As an athlete, you know how important it is to keep your head in the game. When you’re not on the field, court, or track, however, pay attention to your online presence. People are watching and looking up to you, and what you do and say on social media will influence their perceptions, including potentially increasing (or decreasing) your fan base.
You might have a strong Twitter following, but Instagram is a growing social media platform every athlete should use if you want to maintain followers. It’s the fastest-growing social platform with more than a billion active users—that’s a huge audience that you shouldn’t ignore.
Your fans love the personalized connection they can gain from following you on Instagram. Jerry Newman, a social media expert in Europe, told SportTechie that athlete fan bases now are much different than they were 10 years ago or more.
“The only way you saw an athlete was when they were on the field,” he said. “Now you’re actually engaging with them and hearing way more about them than just what they do on the field. You’re seeing their family, their lifestyles, you’re connecting with them in a way that you never could before.”
Newman also points out that Instagram is a growing social platform for connecting with athletes, saying that about a third of users say they follow 10 or more sports accounts each and about 94 percent of those said checking in with them is one of the biggest reasons they log onto Instagram.
With this in mind, it becomes painfully obvious that you need a good Instagram strategy. Here are a few ways that any athlete can up their Instagram game.
If you’re like many athletes, you feel pressure to improve your social media game, but where do you find the time, especially during the season? This is the most pivotal time to be present on social media because your fans are more engaged. Thankfully, there are fantastic Instagram automation tools to make it possible for time-strapped athletes to connect with their fans.
Such tools can use artificial intelligence and targeted marketing analytics to help you curate a strong social strategy, no matter how busy you are. You can automate your posts and even some of your engagement so that you’re maintaining a real-time presence.
Just remember that automation is a tool to supplement your social engagement, but it can’t completely replace it. While you can still buy Instagram followers, you’ll still be required to check in daily and comment on or like your followers’ reactions—otherwise your audience will know you’re not really present on the platform, and you could lose followers. Automation simply reduces the amount of time you must be on your account.
Use Stories to Your Advantage
“If you’ve ever seen cave paintings or watched a child demand that her favorite book be read one more time, you know that humans are hardwired to love stories,” argues an article from the publication ViaSport. “Your audience will feel more emotionally connected with you if you use stories. Your stories don’t have to be epic in scope. You could, for example, talk about how you got involved in sport, tell a funny anecdote about a training mishap, or share what you’ve learned about a recent loss.”
Instagram has recently made updates that make storytelling easier than ever, namely their live video and Instagram Stories features. Using these useful tools, you can share a short story that will appear at the top of your Instagram users’ feed, giving behind-the-scenes looks at practices or something you love to do in your spare time. Take advantage of the natural engagement that comes with these beloved features.
Learn from the Best
Anyone seeking a better online presence, including athletes, can benefit from monitoring the accounts of the best in their given industry.
“Major league organizations are able to use social platforms for sports marketing campaigns,” writes Dash Hudson in a Medium article. “This helps to feed the mania and create stronger bonds with their supporters. It’s no coincidence that these Instagram accounts garner some pretty intense enthusiasm from their followers.
As an athlete, you have a huge selection of successful Instagram users to choose from. Follow iconic athletes and teams in any league to see what works, and then mimic these posts for your own page. If you can highlight trending topics and piggyback off of the audiences of those with a strong following in sports, you can see greater success with your own platform.
Focus on Community Building
Sports can bring out the best and worst in people, so it’s not uncommon for beloved athletes to create an almost cult-like following. They will be fiercely loyal to you because of your performance on the field, and there will be huge rivalries to consider. They’ll also be engaged with the happenings of your personal life.
For that reason, creating communities is one of the most important Instagram strategies you can take. Think of your Instagram followers as real people rather than numbers, and it changes your daily interactions.
Work on a content strategy that engenders community building with interesting content, photos that show a new side of you, opinions on political matters, and questions or surveys that can engage your audience. Try to maintain a fun, positive tone that can be serious if need be. This is the attitude your followers will want to see, and if you’re wise, you won’t disappoint.
Monitor Your Progress
When you focus on your Instagram followers as a community, it will naturally become less about the numbers and more about the people. However, the numbers are still a useful metric. It’s important to set goals and use analytics to monitor your progress.
Create measurable benchmarks to motivate your actions. If you can’t see your progress, you can become discouraged and have a difficult time creating a plan to get to where you want to be. On Instagram, think of the numbers as working your way towards a championship. The higher they get, the closer you are to going to winning it all!