Instagram is one of the fastest growing social networks on the planet today.
Companies are starting to hop on the Instagram train to get their business on a new platform for branding efforts.
But can you really use Instagram to grow a business?
Social media isn’t often seen as a primary (or at least a large) driver of sales.
Most people think that social media is just a branding tool to create some buzz and generate social proof.
But Instagram can drive tons of sales for your business.
How? By harnessing the power of influencers like we’ve never seen before.
Blenders Eyewear put this idea into action with their own business.
They used diverse Instagram hacks to grow their business to generate millions of dollars in revenue without spending much money.
Typically, influencers don’t come cheap. They’re often reserved for the big brands looking to capture the likes of Kim Kardashian.
But, Instagram is changing the game. With their new meetup addition, you can capture influencers without blowing your marketing budget.
Instagram has the power to take your business to the next level, even without using advertising dollars.
Here’s how Blenders Eyewear built a $2 million business with low-cost Instagram hacks, and how you can do it too.
How Blenders Eyewear used Instagram to drive sales
Chase Fisher founded Blenders Eyewear in 2012 in San Diego, California.
They sell tons of different sunglasses and eyewear-related products, from beach attire to snow-focused, for almost any occasion.
The brand started when Chase was living in San Diego and had to attend a DJ event at a local club one night.
He went to Target to find some sunglasses that were flashy and would go with his outfit for the night, but he didn’t want to spend tons of money.
He needed a cheap pair that looked top-quality.
After purchasing a pair, he took them to the club that night and got constant feedback on how amazing they were.
In the end, he’d only spent five bucks on them.
This was the turning point that launched his company into the multi-million dollar business that he runs today.
He noticed a niche market for nice sunglasses that weren’t overpriced.
A literal sweet spot in the market. With low competition, he saw this as a prime opportunity to get a business going.
First, he created a Facebook page to begin promoting the brand and generating interest.
He quickly started getting all of his friends and family to like the page, even before he’d made the products.
They were quickly generating tons of hype and brand awareness, putting out new concept designs, and getting thousands of people asking when they were going to be available to purchase.
They had 2,000 fans on Facebook in a matter of days, and he knew that the business was primed to take off.
But Chase quickly noted that organic traffic on Facebook was starting to decline. Their organic reach just wasn’t the same.
He couldn’t effectively drive enough traffic to sustain his business.
And this is actually a real factor for businesses today. Facebook’s organic reach has been steadily declining:
As more and more users head to Facebook, they can’t afford to give everyone more reach.
Plus, Facebook is a for-profit business. It’s meant to generate revenue, and that means that advertising is going to be their go-to method.
So it only makes sense that organic reach is declining.
But that also means that marketers looking to spend less money can’t rely on Facebook’s organic reach for real growth.
Knowing this, Chase turned to Instagram. He started using micro-influencers via Instagram meetups to build relationships in person and promote his product on a budget.
Doing this launched his business into the money-making machine that it is today.
Here’s how you can implement the exact steps he took.
Four steps to using micro-influencers to grow your business
Instagram is a powerful tool that any brand or business can use to drive sales and action on their site.
Here’s how to build a million-dollar business with four low-cost hacks that Blenders Eyewear used.
Step 1. Find micro-influencers directly on Instagram instead of using a service.
Micro-influencers played a massive role in the success of Blenders Eyewear.
They were able to contact and meet tons of different micro-influencers in their area to build real connections and promote their product naturally.
So, what exactly is a micro-influencer?
A micro-influencer is a standard influencer – just with fewer followers than a huge celebrity.
For example, Kim Kardashian has 104 million followers, making her a celebrity influencer:
A micro-influencer has a lower, specialized niche following that usually hovers between 1,000 and 100,000.
Why are they often more useful than someone with 104 million followers?
Think about it:
Promoting your product via an influencer like Kim K with millions upon millions of followers will get you tons of brand awareness.
But that’s about it.
You can’t expect all of those diverse fans to be interested in your specialized niche product.
But a micro influencer that’s already popular in your niche that has 10,000 followers could drive a massive boost in sales with hyper-specific audiences.
A recent study by Markerly found that smaller, micro-influencing accounts are actually better when it comes to engagement with comments:
And for likes too:
The smaller the account, the more engagement it gets due to specialization.
On top of the greater engagement and specificity that comes with micro-influencers, you also don’t have to spend thousands of dollars for a single post.
In fact, many will do it for free if you build up a real relationship with them in which both sides get value.
So, how do you find these micro-influencers for your brand?
You can actually do this directly on Instagram. Head to Instagram and search for a hashtag in your niche.
For example, Blenders Eyewear contacted local photographers on Instagram in San Diego to photograph their sunglasses for promotion.
Search for a niche keyword with location details included to bring up the results:
The key here is to look at the “Top Posts” section.
This can give you quick information on the top people posting under this content in your niche.
Click on individual posts to see what kind of engagement these accounts are driving:
If they have lots of likes and comments, explore their profile page too:
Look at that! Only 22k followers – a perfect example of a micro-influencer.
This account is generating tons of engagement with their content.
If you can’t find any great influencers on Instagram directly, try using a tool like HYPR to conduct a free search for influencers by niche, category, follower count, and more:
You can pull up detailed profiles based on your search filters to examine the top micro-influencers available:
You can even generate free, detailed reports on each of them to monitor their engagement trends:
Once you find a few micro-influencers in your niche that could help promote your product, it’s time to perform some basic outreach.
Here is a template that we’ve found success with:
Been following your content for a long time, it’s always top notch.
We love what you’re doing and the niche you’ve carved for yourself.
We have a few products that we’d love to send you, but seriously, no pressure to post about it.
If you enjoy them, that’s great. If not, maybe you can provide us feedback to improve.
Remember: when contacting micro-influencers, it’s crucial that you remain honest and open. You don’t want to ask for promotion instantly. It’s about creating a relationship and giving them value without asking for anything in return.
Step 2. Sponsor a meet and give free product to influencers (InstaMeet).
Once you build some rapport with influencers in your community, it’s time to build your brand and leverage their audience.
Most marketers make the mistake of constantly asking influencers for promotion or trying to get value extracted too fast.
This is a recipe for getting blocked, ignored, or seen as a spammy company looking to make a quick buck.
That’s not the image you want for your brand.
If you have influencers connected to you now, you can run an Instagram Meetup using the Community feature.
This is exactly what Blenders Eyewear did to build their brand.
So, what exactly is an InstaMeet, and how can you use it to grow your business?
Instagram meetups are extremely simple in practice:
It’s when a group of Instagrammers meet in real life to take photos and videos and to share content together.
Anyone with any account of any size can start one directly from the community page.
It helps you connect with influencers in your area to create great collaborative content and cross-promote your brands.
To get started, head to the community page and click “Create an InstaMeet:”
Next, add the location of the meetup you want to host:
Next, create a unique hashtag for the event, and be sure to set a date:
Once you’ve set up your meetup, message all of your influencers and ask them to attend using the following template to provide tons of free value:
I am hosting an InstaMeet at ___ on ___!
I’d love for you to come out. Your content is inspirational and would be awesome for the event.
I’ll be giving away free products to everyone attending, too!
Look forward to shooting some great content with you.
Setting up your InstaMeet is just the beginning. This is your big shot at closing some serious connections and building a group of people who are going to help you promote your products.
You need to truly incentivize them to come to this event. Blenders Eyewear did this by offering free product.
Creating value is key to getting influencers on board.
What will they get from the experience? What’s in it for them?
Provide value with free promotion of their accounts, brand mentions, and free product to get them interested.
Get them interested in a real partnership with your brand. Offer major benefits and reasons for them to come.
These influencers can help you promote the event too, getting more people to come.
But first, you need to give them a reason to.
A great strategy for this is using a cross-promotional effort.
For example, you can share a featured post on Instagram or social networks alike to promote the influencer.
You can even write a case study about their personal brand for your blog.
If you can provide tons of value in the form of free promotion and showing praise for their work, you’ll be on your way to developing a lasting, symbiotic partnership.
And that’s what influencers are all about.
Step 3. Geo-tag your event for local engagement + use your branded hashtag.
Another key step in getting people interested is getting the word out.
If people in your local area are unaware of the event, nobody will come.
Thankfully, Instagram allows you to create geo-tagged posts and share your location to build interest and engagement.
For example, when someone posts content on Instagram, they have the option to tag it with their location:
When you click on that location, you bring up all the pictures posted with that geo-tagged location:
This is an important factor when it comes to generating more awareness of your event and getting people interested.
The more posts with the location tagged, the better.
Another way to get the ball rolling for this is to use the hashtag you created during your InstaMeet setup process.
Add that hashtag to every post and have your influencers do the same. A prime example of this in action is how Buffer uses their Instagram strategy.
They use user-generated content and tag each post under their branded hashtag, “buffercommunity:”
When someone clicks on that hashtag, they see all of Buffer’s user-generated content in a single spot:
This will help generate hype and buzz around your events, attracting more people to come.
Step 4. Constantly post organically on Instagram and tag influencers.
Building buzz and hype surrounding your products is critical to landing more influencers and people who want to be associated with your product.
This involves one major task that is often overlooked or seen as trivial:
Posting real organic content on Instagram.
But not just any content.
The goal here is to post great content that your target influencers are sharing and to tag them in it.
It’s a form of user-generated content that will get their attention. It will show them that your purpose isn’t just to use them for their following but to create a relationship that’s built on mutual value and benefit.
Buffer again does a great job at this strategy:
Mentioning influencers or cross-promotion brands is a genius way to drive more shares and engagement.
Not only does it get your content seen by more eyes, but it also builds a lasting relationship with other brands.
A great tool for managing all of this is Later.
You can schedule your content out in advance and help to promote content from your favorite influencers.
This will help you focus less on content while still producing enough to generate some serious buzz for your event.
You won’t have to spend all day posting on your phone anymore.
User-generated content is a powerful tool that you need to leverage when you’re building a business with Instagram and attracting influencers.
Instagram isn’t just a place for your business to grow its brand.
Brand awareness is a great side effect of using the platform, but it shouldn’t be your main goal.
Instagram’s new features and usage patterns give companies a big opportunity to grow their business at a low cost.
You don’t need to spend advertising dollars to do it either.
With organic reach declining on platforms like Facebook, you need a different outlet for success.
Blenders Eyewear was able to harness the power of Instagram Meetups to connect with influencers and promote their product.
Now, they’re a multi-million dollar brand.
Thankfully, you can do this too.
Start by finding micro-influencers on social media that are popular in your niche. Forget about the big dogs like the Kardashians and focus on realistic, attainable influencers.
Next, sponsor a meetup and share your products with them, getting real, actionable feedback.
This will likely lead to natural, organic posting of your product without the need to spend thousands of dollars on forced promotions.
As always, remember to keep posting organic content often, and geo-tag your meetups for increased local engagement.
Now it’s your turn
You’ve got the tools, the data, and the blueprint for success in the palm of your hands.
Blenders Eyewear started from nothing with no investments.
It’s time for you to take these tools and hit the ground running.
What are your plans for growing your business with Instagram? What hacks are you most excited to implement?
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