Authenticity on Instagram is all about being true to your brand voice and not being afraid to speak openly about the topics you care about.
The power of authenticity on Instagram is massive. And when you commit to it, you have the opportunity to grow your Instagram account into a community of engaged followers.
In this blog post, LaterCon speaker Sarah Nicole Landry of The Birds Papaya — who grew her account from 70K to 1.7M in under 2 years — shares her top 5 tips on how to grow your Instagram community in an authentic way.
Why Authenticity on Instagram Matters
Authenticity may be an overused buzzword in the marketing industry, but it’s one of the most effective ways to build meaningful relationships with your online community.
Whether you have 500 followers or 500,000 followers, staying true to your brand will resonate with your audience and help you grow.
Sarah Nicole Landry, for example, committed her focus on authentic content, and her community grew at an exponential rate — going from 70K to 1.7 million followers in under 2 years.
And these aren’t just any followers — these are highly connected, engaged, and supportive followers.
“I didn’t want to draw in followers just to have them. I wanted us to feel connected. I wanted that human connection feeling for myself and for them,” explains Sarah.
Ready to get started? Discover how Sarah garnered millions of loyal followers by being true to her personal brand and championing authenticity on Instagram:
How to Be More Authentic on Instagram #1: Engage With Your Community
The number one way to grow your account? Get to know your audience.
The more you connect with your followers, the more authentic your relationship will be with them. You’ll be able to talk openly and honestly to a community of real people.
Whether you’re an influencer or a brand, ask yourself: how often are you replying to DMs and comments? Are you interacting with other accounts? Do I reply to other peoples’ Instagram Stories?
For Sarah, the answer is quite often.
“In an 8-hour workday, I commit 4 hours every single day to community engagement. This includes commenting, replying to DMs, commenting on other people’s posts, replying on my own, and going and actively engaging on other pages similar to mine or not.”
When you actively engage with your community it no longer feels like you’re putting something out there and walking away, explains Sarah.
“What’s magical about this is that you’re not just standing up on a stage with a microphone. You’re off the stage and you’re interacting with them — alongside them.”
Spending 4 hours a day may not work for everyone — and that’s okay! Adjust the amount of time based on your time, manpower, business plan, and strategy, etc.
Maybe it’s spending 30 minutes answering DMs every morning, or every few days. What is important is that you incorporate it in a way that’s sustainable for you and your business.
As you engage, the relationship with your community will grow stronger. And, when you have people truly who trust you and believe in what you’re saying, that’s when you’ll begin to see a greater ROI, shares Sarah.
Save time posting and spend more time engaging with your community by scheduling your posts with Later for free!
How to Be More Authentic on Instagram #2: Share Your Story
One of the best ways to show more authenticity on Instagram is by opening up with your audience.
Whether that’s talking about the struggles of owning a business or your step-by-step skincare routine, when you’re honest and open with your audience, your followers sense it.
When you make your followers feel like friends, they will feel a natural pull to share your content with their own community of followers.
“When I see a post on Instagram that’s hit me in an authentic way, I’m going to share it. I’m going to post it and say, this felt special, this was meaningful, and I’m going to share it with my community,” says Sarah.
On Instagram, users can share feed posts on their Instagram Stories or through direct messages.
The simple act of sharing can go a long way for your brand or business — so it’s worth putting an effort into creating shareable content.
The new Instagram algorithm tends to favor posts that get a lot of engagement, so when your posts are shared, it will bump the post up on peoples’ feeds if it sees that it’s getting a lot of action. And if a post gets enough engagement, it might even get on the Explore Page.
For Sarah, authentic shareable content is one of the main ways she’s grown her community into what it is.
“People love to share content from the accounts and people they love. Some of my biggest growth days ever, and I’m talking up to 100,000 new followers in a day, came from one singular post.”
Monitoring what your followers are sharing is also a great way to understand what resonates with your audience.
You can easily track and measure how many times your grid posts have been shared to stories, so you can see what content is performing best.
How to Be More Authentic on Instagram #3: Put Value in Written Word
Even though Instagram is a visual app, the words you share in your captions are just as important as the visuals. Whether it’s 5 words or 50 words, it’s important to show thought and intent in what you share.
Writing authentic Instagram captions can be tough.
“Once I started to put value in the written word, I began to see a huge return,” explains Sarah.“I’d put up a post with a short snappy caption and then put up a similar post with a long-form caption. I saw so much more engagement and shares on the long-form post.”
And, according to research by Fohr, the average caption length has more than doubled since 2016. And by 2020, our feeds will be filled with an average caption length of 405 characters — which averages out to be 65-70 words!
TIP: Try writing your captions before choosing an image. You may find your post performs better.
Want to learn a quick and simple way to keep your captions organized? Later’s Saved Captions feature! With the Saved Captions feature, you can create templates to save ideas, captions, notes, and hashtags (if you use them!).
When it’s time to schedule, simply select one of your Saved Captions to add it to your post.
And best of all? It’s free for all Later users.
Ready to take your Instagram captions to the next level? Take part in our free How to Write Engaging Instagram Captions workshop!
How to Be More Authentic on Instagram #4: Understand What Content Resonates With You
Gaining a deep understanding of what resonates with you on social media can help guide your content strategy.
And the more you can dig down into what you’re sharing on social media and why, the more authentic your content will be.
Ask yourself about your own social media habits and behaviors. Why do you follow certain brands or people? What type of images do you like? What type of images do you comment on?
“Once we start recognizing our own human characteristics and our own human behavior on social media, we can start to see how it works on the other side,” says Sarah.
The next time you’re scrolling social media, get out a pen and paper and make note of what type of posts catch your eye and which ones don’t.
“Be really integral in how you’re operating. Pay attention to why you like things and why you engage,” Sarah adds.
How to Be More Authentic on Instagram #5: Stay True to Your Core Ethics and Set Boundaries
Sharing your authentic voice on social media can be intimidating. From worrying about what other people will think, to comparing yourself to those around you, it can be an overwhelming space.
Sarah’s best advice? Integrity and self-care.
“Having integrity in your space and knowing your own personal boundaries is everything. At the end of the day, you are the only one who knows you and your true intentions.”
The clearer you are on your values, the easier it will be to stay true to them and chase those negative thoughts away.
If you work in social media, whether you’re a small business owner or an influencer, the lines between work and life can sometimes be blurry, making it difficult to set healthy boundaries.
“The more boundaries you create, the more resting you do, the more reading you do, and the more research you do, the better creator you are. It’s worth taking care of yourself,” explains Sarah.
TIP: Learn more ways you can protect your mental health in this blog post.
There’s no quick fix for creating a truly authentic Instagram account — but the end result is always worth it.
As Sarah explains, “Your core ethics, community, good behavior on social media, and paying attention to what makes you tick, is the key to growing a really authentic following –one that will root for you, one that will be there with you, one that will allow you to get it wrong and be there with you as you learn to get it right.”
Want to hear more? Learn more from 25+ social media experts and industry professionals in our LaterCon Replay — it’s free to watch, tune in any time, any place!