Hey guys! Long time lurker here, but created an account just recently. I wanted to repost an article of mine that has been quite popular on Medium and reddit, because I think (and hope) some of you might find it useful here.
Main brand accounts aren’t good for driving growth via Instagram. They serve an important role in other ways, such as product and service updates, success stories from users, customer service, giving a quick overview of your offering, and tips to get the most out of what your customers are buying.
In fact, people expect brands to have an Instagram account for these reasons, and you should go above and beyond with everything mentioned.
That is to say, the main Instagram account for your business is geared toward your existing customer base, as well as those who are already actively looking for something that you’re offering. It’s not meant for building a huge audience of potential customers.
Many are trying to force it, but it almost never works. Yes, some businesses have huge audiences on Instagram, but how many of them have grown because of Instagram?
Everyone wants to build an audience to acquire customers from, but for that, you need something else.
The idea is simple. You create another Instagram account. Something with a clear theme that attracts your target audience, and something that at the same time suits the visual nature of Instagram. That’s the recipe for success here.
Let’s take a few examples. If you sell sofas, you can create an account for Scandinavian decor. If you have an app for sharing wedding pictures, go with a certain themed wedding inspiration account. Phone accessory brands could do an account showcasing the digital nomad lifestyle.
Yes, Instagram is full of these accounts, but there’s a reason for it — they work. Instagram is the perfect platform for these types of accounts, and they attract hordes of people. This is exactly the content people want to see when they’re in Instagram browsing mode.
And it’s not like you can’t do it better than most. The majority of these accounts are not being run professionally — or at least they could be improved a lot. Most of them also sell out far too cheaply and turn the accounts into pure spam with shitty ads.
With an account like this, you’ll be able to build a following of people who are interested in the niche you operate in, but might not be buying, or even researching your products or services yet. It’s very difficult to get people like this to follow your brand account.
Then when you’ve built an audience, you can slowly start incorporating your business into it, funneling these people to your site and your main account. You can start with some simple ads, create appropriate story highlights, or even add “by Your Business” in the name of the account.
Just beware of suffocating your followers. The core theme of why people followed in the first place needs to remain in the majority of the content.
You’ll end up with a constantly growing audience of potential customers, driving growth for your brand, which in turn lets you be laser-focused on serving your existing customers and converting those on the brink of buying with your main account.
Your first task is to come up with the theme of the account. Remember the recipe: something visual and something that attracts your target audience.
It’s difficult to give out general advice for this part, but if you leave a comment below and describe your business, I can give you some ideas.
As a side note, you don’t even need a business yet to apply this strategy. You can build your audience first, and start your business later. That was my original plan with The Minimalist Wardrobe, when I set out to build an audience for a clothing brand I wanted to start. I ended up scrapping the idea of a clothing brand pretty quickly, but The Minimalist Wardrobe turned into a business of its own and kickstarted my personal career.
When you’ve decided on your theme, and have come up with a good name for the account, you need to find content. At this point, you need to consider yourself as a content curator, not creator. Creating can come later, but now you just want to get things going and find what works.
Look for bloggers and influencers in your niche. Find the best posts by them. Check Unsplash and other stock photo sites, just avoid the stock photo aesthetic. Remember to credit properly.
Read blogs and form opinions. You need to be able to actually curate the content you’re reposting. It’s not just about compiling stuff. It’s about presenting content from your point of view. Not everyone will like it, but not everyone has to.
Post a handful of posts, write a descriptive bio, and promote the account with your main account, if you have one. If you don’t, or if your main account doesn’t really have a following yet, start following a couple hundred people in your niche. That should give you some early traction. Know that Instagram has strict measures against mass following, so don’t bank on it being a sustainable growth strategy down the line.
You’ll grow with collaborations and the strategic use of hashtags — both of which require interesting content to work.
I have a part about collaborations in my article “How I Grew an Instagram Account from 4000 to 190k in a Year”, but essentially you try to find fair cross-promotion opportunities with other similar accounts.
Remember to think outside the box: you don’t have a big audience in the beginning, so a story feature by you doesn’t give a lot of negotiating power, but what else can you offer? Can you send them one of your products? Could you find a way to feature them on your main brand account naturally, in exchange for them promoting your new account? You need to be creative.
Getting eyes on your new account is in many cases much better than getting your main account featured because you’ll convert many more followers that way.
Hashtags are highly misunderstood and require an article of their own, but in a nutshell, the idea is to figure out what most people want to see when they search for a certain hashtag — and only use it if your post actually fits the bill.
This means that you have to research relevant hashtags and look at what kind of posts Instagram is giving traction to within those hashtags. In other words, it’s not up to you to decide that “this post could easily count as #fallinspo, imma use that.” You have to first check if #fallinspo has similar posts as top posts, and only then use the hashtag in your post.
Growth is going to be slow in the beginning, but it does get easier, and you’ll get better.
Creating a secondary account comes with some unexpected bonuses.
Even if your business fails, you’ll still have the audience. You can potentially turn it into a business of its own, which I did, or you can use it to kickstart another business. Having an audience opens a lot of doors.
The second account also helps you with your brand voice. You’ll have the chance to form your own, honest opinions, and speak out without fear of damaging your business. You’ll see what connects with the audience and lean in on what’s working. It’s kind of a sandbox to practice communicating with your target audience.
Lastly, you’ll learn Instagram. It’s a wonderful platform that can take you almost anywhere if you know how to use it. And my belief is that it will continue to be so for years to come.
As mentioned in the post, I run an "theme account" just like this and have a newsletter where I share in detail what I've learned (and keep learning) about organic Instagram growth and strategy, if someone is interested in learning more.