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How To Use Instagram To Grow Your Business – Forbes

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If you have a phone, you can start a business.

Although it has only been 30 years since the internet became commercially available to consumers, it is safe to say, the way business is conducted has completely changed, in many cases … for the better.

As of 2019, a surprising 10% of Americans (roughly 30 million people) own their own business. And while a website is a great place to start, businesses must also exist on social media in order to stay relevant, grow brand awareness, and increase opportunities for customer growth. 

One of the best platforms for this? Instagram.

If you think it isn’t possible to grow a community organically, realize that 1 billion people use Instagram every month, and that number continues to grow. So while some business and personal accounts have already hit the six or seven figure audience count, that doesn’t mean you can’t too … and actually profit from the platform.

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I am not going to claim that if you put some pretty pictures on an Instagram account you’ve created a magical portal to attract clients ready to buy from you. But, I do firmly believe that if you leverage the app correctly, it is a powerful tool for opportunity.

This is why I reached out to Natalie Elis, co-founder and CEO of BossBabe, one of the fastest growing online communities of ambitious women, who grew an organic following on Instagram of over 2.4 million followers. Who better to provide insight than someone who truly walks the walk on the ‘gram!

Here are the 6 top tips Natalie shared to grow your audience and business using Instagram.

Tip #1: Create quality followers over your quantity of followers.

When I asked Natalie what the biggest misconception is about Instagram and social media in general she dove into the obsession people have with their following number.  Most people think “that you need 100k followers to make $100,000. The quality of your followers is going to move the needle in your business, not the quantity. You can have a ton of followers but that does not mean that they are necessarily going to convert.”

A conversion rate is considered the number of users who view your account and convert into a lead or committed customer. Instagram has one of the best conversion rates for a social media platform: at 1.08%, it’s higher than both Twitter and Pinterest.

While it’s flashy to have a large follower number next to your name, that doesn’t necessarily equate to a flashy bank account. Natalie shared, “It is critical to get clear on who your ideal client is. Those are the people that are going to take your calls to action. Those are the people that are going to buy your product, book that service, or share your message.” 

If you aren’t sure about who your ideal client is, begin to ask yourself questions to define who they are. Here are few to get you started:

  1. What is the biggest problem my ideal client would want me to solve for them?  
  2. If someone asked you who you are interested in working with, what would you say?
  3. Who do you want to be a hero to?

I always remind my business coaching clients that if you are talking to everyone, you are talking to no one. Spend some time identifying who you are speaking to, and then create content curated for them.

Tip #2: Niche down to blow up.

Natalie advises from the start to, “First and foremost, get clear on your niche. You are going to want to understand who your ideal client is—who are they following on Instagram and what content are they already engaging with on a daily basis?”

Here is a practice I suggest you apply: spend some time on the app researching who your ideal client follows and what content appears to catch their eye the most. Pick the top 20 accounts your ideal clients engage with regularly and look for gaps in the content: What questions are people asking in the comments section? What images or video clips could you take a different perspective on? What content are competitor business posting that’s thriving? From here, begin to create your own content. It’s all about taking upcoming trends and putting your own unique spin on them to stand out and connect with your audience.

Natalie added, “Once you collect this information you can then create the content that speaks directly to them. You will notice your engagement and buying power will increase. You need to invest in building the right audience before you start seeing some real money come in.” 

Tip #3: Leverage video content.

Video content is on the rise across the board with consumers expected to spend 100 minutes a day watching video content online by 2021. Marketing professionals agree, with 92% of marketers expressing that video is a key aspect of their marketing strategy, up from 78% in 2015.

So, how do you leverage Instagram, a historically picture-based app for video content?  Natalie says, “My favorite feature is Instagram Live where I usually like to share a free training or anything that adds value to my community. It’s been around for a while but really picked up steam during COVID-19.” 

Use Instagram Live along with the IGTV feature to share video content that is value-added. Do this before going on an all-out push towards selling. For Natalie, “Creating valuable content that allows you to distinguish yourself as an expert in your space will help you build an audience that trusts you. Once they trust you, they’ll want to pull out their credit cards without you even trying.” 

Tip #4: Foster personal connection—over the phone.

Commenting, direct messaging, and sharing others’ stories or posts are a great way to foster community, but don’t be afraid to take it another level. View your engagement online like building a relationship … If you want a commitment, you must be willing to get personal.  

Natalie has a new trend to take notice of: “Another trick that’s starting to pick up steam now, is putting your phone number in your bio. People crave that personal connection, whether it’s via texting or utilizing Instagram DMs. The more you utilize these features, the more Instagram’s algorithm is in your favor. Your posts will be more visible to your audience because the algorithm will give you that boost.  

Here’s an example: 

Natalie Ellis BossBabe CEO

Natalie Ellis at BossBabe

Tip #5: Share already curated content

Creating all of your own content can certainly be time-consuming but here’s a tip, you don’t have to do it alone. Natalie shared a key hack that she teaches in her online courses, “Source viral content from other accounts. You can do so by looking at different feeds and identifying which posts you think will resonate best with your audience. This is a great way to save yourself some time, as long as you give credit to the original creator.”

Retain and utilize the list of top accounts you made while identifying your ideal client.  When you are crunched on time or searching for some new inspiration, reference the new content they share. It all comes down to adding value to your audience, and sometimes that means sharing and crediting another person or business.

Perhaps you find one business or account is continuously on the same wavelength as you. In this case, you can reach out, and suggest a partnership or sharing your audience with one another. The more you can create a sense of community online, whether it be with a single user or an alternative business, the more you grow yourself! Fortune favors the chatty, and that also means chatting online.

Tip #6: Commit to doing the work.

Growing an audience, especially an audience committed to your brand and product offerings takes time. One viral image or video isn’t going to turn your business into an overnight success. So practice patience and consistency.

If you do the work, build your audience, commit, and deliver, the money will follow. 

Natalie and I both agreed on this front. She recommended being “consistent. Continue to show up, even on days when you don’t feel like it. There were so many days when I was building BossBabe where I didn’t feel inspired, but I still showed up. Consistency allowed me to build a global brand with over 2 million followers.”

There is no golden secret or magic touch to generating massive income online. There are, however, tried and true practices that, if applied appropriately, will result in success. It really comes down to knowing what you want and putting in the effort to attain it.

Stop the aimless scrolling, and start your business today. If you don’t, someone else will.

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