It’s no secret. If you want to turn your side hustle into a full-time gig or take your small business to the next level, you have to land new customers and keep them coming back. One of the most popular and most effective ways to do this is through social media. But when you’re just starting out, the task of building a social media presence can be intimidating and difficult to navigate.
Luckily, we recently sat down (virtually!) with Jenna Warriner, social media manager extraordinaire, to get the best advice for self-employed folks looking to expand their reach on Instagram to win sales. Having made the journey from “burnt-out bartender to business owner” herself, Jenna is passionate about helping small-biz owners grow a dedicated social audience and turn their followers into loyal customers.
What was the most difficult part of getting started as an entrepreneur?
Most people don’t start as an entrepreneur. In the beginning, a lot of us play a balancing act, splitting time between a steady job and whatever empire we’re trying to build on the side.
For me, the golden shackles were in bartending. I’d come home at 3 AM, with mascara smudged under my eyes and fistfuls of cash, and I’d feel like a millionaire. But, in reality, the culture, the sleep deprivation, the nightlife atmosphere — it was holding me back from building the successful business I have today. There comes a time when you need to look at the big picture and take a risk.
The month I quit my bar job, I knew I had a $1500 cheque coming in from social media projects, and the rest of my entire life was a question mark. That was a difficult decision to make. There were tears. But it also meant I had burnt the lifeboats and it was time to sink or swim, and that created massive motivation.
The next time I felt that same “Uh oh, self, this is a huge risk” feeling was when I invested in a business coach. A year into working with this coach, I experienced the classic big risk, big reward.
What do you wish you knew back then that you know now?
What I wish I knew sooner was that everything I’m trying to build, someone before me has already mastered… and they’re probably selling a roadmap. So hire experts, invest in guidance, and learn from other people’s brilliance.
What are your top 3 Instagram tips for small business owners? What advice do you have for brands that are trying to grow a following?
If you’re a small business owner, it’s no secret that you have a full flippin’ plate. Then, on top of all your day-to-day operations, you suddenly have to become a world-class marketer to keep customers coming. When I teach small-biz owners how to get customers from Instagram I start with a 3 Part Formula: Get So Organized that Marie Kondo Is Jealous, Own The Algorithm, and Become a Content Machine.
Here are a couple of tips you can apply from each stage of the framework.
1) Get So Organized that Marie Kondo Is Jealous.
One of the biggest things holding most people back right now is that they know they should be on Instagram, but they’re not prioritizing their marketing. If you want to consistently bring in customers, your marketing can’t be an afterthought; it should be intentional.
So get organized! Start by storing all your future photos in one place. Schedule the time you’re going to spend mapping out your posts. Use a post-scheduling tool like Later so you can write a week’s worth of content all at once. Keep a running Google Doc of all your caption ideas, so when you sit down to write you’re not accosted by a blinking cursor.
2) Own The Algorithm.
When you know what the Instagram Algorithm likes, you can give it more of that.
Start by writing posts that make your followers want to touch them. The Algorithm will show posts with likes, shares, swipes, and comments to more of your followers. Try asking a question in your caption, or putting multiple photos in one post so users swipe through them. Respond to the comments people make on your posts, and try and have conversations with your audience. All of this will trigger the Algorithm to send more users your way.
3) Become A Content Machine!
Does the idea of posting 5x a week make you sweat? That’s only because you don’t have a system for churning out brilliant content.
Start by cruising through royalty-free photo sites like UnSplash to collect a stockpile of gorgeous photos. In my Instagram marketing program, I also teach members how to use CANVA to create fast n’ easy text posts; no photography needed! Look for opportunities to take photos of you, your product, and the behind-the-scenes of your business. All of this stuff is marketing gold, even if it’s just a camera phone photo.
In fact, some of the biggest companies in the world use camera phone photos on Instagram.
What is your best strategy for keeping your audience engaged?
If you want to keep your audience engaged, you have to make your Instagram about them, not you. If your posts are all about you, or all sales pitches, no one is going to interact with you. Consumers are self-involved. They want to know how your product/service is going to benefit them. Social media marketing is about entertaining your audience. When you start considering yourself a “content creator” instead of an “advertiser”, suddenly an audience will swarm.
Are there any common Instagram mistakes that people make?
One of the biggest mistakes I see folks making on Instagram is waiting. Waiting for ‘more professional photos, waiting to launch the next project, or waiting to have more followers before they post that hilarious meme that’s been on their mind.
Don’t wait! Dive in! These platforms wait for no one. And hey, if the meme gets a ton of ‘likes’, you can share it a second time, a few months from now when you have more followers to join in the laughs.
What advice would you give to your younger self or for anyone just starting out as an entrepreneur?
Hey Jenna, you look tired. Rest is work. Sleep more. At 2 AM your quality of work is garbage and you should swap it out for a few more hours of sleep. Also, stop drinking so much Jameson.
Want more Instagram advice?
Every self-employed person or small-biz owner with Internet access can take advantage of social media to reach more people, sell more products, and build a community around their brand. Social media is for everyone, and it is an incredible, free opportunity to connect with a global audience.
For more tips on how to grow your Instagram, and how to manage your account in just a few minutes a day, you can download Jenna’s free Instagram Mastery Manual. It covers how to:
- Always know what to post on Instagram so you can save time and stop stressing.
- Own the Instagram Algorithm so you can grow your audience.
- Streamline your posting process, so you can convert your followers into customers.