Welcome to the second installment of The Mom Blog Collective: How to Build and Online Community and Define Your Brand.
If you’re new here, here’s the scoop. Every other week, our group of amazing and inspiring mamas will answer the same set of questions to do with blogging, Instagram, photography, collaborations, sponsored posts, balancing it all with motherhood, and more. We each have different perspectives and different opinions, so this is a fun way to learn from one another. We hope you’ll join along! Check out the hashtag #themomblogcollective to see everyone on Instagram, and I will also link you to all of the amazing blog posts here at the bottom of my post!
So let’s dive right in!
In my last post, I talked about my Top 5 Tips for How to Start a Blog or Instagram. This included a bit about Creating Your Story and Finding Your Tribe. Once you start with those two things, you can also begin defining your brand.
How do you define your brand?
A good way to think of your brand is by creating a persona for your audience. Who is going to engage with your Instagram posts? Who will want to come read your blog? But rather than thinking of all the people who might, try to make up one person who defines your brand. Remember, you will never be all things to all people! So just be yourself and speak to the topics you feel confident in sharing. This is not the same thing as sharing your whole life on social media! [Leave that to Facebook, haha.]
For example, I define my brand as a motherhood lifestyle community. I have always wanted to create a space where I can share my trials and triumphs of motherhood, our love for fashion and design, some healthy living tips, and of course, to connect with other like-minded mamas. I once had someone ask me how it feels to be sharing our whole life with the the world. I was floored. It is actually quite the opposite! I share little snippets of our life that I think my audience will connect to. I seek to inspire and build community over our common bonds. But trust me, there is a lot of our lives that is still very private.
So in other words, create boundaries for your “brand” even if you decide to go the route of a lifestyle blog. Decide what you will share and what is off limits. And then dive in deep with those topics that you do want to share. And people will keep coming back for more because you are the expert on those topics.
How do you grow your Instagram account?
Ahhh this is the million dollar question isn’t it? And a complex one that should probably be it’s own post. The way Instagram works today is SO much different than it was when I first started trying to build a following a little over 3 years ago. Back then I was debating whether or not I wanted to even have a private account or change it to public! And using terrible in-app filters and other such atrocities that we don’t need to get into. Which of course all seems silly now, but back then it was all so new and I was also new to the whole social media scene. But for the purpose of keeping this complex question with a somewhat short answer, I will give you some of the things I have done that have helped!
Using Hashtags and Tags
Back in the day, hashtags were how you could search for topics of common interest. This was prior to the addition of the Explore Page on Instagram. Using specific hashtags today will still add your posts to that community of people using the same hashtag, and depending on what it is, could get you a repost on a larger community or brand website. [for example, #honestmotherhood is a specific hashtag whereas #mom is too general]. Likewise, tagging a brand you or your kiddos are wearing will get you noticed by that brand and if it’s a good photo, perhaps even a repost on the brand’s account. Reposts on reputable brand or community pages is a good thing because they leads more eyes back to your feed, and hopefully will gain you some new followers!
It should be said that there is some debate now about how well hashtags really work anymore. If you haven’t heard of the infamous “shadow ban” – google it and you will find all sorts of speculation on what it is (or isn’t) and if it really does even exist, etc. But it has to do with hashtags. For now, I personally have decided to keep using them because Instagram built the app with them as a part of it and at least for now, they are still there and available to use. So might as well take advantage of that opportunity to be seen by more people.
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post [more than that and it won’t let you post] and there is no limit on tags in the photo. You can add your hashtags in the caption or in the comments. I like to add mine in the comments so it doesn’t look messy in my caption, but again there is some debate as to whether putting them in the caption is more beneficial for said shadow ban.
Follow Fridays // Mom Crush Mondays
This is a great community building exercise that I have benefited from in the past. There are a couple of ways you can do this now. One is to team up with 4 other accounts that are in the same genre and have a similar following as you. Each of you creates a grid of one photo of the 4 other accounts and you all post in your feed on the same day together. This shows your followers who you like following and the same for the other accounts. You can also team up with some of your favorite accounts and share about them in your Instagram Stories.
I have had various degrees of success with this. It used to be I would get quite a few new followers every time I participated in one of these. But lately I have seen less and less. I’m not sure if people are just sick of seeing them or what. Still, it never hurts to support your fellow creatives!
These can work in lots of different ways! Once I started to grow my following, I began reaching out to some of my favorite small shops to ask if they might want to collaborate. Sometimes they would offer me a discount code or product in trade for me sharing on my Instagram or Blog. If I was hosting a giveaway, I might ask them just to contribute a product or shop credit to give away. When you are first starting out, don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back from people or if they say no. Because that WILL happen. I heard a lot of no’s before I started hearing yes’s. And that made the victory of scoring free product, when I did, all that much sweeter!
Now my collaborations sometimes also include payment, and sometimes I still do trade for product. It just depends on what it is and what I can do for the brand. But I am not going to get too far into this now because we are going to do a whole post later just on collaborations and how to make money!
The point here is that if you are working with a brand, hopefully they will also support you and share your blog on their website, or repost your photo on Instagram, or contribute a product to your giveaway etc. Whatever the deal is, it should be mutually beneficial to you both. And all of these things will help you build your following.
Giveaways are a great way to bring new eyes to your feed! I feel like generally, giveaways are pretty self-explanatory. We all have seen them! Giveaways can be run on your Instagram or your blog and there are a few different ways to go about all that. Not all giveaways are created equal and there are some I personally think work better than others. But again I feel like I could write a whole other post on giveaways, so we will come back to it later, if there is interest!
There are, of course, other ways to grow your Instagram account that I do NOT recommend. Unfortunately, there are people out there who do this stuff all the time and they do gain huge followings in no time flat. It can be frustrating to watch if you are trying to grow an authentic following while others gain at crazy fast speeds. However, more and more brands (and Instagram itself) are becoming savvy to these things so as I say, I do NOT recommend:
- buying followers
- buying likes
- using third party apps [bots] to engage on your behalf
How do you engage with your community and is it important to your brand?
First of all, whenever I come across a person or brand whose account I really just love, I give them a follow! I also read every comment on both my Instagram and Blog and try to reply to as many as I can. I love getting comments because it let’s me know that I am reaching someone, so it is important to me to let those people know that I see them, too.
Likewise, I also try to like and comment on as many of the posts I follow as I can. Since the app has grown and with the introduction of the algorithm last year, this has become increasingly challenging. I’m pretty sure most people know this, but Instagram used to be a true chronological feed. Meaning when someone posted, you would see it. No one know for sure (other than Instagram) exactly how the algorithm works, but in essence now, it tries to predict what you want to see the most, and will put that at the top of your feed.
When this algorithm was first introduced, a lot of Instagramers started doing comment pods or groups. This is a separate group Direct Message where everyone will let each other know when they have posted, so that we don’t miss each other’s posts and can like and comment on them to support each other. I have done these groups and I do like them and think they do help with my engagement. But to be honest, the reason I like them the most is that they have brought me closer to some of my favorite accounts and now I am real friends with many of them!
So in other words, yes, engagement is so important to building a brand! It helps you connect with your audience and for your people to connect with you!
In what ways have you created community through your Blog or Instagram?
I’ve always hoped to create a space for stories about motherhood. I share my story in hopes that the lessons I have learned can help other mamas in similar situations. But I love to hear and read other’s stories as well. Nothing is more touching to me than when someone reaches out to me in a comment, email, message, or whatever and tells me that they enjoyed what they read. I came to blogging as a creative outlet and I am so proud of the fact that I’ve been able to keep it up and build it into what it is today. I am very humbled by it all!
If you’re here because you’ve been following me for a while, I would so love to hear what you like most about what I do in this space, or what you would like to see more of. So I may continue to build this little motherhood community here! Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think!
my tee by pink blush | my jeans | my shoes | my sunnies | alessandra’s dress is target from last season. sorry! | alessandra’s shoes
Whew, well that is the end of the community questions and I think I have gone on long enough! But I do highly suggest that you read some of the other points of view from the other mamas in this week’s #themomblogcollective , linked here below. And please do feel free to let me know if you have any further questions!
darlingnightingale.com | @darlingnightingale
Thank you Pink Blush for sending me this cute tee! This post also contains some affiliate links, which if you click on and purchase, I will receive a small commision for. As always, I only share things on here with you guys that I LOVE, and I hope you love it too.