Location of writing: Rooftop, Welligama, Sri Lanka.
Travel Plans This Week: The first two weeks here in Sri Lanka has been unreal. In a nutshell, it has basically consisted of surfing, exploring the coast line on a scooter and stopping for beers and beach parties where ever it is offered. I have managed to rent out a pretty decent bike so have been cruising up and down the southern coast for the past week stopping at nice towns and surf spots. Heading into the jungle is also a bit of fun if you’re willing to get lost for a while.
More than anything, have met so many amazing like minded people here.
It is a real hub for ‘freelancers’ and people who have found a way to work and travel, or travel and work – whichever way you want to put it. It has been refreshing to hear of everyone’s stories, and more importantly their success in finding a way to finance their travels as they move.
They have ranged from people simply working in hostels and surf camps, helping out with social media and marketing, to a guy I talked with in the surf for 3 hours yesterday. This guy started a company 10 years ago from Byron and has been travelling and working remotely working on this business since – it is now a huge Australian publicly listed company competing with Telstra and Optus (I plan on writing an entire blog on this guy and his awesome story soon).
Not long on the trip to go, hence not much action blog-wise – but stop stressing, I have been making sure to get the ‘crucial’ tasks done for both businesses whenever possible.
The important thing to focus on when your really ‘busy’ is asking yourself “If I can do any business task today, which one will bring in the most revenue straight away” – and do that! Keep cash moving!
How did I do this? I listened to some suggestions from friends on travels and managed to get a new product range up – Vintage Camera Straps – links with the ‘travel lifestyle’ aspect of the brand pretty well nah? Check them out for Christmas!
Why is it so damn hard to make it work for your business?
Social media is powerful, no doubt about it. It is powerful for individuals, influencers, and businesses.
It is addictive. It is vain. It is sometimes ‘fake’.
Some people now have some pretty ridiculous titles and descriptions in their bios – I’ve heard of someone describing themselves as a ‘Social Disruption and Influencer Projector’ – nice mate.
However regardless of all of this, it is not going away anytime soon, and it can do some pretty cool shit, so we may as well make the most of it!
Let’s be honest, this blog would reach pretty much no one if not for the reach that social media provides. And social media is a great way to share your life with others and help motivate others to do some cool shit at some point too.
Social media has changed – Unforunately, it has become much, much harder
The way social media can be used for businesses has changed a lot over the past 3 years. The amount of times I’ve been given the simple advice of “Oh just get a big social media following, all the sales are on Instagram” is crazy – if only it was that simple!
For this blog I’ll be mainly focusing on Instagram (I may write another blog on Facebook Ads another time).
The biggest change in Instagram, in my view, is how effective and efficient it can now be to generate sales (or leads) if you’ve just launched your business. It has got hard, real hard.
Let me demonstrate:
When we started Namaste Collective in 2015, we were able to organically gain over 2,000 real followers before the brand even launched. We had lots of engagement and lots of clicks through the website.
Each of these clicks were free. And then, by 2016, we were able to gain over 10,000 followers all of which regularly liked and interacted with the account.
We were acquiring around 90% of our sales, free, through Instagram reach. Put simply, people liked our account, liked the content we posted, and consequently, clicked through and made a purchase. This cost us nothing. This is a business dream – free targeted advertising as often as you want it.
Not long after we reached the 20,000 follower mark, Instagram (due to the Facebook acquisition) changed the game. It pretty much said ‘You want to make sales through our channel? Well expect to pay young buddy’.
From that point on, Instagram limited the amount of people your posts would reach unless you would ‘pay’ to promote it.
For example, now, if Namaste Collective makes a post, the built in statistics will show that only 500 or so people will actually be ‘shown’ the post, despite 23,000 people following the account. This is all decided through algorithms (made up of thousands of factors) that Instagram has implemented to ‘improve the user experience’. Bah!
So, the result, now only around 5-7% of the business’s sales are made ‘free’ through Instagram, and the rest, well, they have to be paid to be acquired (Instagram Ads, GoogleAds etc).
This means profit margins suffer – bigtime!
So yes, it was easy to gain a large following at first by simply interacting with the right people and posting high quality decent content. And it was also much easier to make sales.
But the changes Instagram made were inevitable. There was no way they were going to let the big guys (Eg, Nike, Victoria Secret etc) simply earn millions of dollars of sales without taking a cut in it.
However all hope is not lost – Instagram can still be a really, really valuable tool, and it is still possible to gain large and loyal followings. In summary, it is just harder now because of:
- The increased amount of accounts also trying to gain a large following – Instagram is growing fast, and everyone wants to get big.
- Instagram’s new algorithms having the power to hide your posts from your followers if it decides they do not want to see them – super frustrating.
- The higher standard required to compete – many companies now hire staff full time to ensure the content posted is high quality, relevant, and smart material – all following some kind of specific goal, story or purpose. You can no longer really get away with posting quick and rough images and captions and hoping it will be enough to gain a large following – every aspect of every post counts and you need to impress!
So, how do we (as a business or influencer) make the most of Instagram while we can?
I will break my advice down into some simple, easy steps:
- Post good content, and keep it relevant, interesting, but also consistent.
Decide which kind of brand you are, and stick to it. Think about who is following you, and what they would like. I suggest posting daily, or at least 5 times a week.
- Avoid product placement posts as much as possible.
Instagram can become your short cut to forming to a relationship with your prospective customer, rather than simply a channel for annoying ads. If you do want to post photos of products, try to make them ‘lifestyle’ shots rather than blatant ads.
- Interact with other users – grow your following.
The most effective way I have found to gain followers is to follow lots of other users, like their photos, comment on their photos – interact. For example, for Charlie Spike, I know a lot of my prospective customers probably follow Falls Music Festival account. Therefore, I go to the Falls Instagram account (and others), and I basically follow a whole bunch of the people who interact with their content. It is a bit stalky yes, but it means that the people you are aiming for are relevant to your brand, and may actually want / like what you’re putting out. I’ve found if I pick the right account to take (steal) followers from, I can get around 5-13% follow back rate.
In my opinion and with my studies in advertising, this practice is an amazing step in the world of advertising in general.
You are quite literally poking people you think may be interested in your brand (through an educated guess based on the accounts they follow and interact with), and shuffling them in directly to your store. In the past, the equivalent of this would be having sales people hang out at relevant events and handing out paper flyers and pulling people inside.
Here, you can hand those flyers out (at a much faster rate) from your couch as you watch RBT on a Tuesday evening!
On top of this, if they do like what you have showed them, they won’t lose the flyer – they will follow you, and you then have the power to continue to offer them goods that they, in theory, will want!
In regard to above, this takes time. A lot of it. For a while, we used an amazing bot Application called ‘Instagress’ which basically did all of this for you. It was awesome, Unfortunately, this good thing came to an end too and Instagram had it shut down. Looks like a few alternatives are now popping up though!
- Hashtag and use the location tagging.
Get your photos showing in as many places as possible. However, keep it Don’t go using every #wanderlust hashtag you can think of. Use maybe 5-10 tags, and list them in the comments rather than the caption to avoid wrecking the aesthetic of your posts. (PS – the location tagging in the stories is now also a good new way to find new followers).
What about using ‘influencers’ you ask.
Those lucky bastards seemingly living the absolute ultimate life, travelling the world in luxury and being paid millions by brands to take a photo in new jeans?
In my experience, the benefit to using influencers to promote your brand isn’t as big as many people think. If you’re going to do it, and if you’re going to pay for it, do it right. Don’t just throw out free products and pay random people purely because you think their followers will click through to your website. Trust me, I learnt the hard way that this does not work at all.
Do your research, pick the right influencer, and make sure you get your value for money!
Now I think of it – stay tuned for an entire blog on ‘influencer marketing’. Whether you are looking to become one personally, or deciding whether to use them for your business – I have some interesting and cringe-worthy stories for you! Stay tuned.
Sorry about the big blog, it’s a big topic!
That will do for now – afternoon surf session time. This blog could have been much, much longer, as I have a lot to say about tactics and changes on Instagram and how much value it can now actually provide new businesses (who missed out on the 2014-2015 golden period).
Problem is no one wants to read a 4,000 word in-depth analysis, so instead, just message me if you have questions!