Social media is an important tool for entrepreneurs. Not only does it get your message and product "out there," but it gives you the opportunity to reach new audiences on a daily basis.
But what if that audience could grow by more than 800% in just a few months?
Not only that — but what if you could do it without spending a dime?
Strategist and content specialist Talia Koren has managed to do exactly that. Her popular blog, Workweek Lunch, launched over a year ago. But thanks to her use of Instagram, she expanded her side hustle into a thriving business opportunity.
"I left corporate life because I was caught in a round of layoffs," Koren said. "That inspired me to go off on my own. My co-workers kept commenting on the home-cooked lunches I brought to work every day, saying they wished they could be healthy like me. Knowing how easy meal prep is, I decided to build a resource to start teaching others how to do it!"
Since she started using Instagram, Koren's blog has thrived. Not only has she been approached for some incredible opportunities — like a potential segment on the Rachael Ray Show and a cookbook with Simon & Schuster — but Koren has been able to reach her audience in ways that she didn't know were possible.
"I started with Instagram at first for fun, but when I saw how much more my audience responded to me there, I made it a higher priority," Koren said. "There's a huge food and healthy community there already that I could tap into, which other platforms don't have much of."
Koren says that most of Workweek Lunch's site traffic and email subscribers come from Instagram. To capitalize on that audience, Koren uses the Workweek Lunch account to promote her free services that users can sign up for via email.
"I call them my VIPs," Koren said. "Email subscribers are much more likely to become paying customers than general Instagram followers because you can develop a deeper relationship with them. For example, I recently launched my first meal plan and all of my first buyers were people on my email list that I've communicated one-on-one with.
"Entrepreneurs should aim to stand out by providing as much free value as possible and educate your market," Koren explained. "That way when you have something to sell, they're already up to speed on why they need to buy your solution."
Koren's success makes Instagram sound like an enticing tool, but using it to grow your business requires commitment. Here are three steps Koren says you can take today to boost your business with Instagram:
1. Get a business account.
Koren recommends this so you can start tracking analytics ASAP, and that data can then guide your content decisions. An Instagram business account is free but requires a Facebook page to connect to. But, as Koren notes, you don't have to use the Facebook page the way you're using Instagram.
"Facebook is increasingly difficult to break into as a business, while Instagram users gladly interact with businesses and brands regularly," Koren explains. "Choose one platform based on who you're trying to reach and where their attention is — and put all your energy into that one platform."
2. Improve your visual content.
Remember that content is king. If your content doesn't stand on its own, it will be difficult for your audience to find a connection to it — and to your business.
"Take note of what does well on the platform and create your own version of it," Koren recommends. "In May of this year, I had around 6,000 followers. It's September and I have 50,000 now. But that wasn't an accident. I studied Instagram. I learned as much as possible about it and implemented what I learned without having to do any of that follow/unfollow stuff, buying followers or being spammy."
3. Post once a day (at minimum).
New content is constantly posted on social media platforms; if you don't keep up, your message will get lost in the shuffle. Post good content often and tag your content so it's seen widely by others. You can add up to 30 hashtags on a single Instagram post — make sure you use all 30!
Ultimately, Koren knows that understanding your audience and what they want from your business is key to building a strong (and profitable) social media presence.
"I was never able to make an impact until now, where I've carved out a space to truly develop my voice, mission and message. To me, that's what social media is really about," Koren said. "I wish I took Instagram more seriously out of the gate!"