How many times have you heard that you “need more followers on Instagram” if you want your business to grow?
Well, here’s a (badly-kept) secret: Instagram is a tool, not a goal – and having a lot of followers doesn’t mean you’ll land even one client.
A lot of new business owners tend to feel pressured into massively growing their social media accounts, even though they’d much rather work on the aspects of their business that are more important to them – like their actual offer.
The good news is, Instagram can be a great way to bring more people into your network and expose them to your offer, helping you turn new audiences into paying clients without spending hours upon hours just “growing your following”.
We spoke with Gavriella (Gavi) Rubin, the founder of Wellness with Gavi – a yoga community that incorporates mental health and wellbeing into the yoga practice – about how she started her business by doing just that. After being unable to continue teaching at yoga studios following the outbreak of COVID-19, Gavi successfully launched and grew her own yoga business – primarily through using Instagram.
In this post, we’ll share a number of strategies that Gavi has used to get clients from Instagram that businesses in every industry can use, in addition to some bonus tips for using Instagram that we’ve learned over at Tailor Brands.
Let’s dive in!
How to Plan Your IG Feed
In an ideal world, you would put a content plan in place before you even start posting on social. This would involve strategizing around several types of content to support your different goals, which could include things like:
- Generating engagement, which could be measured by likes and comments
- Creating demand around your offer, through informational posts and Stories
- Pitching your services, including the dates and times they’re available + contact information
Then, you’d come up with a posting schedule that cycles through each different type of content, with post dates, times, and creatives that catch the eye.
Sounds easy, right? For a lot of us – definitely not.
We know that most new business owners don’t have the time to become round-the-clock social media managers, and this type of plan might not be realistic for you.
The same was true for Gavi, who was both in school and teaching classes while trying to get her wellness business going. Here are some things she did to get around this time block, which you can try as well:
1. Start with your personal network
A lot of new business owners try to separate their personal network from their social media followers, since their services might not be relevant for their friends and family.
However, your network can often be a great asset!
Firstly, it will help you get some initial followers, making your business look legitimate to newcomers who find your profile; second, you can test out different types of content on them to see what works; and thirdly – perhaps most importantly – everyone in your network has their own network of people, some of which who could become ideal clients for your business.
When Gavi first opened her IG account, all of her followers were either friends of hers or family members. So, she used that as an opportunity to create a “mixed bag” of content; some of her posts were about her services, but others were more fun, personal things that she knew her friends and family would want to see.
View this post on Instagram
As Gavi puts it:
“Your network doesn’t want to just be in the loop about your business; that’s great, too, but they’re also people who know you as a human, and they want to see you. That’s what we love about social media, people we know – or feel like we know – and wanting to see them in their daily lives….to bombard your network with constant information about your business is just boring and tiresome for them.”
So, don’t be afraid to start with the people you know – even inviting them to follow your business account from your personal IG or Facebook account. They’ll be more receptive to following your content from the start, and it will give you a place to start letting others know about your services, what you’re offering, and who it’s for. This brings us to the next tip:
2. Look at other Instagram accounts in (and out of) your industry
Researching (and following!) other IG accounts in your space – whether small business accounts or those from huge brands – helps you do 3 things:
- Figure out which brands you want to emulate, and gain inspiration from their content. For example, Aja Barber – an activist in the garment industry – has an account that helped Gavi understand what kind of brand she wants to be. Though Aja isn’t in the wellness industry per se, she does something bigger than just her brand – participating in conversations that apply to the broader world – and that was something Gavi realized she wanted to emulate.
- Learn what types of brands you don’t want to be like. In the yoga world, Gavi saw a lot of brands that “spiritually bypass”, (use spiritual ideas as a way to get around having difficult conversations), promoting conspiracy theories and even catering to a racist audience. That was a nonstarter for Gavi and something she wanted to fix with her own business, which brings us to:
- Understand where there are gaps in your industry, and position yourself in a way that fills those gaps. For Gavi, that means using her Instagram to address political issues and have meaningful conversations about the world beyond yoga. While politics can be controversial (and not necessarily the right choice for every brand), these kinds of conversations are part of Gavi’s brand values and are engaging for the type of client she wants to serve.
As she said, “Sometimes I sit for 15 minutes before I post things and wonder if I should, but I try really hard not to be worried about upsetting people. You shouldn’t listen to the critique of people you wouldn’t go to for advice. So I think of my “ideal client” and the people I want to build my community towards, and if I know this post would be meaningful to my community, then yeah, I need to post it.”
If you don’t know who your ideal client is, looking at other brands’ IG feeds – the language they use, the types of people commenting and engaging with them, the kinds of content they post, etc. – will help you start to understand who it is that you should be posting for when you create content.
3. Have a photoshoot
As we mentioned earlier, it’s important to have some sort of plan when you’re using social media as a marketing tool. Doing a photoshoot (or several) will leave you with a batch of original content that you can consistently use as time goes on, in addition to helping visually align your feed.
Here’s an example of a post Gavi created from one of her photoshoots:
View this post on Instagram
And, a photoshoot doesn’t need to break the bank; if you’re on a tight budget, you can just use your smartphone with a timer, and touch up the images with editing tools (which we’ll talk about soon).
Alternatively, ask a friend with a camera to help you for a few hours! As Gavi put it, starting a business doesn’t mean that you have to be a photographer.
Of course, if you have a few dollars to spare, you can hire a photographer for a couple of hours who may be able to think of more creative ways to show off your service.
To come up with ideas for your photoshoot, ask yourself:
- Which tools do you use when you provide your offer?
- What are ways that you organize your business? Do you use a vision board? Get out ingredients? Scour new neighborhoods? Share that!
- What goes on behind the scenes before your offer begins? Prepping a space, choreographing a routine, spreading out materials?
- Are there any questions that people constantly ask about your niche or industry? Take some static photos of objects used in your business and overlay the answers with text.
All of these can be great subject matter for your photoshoot! As Gavi says, shoots tend to get expensive, so make sure to have a plan in place before you spend the money or time.
4. Choose time-saving tools
Once you have a bank of photos ready, knowing which tools you’re going to use to make the entire client-grabbing process smooth will save you time – from creating content to landing the sale.
Here are some of the types of tools you may want to use:
Photo editing: There are so many photo editing apps available in addition to the standard Instagram filters. Gavi uses Lightleap, which is a nice tool for iPhones; you can also try StoryArt, which has easy-to-use preset templates, or Unfold, which is more minimalistic and elegant. And of course, you can always go with Tailor Brands, which gives you an endless amount of pre-made designs that are in line with your logo and brand colors.
Video editing: Like with photo editing, there are a ton of tools for the layperson to use. We like InShot for editing videos and adding music, but you can also try A Color Story, which saves your edits as filters that you can reuse over and over again.
Payment processing: Whether you hook up a payment processor to your website or are just using a payment sharing app like PayPal or Venmo, make sure you have some way of getting paid before you get started. This way, there won’t be any roadblocks or friction once you have followers who are interested in becoming clients, and their experience with your service will be smoothe from start to finish.
This should go without saying, but you should also have your website ready, or any other platforms you need to actually give your offer to your clients once they move off Instagram. For example, Gavi uses Sutra to schedule and host her yoga classes (a great option for businesses in the fitness industry!).
Make sure that you know how clients can actually avail of your services, even if that means they just have to DM you to schedule a call.
When all of this is in place, you’re ready to start interacting with your audience.
How to Attract the Right Followers (Who are Interested in Your Services)
Once you have your tools, some initial images, and an idea of who your ideal client is in place, it’s time to focus on building a relevant audience.
A big misconception people have about using social media for business is that growing your audience requires the same things as maintaining your account.
And what happens is, new business owners look toward influencers to get an idea of what their own feeds should look like – but that can be a mistake. Influencers already have followers; they tend to already be well-known in their niche, and a large amount of the content they create is to keep those followers interested and engaged.
While that may be necessary for you somewhere down the line, you should first focus your efforts on attracting new, relevant followers (i.e. those with the potential to turn into clients). Here’s how:
1. Tell people what you do
This might seem really basic, but it’s something that a lot of new business owners overlook. Posting images that relate to your service is obviously helpful (and can make for a pretty feed), but potential clients will often want more information before they’re ready to book you.
For Gavi, she noticed that people love to see pictures of yoga, so she posts those often. But no one necessarily knows what services she offers based on those photos, so she started integrating them with Stories that had information about her classes.
“I post my group class schedule repetitively, and I constantly remind my audience what they get when they come to class (physical yoga, meditation, and breathwork). They have a really good idea of what they’re coming for; I’m not trying to trick anyone.”
Make sure to clearly outline what it is that you’re providing, both in your bio and in your Stories. Everything you say should be really clear, so you can align expectations with your audience from the get-go. This way, people that are interested in your service – whether they’re followers or are just coming to your profile for the first time – already have an idea of what you offer and if it’s right for them.
“Do the work for your clients; you shouldn’t make people on social media figure it out by themselves.”
2. Offer something for free
Service providers tend to have a harder battle than product sellers when it comes to converting clients (meaning, getting the sale).
As Gavi points out, if you’re a service-based industry, you have to reach people who want your service. It takes time to participate in your service, as opposed to simply buying your product; it takes a certain level of commitment for people to buy in.
Offering something for free – whether that’s a demo, a free 15-minute consultation call, or a live class that’s payment-optional can go a long way in getting potential clients to commit.
Now, I know this is a luxury that not all new business owners have, especially if you’re working on a side hustle and don’t have that much time to devote to it.
That said, giving away something for free that showcases what you do can be really useful.
One great strategy for offering free content is to use Instagram Live, which is what Gavi did when she originally kicked off her business.
Instagram Live lets you give a live broadcast, of, well, anything! Before Gavi had another platform, she used IG Live to teach her yoga classes. At the time, her network was mostly her friends and family, so it was a great way to show them what she does and that she’s a professional who knows what she’s doing.
She let her audience know that the classes were donation-based, and put an optional payment link in her bio. This way, anyone could see what her classes were like and even try them out for themselves. And later, when she moved her classes to Zoom, her audience already had an understanding of what she offered and that it was “worth it” for them to move offline and commit to her classes.
“Having people do something that took more commitment was actually a great way to get clients. Instagram was a nice way to get people in, but Zoom solidified them as clients.”
3. Meet your audience where they are
For Gavi, the content that her audience responds to is often not the content she wants to be posting.
Though she’d love to focus her feed on yoga philosophy, she’s seen that her followers will engage much more – liking, commenting, etc. – with images that she posts of herself, where she’s smiling. (In marketing, it’s often said that smiles sell, because we’re wired to feel happy when we see other people smile. Something to consider when planning your feed!)
It’s important to note that engagement doesn’t necessarily translate into clients. What it can do, however, is get new people acquainted with your business, and keep you present in their minds when they do find that they need a service you offer.
Gavi put it best: “Every time I post, someone is reminded that I exist.”
So, try to understand which types of images and captions your audience best responds to. Look at what they comment on and like more, but also try to understand when they’re messaging you – is it after you’ve posted an informational Story, or a static post? Take note of the content they’re reacting to, and make sure to intersperse more of that in your feed.
4. Focus on creating community
This is a big one for Gavi, as she’s found that good communication is what gets her a lot of her clients. Although it’s time-consuming, she tries to message people personally, even if she’s just sharing a Story about an upcoming class of hers with a quick “would love to see you there!”
People tend to feel seen when you reach out to them, and it helps them create personal connections with your brand, as opposed to just seeing you as “just another business.”
Gavi finds that a lot of people respond with things like “thank you so much for thinking of me, we’ll make sure to be in class next week!” when she reaches out to them. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don’t, but she’s building a sense of connection among her followers every time she reaches out.
Another part of creating a sense of community is to simply post consistently, whether that means uploading new Stories every day, or adding a static post to your feed just twice a week. It doesn’t have to be every day, as long as it’s consistent. Consistency is an important part of staying top-of-mind, and it means that new people who come to your profile will be more likely to see you as an active, relevant brand.
Finally, make sure to engage with your audience! This goes back to the point about meeting your audience where they are. Always be on the lookout for the types of content they’re responding to, and then make sure to respond back – helping to continue the conversation, and again, create the sense that your brand isn’t just a business, but an ongoing community that your audience can see themselves become part of.
5. Use Stories to encourage action
Up until now, we’ve mostly focused on your audience and on creating content that they will connect with. But as you are a business owner, it’s also important to, well, do business – and Instagram Stories are a great place to do that.
Like we mentioned above, static content (i.e. single images that you post to your IG feed) is great for putting yourself in the minds of your audience, but the place where you can really motivate your audience to take action and book your services is in your Stories.
Here are some of Gavi’s best Story tips:
- Post information about your offer, but keep it clear and succinct
- Include a call-to-action! Make sure to send your audience to the link in your bio, where they can take the next step to book your offer
- Send your Story to people through Direct Message, so it feels like you’re creating personal connections with each of your potential clients, rather than just posting into the ether
The last point comes with a caveat; not every one of your followers will appreciate being sent your Stories, especially if they’re advertising your services.
So, you can gauge who to send your Stories to by seeing who has expressed interest in your offer, whether those are people who have commented on your posts, or even people in your life who have made passing comments about needing something you can give them.
Treat them like “leads” who you can invite to take your next workshop, jump on a call, check out your videos, etc. Over time, seeing how they respond to your Stories (are they asking questions? Actually signing up for class?) will give you indirect feedback for how to tweak your Stories in the future to better connect your audience to your offer.
Moving From Social to Sale
Once someone shows interest in your offer (from responding to a Story, from messaging you, etc.), it’s time to try and build a relationship with them off of social media.
This could mean encouraging them to sign up for your class, book a call with you, schedule your first meeting, etc. depending on what it is you offer. Make sure it’s very clear how they can access your offer; the easiest way is usually through a link in your bio to a website, email address, etc. but of course, it depends on what your service does and how.
When you do this, one of two things will happen: Either the person will say yes to your offer and follow through, or they’ll disappear. And, guess what? Both of those things are okay!
When someone DMs (direct messages) Gavi after seeing one of her Stories, she invites them to take one of her classes.
Because her classes are donation-based, it doesn’t require a financial commitment from her audience unless they choose to pay. On the one hand, this makes it less of a big deal for someone to check out her class and see if her service is right for them; on the other, it’s easier for people to flake when they haven’t put money on the table yet. (Weigh the pros and cons for yourself.)
What happens if the person who reached out to Gavi doesn’t show up to her class? She follows up and sends them the link to the class recording, offering them to try it on their own time.
Above everything, remember that you’re a person and not just a brand.
Unlike other companies on social, small business owners have the added advantage of being the face of their own brands, so use that! Your humanness is a great way to connect with people and build connections with your audience that will get them to trust you.
Don’t expect that with just a few posts, people will automatically be ready to book your services; put in the effort to connect with them and reach out to them, so that you’ll be at the top of their minds when they finally are ready to book your services.
Gavi (Gavriella for long) has been practicing yoga for over ten years. She came to the practice as a way to enhance her physical well-being and along the way found mental clarity, spiritual depths, joy, self-expression, and overall enhanced quality-of-life. It is this experience of yoga that she hopes to share with others, both on and off the mat.
As a life-long lover of learning, Gavi has dedicated herself to exploring the intersection of yoga and mental health at the highest level. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Applied Psychology from NYU, where she went on to work as an assistant teacher for NYU’s most popular course, the Science of Happiness. You can now find Gavi living and learning in Santa Monica, CA where she is pursuing a Masters degree in Yoga Studies at LMU and concurrent certification in Yoga Therapy.