If you’re skeptical about social media as a tool to grow a business, then this post is going to open your eyes…
Open your eyes to how much money you might be leaving on the table, all because of some big, unfounded assumptions.
I hate (I know, strong word) when people say “social media is a waste of time” when they have no experience of it being used in the right way. To these people, I have one thing to say:
I made £12,000 last year using Instagram Stories alone. Explain that? 🙂
In this post I’m going to show you exactly how I made £12,000 by building a relationship with my audience and using Instagram Stories strategically.
The BIG Idea
When I started putting together an Instagram content strategy for my account (yourbrandfound), I knew I had to start getting in front of the camera more, but wasn’t sure what to speak about.
So, I started writing a list of ideas. That’s when the question I’ve been asked over and over and over again really hit me:
Do you mind taking a look at my website and letting me know what I can improve?
Any website developer or marketing agency will be familiar with this question.
It feels like I’ve been asked this question hundreds of times since quitting my job at the end of 2016. It’s as if these people think I have all the time in the world to provide them advice for FREE.
Stupidly, when I first started my digital marketing agency, I would actually spend 30 mins to an hour reviewing a website and emailing across my recommendations. I thought this would show what I was capable of and encourage them to work with me.
Luckily, they did respond to my email recommendations, and even used my digital marketing services.
So, I decided to grow some cojones and started to respond with, “I don’t usually review websites for free, but would be happy to arrange an initial chat if you’re interested”.
BUT, I felt bad everytime I said it. Because, I know small businesses and entrepreneurs are just looking for any help they can get along the way. So, I thought, what if there was a way to help a group of people all in one go without spending a ton of time?
And that’s where Instagram Stories came in.
Instagram Stories meant I could easily post a video and it would only disappear after 24 hours, giving everyone enough time to make notes. All without leaving my home or office.
How I Used Instagram Stories To Help A Bunch Of People and Build A Brand Online
As a marketing strategy for my blog, Your Brand Found, Instagram was like the missing piece of a puzzle.
I was already blogging and participating in conversations in online groups and communities, but trying to build a relationship with someone who can’t see or hear you is always going to take a LONG time.
That’s why Instagram videos is sooo powerful. People actually get to know you and get an insight into your personality – and really fast.
So, how did I use Instagram Stories to build a brand and make money?
I’ll start by giving you the hashtag I created, #WebsiteWednesday. 🙂
If you haven’t guessed already, the idea was to review a website and post my advice as a video Instagram story every Wednesday.
Sounds pretty simple, right?
It was, but I had to make sure there was a pipeline of people who were looking for me to review their website for free. To solve this, I just told everyone I met online or offline about #WebsiteWednesday and posted it in the usual social channels. It seemed to work!
Now, I had to find a way to organise everyone’s requests to have their website reviewed.
Essentially, I wanted to avoid some people emailing me, others WhatsApp messaging me, and others sending me Facebook or Instagram requests. So, I decided to post a #WebsiteWednesday image every Wednesday on Instagram and ask people to add their website in the comments.
And it worked.
Here’s what the overall process looked like:
1. Promote the #WebsiteWednesday concept
I posted a #WebsiteWednesday image on my Instagram feed on Wednesday morning (see above).
Shared the idea with my email list and asked them to email questions in.
I even informed business owners I met in person or over the phone what I was doing, and they loved the concept so much that they followed me on Instagram. 😂
2. Pick a question
The more you promote your campaign the more questions you should get. When I first started, sometimes I only had one website to review, but that was enough to kickstart the momentum. One question is all you need to get it going.
3. Review the website or question and prepare notes
I’d aim to spend less than 30 minutes reviewing each website or question, and then put together bullet points of the things I wanted to talk about.
Frankly, it doesn’t really matter how long you spend preparing, the main thing is to ensure you are sharing a lot of value and genuinely helping that person (and any others watching) to reach their goal.
4. Shoot the video
I used my iphone and just created 15-second clips of my answer. I kept shooting the video so low-tech and quick, that a friend of mine said I needed to lose the wired headphones as the videos didn’t look professional!
I decided to politely ignore my friend’s request, instead focusing on getting the best possible answer out as quickly as possible.
5. Post the videos and choose hashtags and a location for each video to improve reach
You can either create individual quick answers within 15 seconds and post these separately on Instagram, or you can take one large video and then Instagram cut and post it automatically.
The benefit with the first approach is that you can choose hashtags that are relevant to a specific part of a video, as opposed to having one hashtag for the entire video. I tend to favour speed over small marketing hacks, so my choice would be to shoot one video.
As you post value-packed videos, you’ll begin to get more questions and messages of appreciation. It’s important to interact with people and create conversations, not only from a relationship perspective. And Instagram loves it!
During the initial weeks after launch, I remember thinking, what have I got myself into? But once I got started, I really enjoyed the impact the videos were having. The lovely thank you message made it all worth it.
What’s funny is that people who I had known for years finally knew what my business was all about, and could now easily refer me to people who needed my help.
I met my goal of providing advice to a group of people, as well as an opportunity to build my authority in the space – all at the same time.
But what happened next was very surprising.
Making Money With Instagram Stories
I began receiving messages and calls from people who were looking for my help to build a website.
One day, I remember getting a call from someone who said they’d heard I built websites and that I was very good at it.
Imagine my smile when I heard that. It doesn’t happen often, LOL, so I had to make the most of the moment. Since early 2017 I’ve been running a business full-time, and honestly, there’s nothing better than working with clients who appreciate what you do.
I won the project – a new website project in the bag worth close to £4,000. 🙂
It felt amazing, #WebsiteWednesday was actually bringing in sales and the best part was that I wasn’t really expecting it.
What I love about Instagram Stories is that you can see who’s been watching. After a few months of #WebsiteWednesday, I began to recognise a highly engaged group of people.
And without sounding too confident, when they finally reached out, I wasn’t a bit surprised.
Now, fast forward a few #WebsiteWednesday weeks later, and I began receiving messages from people who I knew from once upon a time, who now realised I could help them or their friend grow their business.
“Can you help me get my shop to Google page 1?”
“How much do you charge for SEO”
“Can you help us market our business?”
“We need help with social media, can you help?”
“I’ve been trying to do digital marketing for a few years now, but still not making money, can you help?”
Before hopping on a call with these people, I’d ask for some more details about their business. I wanted to avoid wasting time with people I couldn’t help.
I was looking out for three things:
- A product or service that was ethical and brilliant, i.e. that I was proud to help market
- A business I felt like I could genuinely add value to and grow
- A business owner who had a mindset for growth and I could work with
A number of businesses who reached out were a good fit and also agreed to work with me, which equated to another £8,000 in sales.
Not bad for posting a video every Wednesday about a topic I enjoy talking about! Looking back, it’s quite a big difference to my previous life of working in Investment banking, talking about things I had no interest in.
I actually stopped doing #WebsiteWednesday at the turn of 2018. This was after taking on a lot more client work and now managing a team, but a part of me still wants to get #WebsiteWednesday running again. Never say never.
So, What Can You Take Away From This?
Add value to your community. Grow your business. Try to do both at the same time.
It’s why #WebsiteWednesday as a marketing concept was a killer idea. The community appreciated the free content and I was becoming the GO-TO expert.
So, how can you become the GO-TO expert and help your community out?
Pick a topic or question that you get asked a lot but which requires different solutions, depending on what the current situation is.
If they don’t need your help now, they will get in touch when they do need your help. Or they may even recommend you to a friend.
Whatever topic you choose, I highly recommend using videos on Instagram. It’s quicker to create, easy for your audience to digest, and it makes you memorable.
If you choose to use Instagram Stories, make sure you use a hashtag to go with the video and tag your location. You can try different hashtags and location combinations to see which one gets the best reach.
I’d also highly recommend giving some level of variety with your solutions to avoid saying the same thing every week.
When you’re able to offer advice across a variety of issues and scenarios, you’ll also appeal to a wider audience and improve your chances of getting clients. I remember talking about SEO one week and then getting hit with a handful of SEO enquiries.
As I’m writing this post, Instagram recently launched Reels (smells like Tik Tok) and it’ll be interesting to see how entrepreneurs and businesses will leverage it.
Remember, Instagram is an ever-changing platform so have fun with it and good luck!