To build a loyal community, sometimes you have to immerse yourself within the network of potential customers on social media. Ali Osterholz has connected with tens of thousands of artists and grown her business through her vibrant Instagram page, where she shares her passion for the arts and nature.
Ali sells collections of naturally hand-dyed yarns and fibers known for their unique colourways and limited drops that sell out each month. Her business, Explorer Knits + Fibers, brings together knitters and nature lovers by donating a portion of profits to the National Park Foundation.
Ahead, Ali shares her five tips for creating a loyal Instagram following through content that people want to engage with.
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5 ways to build a loyal community on Instagram
1. Only share content you’re really excited about
When she first started her Instagram page, Ali thought she had to create content that other people would love, but she quickly found out that wasn’t always the case. “Once I stopped thinking about everyone else and started thinking about what I wanted to create, the people showed up,” Ali says. If you feel a personal connection to the content you’re creating on Instagram, it makes it that much easier for new customers to fall in love with your brand.
“People found [our page] because of my excitement about the national parks, nature, and doing what I love most: knitting,” Ali says. As she leaned into her passions and began sharing her genuine love for art and the great outdoors, she attracted more and more followers to her page.
2. Infuse storytelling into your art
“There has to be a reason or meaning behind everything I post or create for our customers, so [my business] feels worthy to invest in,” Ali says. When a social media user can tell how much thought went into each post, they’ll be more likely to want to follow and eventually make a purchase.
Ali spends months thinking about content before she posts it. “I want them to feel like they’re walking through my experience with me as I share my post and caption,” she says. Instead of pushing out quantity, Ali suggests taking a more methodical approach and crafting a narrative with everything you share, whether it’s a Story, post, or an Instagram Reel.
3. Do the opposite of what’s trending
“We’ve never relied on hashtags or making Reels every day. We talk about what we’re excited about when we’re ready for it. It’s always been that way,” Ali says.
Sometimes following the trends will make it harder to stand out and gain new followers. Ali listens to her creative intuition rather than follow stereotypical advice like posting consistently and not overwhelming followers with too much content. If she’s looking forward to an upcoming drop, she’ll post as many times as she thinks necessary to spread the word to her community.
“My number one thing is don’t force it, and don’t be afraid to experiment” Ali says. When it comes to trends on Instagram, Ali recommends using only those you think will serve your brand—and attract the right type of user.
4. Take breaks to avoid burnout
“I’m really big on pushing myself to pause and do what feels right, and people still follow me,” Ali says. Never be afraid to take a break from posting. It will negatively affect your page if you’re sharing content that doesn’t excite you or your followers, just for the sake of posting.
“Anyone can tell when a business owner is tired on social media,” Ali says. Having no content for a while is much better than sharing lazy, half-thought-out posts. Take a break to plan out content that tells a story to the customer instead.
5. Listen to your gut first—and then the numbers
Lastly, you want to be sure that the content you’re creating isn’t just based on numerical data. “Go with your gut and follow your intuition before looking at the numbers or data,” Ali says.
It can be helpful to take a look back to assess content performance, but don’t get too caught up in the data that you’re stopping yourself from making original content that you’ve never tested before.
In order to grow a loyal community on Instagram, you need to be passionate about the content you’re creating, and infuse storytelling into each post you share. Remember, people online want to see that you’re invested and excited as well, so don’t be afraid to infuse your personality into your social media channels.
Tune in to the full Shopify Masters episode to hear all about Ali’s customer acquisition strategies and how she created this successful give-back model.