It seems like everybody can tell you that if you're not using Instagram, your failing in business.
Yet... No one can tell you exactly how to use it to grow your business.
This post is going to change that.
Fortunately, I was able to find someone to crack the code.
That person is Natalie Bloom.
I knew she had something special going on when I found out she was getting 20K+ views a week on her 5-month-old Instagram account.
Natalie has had more experience with Instagram than anyone I know.
For 3 years she was a micro-influencer and blogger. She has been hired to be an influencer for brands like Neutrogena, Nasty Gal, Verge Girl, and many more.
For a time, she also worked at Bossbabe. The largest online community of female entrepreneurs.
Her first task?... Grow the Instagram 100K followers, in 1 month.
She pulled it off.
When I told her she had a talent that was extremely valuable, she didn’t believe me. She was just a girl who spent a lot of time growing her insta so she could get free clothes.
Let's dive deep into what Natalie does to get these results multiple times a day.
Instagram strategy can be tricky. As business owners, we often put a lot of emphasis on the bottom line. If we’re not getting sales from something right away, we might write it off.
Patience is key here. Natalie didn’t build her following overnight. That being said, it didn’t take a lifetime either.
It all started with an amazing Content Strategy, to put together a Content Strategy for yourself, check out this post.
The important thing to understand is that she uses social media as an awareness marketing tool.
In the beginning, it’s tough to get your message out to a large audience.
However, it’s very easy to get that message to a small audience over and over again.
In the awareness stage of the customer journey, you have a few goals:
Now, it’s not 100% awareness marketing. It’s about 80% awareness, 15% interest/consideration, 5% Conversion.
You should use the different features on the platform for different stages.
Want to know more about customer journey marketing? Check out this post.
Planning your Instagram content will help you get the hurdle of coming up with content.
Having to think of new content on a day to day basis is draining.
Here are the things you're going to want to decide on:
Another great trick is to come up with a few different content categories.
Your content categories might be:
This will allow you to use a creative structure to come up with content.
Post a minimum of 2 pieces of content each day. On Instagram, this would mean 1 feed posts and 1 story post.
I know that sounds like a lot. At least it does to me. Don’t worry, we are about to get into some tactics you can use to minimize the time spent on creating content, and spend more time driving sales.
Batching is crucial for running a social media account or, god forbid, multiple social media accounts without driving yourself insane.
This is a practice that you would be wise to implement everywhere in your business. Take all the tasks that require consistency and repetition, and do it all at once.
For something like Instagram posts, you can batch 30 days of content in one day.
However, for things like email or engagement, where the response time is relevant, you might dedicate 30 minutes a day at a specific time instead of hopping on and off your IG every day.
Let’s go over how Natalie batches her content creation to post 3 feed posts and 5 story posts every day.
The process is so simple it starts with a notepad.
1. Brain Dump
Set up the time to sit down with a notepad, and just spit content ideas down on paper.
For Natalie, this means coming up with phrases that her audience will vibe with.
This is an anything-goes kind of period, you can edit and revise later.
If this is the type of content you produce than I would try to write down around 300 in one sitting.
2. Create templates on Canva.
If you're not using Canva yet, it’s an absolute must-have.
Canva has solved a major problem for online businesses that cannot afford to bring a graphic designer onto the team.
On Canva, she creates backgrounds and post formats.
Natalie recommends creating versions of templates that use different colors and patterns.
3. After revising and editing your brain dump, use your canva templates to put all of the quotes on a post.
This part is simple enough. She takes the quotes or phrases she writes down during her brain dump and adds each of them to their own background on Canva.
4. Once all the posts are created, it’s time to add them to your social media planner.
In another “one sitting” type of setting, she will upload a month or two months of content onto Planoly at one time.
Boom! All done.
Now, there is something that is important to point out here.
Natalie has a very simple content strategy. She is going for quantity over depth. At least when it comes to her feed and story posts.
However, if your content strategy includes more in-depth pieces of content, that doesn’t change the principle of batching.
Let’s say your Instagram strategy relies on videos.
Whatever your content strategy is, the main takeaway here is that batching your activities is always going to make the process easier and much more doable.
It’s easy to hold the opinion that Natalie has Instagram completely figured out. Every day, Natalie has at least 2 thousand people that see her brand.
She definitely deserves that kind of attention and did the work to get there, but there were certainly times when it was too much for her.
She couldn’t take it anymore. She wanted to give up.
There were too many comments to get back to. Too many people to follow-up with.
She was getting a new Instagram notification about every 2 minutes.
This is the curse of great social media management.
If we didn’t come up with a way to help her manage the unmanageable, she would soon burn up. Leaving her with nothing but a box of discouragement.
It’s no surprise, we once again resorted to batching. In a different way.
To solve her problem of always feeling like she needed to be on her phone. We tried out a new rule.
For 15 minutes, at the beginning and end of every day, she would set a timer and handle all of her engagement, reply to everyone in her DMs, and handle everything else she needed to address.
It only took a couple of days using this new rule to notice something weird was going on.
Somehow, the results of her engagement were much higher.
As it turns out, by setting a timer and a clear rule to do as much engagement as possible during that time, she actually got much more done than she did when her engagement was scattered throughout the day.
Hashtags are important for every Instagram account, especially new ones.
Hashtags → Instagram
You use hashtags to make your content findable for anyone who either searches that hashtag or follows it.
There are 3 things you want to consider when searching for great hashtags:
Here is the big question, “Is the person who uses this hashtag, the same person who will purchase my product?”
Putting your marketing in front of people who will never buy from you won’t help your business.
How many people are going to see your marketing? Branding hashtags: Generally speaking, it is ok to use 1 branding hashtag that you are the only one posting on, but that’s it.
You don’t want to use hashtags with zero exposure, but you also don’t want to use hashtags with too much exposure either. As we will get into now.
You're going to want to look for hashtags with low competition. If you have relevance and exposure but high competition, you don’t have relevance or exposure.
Your hashtags should have exposure, but still, give you the potential to be seen by your customers. If not, none of it matters anyway.
How many hashtags should be in your posts?
Instagram allows 30 hashtags per post. We recommend using all 30.
Don’t worry about not being cool because your post is riddled with hashtags. If no one can see your post, you’re not cool.
When it comes to finding hashtags, I follow a specific process.
1. Think of a few influencers in your niche. (If you know that their account is growing and hasn’t stalled, that's a good sign.)
Look at their recent posts and take note of the hashtags that are relevant to you.
2. Search that hashtag on Instagram to see how many posts use that hashtag.
If they have a couple of million posts, I would stay away from them. They are too competitive.
A good rule is to stay under 1 million posts.
If they only have a couple of thousand posts, give it a second look on Ritetag.
Ritetag is a website that provides analytics on a hashtag. Just type a hashtag in their search function and check out the results.
You're going to want to look at the views per hour metric. You’ll see that the metric isn’t specific to Instagram, but it should give you an idea of how active those hashtags are.
3. Always test and learn.
As long as your Instagram account is a business profile, you get to see how well your hashtags are doing.
Unfortunately, you can't isolate each hashtag with the analytics. They only show you the hashtag performance as a whole.
So, if you're suspicious about certain hashtags, go ahead and switch them out.
Then go back to the analytics and see what type of effect it had.
If at any point you find that your followers aren’t engaging with your company, your account stops growing, or your analytics are weak it’s because you aren’t engaging enough.
Inside the growth hacking industry, we like to throw around the term “leveraged marketing”.
To understand leveraged marketing you only have to understand what leverage is.
Leverage: the exertion of force by means of a lever or an object used in the manner of a lever.
The goal with leveraged marketing is to get more of the output then your input.
Let’s use Facebook ads as an example.
Facebook ads are an extremely leveraged way to market your business. Once you find an ad that creates a profit, all you have to do is turn your budget up to make more money.
Some ads don’t work that way.
If you ran an ad on a bus stop and that ad worked, you might want to run that ad on more bus stops.
In that case, you would either have to start scouting for a new bus stop every time you wanted to place a new ad or hire an agency to do that for you.
In other words, the growth of that campaign requires more work.
Now, it’s important to note that organic social media can be a leveraged platform, but you shouldn’t consider it one.
At least not for a while.
I’ve done my fair share of Instagram growth hacks. Finding big win opportunities that require little effort from me or my team. They even work sometimes, but they never last.
Even going viral on Instagram is short-lived and soon forgotten.
If you want to use social media to create leverage that allows you to attract new business with a single post, you have to earn it.
Nothing beats a strong and consistent Instagram account.
Anytime that you engage with someone, that person is going to start taking notice of you.
Consider it somewhat of a digital handshake.
Giving someone a quick compliment out of the blue will turn that person into a true follower. One that actually gives your content the attention it deserves.
Have you ever wondered why people running for the presidency have major news corporations giving them millions in viewership 24/7 and they still go out to shake hands in person?
They have people from their campaign go door to door just to touch base with people who are already likely to vote for them.
Because they know that’s how you get a conversation started.
If you want a thousand people to talk about you, you have to talk to 5,000 people. This is how you get true word of mouth virality.
So what does good engagement look like? Good question.
If your social media account is public, you’ve likely had some business comment on one of your photos something like
“Love your feed”
or (the worst) “Hi there! I run a business with a product that I'm very sure you would love to have, please go to my website www.isuckatthis.com and give me your credit card information!”
Those are great examples of awful engagement.
The last thing you want to do is turn them off from ever taking the next step.
There are a few different features you can use to engage with people on a personal level.
Without a doubt, you should aim to use all 3.
There is one magical word to keep in mind when you're engaging. The word is “context”.
There are 2 ways to use context.
You can use the context provided to you by engaging in a way that is relevant to their content.
Ex: If the user's post is about a shirt they just got, comment about the shirt. (Good)
Ex: Great post! Check out my product you're going to love at www.isuckatthis.com (Bad)
Or you can create context.
Something to note about creating context. On the first interaction, you never want to create the context that you are pushing a sale.
Ex: Hi Adam! I love your content. I just wanted to reach out and make sure you were having a wonderful day. (Good)
Ex: Hi Adam! Have you heard of www.isuckatthis.com? It’s our wonderful business and you would make a wonderful customer. (Bad)
Another important part of engaging is responding to people who comment on your own content.
There are a couple of rules of thumb here.
1. The first is to never let a comment go unresponded. You should be the first to like and respond to each comment.
A powerful trick here is to always respond with a question that might get the user to respond again to your comment on your comment.
The more comments you have on a post, the more Instagram will show that post to more people.
2. The second rule is to manage your DMs with care.
Always respond to DMs with customers. Generally speaking, every day you should go into your DMs and either look for people you haven’t responded to yet or people that you can open up a conversation with again.
Remember. DMs are where the sales happen.
When it comes to social media marketing there are 2 main pillars.
We talked about a few ways to promote your content, like hashtags and lots of engagement.
Everything we’ve talked about up to this point will be the core of your instagram marketing.
It is the day to day actions you should be consistently taking to have a strong social media presence.
This section is about growth hacking.
Using hashtags and engaging is crucial (especially for a young new account) to get new followers and turn those followers into fans and customers.
That being said, there are literally millions of other people who are putting in the same amount of time on Instagram to grow their following.
What better way is there to get more eyeballs on your account than by using another hard-working Instagramer to share your profile?
If you're staying on top of your engagement, you will end up creating a bunch of small yet powerful relationships with other users and potential customers.
Either mentally or on paper. It is good to keep a note of who your super engagers are. Figure out who is developing affection for your brand and throw fire on that relationship.
In general, a great way to expand a relationship with anyone is to ask them for feedback or their opinion on something.
People love to feel like they are involved in the building process. So if you create a new post and you send out a message along the lines of…
“Hey ____! I hope you're doing well. I just put out a new post and I wanted to ask you what you thought about it. Just hoping to hear your feedback.”
This is a 2 fold win.
After doing this for a little you will likely see people naturally reposting your content. They will feel like they helped create it and will want to share it.
For the people that need some nudging. Just ask, plain and simple.
“Hey ____! I’m glad you love the content! It’s always good to hear.
It would actually mean the world to us if you thought it was good enough to repost on your story!”
Once someone sees that other people are sharing your content, it’s easier for them to make that decision too.
Any time someone reposts your content you should do a story post shouting them out and thanking them for reposting your content.
Again, this is a 2 fold win.
Any time anyone gives you a compliment on your content, ask them to share it.
I don’t know how to explain why, but for some reason right after someone gives you a compliment, they are nearly twice as likely to agree to share your posts or give you some type of referral.
I think sharing a compliment gives them an opportunity to feel involved in some way and asking them for a shoutout is like giving them permission to be more involved.
Growing an Instagram account is actually pretty simple. It’s simple, but not easy.+
Let’s go over the Instagram Growth Campaign in a broad sense.
Something worth mentioning, the larger and stronger your account, the more effective this campaign will be.
I advise that you don’t run this campaign until you have 1,000 followers or more.
If you're under 1,000 it can still work. It’s just going to be a fraction of the result it will be when your account is bigger.
First, let's talk about what to look for in accounts to collaborate with
Check if this person is posting on their account regularly. Those accounts are going to be more engaged and more likely to drive followers to you.
Those are some simple rules to go by, but if you're looking for more on recruiting influencers, I recommend this amazing article by the founder of K&J Growth Hackers, Jonathan Maxim.
So how do you find qualified accounts?
When I’m building a list of influencers to reach out to the process looks like this:
I use Google Sheets for that. You should have columns for:
Handle | Link | Name (if applicable) | Email (if applicable) | Last Contact
Every campaign is only as strong as it’s copywriting. That stands true in this case too.
Everybody has quickly adapted to this digital world we have spent the last 30 years in.
A world filled with pop-ups, automated message, spam, clickbait, and Nigerian princes.
Because of that, interaction with real humans is in high demand.
That might sound funny but it’s truly not a given these days that the person your talking to is a caring and empathetic person.
(And to be fair, we do have an agenda with this campaign)
So, what should you outreach message look like?
Let’s take a look at the exact copy that Natalie uses to get shoutouts.
“Hey Love! My name is Natalie and I am the creator of The Peony Collective, an online platform that teaches women how to grow their own social media empire. My personal account @nataliebloom. This may be a stretch but I would KILL for a story shoutout on your page. I think my content would have really high engagement with your followers.”
You can see how this message is tailored for her audience.
Her audience is mainly females of a younger age. So language like, “Hey Love!” Is appropriate.
Make sure you are creating your message with your target in mind like Natalie did. It doesn’t have to be that long, but it does have to be that personal.
Send that message to 40 people per sitting. (More than that and Instagram will stop you, and you’ll have too many people to respond to.)
Make sure to mark the date of you last outreach on your spreadsheet.
If that user doesn’t respond to you in 2 days. Send them your follow-up message, and 2 days after that send them another.
In your follow-up message, provide more context, not less.
“Hey ____, just following up with you. Did you have a chance to check my last message?”
won’t get the job done.
“Hey ____. I know your busy.
I was just reaching out to you because we are looking for stellar influencers to collab with. Our mission is to help young people everywhere who want to travel different walks of life.
It’s a hard mission to accomplish, but with the help of amazing influencers like yourself, we should be able to help many many people discover a world they believed was impossible.”
Are strong and will get the job done.
One last note on this:
Don’t be afraid to offer them a shoutout in return, or even in advance to them accepting.
A lot of times, giving them a shoutout on your page is enough to show them that you actually want to collaborate with them and you don’t just want something from them.
There you have it.
If you put all these steps in place, you will be an expert in running and managing Instagram accounts for businesses.
The last thing I’ll say here is probably the most important lesson in marketing I have learned.
Building an audience is simple. So simple in fact, many people have a hard time believing that there is not some dirty trick or secret that only the experts know.
Simple, but not easy.
Stay patient, stay consistent. Save time and energy everywhere you can to keep yourself going for the long haul.
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