“Vanity metrics are the numbers you want to publish on TechCrunch to make your competitors feel bad.” – Eric Ries
You’ve started a company and you KNOW that Instagram is going to be the driving force behind sales and, eventually, the success of your business.
So you post your first image and check back every 15 minutes (we’re being generous on time here) to see how many people have “liked” it or left a half-hearted comment to the tune of “cool feed” (even though you’ve only posted ONCE).
You’ve read about Instagram Strategy, picked your theme, formed the right opt-in offer, etc.
You got this.
As we’re bringing Strikingly’s blog back (and giving it a pulse), we did the same thing. We spearheaded a project of growing Strikingly’s Instagram following and increasing engagement to drive the audience back to the blog.
But then we quickly realized something.
The playing field had changed.
Some of our tools weren’t available any more – GAH!!
And we were getting 1-2 comments per post, if any at all – HUH?…
So we had to re-adjust our strategy to fit the new rules to the lay of the land, and grow this audience. Also, we had to figure out how to engage them into leaving a comment and take action when we asked (i.e., clicking on the link in the bio to read a new blog post or enter into a giveaway contest).
It’s time to face the truth folks:
Instagram, to grow your audience and business, isn’t for EVERY business.
Sorry SaaS companies.
We still have our Instagram account (and it looks MAGNIFICENT!), but we’re not going to be concentrating on it as the driving force behind building our email list and audience.
Though that doesn’t mean we’re NOT going to share the ins-and-outs of how we grew Strikingly’s Instagram audience from 400 to 1500+ followers in 2 months.
Puh! What kind of post would that be if we didn’t?
PART 1: THE MANUAL METHOD
After the theme and style were decided, it was time to go into the “Follow/Unfollow” Method.
Using an app called Crowdfire, it allows you to go to your competitors Instagram account, see the profiles that are following them, and then “follow” their followers.
The thinking behind this is that if these users like your competitor’s content then they’ll SURELY like yours as well.
There’s a problem with this though.
That option doesn’t exist anymore.
Instagram changed it’s algorithm and blocked all apps and programs from doing this any further.
So now how are we supposed to implement this method?
The old school way: Manually.
In Google Spreadsheets, we made a list of all the accounts that were similar to ours that created quotes, driven towards entrepreneurs.
Then, each day you go to one account, click on a post, click on the “likes” and it will give you a list of everyone who has “liked” that post. Next you start going down the line “following” that Liker’s profile.
STEP 1: STEP 2: STEP 3:
The advantages of The Manual Way vs. the Crowdfire Way.
- With the Crowdfire app, you could only follow up to 60 profiles per hour, before you were stopped.
By doing it manually, you can like up to as many as 100 profiles (or more) per hour**.
**(We would suggest the hourly route as Instagram may “black bag” your account thinking that you are spam or a bot if you’re doing it every 15 minutes. And once your account gets “black bagged” it’s a pain to get back).
- When you followed profiles with the Crowdfire app it didn’t tell you if it was a private account or public. This may or may not make a difference, as we have not tested ONLY following private, or “requested”, accounts.
But when we are following profiles manually, if it is a private or “request” account (see below), we skipped it.
For our own reasoning, we believe that either the account is a fake profile, a bot, or someone who doesn’t want to really be bothered. So, we skipped those profiles and sought out the ‘easy follows’.
Every hour, we would go onto Instagram and follow 60 profiles (we know we could do 100, but we’re not greedy), that were an ‘easy follow’.
Instead of doing this in 5 seconds with the Crowdfire app, it took us 5 minutes.
We were more than okay with this.
(our Instagram daily schedule)
Get methodical with it, people, if you’re serious about this! Set the systems up for yourself, for success, because life happens and YOU WILL forget!
Now this is where Crowdfire can come in for the assist.
So, you follow these profiles every hour for 6-8 hours, daily, for 2 days.
On the third day, you can see everyone who is NOT following you via your Crowdfire app (it will be under “Non Followers”). This is where you unfollow those who are not following you back.
It will give you 60 unfollows (but sometimes more) per hour.
Done in 15 seconds, as you are pressing the “-” button rapidly.
STEP 1: STEP 2:
(inside Crowdfire app)
You can also unfollow, manually, in your Instagram profile as well.
However, you don’t know if that’s a person who has followed you back or not. And that’s just rude.
If you feel a little skeezy about doing this, you can comment and like a few of their posts before unfollowing them. Everyone appreciates a thoughtful comment left on their post(s). EVERYONE.
PART 2: ANALYTICS
The go-to tool we use for analytics is Iconosquare.
It gives us everything from how many have followed and unfollowed us (ironic isn’t it?), the best times to post so we can get the highest engagement from our audience, to how many people are using a particular hashtag to promote a post (super helpful when you’re doing hashtag research).
Note: If you’re not adding hashtags to your posts (you get up to 30 per post), you’re selling yourself short and publishing to your current followers and dead air.
The main point of hashtags is to be on the radar of NEW followers. So, especially if you’re starting out – do yourself this solid, and hashtag the crap out of each and every one of your posts.
If you are posting from your phone, to save yourself a massive amount of time, save the 30 hashtags in the “Notes”.
Then all you would have to do is copy and paste those hashtags into each post, changing up a few of the hashtags as it relates to that particular post.
However, Instagram (that unruly minx) has made another change to it’s algorithm where you can switch to the “Business Profile” option and, according to Social Media Examiner:
- Connect to your Facebook page
- Add a phone number, email, or location so customers can reach you directly from a button on your profile.
- Learn about your followers and see how your posts are performing. Connect to your Facebook page (we’re going to talk about this more)
- Create promotions on Instagram that help you grow your business.
“So, I can learn about my followers and look at the analytics on my Instagram profile”?
And here’s what one looks like (from one of our personal Instagrams. Sorry for the blur.):
If you are just starting out on Instagram Strategy, you honestly may not give a damn about your “Talk Rate”, or which filter impacts your likes and comments. You just might want the bare bones of it all:
Who’s liking my posts (men or women? Age range?)
What cities or countries is the most engagement coming from?
What time should I post and what day?
Instagram Insights can give you the gist of all of this, yes.
Therefore, if you have a product where it was meant for men between the ages of 35-44 who live in Miami, Florida, BUT the analytics say that women between the ages of 18-24 are the big engagers, and probably buyers, who are from London – you might want to think about pivoting your marketing efforts and posts, you know?
The power of analytics.
Each has their benefits.
Though, for our efforts and anyone taking this to the next level, you might want to get down to the bone of the matter.
So, we will have to go with the tool that let’s us get hyper specific with our analytics, research hashtags, hashtag performance, and more – Iconosquare. We heart you.
Also, we’re not sure how changing your profile over to a “Business Page” will affect your outreach. Something to watch over in the future.
PART 3: GRUM – THE INSTAGRAM SCHEDULING TOOL
No, that’s not a nickname for your grumpy grandparents. It is the holy grail of scheduling for Instagram!
Why is Grum so special? Because it is the first of it’s kind (that we know of) that you can schedule a post and it will publish your content WITHOUT a “push notification”.
You can set it, and forget it.
Bask in the warmth of this technology for it is here to keep you from sighing EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. you get a push notification to publish your IG post!
Back to it.
It’s pretty intuitive. The staff there are QUICK to get back to you and fix the “bug” or explain your user error (say my name, say my name!) without any judgment (I appreciate you).
How it works:
If you live out of the United States, let’s say Shanghai ;), but need to schedule your posts in accordance to New York’s time zone, just:
Go to your user name and select the “v” arrow
Select “Change Time Zone”
Then choose which time zone you would like your account to be scheduled in.
This way you don’t have to worry about doing that time zone conversion in your head.
With this tool, you can schedule your IG posts days, if not weeks, in advance.
And if you’re wondering how you’re going to place the first comment in posts that go out at 2AM your time – they got you covered.
Select the “speech bubble” icon next to the “smile” icon, and it gives you space to place your first comment aka the place for your 30 hashtags.
You want hashtags to be the first COMMENT because it will “disappear” after 3 comments are made (may be fewer now).
And who says you can’t save the hashtags you want to use in the ‘Notes’ of your computer, or in a Google Spreadsheet, where you can copy and paste as you choose.
Here’s a glimpse of what our spreadsheet looks like, BUT TRUST, the hashtags change from post to post:
Two Quick Tips:
Tip #1: If you queue up a post, and then – let’s say – want to change the time from 4PM to 6PM. You make the edit, save it, but it still says 4PM. Either click on “Timeline”, then go back to “Schedule” and the change will be made OR Hit the “refresh” button on your computer.
It could just be our account, but the update doesn’t happen from time to time.
Tip #2: The way you format the text in Grum does NOT mean it’s going to be the same format when it’s posted on Instagram, especially if you’re using a lot of emojis at the beginning and end of your sentences.
Our suggestion – keep the emoji’s in between words and don’t try to get TOO fancy with the layout.
(A nice and simple post) (What happened when we tried to get fancy)
PART 4: THE ENGAGEMENT PROBLEM
So, you’ve been following this strategy for days, if not weeks, for now.
You build this nice sized audience, but the engagement and comments are LOW.
So, you have 2K followers, but 42 likes and 2 comments on your post.
So how do you get that initial push for a post?
How do you get people to like and, fingers crossed, leave a comment?
It’s time for you to build a squad.
A squad of individuals, who have a similar theme as yours, to help push and promote each others posts.
We were a part of a group, on an app called Telegram, that boosted our posts from the likes of “60 likes” to the “mid 100s” and comments from 1-2 to 10-25.
This is how you can set that up:
- An app you can use is WhatsApp. With this app you can create groups up to 256 people (with Instagram you can create a group up to 15 people).
- You can cherry pick accounts similar to yours and invite them into the group to participate. Though, before someone joins the group, perhaps text them the rules of engagement within the group (i.e., make thoughtful comments longer than 5 syllables or you’re out. Though Instagram says that it has to be 3 words or more, your squad rises above the status quo, right?)
- Now that, that person is ready to participate this is how it’s done:
1) After your image is posted on Instagram, click on the three dots in the top right of your post
2) Select ‘Share’
3) Select ‘Copy Link’
Step 1: Step 2: Step 3:
4) Now go to your WhatsApp group and paste your link in there and post. A thumbnail image of your post will pop up with a link to that SPECIFIC post.
The new post will notify the group that a new post is up that needs to be liked and commented on.
5) But your job isn’t over yet! Others within the group have posted as well, so you need to scroll through your feed to see which posts you haven’t commented and liked yet and do so. Once you are done, send a quick text saying “Responded to All – Done”!
Warning: We would stay away from groups that have 200+ members unless you are REALLY DEDICATED to growing your Instagram, because you will be going back and forth with the commenting and liking and posting, for hours.
We would also suggest you turn your notifications off for the app, and just check back in every hour (or so) to see what posts you need to tend to.
With those two caveats, Welcome to the Collective!
So, all and all, joining a group can DEFINITELY help you to get that initial push of engagement when you first publish a post. When outsiders who are not a part of your group see the amount of engagement, they’re prompted to participate in the discussion as well.
When you and a group are liking and posting on each other’s pages, and you see that you’re following is neck and neck in growth – why not collaborate?
Do a S4S.
Run a contest.
Do a profile takeover for 24 hours.
You have options.
PART 5: USER GENERATED CONTENT SAVED OUR SANITY
We created a handy Google spreadsheet of quotes that we could use to publish on Strikingly’s Instagram profile.
From Pinterest to Tumblr to Goodreads we initially collected over 100 quotes.
Though, we like to read a LOT – and we liked to find those quotes that aren’t the “typical” ones that have been in circulation – from some of our favorite authors on Medium like James Altucher and Benjamin P. Hardy.
Whenever one of us saw or heard a good quote, we added it to the list.
(P.S. AirDrop images back and forth from your iPhone to your Mac, if you have it, people)
However, if you’re creating 7-9 posts a day – that’s time you have to spend to read, research, look up images, design the pieces, schedule them, etc. And next thing you know you’ve spent 3 HOURS making 9 Instagram posts.
So, we started implementing a tactic called User Generated Content. This is where you use other Instagram user’s images that are related to Strikingly’s audience: Entrepreneurs.
We specifically focused on Quotes:
Urban Photography of the City:
And Typography with business related themes/quotes:
We would post 2 urban photography pieces and 2 type pieces, which would leave us with 3, sometimes a bonus, 4 quotes to create.
Designed and queued them up in Grum, in 30 min to an hour.
Of course you have to research and find these typography pieces and urban photography pieces on Instagram, but once you do:
- Take a phone screenshot of the image with the user’s name on it
- Write down the name of the artist on a piece of paper because you WILL forget. Then crop the image down so it’s just the image showing.
- Airdrop it onto your computer (seriously, airdrop is ah-mazing!) where it will be saved in your “downloads” folder.
- Upload it into your Grum schedule (DO NOT forget to credit the artist) and your done!
Note: We usually saved a LOT of the screenshots onto our phones, so we have a bank of them to choose from.
You can also save them to a folder in Google Drive, Dropbox, or your computer as well – if you’re working with a team.
WITH THAT BEING SAID…
And putting aside our LOVE for Instagram, would we continue using Instagram to be the main proponent in building up Strikingly’s audience?
Would we suggest it for a SaaS group?
Would we suggest it for everyone else OUT of the SaaS diaspora?
SaaS companies, you can put a LOT of time and energy into this project, but the payback is minimal.
There are better ways, more fruitful methods, to building your audience and engaging your customers.
If you already have one up, there’s no reason to abandon it – as you can still use it as a distribution channel for your content, but it shouldn’t be the main driver.
“Don’t be afraid to give up the good, to go for great” – John D. Rockafeller
Strikingly has just revamped it’s blog and we’re making strides to focus our efforts on Content Marketing rather than Social Media Marketing.
Why not focus on doling out blog posts that are of real value to you guys than “another motivational quote” (though they are nice)?
We’re trying to build our email list, raise our SEO, and increase our monthly unique visitors.
We’re barely going to give Instagram a second look for these efforts, but we’re not going to let it fall by the waist side neither.
Remember? Distribution channel.
Instagram, without a doubt, is a mega platform for growth in revenue and growing your audience for online — and local — establishments. Though for a SaaS company, there are better strategies available.
We hope you guys enjoyed this post! We know most of you have products to sell – so the tools and strategies used may be VERY useful in building your audience and driving sales.
Would love to hear what kind of results you’ve gotten from growing your business’ on Instagram.
Any tips we missed? What would/did you do differently?
Let the conversation out in the open.