How to Use Instagram to Earn 6 Figures
In this blog post I will teach you how to
- Build your your Instagram audience organically
- What you can and can’t delegate.
And not necessarily in that order-I’ll bounce around a lot. I know you’ll appreciate this entry, and so it is without hesitation that I ask you to follow me on IG if you aren’t already doing so. My Instagram username is @talktopauldotcom. I will cover Instagram advertising in a separate blog entry.
I’ve also completed some of this training in video:
Why am I sharing this with you? In June 2018, Instagram announced it had hit the 1 billion users milestone. Only Facebook and YouTube have more people logging in.
Kylie Jenner’s makeup company used social media to generate $420 million in sales. Let’s analyze this for a second. Kylie has about 110 million followers. Let’s say that 1% of her 100M followers saw her post promoting her product. That’s 1M people. Now let’s say that 1% of those 1M actually purchased a $19.99 product. That’s 10k people X $20 = $200,000. Unbelievable you say? These numbers were ULTRA conservative. It is estimated that her social media posts are worth over million dollars every time she posts something!
Now look, Kylie is the LeBron James of social media. Add to the fact that she is on a global television show, come from a celeb family, and you’ve got a formula for success that most people won’t be able to replicate. Even so, there are hundreds, even thousands, of cases where people have built audiences in the tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands to promote their products or service earning them significant six figure incomes and in many cases millions of dollars annually.
The problem most people have is that, 1) they don’t believe/understand how it works, 2) they don’t want to learn a new platform-let alone career, and 3) there’s the risk that this medium will eventually be replaced by a new shinier app. Those are all VALID arguments. I felt the same way.
Here’s what I discovered: 1) you don’t have to believe or understand something for it to work. I don’t know a thing about electrical engineering or the generation of electricity, but I know it powers my home and office. 2) Technology is upending and replacing industries and professions as we speak. Even if you don’t want to learn a new platform, statistics show you will have more than one, possibly two or three, professional acts in your career. 3) I’ve repeatedly said that you should NEVER build your business on someone else’s platform. I stand by this. Instagram can not be the only tool you use to build an audience. It should be one of many. You can make a lot of money riding tends and taking advantage of them. Don’t believe me? In the early 2000’s Amazon was one of Google’s biggest, if not the biggest, advertiser. Why? Because all eyeballs were there and the cost to advertise on Google AdWords was considerably less than it is today. Amazon exploited this. Don’t think for a second you are above exploiting a trend and capitalizing on it.
If I haven’t sold you on why you should be using Instagram to build an audience yet, you don’t have to continue reading. Much of what I will cover next is going to be the technical or “how to” not the “why to.”
I also know what a lot of you are thinking. You’re thinking that this is something that you can hand off to a “millennial” and let them do the work. I thought the same thing, and I did just that. I had someone who was dedicated just posting content on Instagram daily. At first it was once a day. They’d use apps on their phones to create a meme, usually something motivational, and then they’d post it and hope that people found the content, liked the content, and then subscribed to read/look at the content and/or my message. And while I did build an audience that was larger than the average person’s follower base (the average follower base is about 150), it wasn’t anything that was large enough to impact my business.
Here is my suggestion: learn the IG infrastructure before you start to delegate. Now there are some people, including those very close to me, who have made statements like, “This isn’t brain surgery. I can find someone to do it for me. This is easily replicated.” No. This isn’t brain surgery. No. Mastering Instagram is nowhere near as noble. Yes. Building an IG audience is far harder than most people think. Believe you me, Instagram is not as simple as just posting a cool photo several times a day. Don’t believe me? Try it yourself. If you think that you can hire a high school kid to just post memes 3 times a day and you’ll build an audience and be able to promote your product or service, you’re in for one hell of a wake up call.
You won’t be able to hire someone, and sit back and think your audience is going to grow on its own. You can only post so many motivational quotes before it becomes stale, and more importantly, there are already hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people doing this already. In a sea of people already doing this, what makes you different?
The answer is: YOU
Your story is unique to only you and only you. I am going to suggest to you that you document your journey. Whatever it may be. In my case, it’s real estate and has morphed into a few new things. In your case, it’s fill in the (blank). The beauty of this is that the more genuine you are, the more you set yourself apart from the competition. All you have to do is be real and showcase EVERYTHING. Showcase the victories and the losses. Share the tears and the scars. People can relate to the struggle more than they can seeing someone who hits home runs every time up at bat. Remember, very few want to hear the story of the person who was born with a silver spoon in their mouth and had everything go their way.
If you are anything like me, you are the only thing standing in your way, and you are allowing your insecurities to stop you from documenting the journey. I have a lazy and a fat face. I had to get over it. I believed that my message is stronger than the way I looked.
Stop worrying about what other people think. By putting yourself out there a few things will happen:
- Nothing. Believe it or not, more often than not, there will be little to no response initially. That’s right. Some of your posts will get zero to very little interaction. Now some of you might already have a strong sphere of influence, and in that case, you’ll always have some type of interaction, but for the majority of us who are venturing out of our comfort zones, there will be days where all you will hear is crickets. You’ll question the validity of your message. You’ll wonder if it is falling on deaf ears. Keep moving forward anyway.
- You might get some blowback and even a few people making fun of you. Pay them no mind. There will always be internet trolls. My suggestion is to not play in the mud. When they go low-you go high. Feel free to intelligently defend your position, but don’t go tit for tat with crazies. It’s not worth the energy.
- You will inspire others-regardless of where you are on the journey. I too was hesitant about sharing my experiences as I thought, “I’m not as successful as I should be yet.” Just remember that for every phase of your journey, there is someone who is one step behind you that can benefit from what you went through, what you are “growing” through and what you will “grow” through. Don’t undervalue what it is you have to share. Easier said than done-I know. I did this to myself for years, decades even.
What does all this mean? You are the greatest source of content and you have to make and take time to create this content so that it can then be handed off and delegated. I’m not saying you have to be the one posting, editing, and creating the images, but ultimately, you have to have enough content so that you can have someone doing it for you. I hope I’m making sense. This is why many people have a difficult time understanding what they can and can’t delegate. You can’t delegate videos, photos, and stories of yourself without providing the content to do so. Someone can film and edit you, but you still have to appear in the videos. Someone can blog on your behalf, but the blogger can’t recount your experiences in writing without interviewing you or receiving outlines from you. The creation and/or curation of the content is probably the most time consuming aspect of this.
How to Maximize Your Profile
After you “❤” content that you find particularly interesting, what do you normally do next (and I’m not talking about the mercy likes just because you want to politically correct)? You go to that user’s profile and see who they are (also known as trolling). That person has about 3-5 seconds to capture your interest enough to decide to follow their content. You, my friend, fall prey to the exact same rule. Your profile has to be sexy enough that people want to follow you, watch your videos, and read your honey dew dipped words of knowledge.
Rule # 1: Use your photo as your profile pic. I know many of you like to use logos, or cartoons of yourself, and I am going to suggest that you DO NOT do that. People relate to people, not cartoons or logos. Use a professional photo of yourself (yes it can be a selfie) and try to make it shoulders up.
Rule #2: The end user has to be able to decipher what you do in 2 seconds or less and in 150 characters or less. In my case, my profile reads :
- I Sell Luxury Real Estate 🏠
- I Find Pro Athletes Homes 🏆
- I Get Businesses on the First Page of Google 🎯
- Certified FB & IG Ad Specialist 📣
It’s pretty self explanatory, and it also tells you what I can do for you, should you be interested. A lot of people want to list their degrees and credentials, which I can appreciate, and while impressive, doesn’t answer the “What can you do for me?” question. Remember, this isn’t LinkedIn. Every social media platform has a different vibe and the end user is in a different frame of mind while logged in to each one.
I also encourage you to use emojis in your profile. The open rate of emails with emojis in the subject line was 56% higher compared to the plain subject lines. Bottom line? Emojis stand out. Use them to add emphasis and to separate lines.
For some reason Instagram doesn’t recognize the enter (return, next line, etc) button and as such all content is treated as one giant paragraph. To prevent your profile description from just being a big block of words with some emoji’s sprinkled on top, I suggest copy and pasting it from an email, google document, or note. In fact, when you work on a post, use the same technique to add spacers in between paragraphs. Remember your profile can only be 150 characters long and your posts cannot exceed 2200 characters.
Rule #3: Include your website on your profile, but understand that Instagram does not provide a native way for hyperlinks to work anywhere else on your posts save it be through advertising or stories that link out. In order for you to link out using stories, you have to have 10K followers, or alternatively, you can link your stories out to an IGTV video but that’s about it. The workaround for this is to change the hyperlink on your profile as often as necessary depending on what you are promoting. This is why you will see many people use the phrase “link in my bio.” Now you can of course use bit.ly or goo.gl to shorten hyperlinks, but again, it would require users to remember the link and then leave the app. Too much work, especially if you haven’t built up your value proposition. The ultimate goal is to build an audience beyond 10,000 followers so that you can create stories (vertical images and videos) that can actually link out to outside sites.
Rule #4: If you are a local business owner, be sure to include your address so that people can easily navigate to your office. In my case, I am usually out in the field, and meet most of my clients in their homes, so my office address isn’t necessary, but I include it anyway. Now, this can be a double edged sword if you are trying to label yourself as an area expert but have an office in a totally different city. My suggestion is to use carefully.
How and What can You delegate?
- Creation of memes & videos
- Posting Stories and Feeds
Creation of memes & videos
Creating memes is pretty easy. I’m not going to dive into this too much. There are a bunch of apps that you can get from the Google Play store and the Apple App store that allow you to place text, gifs, and stickers on a photo or a video. In addition to those apps I am a big fan of Adobe Spark and my team and I use it almost daily. Memes are an easy way to stay top of mind. If at all possible use photos of yourself in action.
Posting Stories and Feeds
Posting is also another topic I am not going to spend too much time on. I suggest posting about 3 times a day: morning, midday, and evening. I usually make my morning post something inspriational, my midday post work related, and my evening post personal. If possible, I’d calendar one day to create 21-30 posts for the week, and then use an automated posting tool such as https://later.com/, to schedule and automate the posts.
Engagement (comments, likes, shares) is HUGE. If you are a veteran IG user you’ve seen the profiles with 1 million followers but only 2-3 people engaging on a post. Those profiles probably have a lot of spammy fake purchased followers. To combat these fake profiles, the engineers at FB & IG have placed more value on the amount of engagement your posts get. When someone comments on your posts-reply back, even if all they did was give you an 👊 emoji-give one 👊 right back. Commenting, responding, sharing, liking & loving is what can keep a post lingering, and as more and more interaction happens, the Algorithm Gods push it up higher on the feeds so more of your contacts see the content. It actually makes sense.
Advertising is also something that can be taught and delegated, but again, is still subject to the content that is provided to the person running the advertising campaign(s) for you. People can relate to people, and while it makes sense that I should be advertising a video of a property that I am trying to sell, I can show you hard empirical evidence that I get more views and clicks when I am in the video talking about the house in the first person versus the house alone. Remember, you are the star and the most unique asset you have. It doesn’t matter what you look like or even sound like. Some of the most successful internet marketers have no business being on camera. They don’t look or sound the part that you or I think fits the mold of what a good spokesperson sounds or looks like. Yet, despite the contrary, they keep making video after video and their audience keeps growing and growing. Why? Because of the consistency of their message.
What do I post?
Everything you do on Instagram has to provide value to the end user. Self promotion should be secondary. People will consume, use, and/or buy your product or service when the value of your product or service exceeds the price. Initially, the value of your content is going to have to be FREE, but there will come a point in your career where what you share is going to be worth more than the price you are asking for it. What happens though, is that most people give up when they don’t get the kind of feedback they expect. You might work for a 1 hour on a 2200 character post (the max that instagram allows) or a few hours filming a 10 minute IGTV video (the maximum time that IGTV permits) that yields 2 likes and 5 views.
I’m not gonna lie, the ROI isn’t always there. There have been many times that I toil over a post and I get zero engagement, and then, there are times, when I do little more than just point, click, and record that yields me tons of likes, shares, and comments. You never really know what is going to resonate with people, you just have to be consistent. Don’t spend time worrying about the quality of the content inasmuch as how often you do it. I’d rather have you post 3-4 poorly edited videos per week versus 1 glossy high budget professionally edited video every 2-3 months. I know this sounds weird, but trust me, the more consistent your message, the more likely you’ll succeed. The guys and gals who have the budgets to create these amazing videos didn’t start that way. Go back to their early postings and you will see their evolution. Chances are, their first few videos are nowhere near as polished as they are now.
Your posts don’t always have to be inspirational or motivational, although statistics show that those kind ofl posts tend to do better. As stated earlier, document the journey. In my case, I talk a lot about my career in real estate, my family life, my speaking engagements, the training courses I offer the agents I employ, etc. Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes and how you’ve learned from them. People can benefit from this.
Sharing viral content is also an easy way to build an audience. There are apps that allow you to take someone’s content and re-share it on your own IG feed. I use tools like Repost. If something has already gone viral, then there’s a good chance you’ll be able to get some traffic off of it. Remember, the key component of the re-post is VALUE. You can’t keep sharing photos and videos of cats playing piano and hope that people follow you. There’s nothing wrong with humor, just don’t go overboard UNLESS your humor is what you do. The idea is to share content related to what you do, content about your personal life (everyone’s threshold is different), and the rest is up to you. I divide this up as 55/45/10 percent.
Which is better? Photo or Video?
Make no question, video is more engaging. This doesn’t mean that a photo with good copy (text description) can’t go viral, it just means that a 60 second video can keep someone engaged, on average, longer than a photo can UNLESS of course, you take advantage of all 2200 characters in the comments section, ie your copy.
There are 5 formats in which you can post/share your photos or videos, aside from paid advertising.
- IG Photo Feed (both as a 1:1 sqaure ratio or a 4:5 portrait ratio)
- IG Video Feed
- IGTV Channel
I won’t go into each type of post, but I will share just a few tips. The portrait ratio gives you more real estate (those puns tho) to work with. If your image is text heavy or if you need to fit as much of the image in as possible, use the portrait size.
Stories, the 15 second vertical clips, were unapologetically ripped off from Snapchat. Numbers indicate that the story format is rapidly increasing and FB has said that they may exceed the feed format. This remains to be seen, but I will say that I do advertise using stories and some of my story ad results are considerably better than the ads in the feeds, while others perform worse on some metrics. I’m still testing out what story ads work and which don’t, but when I see my cost per click exceeding $2-3 I pause the campaign or modify the ad.
Now remember, when you have 10,000 or more followers you can use the story format to link out to a website which is your ultimate goal. You want eyeballs on your website more than you want eyeballs on your profile. Ultimately your job is to build your personal brand and your personal website using Instagram not becoming a slave to your IG profile. It’s a tool. It’s a great tool. It’s not your end game.
If you don’t have 10,000 followers you can still use the story format to link to videos in your IGTV account which isn’t bad. Use this feature to promote new videos you’ve uploaded onto your IGTV channel. I’ll give more tips on audience building in a bit.
There is a “Highlight” feature beneath your profile. It’s 4-6 little circle bubbles that allow you to showcase your stories into categories and “highlight” them. This is a cool little feature, as it allows people the luxury of showcasing something by category. Much more convenient than having the user have to scroll through your feeds in hopes that they’ll find what they are looking for. Highlight events, product reviews, events, or promotions and label it accordingly so that the end user knows what they are going to be looking at.
Highlights are effective because they enable you to keep the content that would normally only be available for 24 hours. Also, the stories that you feature in your highlight section retain their “links.” In other words, for those of you who have over 10K followers and you create a story that links out, the link remains intact. If you don’t have 10K followers, I still suggest using stories to link to IGTV videos and highlight them. Do this often, especially if it’s a good video. For instance, I have a “highlight” labeled “Game On”. Now I know I said to be clear about what each highlight bubble is about, and while I could label that highlight “Training”, results have already shown me that people didn’t click on it as much. So explore your creativity within reason. Click bait wont work. People don’t like to feel duped.
How long should the caption/copy of my post be?
Instagram permits a maximum of 2200 characters. We can’t all be @beyonce who can generate hundreds of thousands of likes and comments without any captions at all, but that doesn’t mean you have to use every character either. The benefit of long Instagram posts is the ability for you to tell your story. Some images are self explanatory. I get it. But some images are subject to interpretation and the accompanying caption can create a stronger bond between the user and your brand or company. Bottom line – don’t be afraid to go long.
Type Out Your Content First
I’m going to save you A LOT of time. Type out your content first. The instagram app does not recognize line breaks or even have an enter key, or a return key. When you use the app to type your caption, text is recognized as one long paragraph. Writing one long paragraph is a horrible way to keep the user engaged. Instead, create a document (word, google docs, pages, whatever) that stores ALL your captions. Here’s why:
- Creating line breaks is much easier on a word processing document. To further ensure that oure line breaks are recognized by IG I also suggest using bullets. This is the easiest and fastest way to add a line break in your caption. I use that technique all the time. You can use a dash (-), asterisks (***), dots (…), or an emoji. This extra character will act as a space and make it easier to read.
- You’ll have the ability to copy and paste and share this post on other platforms if you’d like
- It makes it much easier to delegate to someone else. If you spent 3-5 hours per week working on the captions and then shared that document with someone else, an assistant per se, that assistant could easily work on memes, photos, and videos.
How to use Hashtags
If you don’t know what hashtags are, they are a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic. So when someone clicks on a hashtag such as #talktopaul or #motivationalquotes they will see all posts related to that topic. How does this benefit you? Instagram allows you to have up to 30 hashtags per post. That’s 30 opportunities for you content to be found. It also means that if you’re trying to create your own hashtag it will most likely take some time to gain steam, depending on your level of influence. In the past, I used to manually type out each of these hashtags. This was cumbersome. I suggest you use the online tool https://all-hashtag.com/. The site is pretty self explanatory. All you have to do is type in a keyword and All-Hashtag will providing you with 30 relevant and trending hashtags. This is a huge time saver and helps rowing your follower base. Again, don’t think that hashtagging #Beyonce on a photo of yourself will trick people into following you. The best way to get followers is to provide value and good content.
Instagram is a powerful marketing tool, but it’s just that: A TOOL. In the right hands, it can be worth millions of dollars, and in the wrong hands, it can be an amazing waste of time. To maximize your profile you have to become a content creator, not a content consumer. Create great content that provides value and you’ll have an audience that keeps coming back for more. Value first. Monetize later.