You may or may not have heard of Nathan Chan (not to be confused with the Olympic skater Nathan Chen). In 2013, Chan was working an IT job with an idea floating in his head.
He had a bit of entrepreneurial spirit himself and wondered if he could take that spirit and use it to support, encourage, inspire, and otherwise “educate” others just like himself – young people hoping to launch a startup business but still in the idea phase.
With a bit of research, Chan discovered that there was indeed a “gap” to be filled.
Most publications for entrepreneurs assumed that their businesses had already launched, and now it was a matter of growth. There was nothing out there for those with just the idea, trying to figure out how to make it happen.
With just one other team member (a graphic designer in India), Chan launched a digital subscription-based magazine, called Foundr.
It was begun as a side-gig, but he did get subscriptions early on and things were cooking along at a steady pace. The goal was to make enough money to do this full-time.
In 2014, Chan decided to use Instagram as his main social media platform. Of course, he did not just start posting. He developed a careful marketing plan (he has degrees in IT and marketing) and stuck to it.
Within a few weeks, Chan had 10K followers, and the numbers continued to grow. Today, that number is over a million. And Chan is now everywhere with a publication that is the “go-to” place for budding entrepreneurs. Chan obviously has no day job anymore.
But his postings on Instagram have never backed off, and he spends very little time in a day managing his account.
Can you get to this same point? The point at which you can spend very little of your day managing your Instagram account? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that it will take some up-front work on your part for a longer-term benefit.
The Preliminary Work
You may already have an Instagram account. You may not have one at all. Whichever the case, it is time to go to ground zero and do the legwork that will make your Instagram account something you spend 30-40 minutes a day managing.
1. Visit or Re-visit Your Target Audience Demographics/Preferences
There are great tools for you to get this research done, right through Instagram. Based upon your hashtags and the target persona you have developed, Instagram analytics tools are amazing helpers. Use these tools, and simplify your work.
You will also get insights into the compelling content that your audience finds valuable. This should drive how you craft your posts.
2. Get a Theme and a “Scene”
This is one of the prime recommendations from Nathan Chan. If you get a great theme and all of your posts relate to that theme, then followers are likely to come back for more.
His theme was inspirational quotes planted on a background of amazing imagery – photos, graphics, etc. That theme still comprises much of the magazine’s posts today.
Of course, his posts went far beyond just these amazing images and quotes, but more on that later.
The point is: if you get a theme, stick to it, and post consistently, your followers will come back for more, and they are likely to share your posts with their tribes (as long as the content is a “fit” for what they value).
When we first launched Instagram as a marketing tool, we were just posting random content that we thought followers would enjoy and share. Once we got a theme, we could entertain followers. We chose the holidays. You cannot imagine how many minor and sometimes crazy holidays there are all over the world. Our followers kept coming back, and, while it took some creative thinking, we tied holidays into our writing services in the captions we crafted.
3. Make sure You Have the Tools in Place to Craft Great Images, Captions, etc.
Chan had and has a graphic designer. You may not be ready for that, but you need to use the tools at your disposal to craft those visuals and those captions.
Instagram users like informal stuff, so you should be able to use devices such as your smartphone to take photos, create videos, etc.
As for the text, you may want to find truly creative writers who can craft great and engaging text content. Get this set up in advance. Check out freelancers on sites such as Upwork; check out writing services that have creative copywriting departments like WriteLoad or a review service to find reliable content authors.
4. Establish a Schedule of Postings
Chan posted several times a day for a long time. This is a smart strategy because it is often hard to know when a target may get on Instagram. And, in the beginning, the more the better.
Once you have set your schedule and implemented it, of course, you will want to use Instagram analytics to determine which posts are getting the most pay at which times of the day. But right now, set your schedule and commit to sticking with it for at least a few months, so that you can get good data on its effectiveness.
Achieving the Goal of 40 Minutes a Day – Here are Your Steps
The less time you can spending managing your Instagram account, the better. You need to focus on a lot of other business tasks, so getting management down to 40 minutes a day or less is ideal.
Here are the ways in which you can get this done.
1. Batch, Batch, Batch
It makes sense, once you have your theme and scene, to take one day a month, and create a batch of posts along that theme.
This includes photos, drawings, other graphics, and certainly do not forget the hashtags to go with each of those posts. When you get this done in advance, there is no scurrying around to find the right photo or captions just before you need to meet your schedule.
It’s a huge time saver, not to mention the stress relief. You know your posts are going to be published, and you can relax until the day to produce the next batch.
And, there is nothing to say that, if a great idea hits, you cannot craft a new post and insert it into your regular schedule. There is a number of tools for automatic posting, and they all allow you to intercede and change things up.
2. Social Mention Alerts
You can spend time checking your Instagram posts every day for comments and discussion threads, or you can use social mention alerts instead.
These tools will alert you when any follower places comments on your feed, and you can then access the post and respond.
Note: responding is mandatory always.
When you get those alerts, you certainly can wait a while until a few comments accumulate and then respond to each of them all at once. This is a huge time-saver, and you can set a short time each day to complete this task.
Most social monitoring tools will not just alert you when comments are made on your posts, but will also let you know when you are mentioned elsewhere on Instagram (or anywhere else, for that matter).
3. Get Outside of Your Own Posts
It’s so tempting to access our own feed and spend our time reading comments, responding to them, and then going back to other work at hand.
But what have we really accomplished in spreading our brand through this activity? Every day, about 10 minutes should be spent moving around a bit and then liking or commenting on other people’s posts. They may well return the favor. And, of course, Instagram picks this up and places more value on your posts as a result.
The other strategy here is this: go to pages that are most popular under your key hashtags, see who is following those, and start following those people. You don’t have to access their pages and comment every day but do it often enough that they come to know who you are, and you can always add your link as you do.
The bottom line is that you have to be proactive in getting your brand out there. Spending 10 minutes a day on this is not a lot, but it can result in big payback in terms of growing your following.
Plan 5-10 minutes of your day accessing posts of others and commenting on them.
4. About those Hashtags
You are allowed 30. And you do want to get as many in as possible on every post. Hashtags are “gold” on Instagram, and they are how others search for and find you. It is also how you search for and find others to engage with.
Keep a list of your hashtags, and be certain to insert them. If you don’t want to use all of them (some say this looks “trashy”), then rotate them as you post.
According to Johannes from GettingGrowth you need to keep hashtags relevant. If you find that these hashtags aren’t fully right for your next post then don’t use these hashtags. Using irrelevant hashtags can actually hurt your content reach.
But here’s another idea: Publish your post with no hashtags. Then put a note in your phone of the hashtags you want to use (the number is totally up to you). Then copy and paste that note into the comment section of the post. You get all of your relevant hashtags in!
Chris Mercer, founder of Citatior.com describes the importance of hashtags for one of his previous marketing campaigns this way:
It took us a while to find a number of effective hashtags, but they have been our life’s blood in terms of getting traffic to our Instagram page. And we regularly reviewed them to see if there are newer and better ones to us. Hashtags are the royalty of Instagram.
5. Instagram Stories are Hot
If you are not using Instagram stories, you are seriously missing out on a huge opportunity to spread your brand. Right now, 500 million Instagram users are accessing Stories.
And Instagram keeps improving its Stories by adding features, such as “Superzoom,” which allows you to zoom in on pieces of your short videos, for a more dramatic effect.
Here’s how you can feature yourself, your team, your customers, and, yes, even your products and services. All of this serves to get more personal with your followers. And if you can add some humor or other entertainment, all the better. The informal nature of these Stories is one of their biggest appeals.
6. Shout-Outs – Tit-For-Tat
Chan recommends that brand do as much of this as possible.
Giving an influencer in your target audience market shout outs as often as possible will get those others to post your content too. You should consider setting up collaborative relationships with them so that you do this on a mutually agreed upon schedule.
7. Set Up the Analytics
Once you set up automatic analytics, through any great number of tools available, you don’t have to do any more work, other than accessing your reports and review them. These will give you critical information, such as the most popular types of content and topics, the times of day that are working the best, etc. Use this information to refine your content and your posting schedules.
The more you give followers what they want when they want it, the more they will stick with you and be motivated to share.
8. Serve First, Ask Later
If you put yourself out there as one who has an interest in what others are posting; if you serve them through becoming a follower and by giving them shout-outs, you can always ask for reciprocity later.
But just by aligning yourself with others, especially influencers, people come to see you as an influencer in your niche as well. If you re-post influencer content on a regular basis, you will become associated with them and considered an authority in your own right.
This takes only a few minutes a day.
If you really want to get your Instagram management down to about 30-40 minutes a day, and still realize good growth, then these 8 tips are critical.
- Do the preliminary work. This will take time, of course, but it sets you up for easy management down the road. Be certain you know your audience well, get a theme to which that audience will relate, gather the tools to create the amazing photos, graphics, and media you will need.
- Develop a schedule for postings that is frequent and at the right times of days
- Batch your posts and set up automated publishing, using any number of great tools
- Don’t be egocentric. If you spend all of your valuable time on your own page, you are not spreading your brand effectively. Use your own hashtags to find others, court them, follow them, and follow their followers. Spend about 15 minutes a day reaching out, and rotate that reaching out. You don’t have to like or comment on their posts every day.
- Align yourself with influencers. When you re-post lots of their content on your own page, you become associated with their expertise as your own.
- Use as many hashtags as you are comfortable with – this is how others will find you
- Use Instagram stories. It is becoming the most popular type of posts quite quickly.
- Be sure to use a good analytics tool and revise your plans and schedule accordingly
Now go forth, and grow your Instagram business.