Spotlight: How to Grow and Nurture a Community on Instagram with Andrea France

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I don’t know anyone that can get things done like my friend Andrea France, Owner of Mama Bear Wellness, Creator of @momsniagara and Mother of three under 4-years-old. When I first met Andrea, I was blown away by her intelligence, skill and overall kind and caring personality. As time went on, those things only amplified as she became a mother, entrepreneur and a fantastic community leader helping mothers all across Niagara come together and support each other. When it comes to questions about building a community on Instagram, there is no better person to chat with than Andrea, so here it goes...

Spotlight Interview:

When did you get the idea to start Moms Niagara? Where did the inspiration come from and how did you know this was going to be a great idea?

Andrea: It was mid-December, the twins had just turned 4 months old and my 2 year old son had started preschool. My dear friend had been coming to visit me bringing her babe and a big Starbucks every time. Kind soul. Our chats always included the parenting essentials of coffee and wine. The fog of 4th trimester was finally starting to lift and I was beginning to feel ready to finally leave my house on a non-essential errand. One night in the shower, it came to me. Living in the heart of Wine Country, with lots of amazing coffee shops around, why not take advantage of everything our beautiful area has to offer. I knew there would be other moms, just like my dear friend and I, who were looking for an excuse to take baby out, to socialize, to meet other moms who loved wine + coffee just as much as us.

Having already run Mama Bear Wellness for a while by that point, and having lived in Beamsville/NOTL/Niagara Falls, I felt that my knowledge and connections with pre/postnatal businesses and wineries was fairly strong and a pretty good place to start.

I felt an urgency with this idea immediately. I knew it was a great idea + that I had to jump on it ASAP and do my best to get things moving for a January 2020 launch. Why hadn’t anyone else done this yet? I created a logo using a Canva template and set up all the social media accounts that night. So when my friend came to visit the next day I ran it by her and well, the rest is history.

As a mother of 3 under 4-years old and the woman behind Mama Bear Wellness teaching mom and baby barre and yoga, how do you find the time to fit in Moms Niagara? What does that look like on a daily basis?

Andrea: Luckily Mama Bear Wellness was started beforehand, so it’s mostly maintenance. It allows me the capability to get a workout in with my girls, I set it in my schedule and babywear them during the barre classes, so I make it happen.

With Moms Niagara, I have to be a bit more creative. Working while babies are nursing/napping is huge, same with working later into the night once the rest of the family is asleep. Every free moment, I’m jumping online to connect, create, follow, like, post. It never ends lol. It was a bit easier pre-Covid when my son was in school part-time, but I still manage.

What does community mean to you?

Andrea: A diverse group coming together with like-minded interests + goals. Working together, supporting one another, building relationships and a sense of belonging, creating a collective.

What is the difference between managing a community feed vs a business feed?

Andrea: There are similarities and differences for sure. I run both types of accounts. Sometimes a post is so good (and applicable) that it finds its way onto my business feed and my community feed. Generally the business feed is more specific and technical - focusing on the pre/postnatal classes, benefits, my family. In contrast, the community feed is less personal but still my voice. I choose to use quotes in both. I tend to just trust my gut and do what comes to mind that day. I don’t really have time to think or plan out too much in advance (although I probably should). Both are still works in progress for sure.

How did you grow your community so freakin fast?

Andrea: Magic, lol. No for real, it feels like wildfire to me too. I believe it was a combination of using a genuine voice, a nice aesthetic and creating something that resonated with others in the community. Helping bridge the gap between moms and businesses without any financial obligation. Running fun free events and amazing giveaways for local moms who deserve it.

What are your rules for inclusivity/being fair when it comes to sharing/marketing other businesses?

Andrea: I have and will always be about #communityovercompetition. If we have worked with a company before, I will continue to support and share their work/giveaways, even if we are not directly involved. I feel like their success is my success. I reach out to local businesses almost every day to see if we can work together on an upcoming collaborative giveaway or venture. I have specifically approached pre/postnatal businesses on behalf of Moms Niagara, even though I run Mama Bear Wellness, which is technically competition, because I believe the greater community will benefit and there is usually something special that sets one apart from the other, so you can support each in its own right. It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation as long as the relationship is treated respectfully.

There have been posts recently that have stirred up some differences of opinion. How do you handle confrontation or negative feedback on Instagram?

Andrea: I will admit I’m still learning and growing in this area (and many others) so I don’t really have advice per se. I do my best to reply/address the situation as quickly as possible. To consider the other person's point of view and whether or not my words came out the way in which they were intended. Miscommunication is inherently challenging, but can be addressed. I will always admit if I’m in the wrong.

One quote that I heard recently comes to mind in this situation, “assume everyone you know is doing their best” - so I generally assume that a post/comment is made with the best of intentions, unless I have reason to believe otherwise.

How are you so good at articulating everything you write? Do you have a background in creative writing or something?

Andrea: Thank you. Believe it or not, no official writing background. But lots and lots of schooling. Any credit goes to my education growing up in Victoria B.C. I was lucky enough to attend Glenlyon-Norfolk + St. Michaels University School, then I came to Western for a B.A in Kinesiology topped with another four years at CCNM in North York for my Doctor in Naturopathy degree.

If you could start over again, would you do anything different?

Andrea: Good question. I’m not too sure if I would change a thing. Perhaps I would have waited until my kids were older? But part of why this has been such a passion project for me was because I have been doing it while in the thick of things. Right now the twins are on the move and my son has been getting all the covid feels, so it’s been a bit more challenging. I may need to modify my approach moving forward but I do feel like everything has happened as it was supposed to. Even the necessary unplanned Incorporation of Moms Niagara at the beginning of the pandemic.

What’s the biggest thing you have learned since this started?

Andrea: Using apps like Canva to create + Plann to plan your feed was life-changing. Having a friend, coach or professional to bounce ideas off of or for support is invaluable.

What advice would you give someone who also wants to build a community on social media?

Andrea: Find your own voice, be genuine, speak from your heart, consider everything a work in progress, take feedback, be willing to adapt as you go. Remember that the best communities are rich and diverse in their very nature and a good community voice reflects that. Do what you love, because in the end, you’re going to be spending a whole lot of time doing it.

What are you most excited for in the future? What’s next for Moms Niagara?

Andrea: Another good question. Now that our weekly virtual #momsniagarawineclub with Kendra from The Wine Collectors Niagara is finally coming to a close after 11 weeks of sharing a drink and helping locals get exclusive free shipping from some amazing local wineries, it’s hard to say.

We will continue to run our signature collaborative giveaways and create our Moms Niagara apparel while we navigate the evolving event planning landscape. THANK YOU SO MUCH Andrea for taking the time to share with us! Keep inspiring us with your posts and overall community building! I am so looking forward to future events with Moms Niagara and getting together again! To see Andrea in action, follow @momsniagara and watch out for some amazing Giveaways! Happy Posting! Ash

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