Wanna know a secret?
I started my Instagram challenge a few months back totally by accident.
So when I saw my weekly email in my inbox that fateful Friday morning saying, “daily Instagram posting starts today, y’all!” my heart sank a little.
I didn’t feel “ready”. But I had no choice at that point. It was GO TIME.
I had recently finished up the seriously hilarious The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and applied the book’s central tenant to my Instaxperiment: stop caring so much what other people think.
So I pressed on, did what I wanted to do, and let go of any potential judgment I thought might come my way.
And after the full 90 days of (almost) daily posting — more on that “almost” in a minute — I wanted to share my honest feedback of what worked, what didn’t, and what I’m going to do now that the challenge is over.
As a reminder, here’s what I wanted to achieve during the 90 day challenge:
– Build my brand and give new people a way to get to know me online
– Put myself out there, even though it was uncomfortable
– Potentially reach new clients
I started the challenge with 445 followers and had 554 on Day 90 — a net audience growth of 27%, which is cool!
(Image from minter.io)
I actually gained a TON more than 100 new followers during that time. But I didn’t play the whole “follow me and I’ll follow you” game; I only follow accounts I genuinely enjoy. So a lot of people dropped off when I didn’t follow them back…which was beyond annoying! Those kind of sleazy tactics really grate my cheese.
But I’m glad I did it that way. I like that my followers are people who actually want to be there for my content, not because there’s a follow in it for them.
I’ve got no problem with small but mighty gains! I’d much prefer that to big and flighty. 😉
This one was, well…pretty disappointing, truth be told.
During the 90 days, I got a WHOPPING 41 visits to my website from Instagram. #wompadoodledoo
But, on the upside, 78% of those visits were new sessions. And I saw pretty low bounce rates and some average site durations at nearly three minutes.
I’d much rather have 32 interested visitors than a million who just click and leave. So I’m choosing to see this one as a win. 😉
Lots of love
During my 90 days of daily posting, I got a lot of love from friends, family, and clients about my posts.
(My personal favorite of which came from a friend who was celebrating the end of her year at school a liiiiiittle too hard but still sharing the Insta-love!)
Bahahha. That still cracks me up.
I had some influencers engage with my content, which was neat!
I also discovered that Danielle LaPorte posted a photo I was in…something I only discovered because a new Insta-friend tagged me.
And I occasionally showed up as a top post in popular hashtags like #creativeentrepreneur, which was always cool and validating.
The big question…
Have I made any money from posting?
Not directly, no.
But indirectly? Maybe.
I recently had a new consult with someone who told me she checked out my Instagram to see if we’d click on a personal level before booking. While she didn’t find me on the platform, she did do a little light stalking to make sure we were a good fit before going forward.
It’s also possible that seeing my content in their feeds has kept me top of mind with my past clients and reminded them to contact me about new projects. So there’s def a chance that posting has made me moolah in more ways than one!
Okay. On to the juicy stuff. What actually worked during the 90-day challenge?
I knew I’d love planning out my posts in advance. It makes me feel in control and like more of a boss. It also helps keep my signature blend balanced.
I’ve been roughly sticking to a theme for each day, though I deviated from it when I had an in-the-moment photo I couldn’t wait to share. But the basic structure worked to guide my posts:
Tuesday: hustle / work-related
Thursday: personal post
Friday: sharing my new blog
Saturday: something cozy (candles, books, tea, comfort food, etc.)
Sunday: lifestyle (design, wellness, style, home, etc.)
I keep track of my posts in Trello and really like it. With the Trello mobile app, I can create cards on the fly and then decide what I want to post each week.
I also take a LOT of screenshots of beautiful photos that I either want to regram or emulate with my own content and upload these screenshots to Trello, too.
I plan my weekly posts out on Mondays. And I use the Later app for scheduling, which is a godsend! (And it’s free!)
As resistant as I was to using them, hashtags were key! I saw much more engagement on posts when I used hashtags.
This was an area where I needed to stop giving a f*ck. It felt a little obnoxious to use the maximum of 30 hashtags per post, but why not? I might as well get as much mileage as I can per post, so I tried to use all 30 hashtags whenever possible.
I had my gaggle of entrepreneur-related hashtags that I used for work posts. But I also had lists of hashtags for other topics I posted about often — things like dogs, minimalism, healthy cooking, cozy scenes, etc.
I used keyboard shortcuts in my iPhone to make it easy to add a comment with hashtags right after I posted.
Here’s how to do it (iPhone only — sorry, I don’t know how to do it on Android!):
1. Copy your set of 30 hashtags. (I use the Notes app to store each hashtag category in my phone.)
2. Go to General > Keyboard > Text Replacement. Click the “+” in the upper right of the screen to create a new shortcut.
3. Paste your 30 hashtags in the Phrase field.
4. Create your codeword in the Shortcut field. I removed the vowels in the word “hashtag” and pinned it onto the end of the phrase. (So I had shortcuts like “entrepreneurhshtgs”, “homehshtgs”, “doghshtgs”…you get the idea.)
5. Boom! Text shortcut: created.
After posting a photo on Instagram, I’ll open a new comment, type in my codeword and hit the spacebar. Then it auto-populates with all 30 hashtags. Magic!
What Didn’t Work
The strategies that didn’t work taught me just as much as the ones that did. Here’s what I won’t be repeating anytime soon…
Returning the love
I struggled a little bit with figuring out who to follow and engage with.
Politeness told me it would be nice to give some kind of attention to everyone who liked, commented, or followed me. Rules of social reciprocity, right?
I knew I didn’t want to do follow for follow. But I wanted to acknowledge new followers. So for the first few weeks, I would click over to their profile, and like/comment on 2-3 photos.
I quickly found this problematic. There were some accounts where I just honestly didn’t like the content. And while the idea of showing them some Insta-love was nice, it felt inauthentic. Like I was saying “cute dress” to someone whose dress I secretly hated. Yick.
And then…something happened that made the decision easy for me.
I liked a few photos of a new follower’s account to be nice…only to realize after reading their bio that they were a video chat service with flirty, naked ladies. (NOT what the photos, communicated, btw.)
I decided then and there that I would only like content that I genuinely liked, not simply to make someone feel acknowledged. That feels good.
Engaging with hashtagged content
Whenever I could, I’d check out hashtags I commonly use and engage with content I enjoyed. I think it’s good to put out what you want people to do for you — so I liked doing this!
But in the name of honesty, I couldn’t do it every day. It was very time-consuming. I started filling every spare minute with hashtag-searching-and-engaging. And given my preference for screen-free living, it made me feel a little too glued to my smartphone.
I didn’t notice a big uptick in followers or engagement on days that I did this, either. Maybe it was the hashtags I was targeting, but I didn’t get any huge results from it.
So while this one felt good and I’ll keep doing it when I feel like it, it won’t be a huge part of my strategy going forward.
What happens now?
In reflecting back, I realize how much I enjoyed the 90-day challenge. It forced me to find meaningful moments to share, to let my thoughts spill out about certain topics, and to tap into the visual part of my brain…all of which were fun!
And I know how important it is for potential new clients to get a taste of me before they’re ready to hit the “book consult” button.
So I’m definitely going to continue posting. But I’ll be doing it a little differently going forward…
I’m going to aim for daily posts BUT I won’t sweat it if I miss a day.
There was one day during the challenge – Day 86 — where I didn’t post. I had such a fun day but for some reason, posting a photo of it felt like pimping myself out. I didn’t want to pull myself out of the moment so I opted out that day.
It KILLED me to be so close to the end of the challenge and skip a day! (Fellow Type As, I know you feel me on this!) But in the end, I’m glad I honored the way I was feeling and chose #presentoverperfect.
I’ll definitely keep that flexibility with me going forward. And I’ll aim for dailyish posting.
Engage with target accounts
Instead of randomly liking and commenting on photos using certain hashtags, I’m going to focus on certain ACCOUNTS instead.
I’ll start with around 10-ish target accounts where my ideal client is likely to hang out — and I’ll regularly engage with that content. Liking, sharing thoughtful comments, and responding to other comments in the thread could connect me with the right people.
I’m excited to see how this one plays out!
Share more curated content
I’m going to utilize regrams more in the future. I’m not a photographer, and as fun as it is trying to take pretty shots, my feed will be a better representation of my brand if I use curated photos.
So I’ll be bringing in more of others’ great work, (credited, of course!) to give my feed a more cohesive visual feel.
Incorporate my own branded images
Because I chose to use my existing personal account, rather than start a brand new business one, I didn’t want to go too heavy on the work front right away.
Now, I’m ready to showcase my chops a bit more. To give potential clients a preview of my copy expertise, I’ll be mixing actionable writing tips into my posts. I’ve created some design templates to share thoughtful quotes as well as practical writing advice and will be rotating those into the posting mix.
Bring Insta content into other mediums
In the name of giving potential clients a taste of my brand beforehand, I want to get my Instagram content in front of more eyeballs.
I’ve already added a link to my Instagram account into my weekly emails.
I’m also on the hunt for a plugin that shows my Insta photos along the bottom of my site, like this beautiful one from katiedalebout.com:
Showcasing my Insta feed on my website would help share that taste of my personality with visitors, which is always a good thing!
At the end of 90 days, I can definitely say I’m glad I did the Instaxperiment. It helped me achieve my goals of building my brand, giving new people a way to know me online, putting myself out there, and potentially reaching new clients.
In addition to the business benefits, I’m also glad I’ve got a feed full of memories to look back on, too.
I’m not much of a showy social media person by nature so it’s rare that I’ll share too many photos online. But I really like being able to scroll back over the past 90 posts, see the photos — my 30th birthday Nashville trip, my mom visiting Chicago, bachelorette parties, speaking gigs, weddings, Brody moments, beach days — and remember what I did.
If you’ve thought about using Instagram to build your brand, I highly recommend it!
Pop your handle into the comments so I can follow along on your journey and cheer you on from the other side of the screen!
And if you want to check out my continued journey, you can find me on Instagram @whitneyryan. I’d love to share the Insta-ride with ya!
join the convo
Selfish question: Do you know of any great Insta feed plugins for my website? 🙂
What’s one of your biggest lessons learned from using Instagram for biz?
Are you on Instagram? Share your handle in the comments so we can connect, friendo!!