The Comprehensive Hashtag Guide To Make Your Instagram Headaches Evaporate Instantly.

Neha Awasthi

26 September 2019

Climbing the Mt Everest is something everyone can do. 

We know that’s far from the truth. It is a deed not for the faint-hearted.  

We know that. However, a sherpa (people who accompany climbers) carries backpacks weighing 90% of their body weights while climbing the world’s torturous climb. 

While some people find climbing the Mt Everest the hardest deed of their life, sherpas with the same human potential go on to doing it repeatedly. 

I have always pondered over their strength and stamina, even while living on basic wages, basic lifestyle and less than average resources. 

Something that escapes me. I don’t understand how they do what they do. Just like what you feel when you think about hashtags on Instagram. Am I right? 

When it comes to hashtags and getting your posts found on Instagram, it can seem like there is some top secret to it that FBI has locked and sealed away. And yes there are a lot of strategies you can use, but fret not because I am going to list down the basics you need to know about unlocking this “secret”. 

Like Sherpas, we must learn to climb the mountains step at a time and remember everyone has the same choice and battling with the same. 

So let’s look at what do we need to know about hashtags on Instagram. 

Whether you are a small accounts or a medium growing account – Hashtags are the way for you to get seen.

Big celebrity accounts can get a lot of views even without hashtags because they can get a lot of views from the Explore option or people already interested in them and their lives. But when you are in business and especially starting new on Instagram – hashtags are the only way to grow your account.

What are hashtags?

Think of Hashtag like different sections in the library. Each section has a different genre of books. Books can be your posts arranged in that hashtag section. Smaller hashtags contain fewer posts, and more prominent hashtags contain more books. All the posts are aggregated under each of these hashtags.

The purpose of hashtags is to make search easy for the people. People interested in topics can use that hashtags to look up the content associated with that hashtag. They may be interested in that type of content, may find it of utility or to create a community of like-minded people sharing similar things.

So now, with this understanding what hashtags are – next question can win the award for the most asked question.

How many Hashtags should you use?

You can use 30 hashtags on one account.

Some people say 10; some people say 15. There is no end-all answer to this. Just the fact there are so many opinions, it tells me no one knows besides Instagram itself. And even that’s still changing all the time.

I have experimented with the different number of hashtags. One post with 20 hashtags and 10 hashtags and some numbers in between. Of course, there are always more factors at play. Every time I posted, it was a different visual and may be at slightly different times too. So even after tracking, the post with more hashtags has always received more views than fewer hashtags.

It was evident as the post with more hashtags has more potential to show up at different places.

So the more hashtags you use – the more chances you have, of that post appearing in different places and getting in front of different audiences.

If you get business Instagram, it gives you an option to view insights so over time, and you can look at them to see the results of your experiments. In my opinion and experience, use all 30 hashtags but what’s also important is the type of Hashtags you use.

How to select which hashtag to use for your Instagram account?

The first step to this is by honing in on who you are talking to.

Who is your ideal customer? If you say “everyone who is into improving their health”, that’s too broad. That includes possibly everyone in the world. If you honed in on someone in the 50s dealing with menopausal problems, that’s far more specific.

Why it matters is because this person looks very different to someone who is, in general, trying to improve her health. She may be happy with general well-being reminders and tips, whereas the other person struggling with menopausal problems needs very specific advice and tips around her challenges.

It’s essential to define who is your best customer and who you can serve in the best possible way and make them feel heard and understood.

The second step is to look at the interests of this particular person.

Which are the accounts this person is likely to follow on Instagram? Where is she likely to hang out and is expected to be interested in. Is she into fashion or outdoors? Is she into hip-hop or yoga? You get the point.

Find brands and accounts which this person may already be following on Instagram.

Remember to think beyond your industry. She could be into personal development and business. Or Your ideal customer is already following and engaged in these accounts so it makes it easier for you to reach out to your ideal clients.

What should you watch out for?

If you see very low engagement on their posts and looks like they have not posted anything for a while – It is a not so good sign. I would recommend not looking into those accounts. They may have thousands of followers, but the followers are not invested in that brand or account. It is also likely they may be fake followers which you want to stay away from.

A simple trick you can use to select better hashtags.

I see this time and again, businesses and brands use hashtags that their competitors use. So they end up attracting their competitors instead of the right audience.

Instead, they should use the hashtags that their potential clients are using to get found by the right people. Those hashtags are usually smaller and more specific. This brings us to the next topic of the size of the hashtags.

Should you choose big hashtags or smaller ones or both?

Very tempting to use big ones thinking the bigger the hashtag more likelihood for your post to be seen. But that’s not the case. Every hashtag has it’s own page and when you go on the page – you can look at the TOP and RECENT section.

Top Section shows the posts with significant engagement and recent tab shows the posts that have been posted in chronological order.

 

You will find with the big hashtags, the posts tend to move through so quickly and your post can tend to get lost. 

So here is a better way to find hashtags for your post: 

1. Pick a hashtag that’s relevant to your niche. 

For example, you picked #healthysnacks – 1.7million

2. Instagram will show you the suggested hashtags to use underneath it. 

3. Pick the ones with less than 20K posts 

#Healthysnacksonthego 

So this will be a much better hashtag to use than the massive one with millions of posts. This is not to say you shouldn’t use the big ones at all. Just be sure to mix them up. For example, you could use:  

Big: 5-10 will have under 50K 

Medium: 5-10 will have under 10K

Small: 5 will have under 5K 

Keep in mind – If your hashtag is entirely unrelated to the visual, Instagram doesn’t show that image on that hashtag. This is a mistake I have personally made, so I don’t want you to make this mistake. So make sure you relate your hashtags with your visuals. 

 

An overlooked reason for choosing a smaller hashtag.

When you use smaller hashtags, your posts tend to stay on that page for long. Smaller hashtags don’t tend to have a lot of posts moving through them, so there is more likely that your post will stay on that page for long. Some of my posts have stayed in smaller hashtags for weeks and months. It helps the chances of getting found. So, I recommend using a good mix of both big and small hashtags. 

 

Where do you put the hashtags on your Instagram posts?

Comments – You can put the hashtags in the first comment on your comment. The main benefit of putting them in the comment is it keeps your caption section nice and clean. It keeps the focus on your writing instead of distracting from what you are saying. This is what I prefer to do. The downside is that you can’t copy and put them in a new post if you want to do it next time. 

Keeping them in Captions – The other option is to keep your hashtags in the caption section itself. If you don’t think it’s weird, keep them there. I prefer to keep it aesthetically pleasing for the readers. You could use dots to separate the text and the hashtags too. The great thing about this type of post is you can always go back in and copy those hashtags and use them at a later date. 

 

One common mistake to avoid while posting and using hashtags.

Often we get into the flow of posting and write our captions, get our photo-ready and post. Then we realise we don’t have our hashtags stored anywhere. 

If you wait too long between posting the post and putting in the hashtags, you lose the probability to appear on top of those hashtags. Because the posts that appear on the hashtag pages, appear in the chronological order. And your post timing is not based on the time you posted the post but when you post WITH the hashtags. 

Hashtags are what pick and select the posts, and you’d not have the chance to appear on that page. So it’s best to keep the hashtags ready, regardless of whether you post them in the comments or in the post itself. 

_____________

Using hashtags for your posts might seem hard, and an afterthought, but if you want to make it work on Instagram, it’s essential not to let your Instagram hashtags become an afterthought. A little planning goes a long way. Just like sherpas, perhaps. 

Talking about sherpas, I really wanted to know after all, how did sherpas make it look so easy when the rest of humanity found the world’s highest mountain simply insurmountable. So I went to my friend, everyone’s god. Google. 

Norman Heglund, a physiologist at the University of Louvain in Belgium – decided to study these sherpas to find after all, what makes them so special to achieve this tall feat of human potential. 

Guess what did he find? 

Nothing. 

(Sorry for the spoiler)

Norman found out had the same potential as others. On the surface, it’s easy to think that they must have a secret that others don’t know about. But sherpas could climb for days with heavy luggage only because they had pushed themselves to do that. 

I remain fascinated. 

“The Dusty Tracks” 

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They think you are crazy. Crazy enough to start this journey on the dusty tracks of freedom. To throw yourself into creating something from nothing. Some call it business. You call it Freedom. They say “This is a ridiculous plan. It will be exhausting.” You say “Some of us find normal …quite exhausting.”

You started the trek the dead centre of a seed of a crazy idea and now you know it will lead to the glorious ending of freedom and fulfilment. The winding road will be full of awkward, stumbling, messy points along the way. And very few people will be able to appreciate the beauty of trekking through this utterly barren land. That’s ok. As long as some people do. 

I am one of those crazy adventurers too. Because I see your fire, and the daredevil inside you. I see that person who refuses to shrink and valiantly pursues the calling of her heart. I do too.

So join me, and others who scream that failure is normal, pursuit of purpose is liberating and dusty tracks are exciting.

I think we’d have a great time sharing our journeys, exchanging maps, sipping some tea around the fierce campfire along The Dusty Tracks

 

How To Write Super Engaging Instagram Captions That People Want To Read?

Neha Awasthi

How to write Instagram captions – is a question I get asked by almost all of my clients. And I love to answer this like a teenager loves selfies. Like Indians love their curries. And Aussies love their barbeques. 

One of my clients even cried at the beginning of the call that she finds writing captions so overwhelming. (On that note, I decided to create a whole comprehensive masterclass on how to write captions. Stay tuned!) But I understand the anxiety around it. 

Too short? Too long? Too cute? Overly profound? Too kiddish? Not mature enough? Too naive? Too stuffy? Too promotional? Not promotional at all?

These are all the questions that can run through your mind when it comes to writing (bloody!) Instagram captions. 

Here is my short answer to your woes. Instagram captions have one overarching job: To connect with your audience.  

Sometimes when you’re writing captions for Instagram, you might think you need to just slap up something and not care too much about deep stuff like Connection. Yet, without that one element, your captions may fall flat and leave your audience feeling bland.

Let’s take a look at the psychology of connection and how it drives sales – to drive home the point I want to make here. Then we will dive deep into other elements that will be super useful for you to know when you write captions next time. 

 

What is the psychology behind the feeling of Connection and sales? 

A simple orange colour mandarin sitting in front of us on the tall wooden stool. When people start to draw, there can be a lot of apprehensions around making a mark on the paper. I had a set of mine. 

I was sitting in an art class, and the teacher said how you feel a connection to the object dictates how you draw. She explained how we look at it with only one sense – eyes. But to draw, you need to feel it with all your senses, experience the texture and smell it.  

That sounded crazy to me. To feel connected with the inanimate object can influence what I draw? Really? Similarly, what you write can dictate your connection with your audience and in turn, sales in your business. 

As you are reading this, you may think this sounds just as crazy as my art teacher did to me. Captions on Instagram really can’t do that heavy lifting for your business. However, I am here to tell you they can.

People may not feel a direct connection to your message or exact story – but they will probably be able to relate through some other life experience they have had. They might find similarities in your vision, your life, and your philosophy around your life – that’s when they feel connected with you. It’s about connecting people through feelings and emotions they can relate to personally. All too often, we forget about this underlying intention of writing on Instagram. 

If your captions can create goosebumps and emotion in your audience when you express your thoughts and stories with passion – they have the power to move them and inspire them to take action. 

They might also build connection by inspiring them or telling them things they are interested in. 

We are evolutionary beings, and we love to discover what we don’t know. People love to find answers to the unknown. But why? What is it about not knowing something that makes it interesting, and makes us want to explore or discover?

We, as a human species, want to learn and grow and learn more about growing tomato garden, to change different aspects of our life, and learn about the stars and universe and planets. With each discovery and lesson, we add something interesting to our life. And through this shared act, we build a connection with other human beings. 

If you offer all this to your audience with your captions, it is likely they will feel connected with you over time and get a real sense of you as a person even before they meet you in person. 

But isn’t Instagram about visuals?

You might think, isn’t Instagram a visual platform and isn’t it enough to put up a good photo? Yes it is a visual platform, but when you use it for business purpose, visuals are the first step in creating the relationship and getting their attention. After you capture their attention, you have to tell them who you are, what your brand stands for and your approach to business. That’s where captions come into place. 

After you have put the photo, and they pay attention to you, captions have to trigger the senses and stimulate their brain centres to get fascinated by what you do, inform who you are and what your business is about. To create deeper connection with your people and them to get to know you – you need to forge trust and belonging with them and that’s where captions can be immensely helpful. 

People want to know how do things work? How can we solve their problems? How can we change their attitudes? How can we help them look at things differently? We want to be intrigued and then follow that chain of fascination. Most people write self -serving, simple photo descriptions on Instagram that doesn’t benefit anyone. 

 

So why short self-serving captions are hurting your business?

In old Instagram days, you would see a pretty photos, click, like, done. 

When Instagram started, many people would post a photo of a book and tea and write the caption

“Reading about chamomile while sipping some chamomile. #Chamomile” 

That’d be enough. No one would twist their eyes on anything like that. 

Few other examples like this: 

Mid week trips just got better. 

Beach Vibes

Winter swims 

Having a laugh with best joke girl 

How dreamy is this spread to eat. About to dig in 

Treating myself to the fantastic food in Srilanka 

 

What do you think when you read these captions? 

You might think “Awesome” “Great job” “Good for you” or it may even instil the feelings of distrust or simply feeling no affinity for the person or the account. 

Because they are simply descriptions of their life, or their photo, which is redundant information. When someone is writing these captions, they are only broadcasting things about their amazing life. They are not thinking about their reader or audience – how this tiny post is helping their audience. That’s the most significant difference. 

It is not giving them anything to get interested in except some pretty visual escape. It is not teaching them anything, stimulating their thinking any further after having a look at the photo. So the conversation in their minds, ends there after looking at the photo. 

I am not asking you to write long stories or essays, but it is essential to write something meaningful that takes your audience a step further in the journey to know you and trust you .

To think and shift their perspective about tiny things in their life. Even in doing so, you are making a difference in their lives and that goes a long way. No one is all that much interested in your beach life or Hawaiian holidays.

 

Why are these captions important for your business and sales goals?

I had once read this from someone:

For someone to change their destiny, they have to make a decision. For them to make a decision, they have to change their state. 

Taking that a step further – to change their state – you have to speak to their emotions. If you can’t accurately convey a relevant story, then your product or service is not going to appeal to your audience. Writing captions is like breaking your big story and message into a hundred little pieces. Holding your audience hands and leading them to reach their goal and in turn, pay you for that service. 

Also, the principle of reciprocity means that when someone gives us something, we feel compelled to give something back in return. That’s simply human nature. And Hindu philosophy of Karma too. When someone serves us with a generous heart – we feel it and our biological nature is to give back to that person. 

Have you ever taken a taster in a super market stall and ended up with an unplanned ready to cook meal purchase because you felt an obligation to buy after you tried a free sample?

That was simply the principle of reciprocity in action. Similarly, your audience notices if you are trying to make a difference in their lives long before they are ready to pay you. 

The best way to make captions meaningful is to give very caption a clear purpose so that you don’t fall into the traps of writing self-serving captions which are either too short or overly promotional. 

How to establish a clear purpose for your captions?

There are 4 things to keep in mind when you are writing captions with a purpose: 

1. Leading with value 

2. Contribute to your audience’s life 

3. Change their day 

4. Give them an escape or entertains them

Before you write you can think of these factors as your filters to determine if it’s valuable for other people or not. Does your caption fulfil any of these criteria? This could be your test for not writing self-serving promotional captions or captions that don’t serve or add any value to your audience. 

For example, you could tell them a solution to a small problem they have. Or a simple anecdote or a story from your day that could inspire your audience. You could tell them something entertaining or inspiration they could take away with them for the rest of the day. This brings up the question how do you write captions that go straight for the heart? 

How to write captions that speak to the heart of your followers? 

Your captions must speak to your audience and their preferences. If they like beautiful poetry, it could be just that or a snippet of the lesson you have learned the hard way. Pay attention to what your audience wants from you.

For example – My audience doesn’t like overly girl bossy hype or fashion stuff or constant show off of life or material possessions. They prefer mellow, thought-provoking, intellectual and adventurous content. And that suits my personality as well. So it’s a great match. To start, think about what kind of people you feel connected with. A specific profession and the type of work they do and write for them. 

Your audience is there to get a peek in your life, your philosophy, your way of thinking and expertise as well. So don’t let the thought of “what they want from me” cloud your own self-expression. Trust what you express and share about your life in a meaningful way, will ultimately attract the right people to you and your brand. 

How can you express your true personality in your Instagram captions that connect you with your audience? 

Here are my four suggestions to do that:

Connection to the moment in your life:

 In the earlier sections, I discussed how Connection is the key to action. To write captions that evoke emotion – you have to feel the Connection first. Look for moments in your day when you felt pleasurable when you felt in integrity with your self and your values. Did you find something that reminded of childhood? Your mother’s old dress that reminded you of her wedding? What were things happening in your life at that time? Who is in the photo – family member? What is happening, and what did it mean to you? 

All of these questions can act as prompts for you to write engaging captions. 

 

Dig Deep for the details: 

Once you have got the idea to write the caption, then dig for further information in the moment. If you noticed pretty red rose – don’t leave it there “Pretty red rose.” Dig deep for what you noticed about the flower, why it mattered, what was the moment like? What details did you notice in flower? Mention all those things. Details are the fodder that fuels connection in your audience’s mind. It helps them to see how you think and what your worldview is like. 

Tell a story about it: 

Telling a story is a great way to build that connection with your audience. Have a beginning, middle and end. 

Three ways to open your captions are my 3-T framework: 

Trigger: You can write something that’s not popular or is controversial. Or simply grabs attention. Make sure to deliver on your point; otherwise, your audience can feel cheated. For ex- 

Marketers are all liars. 

Why I spent $1500 on this bag? 

Can you believe this is happening? 

Take: Start with your take or your opinion on the subject. 

For ex – I don’t believe captions have to be frivolous. 

I am tired of seeing the same things. 

Something annoys me more than kids’ crying in an aeroplane. 

Topic: Start with your topic or title of the post. 

For ex- 

Here is why I don’t believe action is the answer. 

I believe that business is more than money. 

Here is my weekly plan: 

Once you have got your beginning, give your viewpoint and content. Something that helps me not to sound too stuffy is to imagine I am talking to my favourite clients sitting in front of me around the campfire and what would they like to listen to. 

Find the right tone for your brand and stick with it: 

Imagine a battleship in the sea in bad weather with its captain on the bridge. It is sailing in a foggy night and needs to make decisions on its course to the destination. Whether it needs to stay steady or change directions, the ship looks out for the light from the lighthouse for the signal. Lighthouse is the source that keeps on the course and warns boats of dangerous areas. 

 

Similarly finding your tone and voice acts like a Lighthouse in your business that keeps you grounded. When you are grounded in who you are, and how you want to show up in your business, how you want to communicate your ideas and in what tone, it creates confidence in your audience’s minds. They learn to trust you and open up to receiving your message more. 

 

If you are a funny and gregarious type of a person in real life, keep that similar tone in your captions as well. If you are a pensive, thoughtful person, then follow that kind of voice in your captions. Like my tone is more of a thought-provoking, wise friend on side sprinkled with some satirical humour. That’s how I am in real life as well. Whatever you choose, keep it consistent. If you waver from your voice and tone every day, you are likely to confuse your audience. 

 

There you have it. 

Writing good captions require a little bit of scratching the paper, making some squeaky noise, changing a few pens – just kidding. I mean practice. 

Remember what I said before: Make it worth their while. Make it matter to them. Make it matter to yourself first. Because words on the screen aren’t just words. If you use them right, they can be weapon for your business. And changing hearts. And if that needs a little bit of practice – I don’t think you are one of those who is scared to put in the work. 

Go now scratch some paper. Or screen. No. Not the screen please. 

 

 

 

 

How To Get More Clients On Instagram (Without Constantly Chasing For More Followers)

Neha Awasthi

Most people ruin the masala chai.

Masala chai that is inherent to every Indian.

An integral part of Indian life.  

People make it too weak or dip a tea bag from the store in a cup of boiling water with a hint of cinnamon maybe, and call it a Masala chai.

What irks me more than that is Starbucks selling Masala tea. 

What truly upsets me is – that Starbucks calling the potion of Chai – Chai Tea Latte. Now that seems like the whole acuity has been taken away – it’s not Latte – it is not tea. It’s Chai Tea Latte. 

“Chai” translates to “tea” in Hindi and several other Indian languages (so Starbucks is redundant—Chai Tea just means “tea tea”).

It’s neither East nor West. 

I am super fussy about my tea (like a lot of Indians) and maybe that’s where this irk originates from. 

Every morning I make masala chai, and I like it a certain way. 

A cup of water on the boil. 

I grinds the piece of ginger down with the handle of my favourite big knife or grater. Throw in a cinnamon stick like a circus artist waving my hand pretending to have mastered the art. Pound 2 cloves of cardamom and add them to the water.

Let it simmer and add about 1/2 cup of full cream (never fat-free milk) – and let it simmer for a while, until it is reduced by a third. I usually add a small piece of jaggery (as a substitute for sugar). 

Then slowly and meticulously pour it in one of my favourite cups with blue paisley design. 

But you were here for the Instagram and not masala chai. 

Or maybe both. 

Making masala chai and making Instagram are very similar. 

Instagram and brewing Chai are very similar. 

They are both like a slow, beautiful brew. They are both not like Starbucks fast lane neither-here-nor-there chai tea latte. It’s a 4.41-ounce drink in your favourite cup served with love and intention. It is not a drink in the foam cup slid over the counter without even looking in your eyes. 

In the culture of too much advice to make fast money, fast tea, fast everything – we fall into the traps and pipe dreams. We think we must grow Instagram fast and there must really be a trick that we are missing. We start looking for tactics and hacks without ever understanding how Instagram actually serves our business? 

How does it get us clients in the first place?

Here are three things you must consider if you are using Instagram as a tool to build your community and clients.

 

1. Valuable clients versus a lot of followers. 

These are two different things. A lot of followers can feel great for your ego. Like a bucket full of chai for the day. You will not be able to drink it, but somehow getting it for free feels great. You might even notice other accounts with thousands of Instagram followers, but what they may not show you – is that those followers were interested in the content of travel and fashion before they switched over to doing business. 

This creates a lot of pressure on your mind and you are missing the full picture, mostly because you are not shown the whole picture. They flaunt their number of followers to you, and you feel like that must really be the key to success. More and more followers.  

Instead of building a community of engaged and interested people, you focus on the big numbers. So my first advice is to change the mindset of growing your Instagram numbers to focusing on getting valuable people following your account. 

This avoids you falling in the traps of using tactics like follow and unfollow people.

This may be effective in the short term to grow your audience, but they may not necessarily be the people who’ll buy your stuff. Remember a bucket full of chai, you can’t drink. 

This also damages your brand’s look.

When you have so many followers with very little engagement. Because there are people present, but they are not interested in what you have to say and offer. 

People who are already following you start to expect more engagement with the more following to. But when you don’t get it, they lose momentum, and that builds distrust in their minds. 

They may get turned off they don’t see much audience engagement.

To avoid these type of things, it’s better to have a small community. A small number of followers who are genuinely invested and interested in your work. It’s best to focus more on the small number of people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say and your work than having a large number of people on your list. 

The question becomes what you should focus on then to get clients from Instagram?

2. How to find the right audience on Instagram

The first step is to know and get some knowledge about who your audience is. It’s important to know what type of audience are you looking for. You don’t have to get it perfect or have a crystal clear understanding of this. You only need some knowledge of who your target audience may be. 

If you understand their worldview and what their problems are, that can be a good starting point. Do they match the type of solution you offer and do they resonate in a way that you offer?

If they are an excellent value match and if they are interested in your kind of solution, they will likely do business with you. Those people are already interested in topics as your business offers. So you should focus your efforts on finding audiences that resemble your description on Instagram.  

You can look up pages they are likely to follow and start building a relationship with them. There are a lot of pages and people on Instagram who can be a good match for your business. 

On this, a note – don’t let the scarcity mindset of “I don’t have my audience on Instagram.” stop you. Instagram is one of the biggest growing platforms, and there are a lot of profiles where you can find the right audience. Once you find your audience, you have to help them to see how you can help them and foster the relationship. 

3. Help your audience to take the relationship further 

I always wanted to see him up close. It was almost like I had touched a star. I fell in love with my husband in the first sight. And then more and moreover the years. 

When I met him first, I wanted to see him every day and sit and chat with him for hours. I’d often invite him to the coffee. I’d plan exciting activities to get his attention and for him to come and see me. I indeed was head over heels for him. 

If I had met him for the first time, and left it at that point hoping he’d one day turn into my husband. That’d be foolish of me to think that way. I know you’d say the same thing – of course, it would be.”

But we forget this simple psychology when we do business with other humans.

It happens because we are continually thinking of them as someone we need to get something from. We make it too much about ourselves. We obsess over everything they can do for us and buy from us. Not enough on how we can help them to move further along from where they are now. 

We forget that we need to (almost) fall in love with those people and their problems. And really tap into that place within our hearts that genuinely wants to help them. 

Once we do that, we can take the relationship further. We keep in touch with those people, we plan things, we invite them over to talk to us, we like to spend time with them. We don’t get hung up in our own minds, our own doubts and fears. 

It’s the same thing on Instagram as well.

Once someone follows you, it’s merely the first meeting. You need to take that relationship further, a step ahead. That happens when you give them something of value. Lead them with your expertise. You also need to guide them gently what should be their next step in this new relationship – where should they come and hang out more with you? You shouldn’t make it a guess work for them or rely on others to do that on their own. People are busy and they are not thinking about you or your Instagram. So you need to offer a variety of steps they can take to foster this relationship. 

On Instagram, you could do it in a variety of ways like: 

Asking them to comment

Like or comment on the post

Inviting them to check our your page  

Sign up for your new program

Tag a friend in your post and spread the word 

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It’s essential to think of people as humans, and putting their needs and desires first. This means if you are always merely asking without giving anything of value to them, people get put off and fair enough. You know that, if you are needy in any relationship without thinking of what joy, help, the contribution you can bring to someone’s life – those relationships don’t sustain for long. 

The point is to do things in a way you like to experience them. This seems oh-so-obvious, yet, when in our business world or when we put on our that-fancy-feather-business-hat – that’s precisely what many of us do on our Instagram accounts. So brew the tea slowly, use quality ingredients, make it with presence, let it simmer and then pour it in a nice cup and drink it with gratitude. I told you, drinking tea and Instagram has a lot of similarities. 

 

Go make your tea now.

If you are a tea-lover and get stuck making tea, simply email me and ask for the recipe. Along with that, I will also send you a set of tea photos you can use in your marketing – without any credits. Tea Lovers Unite!

How to stand out in your business (without trying too hard)?

Neha Awasthi
11 September 2019

Some people can spend hours watching a sunset and some people can be bored after a few seconds. “What’s new, it’s the same sun that comes up every day.”

Similarly, a single product can’t satisfy everyone’s needs and desires. Which is why you need to market to people who will be delighted with your product or service – and not everyone. If you are marketing to everyone, it’s a losing game because you will be spreading your energy and time too thin. Even big companies like Coke and Pepsi change their advertising to culture-specific contexts to “speak” to the specific audience in that country.

If you notice the magazines on the shelves of a news-agency, you will find that they are all catering to a different types of people. Some magazines are for gossip lovers, some for cooking aficionados, some for sports lovers. Some are for the older, some for young and adventurous and some for the poised ones.

And they communicate very quickly who they are for. They communicate with the their front photos, the layout and the vibe around their photos. Your business also needs a similar sort of a magazine to quickly communicate who you are for (and who you are not for.)

How can you do that in your business? 

It can be done with the power of visuals. And Instagram is my favourite channel to do that as it is inherently a visual platform and it lends itself to creating that vibe really well. It shows your personality bit by bit every time you post without overwhelming your audience. Also, it doesn’t require you to boast who you are, but you can beautifully express in a more elegant and subtle way.

But often in the business world, we think of visual identity is only as your logo and colours. We think, if we slap our logo everywhere, people will start recognising our name. However, creating a connection in your customers’ minds with visuals extends much beyond that. It’s the cohesive look and feel of all the visuals you use in your business.

And the first thought is to use the stock photos. They are free and easy to find. So why not?

Can you use stock photos to promote your business on Instagram?

Have you seen a doctor’s clinic? Most clinics have the same bland boring stock visuals on their walls and in their brochures. And you’d find you can’t differentiate one doctor from another based on that. It fails to even grab your attention, it is boring and bland.

We often think of visuals as simply pretty, good quality photos but that’s not enough. If you are using the same visuals as your competitors, you are also looking “generic” and “bland”- and well..just like them.

Think about a time when someone is really present with you, looks straight into your eyes and make you feel like you are the only one in that room? How good that feels – right?

Visuals have the power to do the same with your audience and when you intentionally create that connection with them. They feel like you are speaking to them, and them alone. When you use the right types of visuals, it not only tells a story about who you are but they also feel like you know what they aspire to be, who they want to be, what matters in their life.

And you’d know by now that generic, bland visuals cannot make your audience – seen or heard.

How do visuals help tell a story and differentiate you from your competitors?

Today as I sit around in my favourite cafe with my flat white and almond biscotti, I can’t help but think of their example and how their visuals have helped make a connection with their brand in my mind.

It’s a cafe, started in Australia called Cibo. It has a distinct brand that reflects the roots of the owners from Italy. (I am assuming they are from Italy.) The brand is based around the vibe and theme of Italy. The visuals are black and red, with distinct themes of Italian beaches which easily transport you to the beaches of Amalfi.

Given a choice, I end up picking that cafe every time because I want to experience a little bit of Italy in my day. And that’s the power of creating a story with your visuals around your business.

Italy is my muse. I must have been Italian in my past life. So obviously I gravitate towards the brand.

 

How can you create similar gravity with the visuals on Instagram?

Firstly, you need to understand that visual branding is much more than the logo. It’s about the whole story you tell with your visuals. 

My clients often find it difficult to translate their true vibe to the visuals. That’s partly because they have this idea it’s only about colours and their logo. So they start putting their logo everywhere. And sometimes, that could do more harm than good. 

Especially on Instagram. 

Instagram is a social platform and not necessarily a buying platform. People go with the intent to socialise, consume content that they are interested in. Not to be sold to or have some company’s logo hammered into their faces. That can be a major put off. 

How do you then communicate your vibe and personality with your visuals on Instagram?

1. Start with some self-discovery 

It starts with knowing who you are as a person. Ask yourself what are your interests? What are your deeper philosophies in life? What kind of things do you enjoy? 

Do you enjoy Museums and Nature in solitude or are you more of a people’s person who loves to go out? Do you enjoy cooking or gardening? 

These things may seem frivolous on the outside but they are really important anchor points for your audience to get an insight into you as a person. We are so consumed with the business thinking that we tend to forget we deal with real people. And those real people need to see the human behind your business to relate. 

These little interests and hobbies, really help to showcase your human side to them. They can find themselves in those activities as well. Creating visuals around those things deliberately can help you communicate who you are and what you are about in an instant. It’s a powerful thing to attract your people and repel who might not be the right fit. 

2. Understanding your audience 

It’s important to understand what do your people like to see. For example – my audience is not into shallow small talks, they are introverts, and want to learn something, get insight for a better life and better business while getting inspired. 

So it helps me to put out the visuals that help them to see themselves in my visual stories. They dream of travelling more with their kids have space for creative things and it helps me to match the content for their desires. 

On this note, I want to also mention that you must not lose yourself too much to create what your audience wants, that you forget who you are. It’s a fine balance and the priority is always to reflect who you are first. To create authentic marketing that creates trust. When your audience meets you in person, they must feel like they already know you. That can happen only when you stay true to who you are and reflect that on Instagram. 

3. Being consistent with your visuals

I know! I know! Consistency. You have heard it so many times. But it truly is important. Imagine being in a relationship, where you don’t know what to expect. One day same conversation can trigger smiles and another day anger. You’d lose your mind. 

That’s the same with your audience. Your audience needs to see the visuals and same vibe over time, to really understand what you are about. 

If you are using deep and mellow vibe one day, and next day you are using bright red and orange colours – you’d throw them off guard. It would confuse them. So consistency is really important. 

It helps you to stay on brand as well. Once you have decided the look and vibe, you don’t have to overthink it every time. You know what to do and it takes decision making out of the process. 

To achieve this, I suggest my clients create a mood board with colours and the visuals they like and feel like represent them. And using that as a guide to creating their own look with their own elements from their life to stay true to how they show up online. 

Consistent look and feel creates immediate recognition and also triggers the positive emotions in the minds of your audience. Those emotions are the reasons they learn to make the association with you and your brand – and that’s how you become memorable over time. 

___________

Although it’s the same sun that rises up every day, people who enjoy watching sun rises, find a different beauty, a particular kind of solace in it every time. They watch it to feel the sense of calm, abundance and beauty everytime. Sun doesn’t need to stand out, but it needs to rise up for others to enjoy its beauty. So do you. And your business.

 

S-Factor: Why it is stopping you from standing out and selling more?

Neha Awasthi
10 September 2019

I was nine when I read my first Chacha Chaudhary comic for the first time. The word chacha means uncle. It was a comic Indian comic book character, created by cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma.

Chacha Chaudhary was a character inspired by elderly people in Indian villages help and solve problems by their elderly experience for everyone.
I remember taking them out only when I was sure my mum was asleep. She’d say Comics have ruined your mind. Because I was so obsessed with them that every time we’d go shopping, I’d want those comics instead of a dress. Old second-hand purchases, some brand new ones, I cherished them a lot.

I still remember his name and some episodes, what he looked like. I look for the old copies that I could get my hands on and may be when I spot them I will probably put them up on my wall in my house as a reminder of my childhood memories.

Those comics have a deep emotional connection in my mind. And I still remember them. Those comic stand out in my mind even decades later. As a business owner, we want the same place in our customers’ minds. We want them to remember us after decades. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that standing out is a mysterious act of a few bona-fide adults.

I call it S-Factor. 

Superficial factor. The reason most people don’t stand out is because their online presence is superficial. 

The purpose of your social media, website and content is to show who you are but when all your people get to see is the business and not the person who runs that business – they find it hard to connect. 

I see this on Instagram all the time when people dish out boring and bland smoothie photos that say only one thing – that you are a selfish person who is always busy showing off – I can promise you that they are not paying any attention. In fact you are training them to ignore you. 

Our brains remember two types of things: one that we repeat over some time and something we have a strong emotional connection with. This part of our brain is usually very busy so it’s selective in what it remembers. 

Here is a reminder: That there are humans on the other side of the table. 

Another reminder: They are humans with feelings, emotions and busy hippocampus.

They need to feel a connection with us. So while we are focussed on standing out – maybe we should focus on Connection instead. 

Because then we give them a reason to look at us and choose us from 564532 other Naturopaths, Designers and Photographers. 

Most businesses start with what they can sell. Their product. Their service. And no one cares about that. 

People care about what those things can mean for them. So the first question businesses need to answer more than what they are selling – is who THEY are. 

When you know the answer to this – it becomes easy to communicate that. 

What you will tolerate. What you will not tolerate. 

And work on amplifying that in your marketing.

 

Because anyone can sell what you are selling but the key to standing out is inspiring others to rally up with you and make it matter. 

Why do you need to find your Target Audience (and why selling to everyone is a bad idea)?

Neha Awasthi
2 September 2019

Last month I joined a Zumba class.

In a local gym. For the 134868 time. I convinced myself that this time it is going to work. I am going to love it, and this is going to be my next obsession. Like most Indians – I love curry & I love dancing. 

I went to the classes for 4 weeks, but I had to really drag myself to the class every time. I wasn’t motivated. I wasn’t feeling it. I wondered why. Normally, I’d go to dance classes and find them a lot of fun. But I got bored in this class very quickly. I love high energy classes where instructor is full of enthusiasm and that energy rubs off me.

However, in this class, the instructor played the same music, never interacted with the participants, and kept looking at her own moves in the mirror. 

I felt it lacked energy and was too regimented. Even though that class is always full – it just wasn’t for me. 

When I signed up, the person who signed me up at the counter paid no attention to what I wanted, what my preferences were, what my problems were with the other gym and what exactly I was looking for. And that left a bad taste in my legs.

And that’s the case with a lot of businesses too. 

We think our goal is to get all the customers and any customer possible. Shouldn’t everyone buy what we are selling? 

The answer is No.

Infact work very deliberately to dissuade wrong type of customers. Customers who are not at the right level to use your service, have the right value alignment or are simply not the right fit for your services. 

Why you should actively repel wrong customers?

I held an Instagram workshop the other day and I found one of the attendees didn’t even have an Instagram account. Now, whilst I was teaching the basic Instagram Marketing, she still found it overwhelming. Fair enough!

It’s only natural for someone who doesn’t have an account or knows how to post – to feel overloaded with the strategy part.

I kept thinking about all the things I could have said in my marketing to make it clear who it was right for and who it wasn’t right for? It was my fault. Not hers. 

When we buy things we don’t need or we are not at the right level to make full use of it – we are only left with disappointment for that brand or business. No one wants to think they made a bad choice but now they feel the pang of it.  It is the responsibility of the business and brand to make it clear who is the specific kind of person it is right for. 

You can only do that when you know clearly who is your product or service right for. What kind of person will use it best? Who is that person who will not only like it but will be delighted with it?

This is why finding the right set of people or right niche is important. Not just from a profitability purpose, but also from an overall satisfaction perspective. 

We don’t want to push our services on everyone. We are always seeking to find out who our services are the right match for. Who will not like what we have to offer but infact love it? 

 

This can be the difference between coercion and connected selling. Coercion pushes anyone to buy. Connection inspires selective people to buy who are going to love it. 

This is the difference between coercion and connected selling. 

To find people who love it.

When we use manipulative techniques to persuade and coerce people to buy what we offer instead of making sure it’s a right match and can really serve someone – we almost always end up getting customers who feel the remorse of buying from us.

At the heart of marketing, we must always ask “Who our services the best fit for?”

The benefit of asking this question is there will be a beautiful alignment with those people. They will love working with you, and using your product and you will find it not only easy to sell but love to sell them.

We don’t need the whole world to buy from us unless you are creating an empire for world domination. I know I am not. People like you and me who want a sustainable, small business that fulfills our soul and funds a good lifestyle. We don’t want to be using any cheap tricks or crush our souls to persuade and convince people to buy.

So figuring out who is that person can save a lot of headache and heartache. When we know who we are for and who we are not for, we don’t have to inflate things more than what they are.

We have to just create clarity, create an environment of genuine conversation that helps them to decide whether they want this or not and make an offer to help them decide if they’d like our service and product or not. 

When we have the right type of people buying from us it creates a ripple effect of those people attracting more right people. And business can feel great. As we are spending time with people who we enjoy working with and dealing with.

From profitability point of view, it helps the clients to come back and spend more money and become long term customers. 

People spend more when they feel first time was so helpful and when they got more value out of it than they expected. They actively spread the word as they are so happy with what they got.

And that’s why you should also prevent people from buying from you. As wrong type of customers, will always feel disheartened and disappointed with your service or product and create problems down the road.

When good customers become evangelists, wrong customers actively spread the bad word.

And we must do so without holding any judgements. Everyone has their reasons and preferences and that’s ok. There is enough in the world to go around for everyone.

In this selection process, we don’t want to become wrapped up in who they are as a person. We must look at them objectively , and if they don’t seem the right fit, we must either guide them towards another direction or resource we think will work for them.

___________

So when I found the right Zumba class where the instructor spoke no English at all, but she had the enthusiasm I was looking for. She created a sense of camaraderie in the class and I didn’t have to motivate myself to show up for the class. It felt easy and fun. I showed up every single time. I wanted to be there. 

That’s exactly what finding the target audience can do for your business. You don’t have to push or coerce. They stay. They buy because they love what you do. And they show up.