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!
This weeks topic is: How to Establish Your Brand and Build Your Online Community
Those two things go hand and hand in my opinion. In order to grow an authentic community of followers, you need to have a true brand all your own. You need to establish what your brand is, and make sure that you continue to create a curated feed with your brand image in mind with every single post. I believe most people follow me for a specific reason; either they love my photography style or aesthetic, they have a common connection with me like where I live or kids the same age, or when they read my posts I say something that resonates with them on a deeper level and inspires them in some way. If I can connect with someone through my feed in one of those ways, I will gain them not only as a follower, but hopefully I'll engage with them enough and they will eventually join my community of followers who interact daily with me and possibly even meet IRL one day... (IRL=in real life).
Don't get me wrong, I certainly don't think I'm an expert on this topic by any means. We've all been there, where it just feels like it takes a small miracle to get someone to click that 'follow' button or even just double click your picture, right? I struggle daily watching that little number go up and down. I gain a few followers and then I lose just as many each day. So, in this week, I'll be talking mostly about how I use my brand image to get my followers to stay with me, double tap my images, how I encourage comments, and eventually how I get them to join my community.
Here are my 6 key steps to start building your brand + community now!
Step 1: Create 5 key words to describe your brand image
Step 2: Get your colors and photography style consistent
Step 3: Define your core topics
Step 4: Plan out your posting schedule
Step 5: Ask followers to join your community
Step 6: Engage using specific hashtags
-You can't be everything to everyone-
Step 1: Create 3-5 key words to describe the feeling you want for your feed. What vibes, emotions, impressions do you want to leave with someone when they visit your page? Do you want your feed to emulate romantic, classic, bold, colorful, soft, whimsical, minimal, adventurous, playful, moody, or humorous?
In my opinion, the first step to creating your brand should be to figure out who are you really speaking to. For me, I needed to create my own brand identity that would speak directly to my ideal follower. I wanted my feed to be a true visual representation of myself through an authentic voice and consistent images so I could reach my true people. Some words that describe my brand are authentic, bright, beachy, mom-friendly and organic, how would you describe yours?
-Create a clear identity through your photos-
Step 2: Get your colors and photography style consistent. When someone sees a picture of yours, they should clearly know it's your photo either by the style or the colors or both. Based on the recommendation from @jennakutcher, and her Instagram Lab Course, I created a brand mood board/color theme. It included my top 5 branding words and my top 5 colors of my feed, which helped me focus on my true brand image. Canva is this awesome app you can use to get your "colors" by using a screen shot of your feed. Here's mine:
When I take photos or edit photos, I try and stick to these 5 colors.
You can try it for your own feed here. Just take a screen shot of your Instagram feed and it will pull out your top 5 colors for you.
(Our next post in this series is all about photography and editing your photos, so don't worry...more details on this to come!)
-Have a focused approach-
Step 3: Define your categories: I talked a little about this in my last post. The more you can narrow your focus, the easier it will be for someone to connect with you. I try and define my brand into 5 categories and concentrate my posts around those topics. Family + Marriage, Motherhood, WAHM Life, Beauty + Fashion, Home Decor. This helps me be consistent and authentic in each and every post and differentiate myself from other bloggers out there. Using your top categories you defined above, try to create a diverse but defined feed that flows and touches on each topic throughout the week. Maybe Mondays are WAHM life, and then Tuesdays you try and post about home decor, etc. This way, you always have something to talk about, and you aren't trying to come up with a witty caption every time you have a great image to post. It gives you and your feed a more defined focus, which will, in turn, help people to connect with you and keep coming back for more each week because they know what to expect.
-Establish your top posting schedule-
Step 4: Define posting schedule and best times to post.
You need to ask yourself how often you are willing to spend time on Instagram and how often you really have the time to create a post that will speak to your followers, create hashtags that flow with that photo and make time to engage with your followers who comment. It's important to make a plan and stick to it so that your followers see you consistently. Is it once a week? Once a day? 3x a day? What does it take to grow your community....that's entirely up to you!
I recently switched over to a business account and found out that the majority of my followers are actually from Southern Cal and most of them are most active on Tuesday- Saturday. These insights can help you determine a posting schedule that will create the most engagement on your photos. If you find that most of your followers are in a different time zone, you should adjust your posting time to fit when they are most active.
For me, I started with once a day, about 4x a week. Now I try and post before 9 am or after 6 pm 5x a week. I generally take off the weekends because I have found my better engagement times are during the week. If you don't want to switch to a business account, there are lots of other sites to view your analytics. Once of the most popular is
- Include a call to action-
Step 5: Think of your call to actions like a personal invite into your community. Occasionally include a call to action; double tap if you love tacos as much as me, comment with your favorite place to buy children's clothes, click the link in my bio to see my tips on how to meal prep, etc. The goal is to get people to engage on your posts. People may not feel compelled to comment unless you ask them to, and they may not even respond to your question when you do, but you want them to get engaged any way you can. Trust me it works. One of my most engaged posts I ever had was about a postpartum struggle I was experiencing after my first baby. It was a hard & honest post for me to write, but I was vulnerable and I asked for help or ideas from my followers on how to fix it. So many people commented that they struggled with the same thing and how they dealt with the issue. You can read about that here if you want more details, but trust me having a call to action will help your engagement and lead to more true followers.
Remember, your followers want to see you! Not only in your real genuine voice but images of you! That creates a connection better than any other. I bet you if you scroll through your feed, you'll see your most liked photos are not the most perfect flat lay, or the most beautiful sunset, but they are ones you are in, and ones you have written a heart felt or authentic caption about yourself. Try and do that at least once a week and I promise you, your have a community faster than you know it.
-Engage using specific hashtags-
Step 6: One of the best ways to find a new audience is through hashtags. Using your categories above, search for your niche hashtags and include them in every post.
I have my hashtags grouped into my categories and saved in my planning app. (I use Planoly but there are a ton of planning apps out there). You are allowed 30 hashtags a post, and I use every single one. If you have a photo that gets great engagement you may end up in the top 9 photos of that hashtag and you will be seen by tons of new faces. My goal is to get my post in at least 3 of my hashtags top 9 photos to gain followers in my specific niche. Out of the 30 I am allowed, I'd say 10 are always the same, and then for the rest, I switch it up and use some hashtags that have TONS of posts on them and some that have under 2 thousand posts on them. I use some that are more specific to my location or subject matter and then some that are broader or used more often. There is some chatter about using hashtags in your caption or in your comments, and getting "shadow-banned" but I haven't noticed enough of a difference in either to comment on that. I think we will end up having a more detailed week on this subject where I can expand more on the hashtag subject, but if you have specific questions, please feel free to comment here or on my IG.
-Time + patience are key-
I leave you with this, you can spend all your time creating the perfect brand and image but if you don't spend time engaging with others, you will not be successful in building a community. People want to know they are seen and heard, and not just another like on your images. In between all the curating, planning, and writing you need to include time in your day to reach out to both current and potential followers and comment and like on their pages as well. Respond to your comments on your posts, and search your niche hashtags and engage consistently. I know that takes TIME, and TIME is the key word here. In order to grow organically, you need to have patience and show yourself some grace if it isn't happening as fast as you'd like. Remember in order to grow organically, you need to engage, and you'll see a return from your hard work. That engagement takes time and patience.
In June of 2016, I had 916 followers, today I have over 8 thousand. I found that as I posted more authentic and vulnerable posts and the more I engaged with my followers and potential followers, the more my community was growing.
Each month we feature different guest bloggers in addition to our core 10. While we will all be answering the same questions and writing about the same topics, it will give each of you a wide variety of perspectives. We each have a different blogging style, photography style, schedule and more so it will be a great opportunity to read everyone's posts and gain a little insight from each one.
Here are this weeks contributors: