It seems like everyone’s got something to say about Instagram, but not everyone is worth your time. What if you could pick the brain of a seasoned founder whose two businesses have generated millions of dollars on Instagram?
Well stick around, because our founder, Nathan Chan, is giving away his top five Instagram business strategies totally for free.
In this video, Nathan will show you how to use Instagram for business, based on his own experience garnering almost 2 million followers across various Instagram accounts. He built two businesses (Foundr and Healthish) using this platform. On top of that, he’s helped hundreds, if not thousands, of students build their businesses through our Foundr Instagram masterclass.
Watch the video below, then keep scrolling to dive deeper into Nathan’s top five strategies for using Instagram to boost your business.
1. First Ask: Is It Worth it for Your Business?
Here at Foundr, we will always tell it to you straight. So let’s start with a truth that many Instagram gurus won’t tell you:
Instagram does not work for every kind of business.
Before you sink hundreds of hours into a strategy that wasn’t made for your business type, Nathan recommends asking yourself, “What kind of business do you have?”
He says Instagram is best suited for B2C (business to consumer) businesses with a visual product. Think about it: Instagram allows you to share through photo and video, which means if you want to succeed, you’ll need to be able to showcase your product or service in a visually appealing way.
Businesses that would do well on Instagram include ecommerce products, cafes, restaurants, hair salons, teeth-whitening services (or any service business with a visual product or experience). If you can show the product or experience that your customers will get, then your business can do well on Instagram.
So what kind of business would not do well on Instagram? Nathan gives the example of a B2B SaaS company. Selling software on Instagram is difficult because it’s tough to keep your followers engaged with beautiful photos and videos of software. It would be tough to gain traction this way.
But there’s always an exception to the rule. For example, SaaS company Canva is crushing it on Instagram with nearly 300,000 followers and an appealing feed. Why? Their software is visual (it’s graphic design, after all) so they’re able to showcase their end product in their feed and stories.
If you’ve got a personal brand, Instagram can work for you too. Nathan recommends asking yourself how you will serve your followers and how you will showcase that visually.
Ultimately, the biggest question before you use Instagram for your business is this: Can you capture your business’ end result on video or photo? If the answer is yes, read on.
2. Post Consistently
Once you’ve figured out if your business or personal brand is a good fit with Instagram, your next concern is focusing on consistency of content creation and posting. Nathan likens this to building the foundations of your house—you want to make sure it’s solid and done right if you want future success.
“That’s the reason why the Foundr account grows a thousand or two-thousand followers a day,” Nathan says. “Because we have never missed a day of posting.”
The Instagram algorithm is a bit of a mystery, but experts agree on a few things about how posts are served in your feed. It’s no longer based on chronological order. If you want your content to be seen by your followers, you need to be posting consistently good content. It’s one of the biggest lessons in learning how to use Instagram for business.
According to a Union Metrics whitepaper, “We have actually seen some brands’ follower growth flatten or even decline due to a lack of consistent posting.”
Additionally, the more frequently you post, the better chance you have of growing your number of followers. A study by Tailwind analyzed over 100,000 Instagram posts and found that you can almost double your follower growth rate if you go from less than one post a week to one to six posts per week.
“You will not make a cent if you do not have a consistent posting strategy and a consistent strategy for producing great content,” Nathan says.
For the Foundr account, we use Social Blade to track our analytics. As you can see in the screenshot below, we’re posting every day, often six or seven times a day, and seeing lots of follower growth!
In our experience, the more we post, the faster we grow. Nathan says a lack of consistent posting is one of the biggest culprits when people say Instagram didn’t work for them.
3. Balance Value vs. Selling
It can feel like a fine line between being engaging and being overly salesy. That’s why Nathan encourages you to understand the concept of value versus selling.
As a business owner, you want to generate sales on Instagram while also building goodwill. To do this, you need to balance content that promotes your product/service (selling) with content that helps educate, motivate, or entertain your followers (value).
So before you start using Instagram for your business, decide what your goals are and what kind of content you want to post. Remember when we talked about being consistent? Not only should you be consistent in the scheduling of your posts, but you should also be consistent with the topics of your posts.
“Whatever you train your audience to expect when they first follow you,” Nathan says, “that’s what they will expect forever.”
So if you have a personal brand account that posts motivational quotes every day for a long time, and then a year later, you post a video selling a training, you’ll confuse your audience. They may even unfollow you. That’s because you’ve trained them to expect motivational quotes, and then out of nowhere, you’ve posted something promotional.
On the flip side, if you’re an ecommerce business that consistently posts photos pushing your product, you may annoy your followers. Again, you’ve got to strike a balance between selling on Instagram and providing value.
“To generate sales on Instagram, you have to be selling,” Nathan says. “But to generate even more sales on Instagram, you have to build goodwill and provide value to people.”
Let’s dive into some real-life examples to illustrate that point.
Example 1: Coconut Bowls
Coconut Bowls generates millions of dollars every year, and its Instagram account showcases the balancing act of selling versus value. Let’s take a look at a few of their posts to see how they do it:
Here’s a beautiful post that shows a photo of the product, but in the text, provides followers with value by listing the ingredients so they can make this smoothie bowl too.
Below is a post educating the audience on the environmental problem the company is tackling. It doesn’t show the product, but it helps the audience connect with the company’s mission and feel good about the product.
Nathan says you must set the expectation that you have something to sell, but even if some of your followers never buy, at least make it so they’ll enjoy following your account. As you continue to provide value and educate your followers, eventually, more of them will warm up and convert into a sale.
4. Share User-Generated Content
User-generated content (UGC) is a useful tool for helping you sell on Instagram. The idea is to get everyday people to use your product or service and then share the great experience they had. Whether it’s a photo or video, you’ll be able to reuse that content on your own Instagram account and maybe even on your marketing materials.
Nathan has found that, when asking for a sale, UGC converts the best, and it compounds over time. This makes sense, as it builds social proof when other people vouch for your product.
Example 1: #FoundrV1
If you check out the #foundrv1 hashtag on Instagram, you’ll find loads of user-generated content. This is the result of a campaign we ran for our coffee table book. Happy readers posted their reviews of the book and used our branded hashtag, which helps us to easily find the UGC and reshare it on our account.
Thanks to the #foundrv1 campaign, we even got one post from an account with one million followers! This user bought our book and shared how much he loved it. The real power is that we can use that photo on the @foundr feed, in stories, and in other places to promote the book.
Example 2: Pura Vida
Pura Vida Bracelets does a great job of leveraging UGC to showcase their products in an authentic, appealing way. Notice how, in their bio, they encourage people to tag posts with #PuraVidaBracelets.
The hashtag helps with branding and makes it easy for the company to find the UGC to repost to their account. Genius!
Example 3: Kings Domain Barbers
Don’t think we forgot about you service-based businesses! Instagram can work for you too. Here’s a great example from Kings Domain, a barbershop in Australia.
While they sell a service, they do have a visual end product that they showcase through photos and videos. This content allows followers to know what kind of experience and end result to expect if they go to Kings Domain.
And as Nathan points out, even if someone follows you and doesn’t buy right away, keep posting consistently and mix in UGC with sales content. The sales process always involves building trust and warming up your prospects over time. Sometimes it takes a little patience!
Example 4: Foundr
If you want more UGC, make it easy for people to share about you on social media. With the Richard Branson edition of our print magazine, we included these pamphlets that had our social media handles, a hashtag, and a call-to-action that encouraged sharing. With other Foundr products, we incentivize sharing by rewarding followers with free products or discounts for doing so.
If you have a physical product, this kind of pamphlet is powerful. Be sure to ask followers to share, and give them a specific hashtag so you can easily find their UGC.
5. Partner with Influencers
We’ve saved the best for last!
“This particular tip, from my experience, by far, is the most effective thing to scale up your Instagram growth,” Nathan says.
Similar to the above-mentioned user-generated content, influencer marketing can help build social proof and spread your reach to larger followings. Foundr worked with influencers in our early days, and Healthish currently uses them.
As Nathan explains, you’ve got two options when it comes to working with influencers:
- Product for Post – Send an influencer free product in exchange for content. You can get that person to promote your product to their audience.
- Paid Post – Try this only after you’ve tried product for post. See what happens with those, and then test which ones work best. And if you’ve got a service business, such as a restaurant, you can invite influencers for a free meal in exchange for content.When it comes to paying influencers, Nathan offers this caveat: There’s a point of diminishing returns. He says, in his experience, the influencer’s posts are never as effective as the first time. This is because the influencer’s core fans will get excited about the first post about your product, but subsequent posts about it won’t get as much attention.To see what works best for you, do a combination of product for posts and paid posts.
When scouting for influencers, Nathan believes the best ones are those with YouTube channels because video has a way of creating a much stronger relationship with the audience.
So how much should you pay influencers? It depends. In general, though, Nathan suggests that an Instagram influencer with 20,000-30,000 followers might get $100. If they’ve got a few hundred thousand followers, then the price bumps up to the thousands of dollars. And if they’ve got millions of followers, expect to pay thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars.
When trying to decide if an influencer can run a successful campaign for you, ask the influencer for their Instagram analytics. Influence goes far beyond mere follower count; you’ll also want to consider their engagement rate, such as how many likes and comments their posts get.
HiSmile, which sells teeth-whitening kits, has worked with mega influencers like Kylie Jenner. Nathan interviewed the founders of HiSmile a couple of years ago, and they told him that they were less concerned about the return and more concerned about building relationships and getting content they could use for years to come. Being able to use Kylie Jenner’s photo of her using their teeth-whitening kit was powerful. So the lesson here is that it’s not always about the direct return of an influencer’s Instagram post. Sometimes, it’s about getting that content that you can use again and again. The return can happen over time.
How to Use Instagram for Business: A Recap
We know there’s a lot of talk about how to use Instagram for business—it’s hard to sift through all the information out there! That’s why we wanted Foundr’s founder to reveal the top strategies he’s learned firsthand building two businesses that have generated millions of dollars on Instagram.
Let’s recap what Nathan recommends:
- Determine if Instagram is worth it for your business.
- Post consistently.
- Balance value versus selling.
- Share user-generated content.
- Partner with influencers.
Now that you know our top strategies, it’s time to get out there and put them to work on your business.
Share your Instagram wins with us! Leave a comment below to let us know how these business-boosting strategies are working for you.