#56: How to Use Instagram to Grow Your Business, with Jessica Thiefels

Today’s guest is Jessica Thiefels, an organic content marketer, which means she focuses on creating content and content strategies for clients—but doesn’t work with paid marketing and sales. Jessica now lives in Burlington, Vermont, after traveling for eight months last year with her husband.

Jessica also has a new podcast called Mindset Reset Radio, which helps millennials get intentional in their life, business and career.

Instagram has 1 billion users, and users tend to be very active. The primary age range is about 25–35. People are looking for content that showcases the most authentic part of your brand or business. It’s not about sharing other people’s content as much as on Twitter or Facebook.

That personal touch allows people to forge deeper connections with potential clients, which builds brand loyalty.

While Instagram was built for beautiful images and lends itself well to businesses like fashion and travel, other businesses and freelancers can do well on Instagram by creating their own graphics. However, Instagram is mostly for B2C businesses, not B2B, because businesses themselves aren’t as likely to be on Instagram.

Graphics can be a mix of providing inspirational and educational content, with also showing the behind-the-scenes of your business. 

Here’s how to learn whether your audience is on Instagram and if it’s worth it for you to build up your presence: If your target audience is 35 and older, you’re not as likely to find them on Instagram. Research your competitors and see if they are having Instagram success. 

Remember, you should only focus on a few social media platforms, not ALL of them. Look at your own data, such as Google analytics, to see where your website traffic is coming from.

Most Instagram users use it on their phone, not their computer. However, now Instagram allows you to use its messaging app on your computer, which makes it easier to copy/paste email addresses and other links. You can only post Stories via the phone, although you can watch Stories on your computer.

Jessica reminds us that our social media efforts must be aligned with our business goals. Write out your top 3 business goals and then write down how Instagram can support those business goals.

You can schedule your Instagram posts, saving you time.

Instagram Stories is critical to your Instagram business strategy. If you’re not using Stories, you won’t be as successful on Instagram. Jessica recommends posting on Stories at least 3–5 times a day because every time you post a new Story you get bumped to the front of that line.

Stories works by posting text, a photo or video. You can use a Story to share what’s going on behind the scenes with your business throughout the day. You can also share other people’s posts through the “add to my story” option.

Instagram Live Stories—you shooting a live video—have been a lot more popular during the pandemic, possibly because of the real-time connection. During Live Stories, people can comment and ask you questions.

Stories only last 24 hours, but you can add them to your Highlight to make them last longer. You may want to create an “about me” Highlight, creating a video telling people what your business is all about when they find you for the first time.

Freelancers and consultants who are selling services, not products, can see Instagram success. Jessica points to two tactics: You can stay strictly educational, showcasing your expertise in a field through your posts and Stories. The second way is to build your brand and show yourself as the face of your brand. This means sharing more personal information about yourself.

Let’s talk Instagram hashtags: Instagram uses a lot of hashtags per post. Have a mix of high-volume hashtags (about 1 million posts) and lower-volume hashtags. Don’t go over 1 million because those hashtags are too saturated and broad. Consider the hashtags that your potential clients are following or searching for.

Here’s the formula Jessica uses:

First 3–5 hashtags should fall into the 300,000 to 1 million posts range.

Next 3–5 hashtags should fall into the 80,000 to 300,000 range.

The last 3–5 should be anything lower than 80,000 posts.

That last category can be super niche and focused on your very specific industry. You can also create your own branded hashtag (like #DeliberateFreelancer).

When you start to type a hashtag in Instagram, it will auto-populate and also show you the number of posts. You can also search for hashtags and the number of posts they have on the Instagram website on your computer, which can be easier when you’re researching.

You will also need to engage with others on Instagram. Search a common hashtag for your business (or follow that hashtag) and go through and engage by commenting, liking a post or sharing a post in your Story.

You have to be social on Instagram. You can’t expect people to engage with you and not do the same. Make sure you’re replying to comments and direct messages.

You can reshare Instagram images through certain apps (Repost, InstaRepost) or just screenshot the image and paste in your feed. Oftentimes, it’s best to get permission first, and always give the original poster credit.

If you have a limited amount of time for Instagram, choose one day of the week and plan and schedule out all of your content in 1–3 hours (choose images, write your captions, schedule it). Then, throughout the week, engage with others in 5-minute increments when you’re in between tasks. Jessica puts a 15-minute timer on so she doesn’t go down the rabbit hole.

Biz Bite: Use Boomerang to Schedule Emails.


Jessica Thiefels Consulting website

Jessica’s podcast: Mindset Reset Radio

Jessica on Instagram

Jessica on Twitter

Jessica has a new book on Amazon: “10 Questions That Answer Life’s Biggest Questions

Planoly (Instagram scheduler)

Later (Instagram scheduler)

How to Use Instagram Hashtags for Business: A Strategy for Visibility” (via Social Media Examiner)

How to Repost on Instagram: 4 Ways to Reshare Content from Other Users” (via HubSpot)

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