Forget About Likes! How to Focus on Engaging Intentionally to Reach Your Target Audience
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
In early May, Instagram started testing removing the number of likes visible on posts (other than your own). The headline that they were “hiding likes” sent a lot of people into a frenzy, but the reality is—this is along the lines of many other similar moves made by Instagram in an effort to discourage the purchasing of what I like to call “bought” and “bot”—bought followers and bot engagement, A.K.A. automated actions that look real, but aren’t.
Social media can be a landscape of contradictions. While everyone knows you can buy everything from followers and engagement to that blue verified check mark, we often look to those metrics first to indicate how “successful” an account (and therefore a brand) is. Instagram wants that to change—and so do I. In this post, I’m breaking down why you need to forget about numbers and what to focus on instead.
Gary Vaynerchuk’s $1.80 Principle
I was listening to an episode of my favorite social media podcast, the Science of Social Media by Buffer, a few days ago titled How to Get (Real!) Followers on Social Media in 2019, when they mentioned many of the tactics my team and I have been employing, branded and formatted as the by $1.80 strategy.
But what does it mean? Gary Vee’s brilliant $1.80 Instagram strategy means leaving your personal “.02 cents” on the top 9 trending Instagram posts for 10 different hashtags that are relevant to your brand or business every single day.
As a very easy-to-remember strategy, I think Gary Vee’s strategy works great. But—I think you can do even better.
Think Beyond the Hashtag—and Deeper than Top 9
Like I said above, if the $1.80 is all you can remember and execute, THAT’S AWESOME. Seriously—it would make a difference (and likely, a big one) in your engagement.
But I want you to go further, especially as a business. The most important thing that I take away from GV’s strategy above is “leaving your personal .02 cents relevant to your brand or business,” but I think it goes way beyond hashtags, and DEFINITELY beyond the top 9.
Plus, I think there’s something else he leaves out (but I’ll get to that below).
What I Recommend—the 20/20 Instagram Strategy
I recommend something I’m going to call the 20/20 Instagram Strategy. The 20/20 strategy references perfect vision, and simply put, focuses on two audience distinctions to create a singular cohesive picture—a deeply engaged and ever-growing audience of your ideal customers.
I recommend that you spend at least 20-30 min per day engaging with both your current community and your target audience as a part of the 20/20 Instagram Strategy.
One half of the 20/20 strategy is similar to the approach of the $1.80 strategy—it requires spending half of the allotted time for engagement focused on engaging intentionally with your target audience via hashtags, but also location tags, other accounts, etc. If you’re not sure where your target audience is on Instagram, ask yourself the following:
Where are your people?
Who do they follow?
What are they interested in?
Where are they physically hanging out?
What hashtags do they use/engage with?
These are all valuable avenues of discovery when it comes to Instagram. But going yet another step beyond hashtags to the followers of competitor accounts and location tags, is the importance of going beyond the Top 9.
Instead of commenting on the Top 9 feed of relevant hashtags every day as in the $1.80 strategy, the 20/20 gets more comprehensive in that you rotate all of the relevant categories of discovery (location tags, similar accounts they follow, hashtags, etc.) for your business, and vary between both the Top feed and recent feed.
The most important takeaway of the 20/20 Instagram strategy is that the vision should be comprehensive and strong through both eyes—that of your existing community and ideal customers you’ve yet to meet.
Don’t Just Comment—Read the Post and Comment Intentionally
If there was one thing I hoped that you would take away from this entire post, it would be that engaging intentionally goes way beyond an emoji or single word comment. It requires that you actually READ what the person actually has to say—you know, the person you’re hoping could maybe be a customer one day (if not, why are you commenting? but ANYWAYS)—and then making a thoughtful, engaging comment back to that. Read a post that doesn’t resonate? Pop around on their profile and look for a few more. Still feeling like you’re not finding it? Then maybe this isn’t your person.
It doesn’t have to be mega-deep. Just show them that you heard them—that you care enough to read all the way through a post and leave a thoughtful comment or ask a question. Super duper plainly put: leave the kind of thoughtful comment that would make YOU comment back if you received it, instead of simply just tapping that “like” button (or commenting with a single emoji / word back).