Between January 1, 2015 and January 1, 2016, I went from having zero followers on Instagram to 150,000 followers.
In that same time period:
The lynchpin to all of this? The absolute game-changer that unlocked my true potential, gained me financial freedom, turned me into a CEO of a small startup, and ultimately landed me a book deal?
I can singlehandedly point to Instagram for my crazy 2015 and what's bound to be an even crazier 2016.
Let me repeat: I went from zero to 150,000 followers in ONE year. Think about what that sort of attention could do for YOUR business.
Thanks to my friend Nathan Chan at Foundr Magazine, I'm going to throw some stats at you.
Long story short: Instagram is the best social and mobile platform for brands to reach out to audiences who are willing to engage.
If you're not on Instagram, you should be.
Up until recently, I put no money into the machine. My growth was completely organic.
Organic reach is possible and can be massive for you. If you're looking to engage with your customers, build an audience, and insert your personality into your business, then you have to get in. It's still ripe for the taking.
Here are the top five ways to grow your business using Instagram:
1. Be clear about your brand and create content your customers love.
Just like my blog, Rich20Something, my "brand" is a hybrid of business know-how, motivational kick-in-the-ass, and personal experience.
Readers love my no-BS approach and actionable strategies mixed with personal anecdotes.
My Instagram page reflects that to a "t."
I have a steady mix of business advice, motivational quotes, and personal foolishness that resonates well with my tribe.
It's up to you to figure out what your customers want to see. Are there themes or styles that resonate? Once you know what works, populate your account with images, quotes and promotions that tie into your business.
(A good way to find out what your customers are looking for is by scoping out what your competition is posting. If you're way ahead of the game, then look to popular blogs and websites in your space.)
Always remember ... engagement is king.
2. Post images that attract people's attention and make them want to share.
How to get active audience engagement?
The key is to make sure that you're offering both great design and value.
A picture is worth a thousand words...so make sure you're saying the right ones!!
I like to use apps like WordSwag and Typorama to create all of my posts. No need for expensive designers, these tools make your stuff look completely professional for absolutely no cost (and they're EASY to use.)
3. Use strong calls to action (in your bio, images, and comments).
A lot of companies are starting to post on Instagram. Unfortunately for them, they never tell people what to do or where to go!
You can make use of the bio section in your profile by using a strong "call to action" that directs viewers to your sales page. You have up to 150 characters, so a fun snappy CTA works best.
For me, I direct people to my home page, where they can sign up for a free mini-course on making more money using skills they already have.
If your business sells physical goods, then posting photos of what you selling is an obvious strategy. But less obvious is using the comments section to tell people what to do! If you're selling the item on your website, mention it! And direct them where to go!
(I like to make use of the link in my bio and direct people to click it...Don't worry about being redundant. It's the internet, you have to spell it out.)
Lastly, you can make use of the images themselves to drive up engagement. Tools like WordSwag make this so easy, a first grader can learn it.
This image got 3 percent engagement. Which is HUGE. It's rare to get over 1 percent for a single image. These are good opportunities to ask questions about your brand, or generally just pump people up.
And remember ... You don't always have to push to sell. "Warming up" your audience is a long term strategy to sell. Have some fun and it'll pay back!
4. Post all the time.
Instagram is a volume game.
The company hasn't released statistics to confirm or deny this, but experience tells me it definitely favors accounts who post more regularly.
When I first started out, I was posting between 5-10 times per day, with about 2 hours between each post.
(And I grew from 0-10,000 followers in my first month... Jussss saying...)
Hashtags aren't just for teenage girls!
(No offense to all three of you reading this...)
Hashtags can be extremely powerful for creating awareness of what you're up to.
Think of them as a "search" tool that helps viewers find topics and ideas they're interested in.
So how do you use them?
Every time you make a post, write a caption before posting up the photo. Then, AFTER you post it, go to the comments section and attach your #hashtags you've very cleverly saved on your phone...More on that below :)
For example, check out how my friend and founder of nutrition coaching startup EvolutionEat does it...
Attaching hashtags to your images allows your content to be found easier from people who don't already follow you. As seen above,Instagram allows for 30 hashtags total per post.
Pro trick: Put some time in and research the most popular hashtags in your niche, and then compile them together in 'Notes' (for iPhone users) and save them. From there, it's a simple copy and paste into Instagram.
(And it doesn't look "spammy" because after five comments, your first comment containing all the hashtags goes hidden. No one will know!)
6. SFS ("share for share").
SFS is a tactic whereby you share and promote other partners work on your page.
Look at other players in your space with similar sized (or slightly larger) accounts.
You can start by reposting their images and tagging them in the image and then, over time, they'll start doing the same for you as the number of your followers increases.
(You can DM their account to expedite this process after you've shown some love.)
Having other accounts share your content is huge. Creating a team (or 'syndicate') of partners all cross-promoting each other's work is great for exposure, brand awareness, and building authority in your space.
And it'll grow your account ... FAST.
If you're looking for ONE strategy to grow your audience, make more money, and directly engage potential customers or fans, then Instagram is your next step.
Make it "your thing" in 2016 and the rewards will speak for themselves.
...You might even get a book deal.