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#004. 3 Fast and Easy Ways to Up Your Instagram Game and Bring in New Leads TODAY

April 22, 2020

This week’s episode is all about INSTAGRAM! I’m sharing my best tips for getting more leads & paying clients using Instagram as a tool. Instagram has been one of the leading sources of “first touch” business for HBP, so I have a LOT to stay about this topic and am so excited to share!

So, how do you feel about Instagram? Love it? Hate it? Just wish you could use it more EFFECTIVELY? Personally, I have definitely felt frustrated with the process in the past – what to post, how to caption it, how often to post . . .etc. It is a LOT of work! If you’re wishing you could get more leads from Instagram but you’re not sure how, this episode is for you!

Fun fact: in 2019, our #1 lead source was INSTAGRAM! I am also pretty confident that a lot of our personal or client referrals came in at least partially because of the way we use Instagram. I’ve never spent a dime on advertising – I’ve only ever used free options. Instagram is one of those platforms. While using a paid option on social media for advertising isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I absolutely believe that the free resources you are given are MORE than enough to drive tons of new leads to your business (especially if you’re just starting your biz!).

So, let’s move on to the HOW!

The strategies I’m sharing today can be used by ANYONE. I truly believe that by following these tips, you can completely transform your Instagram game. And before you tell me that it won’t work for you because you don’t have any followers: LISTEN UP!

I truly believe that the number of followers you have has very little to do with how effective you actually are on Instagram at bringing in new leads. You may be thinking, “well that’s easy for you to say – you have thousands of followers!” But listen: in the first few years of my business, I had like . . . maybe 200-300 followers. And it took a lot of work to get there. But it was in THAT time period that I grew my business rapidly using Instagram. So if that sounds like you – very few followers or even brand new to the Instagram game – that is totally fine! We are going to talk about that. There are a ton of great tips you can learn from!

Whether you have 50 followers of 50k followers, it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the quality of each individual follower and your ability to connect with them! Every single one of your followers is a real person and a potential paying client (or connection to a paying client). Remember that each individual follower matters as an individual person and opportunity.

Yes, having more followers technically means more opportunities . . . but it also means that you have less of an ability to connect with people on a one-on-one basis. It’s harder to connect individually with people. So with a smaller following, you’ll actually likely have an easier time connecting with individuals which can help grow your business faster.

All of these strategies have been tested by me personally – they are literally some of the main ways I went from part time to full time so quickly. I know that they work.

PS. If you want to hear my personal story of going from nothing to full time, salary-replacing career in under a year, you can listen to that episode here!

I’ve also used these strategies to meet other wedding vendors and form lasting friendships. Yes, FRIENDSHIPS! I met one of my dearest friends on Instagram. One of our team members found me through friends I made on Instagram. And I’ve connected with SO MANY amazing people all through this crazy little app!

So let’s get started on these strategies!

#1. USING INSTAGRAM FOR “ASSISTED” WORD OF MOUTH

Here’s the concept: the network of your past clients are your future clients, so you need to get in front of them at just the right moment to get their attention.

Let’s work backwards with this. First, let’s talk about how to get their attention. What on Instagram will draw someone’s attention in? What catches your eye when you scroll on Instagram? For me personally, I follow a lot of people both for work and personal. I always stop on my good friends’ posts. Those are my favorites. Typically, personal accounts with a smaller number of followers actually perform the best on Instagram (meaning they get the most attention and so the IG algorithm is most likely to showcase them). This is because we CONNECT with familiar faces. 

So, what does this mean for your own business’ IG page? You need to connect with them personally! Now, you are a business, so you DO want to keep that in mind. You don’t want to go 100% personal because then no one will even know you have something to offer! However, you do want to connect with your audience. So you need to get specific! Post content that will connect with ONE client’s network by using content that is personal to that client. Ask yourself: what about that client can you post that will attract the attention of their friends and family?

For wedding vendors, I think this actually can be really easy (especially for photographers!). You can post wedding photos of them! That is a major life event that their friends and family are going to be excited to see. If you’re not a photographer, this may be a little more tricky. Obviously, you can reach out to the photographer and hopefully they will allow you to share some photos. But you should also be thinking proactively about how you can showcase that client in your post – whether that means getting photos of the couple in advance to post, taking some iPhone photos of the work you did for your client before delivering the final projects, taking behind-the-scenes photos and videos, etc.

Now that you know what to post, it’s time to consider how to actually get potential followers to your page!

Here’s exactly what I do:  identify those who are closest to my client on social media and engage (like, comment, follow) with these people. As soon as I finish posting, I head over to my client’s Instagram page. Who is liking their posts? Who is commenting? Who did they tag most recently? These are the people I engage with!

A few tips for engaging with your clients’ Instagram network. First, set a timer so that you don’t get caught up in this. I find that 20-30 minutes is the right amount of time, but as long as you have some boundaries, the exact time doesn’t matter too much. Second, keep it genuine! People can tell when it’s fake, contrived, only posted to get your attention, etc. I only ever post genuine, real things on people’s Instagram. If you aren’t genuine, it can have the opposite effect.

Finally, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to keep tabs on followers who seem to be a promising future lead! If you come across an account that you think you may have a future with, keep track of it! This does not mean that you proactively slide into their DMs and ask for the business. Simply stay on their radar by keeping up-to-date with their posts and engaging regularly!

Ok, let’s talk about strategy #2!

#2. Use DMs to connect individually with people

LOL – this is the exact opposite of what I just said, right? Keep reading!

This next tip might sound absurd and over the top, but it is SUPER useful. Tip number two is to use your direct messages – or DMs – to connect individually with people. Specifically, to connect with people who start to follow you! This shows your new follower that you care about him/her individually – and that you’re a real person too. Something about singling out and thanking a new follower is both flattering and makes a lasting impression.

Honestly, I probably would have rejected this idea outright until someone DM’d me in this exact fashion. I was so caught off-guard (in a good way!) and flattered that someone had gone out of their way to thank me for following them. I felt valued and appreciated. Also, I was encouraged to look through their profile even more – after all, I had followed them first!

So let’s get specific about how I do this: when I see I have a new follower who is another wedding pro or creative entrepreneur, I send them a direct message thanking them for following me and giving them a genuine compliment about their work. The key word here is genuine! Keep it real!

In my business, I have found that this works best for wedding vendors and other business friends – anyone I see a future partnership or working relationship with! It can also work with personal accounts – everyone is different, and you’ll have to be the judge of what works best for you!

I like this strategy because it’s personal and custom-tailored to individual followers. It reminds me that they’re real people, and it’s super effective!

You do want to be careful about what you’re saying here – NEVER make it an advertisement. Don’t start the conversation off right away by asking something from them. This is your opportunity simply to start a convo and get to know them to see where it leads. Be patient and thoughtful in what you say!

Ok, last tip! This last one is all about strengthening the audience you already have. Growing and connecting with new people is a huge deal and can help you steadily reach more and more people over time, but if you’re not showing up in the right way for those people, it doesn’t really matter! So my last tip is:

#3. Post a personal post AT LEAST once a week

Ideally, this personal post is a photo of you that tells more about who you are. If you’ve been in the creative industry and on Instagram for a while, you’ve probably seen several hashtag challenges out there that encourage business owners to do just this (and it can be a good place to start!). For me personally, I’ve found that follow these aren’t really my style and feel a little forced. So if you’re like me, don’t just give up all together!

A personal post can be a photo or selfie of you in your day-to-day life. This certainly doesn’t need to be a professional headshot (and honestly, it might be better to keep it a little more real!). It can also be a snapshot of what you’ve been working on or something else behind-the-scenes.

I do think that the most effective posts usually have a FACE to go with the caption, so when possible, put yourself out there! People connect with actually seeing you. But if that’s not possible, just put something out there! Be sure to keep it positive and kind. Give any relevant tags or shout-outs to other followers. The goal here is to build and grow a connection with your audience! This will help them remember you when it comes time for them to hire someone of your profession!

So there are my top “do’s” for Instagram. Now I’m going to give you a quick list of “don’ts” – here we go!

#1. Don’t post a ton in one day. 1-2 MAX is all you need! This is particularly true for new accounts who are tempted to spam their feed just to get a “full” feed.

#2. Don’t complain on Instagram. It’s OK to occasionally share and be vulnerable about something that is hard or that you’re struggling with – it’s a great way to be real. But keep this to a minimum, and when you DO post this type of comment, be sure to make sure it’s not COMPLAINING. Your followers will feel you bringing them down, and you might also unknowingly offend someone. It’s a huge turn-off, so avoid it!

#3. Don’t ask for someone’s business directly on Instagram. People don’t like to be solicited by someone they don’t know, especially on social media. Social media is the “hello, nice to meet you!” not the final word. You wouldn’t propose to someone you just met, right? So don’t directly ask for business on Instagram!

#4. Don’t hold back from posting because it’s not perfect. That picture-perfect feed is elusive and honestly, kind of a unicorn. It never lasts for long. I’m saying this having been there many times, and I can tell you first hand: it’s not going to happen. It’s way more important to just SHOW UP than have everything be perfect! So just get it out there!

#5. Don’t post on the fly. This goes for stories as well! Take photos and right captions, and THEN post later. You’ll be more intentional, write better content AND be less distracted in your real-life moments. You’re going to drive yourself nuts (and your husband . . . LOL) if you’re trying to post while you’re out, particularly if you’re out on personal time! Feel free to take photos while you’re out and about, but then go back to it later when planning your posts

A couple more things I want to say before we wrap up: don’t take yourself too seriously when it comes to Instagram! I’ve been really hard on myself in the past if I miss a day or two of posting, or if I don’t feel like I was “intentional” enough. Just do your best. It’s a lot of work, so expect that it will take a lot of time and won’t always go as planned. Literally, I take HOURS each week to plan out my feed. Writing captions takes me forever. I know it’s worth it, so I put the work in, but I also give myself grace and don’t allow myself to work on it OVER the allotted time that I’ve given myself.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by Instagram, I feel you! I really hope these tips give you some clarity and help you get straight to effective posting. Set aside time to try out these strategies and see how they work for you!

Above all else, KEEP IT REAL! Instagram is your chance to be yourself and attract your best clients! Don’t try and copy someone else or their content, and also don’t worry if what you’re doing has already been done. If you’re being yourself, that is what matters most!

If you have questions, post ’em below! I’d also love if you’d leave me a review here! 🙂

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