What is Instagram outreach, and why should you do it? That’s the subject we’re going to explore in this blog. 

First, let’s correct some misconceptions. Outreach is not spam. At least, it shouldn’t be! Sometimes there’s a fine line between the two. Honestly, it’s easier to spam. That’s part of why it’s so ubiquitous. 

If you’ve spent any time on Instagram, you’ve likely received a DM (direct message) about how some jewelry company wants you to buy their products with their $10 discount. What they don’t tell you is that every item costs $15, so they’re just trying to get a little bit of your money and have you tell your friends. 

Or you may have received those comments “promote it on _____.” We’re not talking about that, either. Those are spam and not good techniques for reputable companies that want long-term growth. 

Why Should You Do Instagram Outreach?

When people think about social media, they often start with “what should I post.” While what you need to post is important, it’s hard to grow your Instagram account just based on your content. 

It’s kind of like expecting that if you just have a good product, people will come. They don’t come. 

Outreach is a way that you can get your name out there and make people feel connected to your brand. That’s really what sells a product or service. It’s about a relationship that you built with someone, and outreach can be the first step to making that connection. 

Not to mention, Instagram likes when you’re engaging with people. Now, I won’t claim that this is some algorithm hack. If anyone tells you that they know exactly what the algorithm wants or how to hack it, they’re lying. We only know what Instagram has told us. The algorithm grows and changes with every like. 

What I can tell you is that Instagram has said it is a social media platform. If you’re just posting without doing outreach, that’s more like standing on the corner with a billboard. No one is communicating back to you. You’re not having real conversations with anyone, and you’re certainly not being social. 

What is Instagram Outreach?

Now that you know what it isn’t and why it’s important, let’s talk about what it is. Essentially, it’s following accounts, commenting on posts, and/or responding to Instagram Stories. 

The key here is to be authentic!

Following AccountsLooking at an Instagram profile that you tap the following button to get options to add an account to your favorites

There used to be a method called follow/unfollow. Essentially, the idea was that you follow an account and immediately unfollow it so that they get a notification that you exist. As you might guess, I hate this. It’s spam at its finest and deceptive.

Instead, follow accounts intentionally. Find local companies you like to support or people in similar industries. For instance, I might follow a website design agency because that’s not an area that I work in, but we have some overlap in interests and clientele.

You can even follow your clients if appropriate. When you find an account that you really want to make sure you continue to engage with, add them to your favorites. I’ll talk more about this in the how-to section of this blog.  

Commenting on Posts

If someone posts a photo of themselves and the caption talks about how they’ve had such a difficult year, don’t comment, “We love the outfit.” That makes it clear that you didn’t read what was going on, and you didn’t really care. 

Read the caption. Answer the question if there is one. 

You can even take it further and share the post to your own Instagram Story if it’s something you think your audience would like too. People feel good when someone else shares their posts in this way. Just make sure it makes sense for your audience. 

Just a note, don’t copy the post and share it on your own feed without permission. Sharing to your Story keeps the post under their ownership but lets you show it to your audience too. 

Responding to Instagram Stories

Showing the react option on Instagram StoriesAs for responding to Instagram Stories, this is a newer technique for me. However, I think it’s a good idea to incorporate it. The idea here is to watch the stories of the accounts you’re following and react or respond to the ones that resonate. 

This makes sure that your business is in a private conversation with that person. It’s kind of like giving an invite to them to engage further if they’d like. It opens the line of communication so that they can ask questions. 

Let’s say you’re a restaurant owner trying to get the attention of a local food influencer or food critic. Watch their stories. When there’s something funny or beautiful posted, react with an emoji. Don’t do the heart like at the bottom. While these are fine, they don’t get you in the inbox. 

Again, don’t spam. Only react to what you genuinely want to react to. 

Where Should You Do Instagram Outreach?

Targeting Key Accounts

A look at Instagram's geolocation feature showing Loon Lake in particular and people who have posted photos there recently. Whose posts do you comment on? Well, that depends on your goals. 

Let’s say I’m a local coffee shop. I want to grow my Instagram, so I think through what type of accounts my ideal customers will likely be engaging with. That could mean finding the Instagram account for an apartment complex nearby or a bookstore down the street. If you’re commenting on these posts, you’re benefiting from the audience that these accounts already have. 

In this instance, those audiences likely will cross over with your audience. That’s key. You don’t want to just reach anyone. It’s great to get tons of likes on a post, but that doesn’t convert to business. 

Alternatively, you could be an insurance agency. Maybe you want more people who need boat insurance. In the summer months, you can search for people who use the geolocation feature to say that they’re on a nearby lake. 

Current Partners or Clients

Aside from finding accounts that overlap with your audience or the accounts of your potential customers, you can also benefit from outreach to your current partners or clients. 

Obviously, these people already know about you and work with you, but it can foster good feelings and keep clients around longer if you’re showing up to support what they do on their social media. 

It can also be helpful to spot potential opportunities. For instance, you might have a client who just announced a merger on social media but hasn’t told you that yet. You can take that as an opportunity to check in with your client and establish a relationship with the new company before you’re cut. 

How Do You Do Instagram Outreach?

I like to set aside some time to do outreach periodically. That could be once a day or once a week, depending on your goals and the time you have available.

First, take a little bit to think about who you want to reach and what accounts they might be following or what they might be doing. Once you have a good idea of that, you can develop the pattern.

It can differ depending on what you decide, but to make it easy, here are some steps you can follow:

  1. Find accounts that match what you’re looking to follow. You can do this thoroughly once a month and then focus on engaging with those accounts. 
  2. Add accounts you really want to make sure you engage with to your Instagram Favorites. 
  3. When you open Instagram to do outreach, start by switching to your Favorites feed and scroll through those posts.A look at when you select the Instagram logo on the home feed to switch to your Favorites feed. Comment on what makes sense for you. You can like things as well, but comments are more impactful. 
  4. Check hashtags that might apply to your business. For instance, a local business might want to look at #Spokane to engage with some of the recent content there and even find some new accounts to follow. 
  5. Watch the Instagram Stories of the people you follow and react where appropriate. 

While it’s not technically part of outreach, make sure you respond to comments and messages that you receive. Sometimes you’ll comment on a post, and someone will respond to your comment. That’s an invitation to build the relationship further, so do it!

Make Outreach Easier

If you really don’t like the tediousness of outreach, there are a few options:

  1. Hire a virtual assistant to do that work. It’s easy to outsource. I love working with VaVa Virtual Assistants for U.S.-based VAs. I’ve been a fan for many years and even worked for them as a social media manager for a while. Let them know I sent you.
  2. Use a program like Dollar Eighty to make outreach more automatic. This site only costs $15/month. It lets you select some hashtags or accounts you want to comment on and do it all in one place instead of trying to find everyone on the Instagram app. Note: My link is an affiliate link, but I genuinely recommend this site! 

Regardless of how you do it, you should do it. It helps make sure your Instagram is actually converting to sales and that you can grow on Instagram in 2023 and beyond. 

Instagram Strategy for 2023

For more details on how you can grow your Instagram in 2023, check out my blog about my recommended strategy for small businesses.