I had just quit my full-time consulting job with a handful of ideas to become an entrepreneur. But within 6 weeks, the pandemic hit the world.
Not a perfect time to start something new but to my luck, what started as a way to help the world’s social distancing effort in March 2020 has now turned into a startup I am most passionate about.
In March 2020, the pandemic was just getting started, and the world was trying to find ways to stop the spread. One of those was finding an alternative to handshakes and the use of “Namaste” by many celebrities caught my attention.
On the morning of March 13th morning, I got an idea to start a campaign for covid best practices. In the next two weeks, I built a website and launched on March 25th, I was hoping it would go viral. It didn’t. I shared it with friends, family, acquaintances, but no one cared.
I received my first lesson in entrepreneurship — nothing works without an audience, and I didn’t know how to build one. But, after talking to my sister, Priyanka, I realized social media was probably the only option to promote our concept.
By the way another recession seems to be coming our way, read 5 Investments you could make during a recession for more.
Initial Days On Instagram
I created an Instagram account and asked Priyanka to manage postings on a daily basis. Still, after 3 weeks, the total pledges we received were 48. While the website flopped, Instagram made sense as we could try many ideas and concepts to find what works and what doesn’t while building an audience.
I got hooked on Instagram and started spending a couple of hours every day to learn everything about the platform and build an audience for my concept.
We just started posting anything and everything we liked to read ourselves — we hit the topic of Ayurveda, yoga, life hacks to sustainability and promoting the benefits of namaste.
By the end of the 3 weeks, we were around 60 followers and over 60 postings. This felt so slow because I was always hoping to achieve virality.
To keep myself going, I took a pledge — if it takes 1000 posts for 1000 followers, I shall do it. And this determination is what worked in the end.
I kept reading articles and watching youtube to learn the tricks of the trade, and then I would try it, measure the outcome and repeat the process.
The First Leg — To 1000
This was a very exciting phase. Every follow was satisfying, while every unfollow felt crushing. This phase is about getting the basics right and learning about your concept and the right audience.
Just following the below steps is more than enough to build a following in the initial days.
- Updating bio — Let me tell you, this was not easy. When you want to write a compelling intro, it is easy to feel lost. Remember, what you write defines your account and the direction it will take. See sample below.
- Streamlining content — Now, the bio should dictate what content gets posted and what does not. You may update the bio once every week, but slowly this would solidify content to focus on.
- Following others — Follow influencers in a similar domain as yours and learn from what they are posting. Also, following their followers will get you some follow backs you desperately need at this stage.
- Sticking with the process — Keep faith and determination, measure the outcome of every post. Instagram lets you see insights from every post — learn from it and keep repeating steps 1 to 3.
We spent hours every day at this time and understood more about our audience and what they liked. Some of our posts did well to take us to 1000 followers just in 45 days.
This was awesome. We gained so many organic followers without spending a dime and learned about what we wanted to share and what our audience liked.
I would caution you not to use any advertising at this stage — it is important to learn from the organic flow. Advertisements can give a false sense of growth..
The Second Leg — To 10,000
After reaching 1000 followers, I still kept learning and trying new methods, but now I wanted to grow faster, so I looked into inorganic ways of growing.
I discovered that there are services that sell you followers or tell you that they use automation to grow your account.
They were so tempting, but further research revealed that they are not in line with Instagram’s policies as instead of real followers, most of the growth is from bot (fake) accounts.
The only good option left to grow faster was native Instagram ads, and let me tell you, it is fun. It felt like a cool game, and this is how I experimented,
- Identify a post that did well organically
- Promote one post only at a time for a day
- Spend a maximum $5 per day on a post
- Select different audience group each day
In two weeks since I started the above experiment, I got better at choosing the post that would get maximum likes and audience engagement.
I started promoting a post for more than a day if the results were good, and I had few posts bringing in many followers.
While doing promotion experimentations, I further
- improved the bio, which remains to the day
- paid for a design tool to improve the quality of our posts
- divided topics between myself and Priyanka to manage load
- paid for a scheduling tool to help us schedule the posting
- kept learning about our audience and what they liked
Despite all the hard work, I still think it was a miracle that we reached 10K on the 95th day.
I have been preparing a new strategy in the last two months. I am creating a process to make it easy for me to handle day-to-day tasks of posting and managing the account beyond myself and Priyanka. I want to get back to focusing on growing again.
I think the learning on Instagram taught me digital marketing— an essential skill-set for anyone who wants make money online.
We have also created a free 10-day Instagram course which comes to your email inbox.
We struggled after launching and realized audience building should start on day 0. We were successful but spent way too much time.
If we can help someone avoid wasting time and grow their audience or make some money. Why not?