Douglas Marshall-MacDonald


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Network on Instagram with Intention and Authenticity to grow your influence

Network on Instagram with Intention and Authenticity to grow your influence

Networking with intention: Create a Network that brings you joy and opportunities…and all the things like money and street cred.

My husband and I moved to the Twin Cities of Minnesota from New York 4 years ago when he got a job here.  Relocating to a new city for his work meant that I was uprooting my career, social life and network that took 15 years to build in New York.  When I got to Minnesota I had no job, no business contacts and no network.  It was 2016 and I had been doing social media consulting for large brands for about 7 years and I was also becoming a micro-influencer with about 5,000 followers on @theworldofdoug.  I knew Instagram well from both sides – business/retail and personal branding and I had the intuition that Instagram was how I could get plugged into this town.  I thought of it as people’s real time bios that are ever evolving and also a road map for what people do, where they go (thanks to geo location tags) and who they know (thanks to tags in images).  This was my treasure hunt to build a network and social life.  I said to my husband, I'm going to test if I can completely build a network in Minnesota through networking on instagram.  I did it and with flying colors and that has led to consulting jobs, TV appearances, brand collaborations and speaking engagements which has translated into social credibility and revenue.    

Overview of how I did it:

As I researched people on Instagram in the Twin Cities, I saw that there was a very lively community of people who supported each other online, but they also would meet up in person and do really cool things.  I started following people in my niche; shop owners, editors, TV personalities, online influencers and things like Fashion Group International and FashionWeekMN.  I took an interest in the people I was following, got to know their content and got inspired by what they were up to.  I started to get a handle on the pulse of the fashion community and I wanted to connect the dots and become part of it. 

It was a slow build – I liked pictures here and there and made comments or asked questions.  It was a way to show I was invested in the content they were putting out and it was a call for them to engage.  When the time was right, I sent a direct message asking if they would meet me for coffee because I wanted to get to know them.  I’d say 90% of the people said yes.  I never pushed an agenda and I had fun doing it.  In the end, things organically happened and people asked me to be part of their events or hired me for jobs. Brands, local and national wanted to collaborate with me not only because of my instagram following - but because of my ability to spread information word-of-mouth because I’m always putting myself out there. If you are a micro-influencer but have a solid local network (and a high concentration of local followers), it translates to macro-influence in your local market (online and in person). So the idea of think globally, act locally is KEY to building your network. If you’re just starting out, skip worrying about the number of followers you have or likes you get, and focus on authentic connections.  My methods build trust over time and it also created an interest in me which turned into a demand for my services (speaking, teaching workshops, content creation, event hosting).  Now, I have a really great social life and I’m valued in the community where I live and Instagram has been key to that. Also, I’m currently at over 21,000 instagram followers and a high concentration of those are local to the two markets I’m in: Minneapolis and New York.

What this translates to:

Because of my strong ability to network, I am often on the top of people’s minds when a project comes up that I might be a fit for because I’m really intentional about letting people know what I’m good at and I continually put it out there that I’m open for new ideas and opportunities.  9 out of 10 opportunities I’ve had in the last 15 years came through a referral in my network.  All the leg work I do pays off, not always immediately, but over time it gives back to me in spades. 

I’m moving into a new realm rather organically – people are asking me to speak or write about how and why to build your network and how social media can help you do that. The reason I wrote this blog post is because I was asked by a national company to join their weekly sales call as a subject matter expert and speak on the importance of building a network through Instagram. 150 people were on that call and probably only 30% are really using instagram to build connections. Sure you can network on LinkedIN - but on Instagram, you can make it more personal, which makes you more memorable. So I wrote this blog post because I wanted to leave the people on the call with a clear action plan or reference guide. This is my roadmap to success for networking via instagram. In my experience, it comes down to exactly two things: The energy behind my intention for building and my process for how to build.  I will cover both in this blog post, which is laid out in 9 steps. 


Your network is your net worth – build it wisely and your life will be richer in every sense.  Consider your network a diversified portfolio of friends, business contacts and peers in commerce that you can help and will ultimately help you back. Here are 9 steps to help you manifest the network that serves the highest good in your life.

Step 1: Take stock of your network:

How strong is your network and what are the opportunities for growth?  Asses how you’ve built your network up to now and where you build it from.  See beyond your current way of building, to find what the next layer is.  How much are you using social media to deepen your relationships or establish new ones.  Are you branding yourself or broadcasting what you want people to know about you?  Is there an opportunity to use Instagram more than you currently do?  Is LinkedIn something you can use more successfully than traditional e-mail methods?

Step 2: Set an intention and then create a networking strategy to manifest your intention.

Set an intention of why you are doing this and what you want to get out of building a stronger network. Write it down and tape it to a wall near your workspace.  Here’s an example of an intention: “I intend to use Instagram to meet new friends and contacts to get more leads and expand income.  It will be fun, easy and exciting.”  It can be as simple and uncluttered as that, but then create a strategy of action you will take to make it happen.  I will also say, when you write down things like it will be fun and exciting, the universe will reward you with things and people that feel fun and exciting.  Seriously, try it.

 Once you identify where there’s more opportunity, come up with a strategy of actions you will take to grow.  It doesn’t have to be an in-depth strategy – but know what you need to do to get where you want to be.  Example: I will clean up my profiles and then spend 30 minutes a day researching other people.  I will have 2 coffee meet and greets a month and I will to attend one networking even or lecture.  It’s the things you need to do to meet your intention.  If you have these two things, the network will organically grow. 

Step 3: Consider yourself a brand and based on that, what do you want to broadcast about yourself to your future new contacts. 

With that, clean up your profiles. For Instagram, the bio is the best tool to identify yourself, yet most underutilized.  Use the bio to describe who you are, what you do and what you love.  There are so many people that have no bio description or it doesn’t say anything about them that would give another a reason to know you.  For example, someone might have, “I love ice cream and dad bod jokes.”  Not kidding I’ve seen that.  Clean it UP.  Have your bio be a mix of personal and business.  Make sure your contact details are on there (email or website).  If you have a newsletter, put the link for sign ups.  Then consider your content.  Have a current and realistic profile picture of yourself (Not your children or pet).  If there are things on there NSFW – not suitable for work, delete.  Or make that a private account for close friends and start a new profile more tailored to your business or aspirational goals.  If you only post about cats but see this profile as a chance to make more connections in your industry, start posting about things you do that you are passionate about that give someone a snapshot of who you are and why they might like you.  This can be work or personal life.  Have fun with it and see the possibilities.

Step 4: Dive into it and start networking but be mindful of your ENERGY behind it.

Consider how to use the network authentically and be mindful of your energy and intention when you post, research others or reach out to them.  For example, I’ve heard people say, “I never post on Instagram because no one cares.” Shift that sentiment to, “I’m using my Instagram for a new purpose, and I am going to attract great new people into my network.” Give people A REASON to care.  When you post or reach out with a positive mindset and energy of confidence, this is what attracts people to you (even if it’s through e mail or an Instagram direct message).  Be a magnet for making new contacts and friends to expand your network in a way that leads to genuine experiences that add joy to your life, which ultimately translates to dollars. 

I know it’s not conventional to talk about personal energy when building a network, but I will tell you it’s my #1 most important consideration when reaching out to establish new contacts.  I go in believing that I am worthy of someone’s time, I genuinely feel excited about connecting with them and that there is a uniqueness about me that will catch their attention.  It works.

Step 5: Make it personal to make an impression.

When reaching out to someone to network with or build your contacts, find meaningful ways to show that you want to get to know them, the whole person, not just what they do for “work”. 

If you use social media as a tool to research your potential contact (or establish contact for the first time), use what you learn about them to create a link that catches their attention.  Based on what they post about, you may have a favorite restaurant in common, both have kids, both love cats, both care about the same sports team.  Lead with a personal linkage that puts you on common ground.  The degree to which you can personalize your first attempt to make contact will get someone’s attention.  It might feel manipulative at first, but it actually gets you excited about something you might have in common, and that energy is felt on the other end because you are reaching out in a personal and authentic way.  Energy creates connection and it also allows you to stand out.  You’re essentially priming for the relationship build by making it personal.  Every time I reach out to someone I don’t really know, I make sure I have something personal to include that might resonate with them.  We have something in common with EVERYONE.  Find what that is.

Step 6: Don’t force it, let it flow.

Your primary purpose is not about making the sale or converting a new client, it’s about building the relationship.  When networking with someone and meeting with them for the first time, don’t go in with a concrete expectation of making them a client or hoping they will do something for you.  Don’t hold the end goal so tightly.  You never know what someone has to offer you, or what you can offer them that’s different from what you do for work.  Go in with the attitude of, “I look forward to making a new friend and contact.”  When we don’t focus on the result of what we think we want, a bigger opportunity than we could have imagined might be there.  Hold space for that.

Step 7: Tune your energy before you reach out or meet anyone:

Before you reach out to someone or meet them for the first time – PUMP UP your confidence energy.  For me, in the past when I’m reaching out to someone but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I bet they won’t write me back” or “If they don’t write me back I’m screwed” ~ these are limiting beliefs.  Do some affirmations and talk yourself up, remember who you are and what you are good at and how this relationship can benefit both of you.  When you send a message, visualize the excitement you will have when you see their note back to you in their inbox.  Expect a response.  I’ve gone into things with a lack mentality in the past and I came off as needy or desperate.  I think this happens a lot in sales.  So, before you make contact, tell yourself what a rock star you are and how you are excited about the opportunity.  The energy of confidence opens the door every time.  And if it doesn’t, it wasn’t mean to be.  When someone doesn’t write back, trust it wasn’t meant to be and move on.  But know, in general, people WILL be writing you back.

Step 8: Promote yourself without promoting yourself. 

We all know when someone is trying to sell us something and it either creates anxiety or pushes us away.  Casually work examples of what you do and what you’re good at into a conversation to give context of what you do, not convince.  I call it planting seeds.  For example, if someone is talking about anxiety they have at work and I want them to know I teach tools on how to lower anxiety I say something like, “I totally identify, I’ve been in situations like that.  In the past few years I’ve learned tools that help lower my anxiety in that exact situation.” I read their body language and if they seem open to what I just said, I continue: “I just wrote a blog post on that based on the workshops I teach and I get messages from people that the tools really work.  I can send you the link.”  My guess is that person now thinks I have some sort of expertise and authority on the subject matter.  If I follow up with the link, that means I do what I say I’m going to.  If they actually read it and apply a tool, I’ve offered value.  The next time someone talks about anxiety, they might reference me or my blog post.  Plant seeds that make you stand out or memorable.  I know this works because people reach out to me based on someone making word of mouth reference.  This has lead to teaching more workshops and being a guest speaker on a panel!  Find ways to plug yourself organically within the confines of a personal conversation.  It will take practice, but refer to step 7 to pump it up before you go in to promote yourself without promoting yourself!  I make sure my energy is good and light when I do things like this, which makes you more memorable.  Eleanor Roosevelt said, “People won’t remember what you said but they will remember how you made them feel.”  So, be the light in someone’s day as you plant seeds. 

Step 9: Have fun!  This is social networking, so, let it be social.


Questions? Comments?  Leave them below or write me

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