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  • Writer's pictureKate Talbot

5 Ways To Authentically Network On Instagram

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Building authentic online relationships is more important now than ever. From joining a LinkedIn Group or posting a colleague’s blog post on Twitter, there is a multitude of ways to focus your social media efforts towards entrepreneurial and business success.

To have the most impact on your social media channels, it's critical to focus on high-growth areas where your core audience spends their time. For millennial women, Instagram is the shining star. In fact, more than a quarter of millennial women check their Instagram daily, with half of the 800 million Instagram users falling within the 18-29 age range.

As Instagram is the go-to social network for millennials to discover content from family, friends, brands, influencers, and celebrities alike, it’s paramount for users to go beyond just passively using the social app to expand their professional network.

Slide into DMs

Although the first thing you think of with the flirtatious in-nature “Sliding into DMs” meme isn't professional networking, there are huge advantages to going outside your comfort zone and starting an Instagram chat -- either from the news feed itself or replying to an Instagram Story.

It’s imperative that when you do send a direct message, you have original, non-generic copy that highlights that you’ve taken time to research the person’s style and feed. For example, if you are connecting with a fashion influencer mention how you enjoy watching their holiday fashion videos or the #ootd (outfit of the day) posts on their feed. You can also get a feel for how they communicate from their copy and emoji use, so try and mirror that writing in the direct message itself. This way, when you bring up a partnership, they’ll trust that you’ve taken the time to align with their brand.

This innocuous form of communication can lead to new business, strategic partnerships or influencer-driven content creation.

Join Instagram Pods

Direct messages are not the only way to start 1:1 relationships. You can also join a group chat -- otherwise known as Instagram Pods -- where there are up to fifteen like-minded accounts that want to game the Instagram “algorithmic timeline.” Instagram now uses an algorithm to produce a specialized, curated feed that highlights posts based on the likelihood that you'll interact with the content instead of the order in which it is posted. This means it is key for your post to get as many likes and comments as soon as possible. You can do this with Instagram Pods, where users will post a link to the content that they want to be liked and commented on -- with the hopes that the post will go to the top of the feed and reach a larger audience.

Dee Nuncio of Mod Op is part of an Instagram Pod comprised of female social media marketing entrepreneurs, “To me, Instagram pods are an excellent example of a social platform really “being” social. It’s fantastic to find a great group of diverse personalities that share common ground. Helping each other share high-quality original content is just an added bonus.”

Go Ham on Hashtags

Hashtags are the holy grail for Instagram discovery. On each post, you can include thirty hashtags. It’s in your best interest to include hashtags to gain more relevant followers and incite engagement. By doing this, not only is your content seen beyond your network, but you can also find other influencers or like-minded individuals.

To get the most out of hashtags on an Instagram Post or Story, use the search bar to find the top and most recent posts with that hashtag. Those accounts will range anywhere from a few hundred followers to influencers with millions. It’s critical to think about who’s more likely to reply to a direct message and be strategic with your outreach. It is in your best interest to target micro-influencers that have 10,000-10000 followers. Studies show that micro-influencers provide a strong return on investment with their engagement levels. Additionally, micro-influencers are less likely to be managed by an agency and will be checking their messages on an Instagram business account.

If you’re looking to network with users associated with a specific brand, search for their branded hashtag. An example of this is the fitness community, Tone it Up. Their branded hashtag is #TIU which has over a million user-generated Instagram posts. Now, you can connect with individuals who are passionate about fitness, community, and health with a simple hashtag search.

Tag a Friend

Instagram is chock full of inspirational quotes and hilarious memes encouraging users to tag a friend in the comments. Many influencers and brands use this tactic to gain new users and go viral. You should utilize this call-to-action and tag a new friend or contact in a post, which will strengthen the relationship because you’ll share an inside joke and camaraderie over something funny and inspiring.

Another way to surprise and delight your network is to create original content -- whether a photo, video, quote, or meme. You can do this easily with social media tools Canva or Adobe Spark Post. For example, create an inspirational post of "Girl You Got This” and then tag all the female entrepreneurs in your network in the actual image. Giving a digital shout-out shows generosity and can easily convert an online friendship offline.

Explore and Discover

The Explore section on Instagram provides an unlimited vessel of discovery. Since the algorithm highlights the account that you should be following, it is a goldmine of potential connections. You can follow new accounts, engage with content, and message them to begin a relationship. Since it’s completely cold outreach, make sure you introduce yourself and how you found them on Instagram.


In today’s digital landscape, authentic relationships are monumental in growing and scaling your business. As you always want to be providing value to your network, use Instagram as a platform for content, connection, and communication. In doing so, you can take your Insta (and business) game to the next level.

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