Instagram is a hidden networking gem. Although you might use it for its photo-sharing features, staying up-to-date with trends, and following your favorite celebrities, Instagram can also be used as an effective networking tool—a way to make authentic connections with people you might not normally come across in your daily life.
While most conventional networking sites now have tens of millions of users all on the hunt for the same group of people, sending out the same messages, Instagram is yet to be thought of as a popular networking tool, which means using it to network is an easy way to differentiate yourself from other professionals. Plus, networking via Instagram can come off as more organic and less awkward versus other mainstream networking sites, where people are flooding each other’s inboxes with the same generic networking requests.
And so, to help you start using Instagram to grow your network, here are four things to keep in mind.
1. Clean up your act
Before you reach out to connect with people, make sure your account is an appropriate reflection of who you are as a person and as a professional. Remember that when you reach out to people, their first instinct is going to be to look at your profile, so make sure it’s worth looking at.
Here are a few points to consider before you start: a) It’s a public account (if you’re not comfortable with making your account public, create a separate Instagram account); b) Your bio gives off some background information as to who you are, so briefly include your background, interests, and any other details you’re open to sharing; c) Your posts should include a glimpse into your personal life to show personality and that you’re REAL; and d) Your posts should also show your professional persona: what you do, your industry of interest, your thoughts and opinions on relevant topics within your industry, etc.
2. Follow relevant accounts
Make sure you follow people who interest you, companies that interest you, and influential figures in your industry. If you’re going to grow your network on Instagram, you must stay knowledgeable and up-to-date with conversations, trends, and news. This will help you to not only discover people who you may be interested in connecting with but also come up with talking points to take these connections to the next level.
3. Be proactive
No one likes a ghost follower—one that watches but never engages. To make connections, you must step outside your comfort zone and engage. Liking, commenting, and messaging are all ways you can connect with companies, leaders, and influencers within your industry. Chime in on a conversation happening in the comments section, send a private message in response to a recent post that was shared, swipe up and respond to an Instagram story with a positive message. All of these actions will start a conversation and go a long way toward making a real connection.
4. Be genuine
Last, but most important, be genuine. Don’t reach out to someone whom you have absolutely no interest in or care for just because you think it would be cool to have them on your “who I know” list. The world is filled with plenty of fake networkers, but there are not enough people who genuinely care about others’ and who want authentic relationships. With that being said, keep it REAL. Make genuine commentary, ask questions about others’ passions not just what they do for a living, listen with the intent of learning, and think long-term relationships versus just short-term.
Heidy Abdel Kerim is Vault’s Marketing Associate. You can find her sharing Vault’s latest career articles, motivational content, and job and internship search tips on Vault’s Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts.