Learn How to Engage Your Audience from 6 Influencers

This post is an excerpt from our Authentic Marketing Conference in Los Angeles. The conference was a rich environment for brands and influencers to openly discuss tactics for authentically building a strong following. 

Continuity and consistency are key to engaging an audience

Q: What are the best ways you engage with your audience?

Don’t forget to tag the brands that you are taking pictures of. –Jenna Fields

A: I would say the number one thing for me, personally, is consistency. I find that the brands and businesses who like to work with me trust me because I'm always posting content that is very similar to my last post. There is continuity, there's this consistent vibe on my account and people always know what to expect. Also, don’t forget to tag the brands that you are taking pictures of, go to events, and just put yourself out there so people know who you are. –Jenna Fields, Influencer

Tag everyone involved in your images so you show up in different areas on Social Media

On Instagram, you should max out your tags. –Aubrey Beck

You should think of this as a grid, a network. You can’t just make one targeted move here and expect that things are going to blow up. You have to see the entire field. I’ll see some bigger influencers and they’ll post and they won’t do a location tag, they won’t drop the photographer tag in there. There are so many opportunities to show up in different areas! You should be tagging anyone who was involved with taking the picture, any location because then you are showing up in their tagged photos. Location tags. Hashtags. People ask why I use so many hashtags? Well, how do you get found? Take advantage of every opportunity. Tag every possible thing. People don’t want to tag other people in their photos, I’m like are you kidding? Think about the network effect always, except maybe on Facebook, but on Instagram, you should max out your tags. –Aubrey Beck, Avant Voice

Use post notifications to engage with brands and get their attention

Who knows about post notifications on Instagram? Post notification is something that's pretty recent, within the past year and a lot of people don't use it yet. You go to someone's profile and you tap the three dots on the top, then click subscribe to post notification. So, every time that person posts something new it alerts you immediately and you can engage with them. This is beneficial because, let’s say, if it’s a brand, or it’s someone who’s a lot larger than you are on that platform, you want to network. It allows you to instantly go to their post and comment and have meaningful engagement. To be honest, like three times out of five, this works in terms of getting the brands attention. Either they follow you back, or they just comment back, which doesn't seem like a big thing, but in the scheme of things it's huge for networking. A lot of people don’t turn on these post notifications but I think they’re really powerful. –Reid Valmestad, Influencer

It’s so important to do the post notifications. Because now I’m seeing every person that I want to follow, just whenever I look at my phone. So, I can go right in, like their photo, say something about their photo, and then they’ll write me back. It’s just a great way to keep a conversation going and to keep yourself relevant. –Jenna Fields, Influencer

Engage with followers who engage with you

Q: From the influencer perspective, do you follow influencers? Do you consider yourself an influencer that engages well with your audience and what does that look like?

Engaging with people who are engaging with you is so useful. –Reid Valmestad

A: I feel like influencers, from an influencer perspective, those who engage well with their audience are the ones that go out of their way to respond to those people who are going out of their way to comment on their work. And engaging with people who are engaging with you, is so useful. Even when it comes to, let's say, if it’s a sponsored post and I'm doing the post for a clothing brand, if those ten people that comment on a photo out of maybe twelve thousand people are the ones that I'm converting into a sale, it’s so beneficial, it's so easy to just say, “Hey, thanks so much”, then insert their name. Little things like that humanize the interaction, it makes a difference. –Reid Valmestad, Influencer

You have to be following under a thousand in order for the algorithm to actually show your photos on feeds

Q: Are you commenting back and following them back? Is that the best way you see engagement? Or, obviously, that skews your metrics of following versus being followed?

A: Yeah, I don't follow. You can’t. It's just the way the Instagram algorithm works now. You're not favored in the same way if you follow over a certain number of people. It's unfortunate but you have to be under a thousand and if you have over ten thousand followers, you have to be under a thousand following in order for the algorithm to actually show your photos on feeds. So, it's just changing a lot, but it always will be. –Reid Valmestad, Influencer

Instagram controls their API so you are going to get punished on the algorithm if you have automated systems

Q: What tools are influencers using to engage? Is it all the old-school method of actually engaging with your audience, or do you use the more automated tools and systems?

A: So, recently Instagram controlled their API to where you are going to get punished on the algorithm if you have automated systems. In the past, you could have bots that let’s say you want to target someone who has over ten thousand followers who is based in London, New York and wherever and they enjoy this or that interest. In the past, you could target them, until about a month ago. And it was really great for, I wouldn’t say organic growth, but it was great to grow, and now Instagram has changed their API where you will be punished for doing that, so you almost have to be genuine with your interactions now. –Reid Valmestad, Influencer

Automatic engagement devices are being shut down and changing Instagram

Q: Are you seeing these changes in automated tools negatively affect you and your clients?

A: Coming from an agency perspective, we have certain clients that are up and running on these engagement devices, basically, that go in and engage with their audience automatically, and those devices are getting shut down. It’s definitely affecting the marketing world in terms of growing your client’s social followings. –Samantha Wormser, Power Digital Marketing

One of the big ones shut down this week and it was instantly apparent. We were like, “What’s wrong with Instagram?”, “Something is wrong with Instagram.” It was like “Oh, no, they just got shut down.” It changed everything. –Aubrey Beck, Avant Voice

Shutting down automatic engagement tools will make campaigns more authentic

I think it definitely hurts people, we were used to having those systems in place. But I’m actually very excited about this change, I’ve been doing this for years and I’ve seen people who are just starting shoot up with all these campaigns. I kept thinking, “How did they do that? Because they just started!” I really believe it’s because of these tools. Then, I used a program that tells who has real followers or not. Once I discovered that I got a clearer picture. These changes will force people to be authentic. I hope the change will be for the better for everyone, because I think that is really what everybody wants, to be authentic, and having those bots makes that really hard. –Jenna Fields, Influencer

It’s an interesting question because we all want authentic, we want it to be real, but we also have the challenges of scale. We need to be able to leverage the scale. If you want to grow a business, at a certain point, my time is not well spent sitting for an hour scrolling an Instagram feed, tapping a button. So-and-so brand can just pay 20 people to sit in a room and tap. I can hire people to do that, but then it’s not me. So, I think something else is going to emerge. We don't know what that looks like right now because they all just got shut down. –Aubrey Beck, Avant Voice

That's the arbitrary thing, isn't it? Because how much of it is just some kind of internal politics and how much of it is an actual policy? Because, if you've got the money, certain companies do have the money, to pay a thousand people to physically “like” stuff on their behalf, but other people have the money to pay $15 a day to have a bot do it. But what's the difference morally? Ethically? It's the same, it's just you had more money to pay actual humans to do it, so I don't know. At the end of the day, as much as we do business on these platforms, they are not your friends. –Zack Coffman, One World Studios Ltd.

Amazon is going to be a forerunner in terms of Influencer Marketing

Q: Is there an answer to the problem of the changing algorithms and parameters of these programs?

Provide a space for people to highlight their own talents. –Kara Dake

On the B2B side, there are a lot of opportunities to put a stake in the ground when it comes to building a community. For example, our audience is LA tech mobile app founders, so what we realized is: we have an opportunity to highlight these founders. We started a YouTube channel where I would interview these founders and then they themselves, as semi-influencers, would share that video. It also provided an opportunity for them to grow their reach by sharing that channel. A lot of times, the founders we interviewed would turn into customers of ours. Adding value in whatever way you can, always comes back. Provide a space for people to highlight their own talents; that's provides a great opportunity for them to promote themselves and learn more about what you're offering. –Kara Dake, Influencer

If you have an owned and operated site, that’s your real estate. –Zack Coffman

A: That’s why owned and operated is such a good answer. Owned and operated is your real estate. Depending on how they start throttling media usage, again favoring massive companies against the small guys, but for now, you have some net neutrality still going on. So, if you have an owned and operated site, that’s still you, it’s your real estate. It’s like your virtual brick and mortar. It’s the most basic internet 101: “I own my dot com.” There is always an entity that can take something away from you, but it’s not really an algorithm that takes away your dot com. And how you drive people there, at the end of the day, needs to be your major philosophy. It has to be: How am I getting the actual e-mail addresses, from actual people, the actual phone numbers, the names, the physical addresses, of actual, potential customers, whether it's B2B or B2C, it doesn’t matter, right? –Zack Coffman, One World Studios Ltd.

Because any of the platforms, these platforms will go away, like instantly fast, they could drop off. –Aubrey Beck, Avant Voice

Or it could get stolen by another app. Like Instagram stories just came out and now no one's talking about Snapchat. They hammered Snapchat. –Samantha Wormser, Power Digital Marketing

And Pinterest with like the collections you can now save. I don't think it's totally as robust on Instagram, but I look at it and I'm like... if you weren't using Pinterest before, you're certainly not signing up for it now. If you're on Instagram and you didn't have Pinterest, you're not going to be on Pinterest now. –Aubrey Beck, Avant Voice

Look for Amazon, as a platform. Amazon as a platform. People don't even look at it as a social network, but I always define Amazon as a social network alongside all these others. Because it is it's own unique ecosystem and it's ubiquitous with shopping now. I mean almost everybody uses it. A lot of people use Prime, and if you start creating lists and you start commenting, liking, and reviewing, there are entire groups of people who all they do is be famous Amazon reviewers. They're not even on Facebook or Instagram at all. –Zack Coffman, One World Studios Ltd.

Amazon is going to be a forerunner, just moving forward, in terms of influencer marketing. –Samantha Wormser

I think definitely that Amazon is going to be a forerunner, just moving forward, in terms of influencer marketing. It's just a huge opportunity for brands. –Samantha Wormser, Power Digital Marketing

Live-streaming weeds out people who are unable to carry a conversation or actually engage outside of just their fingers

Q: What are your thoughts on live streaming?

A: I feel like what people are really wanting is to feel like they know somebody. They want to feel like, whether they live in LA or Alaska, or if they live in Sweden, they want to feel like they can be right there with you and live that kind of lifestyle. Live streaming is just a really cool way to kind of connect with people, even past just showing off a great building or a new restaurant. It's about getting that dialogue going and making people feel connected. We all just want to get to know each other, and experience that wherever we are. –Jenna Fields, Influencer

I think that live video and the Instagram stories feature can backfire. There are people who market themselves as “mysterious adventure photographers” who love traveling when they are really just average people who are really good at Photoshop. But it's good, because with live videos especially, it weeds out the people who are unable to carry a conversation or actually engage outside of just their fingers. It’s interesting to see how live video is going to go because if you're really good at it you will excel and that's the future. –Reid Valmestad, Influencer