If you already have a bit of a following on Instagram, you likely already have a bit of an issue with your DMs. When you open up your app, it’s likely that you’re inundated with messages. If you have your notifications on, you’re getting pinged constantly so — let’s be honest — you definitely don’t have your notifications on.
Well, Instagram has recently opted to now let you see and respond to your DMs via Instagram on your browser, which means that you have a new set of pros and cons to deal with. The major pro? It’s easier to respond now. We often type faster on a computer than we do on our phones, plus it’s a little easier to see everything all at once on a larger screen. But that’s also a major con. You’re seeing everything all at once. That’s pretty overwhelming if you’re getting hundreds of message requests.
So how do you handle Instagram DMs when you’re on your way to building a bigger following?
1. Know your audience and respond to your audience
If you’re trying to convert traffic from your Instagram to your online work spaces, it’s a good idea to use Instagram DMs with your fans sparingly. Never let it cross the line into friendship territory, but it’s good to issue a response to let them know that you’re happy to have them as a fan. Ideally, develop set scripts for certain messages, as it’s likely that you’ll have fans messaging you similar things.
Just be careful about who you respond to. If the message sounds creepy, leave it be. You don’t need a creeper thinking that you’re into them being creepy. If it’s a respectful message, it’s a good idea to have a respectful response at the ready. Save your scripted responses on a Google Doc and copy and paste them in for the right messages, making little alterations based on who the fan is.
2. Deviation from the script should be minimal
One of the hardest things about knowing how to respond to a fan is knowing how to toe the line between a fan and a friend. It’s good to make your audience feel wanted. It’s bad to make one specific person feel like you want them. The online world is one that needs to be handled with care. You don’t know who is on the other end of that DM so you need to keep the conversation more professional than personal.
Tailoring messages to a fan is good, but if you start to make the message too personal, or if you try to strike up a long term conversation, you’re hurting yourself in multiple ways. The first way is that, if you’re talking to one fan for far too long, you lose time for others (or time for your sanity). The second is that you may find that this person begins to treat you more intimately, because they think that you care about them individually. You may say that you love your fans, but the line should never be crossed where a fan individually could be led to believe that you love them. It’s a dangerous can of worms.
3. Keep an eye on your messages for opportunities
It’s a good idea to go through your messages and see what opportunities are in there. If you’re building a following, it’s likely that companies will start to reach out for promotions. You should be selective about who you work with, but give ample consideration to what you’re reading. Be sure to research the company that’s messaging you before messaging them back.
Similarly to fans, you don’t want a company to be led to believe that you’re seriously entertaining a partnership, before you disappear. For a fan, it might just upset them and you’ll lose them as a follower. But as a company, you may lose out on potential future business. If you come across as unprofessional, word may get out to other companies and you won’t get more opportunities in the future.
4. Don’t set up a precedent of responding to every fan
As your following grows, it’s going to be impossible to respond to everyone. But you sometimes see influencers post things on their Stories like, “I’m working my way through my messages today so everyone bear with me!” That’s nice, that the influencer is trying to let fans know that she’s trying to talk to everyone, but when that inevitably fails, you’re just going to end up with a lot of upset people wondering why their messages aren’t noticed.
Trying to respond to everyone is a fruitless endeavor. You lose time for content creation — and, again, your own sanity and mental health — if you’re trying to be on your DMs 24/7 to talk to everyone. Eventually, you’re going to take a break. And as soon as you do, your followers will be upset that their messages are unopened or, worse, left on read. It may seem nice to want to talk to everyone, but it will backfire pretty quickly.
5. The block button is *not* to be feared
It may seem mean or potentially even bad for business to block someone, but it’s important to understand that sometimes that’s the best course of action. If someone is sending you messages that frighten you or even just unnerve you, it’s a good idea to block them. Again, you don’t know who is on the other side of the computer. You may think, “Oh, this is just a really awkward attempt at flirtation,” but if you have a gut feeling that it could be something else, trust your gut. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Following these tips will help you better convert followers to fans — and keep you safe and sane while doing it, which is the most important thing!
JackieMichele is writer and marketer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her work has appeared on Yahoo, Food and Wine and the Huffington Post. She’s been an editor, an influencer strategist and ghostwriter, a librarian and a teacher. Follow her Instagram at @jackie_gualtieri and contact her via email@example.com.