This is why some people turn to buying fake followers. Followers are invaluable for every content creator. But instead of falling into this trap (which will be easily found out anyway), be patient. With persistence and authenticity, you’ll achieve great results.
It’s true that algorithms don’t always make it easy for influencers, as they don’t have control over the visibility of their content. Instagram has decided to give them some freedom by allowing users to choose how content is displayed on their feeds. They have three options:
- the posts of accounts they follow are displayed in chronological order,
- the posts displayed are selected by the algorithm,
- the posts featured are those that the user has saved.
Be creative, be positive, be unique, stay ahead of the curve… We look forward to your latest content on social networks!