Episode #10: How to Grow Your Following (Social Media Mini-Series, Part 2)

In today’s episode, we’re bringing you the 2nd of our 3-part mini series on social media. Today we’re focusing on HOW to actually grow your following, specifically on Instagram. We’re highlighting our #1 way to grow your following along with a slew of tips and tricks to maximize your exposure, and how to convert that exposure into committed followers. We’ll finish the show with a weekly actionable tip about what you can do right now!

Podcast Sponsors:

NTA | Podcast Sponsor | Driven Podcast

Welcome to Driven; a show about business, life, and wellness from two confident, curious women who are pulling back the curtain on what it’s like being an entrepreneur. Each week, join hosts Diane Sanfilippo and Cassy Joy Garcia talk about being your best, showing up for your dreams, and kicking self-doubt to the curb.

Diane is a business whisperer, best-selling author, and plant-hobbyist based in San Francisco. Cassy Joy is the founder of www.FedandFit.com, best-selling author, and casserole enthusiast. She calls San Antonio, Texas, home.

Cassy Joy: In today’s episode, we’re bringing you the second of a three-part miniseries on social media. Today we’re focusing on how to actually grow your following; specifically on Instagram. It is a most asked question, for sure. In this episode, we’re going to highlight our number one way to grow your following, along with a slew of tips and tricks to maximize your exposure, and then some ideas on how to convert that exposure into committed followers. We’ll then finish the show with a weekly actionable tip all about what you can do right now.


  1. What’s on my plate [2:50]
  2. Shop Talk: [12:02]
  3. Tip of The Week: Post consistently [53:26]

Cassy Joy: Today’s show is brought to you by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants by focusing on bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes a whole-food, properly prepared, and nutrient dense diet as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s innate ability to heal.

Throughout their programs, students learn a wide-range of educational tools and techniques to identify and correct nutritional imbalances and deficiencies in their clients, and to launch a successful career in holistic nutrition. The NTA produces like-minded practitioners and consultants that we endorse and consider colleagues in the health and wellness space. Registration for the February enrollment opens on September 17th. You can learn more, and save your seat by going to www.NutritionalTherapy.com. Don’t forget to mention our name, The Driven Podcast, on your application.

1.  What’s on my plate [2:50]

Diane Sanfilippo: What’s on My Plate. In this segment, we talk about what’s happening in our businesses, and in our lives this week. Cassy, what is going on over in San Antonio?

Cassy Joy: So, I have great news.

Diane Sanfilippo: What’s the news?

Cassy Joy: {laughs} It’s nerdy business news! It’s our favorite kind of news. So our SEO practices are slowly but surely starting to pay off. Isn’t that so exciting?!

Diane Sanfilippo: That is exciting.

Cassy Joy: I use the analogy with this, telling Austin about this the other day. But SEO, and trying to just lift this enormous ship that we have to turn around.

Diane Sanfilippo: Which, can we just tell them what SEO is? If they don’t know; search engine optimization, I think. Yeah.

Cassy Joy: I’m glad you paused me there. Yeah, search engine optimization. So, essentially, what it is is it’s new. It essentially became a thing in the time that I was creating an online business. We have thousands of articles on www.FedandFit.com. The majority of those; grand majority; were created with zero awareness of search engine optimization. And so if I wrote something about, let’s say, things you need to know about grass fed versus conventional beef, I would just write it without thinking; how can someone actually find this content. It’s great content, and I wasn’t setting myself up for folks to find it.

And the rules, the Google rules of search engine optimization, have changed a lot. They change very frequently. So it’s a whole thing we’re trying to take on. And I had a goal, because our content; and I will be very honest about our web traffic. But we were sitting at about an average of 200,000 unique visitors a month. And that was bringing in ad revenue-wise, I work with a company called Ad Thrive. And that was bringing in an average of $3,000 of ad revenue a month. Which is, it’s definitely not shabby, right? And if I were by myself, and I wanted to be a solo-preneur and really just be a blogger, that is a decent income when you add in affiliate income and all the other things that we do. Writing books, which are momentary boosts in income, they’re not necessarily consistent.

But, I have a desire to turn Fed and Fit into a much larger group, and a company that is really robust and supports a great group of people. So I was like; there’s no reason why, with all of our content. That 200,000 page views was on 2% of our content. There’s no reason why we can’t be at least 5X that. At least a million page views; unique visitors, excuse me, a month. So that was my momentary goal. And that is what inspired us to redesign our website. We had several SEO audits along the way. I still have so much to learn in this regard. But we have a new website, and it’s slowly starting to pay off.

Even though we’re not at 5X yet, if I sit down and I look at year over year, we’re at already more than 100,000 new unique visitors in September 2019 than we were in ’18. So the analogy I gave Austin was; SEO is this frustrating, if you’ve ever gardened before from seed. It is like; you’ve done everything you can. You’ve planted the seeds; and now you just have to wait. It’s just a waiting game. You, of course, will tend that garden over time. And you’ll make small adjustments, and you’ll weed it, and you’ll take care of it. But you’ve done what you can. You’ve done the proactive work that you can. So that’s where we’re at right now, and it’s very, very exciting.

And then on a personal note; this is just a little; I don’t know, a little love note. But I just; every once in a while, you get into a routine with your partner or your family and your close friends, and you just know to expect that they’re going to be wonderful people and they’re going to be there for you. And I just; I had one of those moments where I was very present. And I was like; man. I am married to an amazing man. He really is. He’s incredible. So I just; I don’t know. I’ve been awash in gratitude for this incredible man that I get to do life with; this last week in particular. So it was just; I’m just the luckiest.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that. We got good ones.

Cassy Joy: We do. They’re very similar people to each other.

Diane Sanfilippo: They are; it’s really funny. It’s really funny. Very similar, and very different in their life’s work.  But, I would say they’re both fixers. Are they both enneagram 1?

Cassy Joy: Yes, they are. They’re both enneagram 1. They’re both Upholders, right?

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm.

Cassy Joy: Yeah.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s so funny. So, over here, I’m just going to do a couple of personal updates. So, technically, as this episode is airing, I’m on vacation. Yay! {laughs}

Cassy Joy: Wohoo!

Diane Sanfilippo: In Maui with my friend Kendra and her husband John. Kendra of Peace, Love, and Low-Carb. Sorry, I’m fidgeting. Kendra Holly. So yeah, actually they booked the vacation. This is kind of what happens for me; someone else is like; hey, we’re going here, do you want to go? And I’m like, ok. Yeah, let’s go. {laughs} I forget to book vacations. I just don’t think about it. I mean, I think about it, and then I just; I don’t like to plan it. I’m like; ok, I’ll go. That sounds good.

So we’re on vacation. Hopefully by the time this airs, I will have shared all of the updates on our patio construction. So hopefully that’s done, and I can’t wait for the big reveal on that. And, what else? I feel like; did I talk about my Peloton last time on the show? I don’t remember.

Cassy Joy: I know you’re loving it.

Diane Sanfilippo: I’m loving it! I’m loving the Peloton bike. And I’ve been joking that if it did not have the service and the classes, it would just be an expensive laundry holder. You know? But it was something that I earned with an incentive through Beautycounter. And I kind of had my eye on the prize. I was like; yeah, I want that thing. It’s been really fun. It’s sitting right here next to me right now, it’s in our living room. And I think it’s going to stay up here. I don’t think it’s going to go into the garage gym. I like having; I don’t know. I like seeing it. It just reminds me that I can do that.

Cassy Joy: They’re good looking, too.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, it is a nice piece of equipment. The monitor is way bigger than I thought it would be. But I’ll say this, for the entrepreneurs out there. If you’re struggling to find a way to fit a workout in; what I’m finding with myself. And this is not traditionally; I’m not good at this. I’m not good at being very disciplined when there is thinking involved. Like, most of the time, for my workouts, I have to get up, put the clothes on, do the coffee, prework drink, whatever it is I’m doing. And just go. I can’t think about it. Because if I pause and think, it’s not going to happen.

With the Peloton, what I’m finding is if I look at my schedule; this happened to me about a week ago. I was like; ok, I have a call at; oh, I think, did I talk about this with you? I can’t remember if we talked about this or if I talked about this on my Instagram stories. But I had a call at 5 o’clock, and I looked at my clock on my computer, and I was like; ok, it’s 4 o’clock now. If I work for like another 20 minutes, I can hop on the bike for 30, and then hop off. Wipe the sweat, and jump on my call. Not a video call.

And it just; it gave me this forced time pressure. I don’t do a live class. But it was like; ok, I can fit that. And instead of scrolling on Instagram for 30 minutes, you know, and wasting time, I can get that workout in. And it’s like; I can hop on, someone is going to tell me what to do, and pedal my feet. So yeah, I’m loving it. So we’ll see. To be continued.

Cassy Joy: I keep; Austin has told me, because I have, what is it? I forget. The Assault treadmill. The one that’s curved, and it’s powered by your efforts. And I really like it. I’m a runner, and I’ve not really ever enjoyed a spin class, which is why I didn’t get the Peloton. But after Diane raving about it, I’ve had a couple of moments where I’ve told Austin; I was like, oh…

Diane Sanfilippo: What if you try the Peloton, I think it’s called tread. I mean, obviously you have a treadmill. But you should try a class somewhere, in someone’s house. See if you’re like; ok, this feels like more motivational.

I used to have a treadmill in my office, in New Jersey, when we had a bigger room for an office, and I was writing books, and I was like; ok, at least I’m physically moving in the winter when I’m writing this. I could never run on it; it only ever went up to 4.0. Which is just like a quick walk. But, the idea of me having to motivate and decide what to do on that equipment was just kind of a lot. Whereas if I just; especially for me, I think I was telling you this. If I sit down on the bike, I’m just sitting. So it seems all very innocent. Until it starts going.

Cassy Joy: Yeah. It’s a low buy-in.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, it’s a really low buy in. And I’m like; I’m here. Alright, fine. Now I’m sweating. Alright, now I’m pushing hard. You know? Anyway. Not sponsored. But.

Both: We’re open to it.

Cassy Joy: {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: We are, open to it. So.

2.  Shop Talk: Growing your following on Instagram [12:02]

Cassy Joy: Up next is Shop Talk. Today, we’re talking shop about social media, and how to grow your following on Instagram. Today is really exciting, and I can’t think of anybody better to talk about our number one tip than my dear friend Diane, because this is, I think, the number one way to grow your following on Instagram in particular, but social media across the board, is often overlooked as we try to over strategize.

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, I’m going to say it with this caveat; I am always working on doing this better. And I think that where I tend to fall with delivering on this point is in the nuance. Like, you kind of have to be paying attention and you pick up on it. I’m not as blatant in a way that I think we may have been 5 to 10 years ago. We kind of started what we did with our content on a blog, and on a podcast for me, on the Balanced Bites podcast for 8 years. That was the bulk and the meat of my content, was on the Balanced Bites podcast. And I got away from blogging to provide content and value. But value is really the driver for everything anywhere, and especially on social media.

So the best example I have of this, before I get into how to deliver value and what to do. And part of this; I will say this. When you see massive growth in certain accounts, there’s always a piece of what I will call magic, or a moment, or a trend, or a vibe that’s happening. And if you are not part of that moment, you can’t beat yourself up for whether or not you’re experience the same massive growth that someone else is.

So, when I experienced massive growth, it was mostly on Facebook. A little bit on Instagram. I have a pretty sizeable Twitter following. Like, 40-50,000, maybe, on Twitter. It was when paleo was kind of a thing, and social media was much newer. Instagram was barely a thing when Practical Paleo came out.

So there was a moment where paleo had a really strong trajectory, and very heavily between 2012 and 2014 when, again, Instagram was still pretty new. What I see right now, and you all can probably identify this too. It’s stuff that we’re talking about as well. But the enneagram is having a moment. And this idea of self-awareness, self-healing, psychology, all of that is having a moment as well. So someone like the holistic psychologist, her account is at a million followers. And if you were to look at the trajectory of her content, or her account over the last, it’s almost a year maybe two, that she built that following.

And most of us would say; oh my gosh, who could ever get to a million followers without being here for 10 years? Right? I see you’re nodding.

Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm.

Diane Sanfilippo: And I love the content that she shares. And it’s high-value. It’s very easily sharable. We’re all excited about it. Everyone’s like; yes, this! I feel seen. I feel personally attacked. You know; it’s the funny meme, etc.

Ok, so I went back in the account. It was January that she had 50,000 followers, and today she has a million followers. And where that’s really coming from is a deep amount of value that’s being provided in every post. Not every one of us is the same type of professional that has content that is sought after in this way. And I think this becomes apparent when we’re in the health coaching space, right? Where it’s like; everyone is talking about the value of drinking enough water. Everyone is talking about the value of lemon water in the morning with ginger. What can we do that’s different? How can we educate people where they are, keep them where they are?

She’s not asking to go read a blog post. She’s actually giving you the value right there. And I think there’s a ton to be said for that if what you’re trying to do is build followers on Instagram. I will continue to say; and she does this as well. Her name is Nicole. Dr. LePera. But she does have a list that she has you opt into. And I think there’s a lot happening here where she’s providing the value, but she is also following it up with a way to have people sign up to get more, which is critical.

Because if you build a following on social media, and you never get their contact information, you actually don’t own any of that. You don’t have any access. And one day, Instagram could decide to thwart her reach based on who knows what. I mean, everyone sharing it. That’s going to be great, because that’s the community aspect. That’s what Instagram really wants. They want to know that you’re providing content of value that people like. I don’t see that stopping for her. But it is one of those things where we have all gone through this. We went through it with Facebook; I think we’re kind of going through it with Instagram. Where our reach was much larger as a percentage of who was following, and then it consistently drops over time.

So, that being said, the core here is to provide value. And I think that if you really want to grow on Instagram; and I’m talking to myself, you guys. Maybe I don’t really want to grow on Instagram. You know. It’s like; eh, I do. But maybe I don’t. Because if that was my real focus and goal, I would be putting my time and attention into doing it in that way. If you really want to grow there; you need to go deep with what you’re providing in terms of value.

Now, what I was saying earlier is I think the way I tend to provide value now; you kind of have to engage a little more deeply to get the value. So for example; watching a live video of mine where I’m cooking. I’m going to deliver value, but I’m talking you through the strategies, what I do. How I pick the avocado. Here’s how to cut it. Here’s a tip when I brown meat. Here’s a tip when I’m cooking onions. And it’s not always the same all the time.

For better or for worse; the way that I operate, I actually would rather have fewer people who go deep with me than have more people who just want that surface level, gimme, gimme content. I like having the people who are like; I watched this video and here’s what I learned. I like that. And that’s not the vibe that everybody wants to be in, right? Because most of us are just like; we want more eyeballs on what we’re doing.

So it’s about providing value. It’s about giving people the full breadth of what the information is. The full recipe is in the post. You’re not asking them to go somewhere else, because if you want them to engage with you here, the value has to be here. Does that make sense?

Cassy Joy: Amen. Yes. And that’s a great lead-in to one of the things I really want to touch on. Especially if you are thinking that your primary content platform is elsewhere. If Instagram, social media, is a marketing tool for what you’re doing. If you’re viewing it as a marketing tool, it’s not the place that you’re doing business, then I need you to remember that the people on Instagram are different. It’s a different audience. Sure, there’s some cross-over. But largely it’s going to be a different group of people than the folks who are consuming on YouTube. Than the folks who are pulling up your website addressing and consuming there.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah, you taught me that, too. When you look at what you’re doing with your website; yes, you’ll link to the website. But you’re not expecting it to be this situation where; let’s just say you’ve got 1000 followers on Instagram. The expectation, or the purpose for having the blog and the Instagram shouldn’t be just to post the recipe picture to Instagram and expect them to go to the blog. The purpose of the blog is to reach people who are using web search, and the purpose of Instagram is to reach people who want to consume content and connect with you on Instagram.

Cassy Joy: Absolutely. That’s beautifully put. So I would remember that. And keep people on; they have chosen Instagram, again, zeroing in on Instagram. If they’ve chosen Instagram as the app that they want to live on, and choose as their primary social media; then you want to honor that and keep them on Instagram as much as possible.

Again, this falls a little bit of this “do as I say” bucket, not as I do. Because if you pull up Fed and Fit profile, the majority of my posts, if I’m talking about a recipe, I’m redirecting you back to the full recipe. Because my end game, my goal, is not necessarily to have expansive, explosive growth and followers on Instagram. My goal is to get you over to www.FedandFit.com. Get you used to going to that website, and enjoying it. And also to get you to sign up for my email list where I know I can stay in touch with you and I will, of course, as Diane and I both do this; we honor our email subscribers very well. So that is my end goal.

So be honest with yourself about what your goal is right now. If you’re in a building, expand my reach phase, then it’s worth considering creating as much, the majority of your content, just for Instagram, like Diane is saying.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right. And I think the division here; even though we both can easily look at our follower counts and be like; wow. We could have exponential follower counts to what we do. There is still this division of someone who has under 1,000. Under 5,000. Under 10,000. 25. 50. There are these benchmarks where most of you probably don’t have 10 or tens of thousands of followers yet at this point. So I do think there’s a different approach.

We’re not in a place where monetizing everything we do on Instagram is intent or the goal. We want people to engage with what we’re doing all over the place. And for you guys, it’s just creating a relationship, and building trust, and building a sense of; I’m here to provide value before you’re just giving them a little tidbit and saying; ok, come over here for more. They don’t even really know you yet, and they’re not sure they trust you to come over here for more. Whereas I think with your audience, it’s been a long time of you saying; great. Here’s where the recipe is. You consistently share that, and it’s something they are used to. It’s kind of a different scenario.

Cassy Joy: Yes, it is. But even having said that; even if you are, say, a relatively seasoned blogger or recipe writer and your recipes live not on Instagram, I do still create recipes on the fly when I’m cooking in my kitchen on Instagram stories. And we do still build into our content calendar, ideally once a week, we’re posting a recipe on Instagram. So even though that might not necessarily redirect folks back to my website, it does meet somewhere in the middle that works for us.

Something I want to touch on; I think we’re actually in a shift in this world of content creating; how we’re engaging with our audience. And I just realized it while you were talking, Diane. But I think that when Instagram and social media started, we took our know-how of how to engage with our audience, and we just put it onto the new platform. And I think that the people who are experiencing extreme growth on a social media platform have changed how they’re doing their content.

So even though you’re offering value, the old; let’s say the blogging days. 10 years ago, 5 years ago even, when blogs were most folks created their content, they were monologuing. It was a monologue. Folks would go in, and they could leave a comment on a website, on a blog post, and they could interact with the writer in that regard. But it was this long; here’s what I have to say, here are all my thoughts, here’s how I want to produce it. And this is my vantage point, blah, blah-blah, blah. This is my content; take it or leave it. Engage if you want to engage in a comment, and I’ll respond. Right?

I have found that the people who have taken that strategy and put it into social media; specifically, Instagram, they’re not finding the traction I think they want. Because the content on social media needs to be conversation based, not monologue based. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a time and a place for; here are my thoughts, and I’m turning off the comments. But, I think if you’re really looking to grow, to Diane’s point. And you really want to have more followers find you, people want to engage with people on social media. And so I would try to make your content as conversational as possible.

Think of yourself as the editor of the content. And you can lead the conversation. If you know that; recipes is a lot of what I do. So let’s say, if you know in October, you want to do both pumpkin and apple recipes. And you’re going to give them both. But you want to have a conversation with your reader about; what do they want to see more? Maybe your content is already planned. Maybe it’s already scheduled and photographed. But you still want to engage them in the conversation.

Hey guys; what are you looking forward to most? Pumpkin or apple recipes this month. Get them to tell you. And then you come back and say; I’m so excited, so many of you voted for apple, because I’m all about apple too. Here you go. Here are some amazing apple recipes. And for those of you who voted pumpkin, you’re not being ignored because I’ve got 5 pumpkin recipes for you, too.

Right? You’re engaging with your audience. You’re leading the conversation by giving them these choices that fall underneath what you wanted to produce. But you’re involving them in the process. And I think that is how you really encourage growth. That gives people not just an account to click follow because your photos are pretty. But it gives them a place to come back and visit and really engage.

Another idea I have for how to have expanded follower growth on Instagram is create some sort of a campaign. Because you get to a point where you’re doing the thing. You’re creating the great value. You listened to the first episode in this miniseries. You’re taking good photos. You’re being very consistent in what you’re posting and where you’re posting. And maybe you’re even encouraging your followers to engage in a conversation.

Again, your reach is only as far as how they want to refer it to their friends. So I encourage you to throw out another line into the water. Create some sort of a hashtag campaign. Maybe it’s a part of a product, or it’s not. Maybe what you do is nutrition, you have people track their water for a week. So you create the hashtag; track your water for a week campaign. And you lead this, and you say; I’m so excited about this because this is one of the biggest, lowest hanging fruits for so many of my nutrition clients because they’re not drinking enough water and I think it would just be a really fun thing to do this time of year. When it starts to cool down, we tend to ignore our water intake because we were on top of it in the summer. I’m making all of this up as I talk. Feel free to use it.

But, you know? And you create this hashtag campaign, and you update people as you go. Invite a friend to do it with you. Invite that person who you suspect is not drinking enough water right now. Go ahead and tag them here; I’ll pull them into the fold. I’ll teach them about how much water to drink. And we’re going to do this thing together. Create a campaign. And the hashtag could have life beyond you. And that’s really the dream. But if they click on it and they see that you are the leader of that campaign, and really the sponsor of it, then there’s a really good chance they come back to find you. And this is another way to create value that is conversation community based.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that. One thing I want to add to this; and it kind of goes back to the value conversation. But this is sort of on the other side. So I was talking about providing value, but now what I want to say about value in response here is; I want people to value every person that engages with their post. And what I’m imagining, for those of you listening, is that you’re in this well under 10,000 follower range. But even for those of you who are above that; there’s a way to show that you value every single person who engages with your post.

Now, at the point that I’m at, I might not be able to click on or tap on 200, or 1000, or 2000, or many thousands of people’s accounts who liked my photo and engage with them. But if you have 10 likes on a photo, and one comment, or two comments; it is your job to go respond to every single comment. I want you replying to every single comment. Thank you, and blah, blah, blah. Whatever you want to say. If it’s a question, you answer it, or you just thank them for the comment.

I listened years ago to one of Gary Vaynerchuk’s books, Thank You Economy, and I think this was one of the things he kind of drove home, and I remember feeling like it was a good reinforcement for the way I had approached things for a long time. That valuing every single customer; that doesn’t mean the customer is always right. {laughs} There are times when the customer is not right. But in that moment, really thanking people for their presence and their attention. Because they have given you their time and attention. And that is the most valuable thing they can give you. Even more valuable than their dollars, or their email at this point, is their time and attention.

So, let’s say 10 people like your photo. Go to those 10 people’s accounts, comment back on their last photo if it’s public. If it’s not; if you can message them; any way that you can tell them thank you directly. Thanks for liking and following along. Whatever want to say. You don’t have to be creepy about it. You don’t have to try and sell them anything. Literally just a thank you; I noticed that you like this and I appreciate your presence.

Think how that would feel if you randomly like someone’s photo, and they came back and said thank you for liking it. The amount of attention that you pour in to that person; they are going to be so delighted by that experience. So I think that those of you who are like; well, I don’t have that many. Well good, because now you have an opportunity to build a relationship with those people one on one.

I will say that I make every effort, now Instagram has the feature where you can tap a heart and like someone’s comment. I make an effort to like every single comment on my post if I’m not replying to it. At the very least, it got a heart. It got my attention. If you leave a comment, you get my attention. I won’t necessarily see every like, but I will see every single comment. So I think if you want to be seen, making a comment is the way to do it, not just liking the photo. And if you want to really show people that you value them in return, engage back with them and thank them for their attention. Not, thank you for your attention, but you know what I mean. Thank you for liking that.

Cassy Joy: I love that. I think that’s great. You know, something I did back in the day when, let’s say, if I was at 3,000 followers on Instagram. I think I just have that number seared into my brain. Because Kimberly, my sister, she had a larger account than I did, and I remember being like; tell me all of your ways! I want to build this online business, and I need to reach more people.

And I would set aside 30 minutes every morning. You can still do this; set aside 30 minutes every morning, riffing off of Diane. I would click on the hashtags that I was creating work in, and I would go and see the work that other people were doing in that hashtag, and I would engage. I would like, I would comment, and I would genuinely comment. I wouldn’t just copy and paste, “oh, looks so yummy!” next photo. I would actually put brain effort into creating a conversation. Not all of those converted, but a lot did. And that really helped give me a bump at the beginning.

I should say, on another note of campaign conversation, looping people in, being authentic and offering value. This is a little bit of a magical unicorn year for Fed and Fit. But we’ve grown; I’ve almost doubled my Instagram following in the last 6 months. And I really think it has a lot to do with the campaign. But honoring that campaign; and honoring, to Diane’s point, the people who are coming to the page, and thanking them. And acknowledging them that they’re not just here because they thought I was cool stuff. They’re here for meal prep advice, and they’re here for more. And really trying to respect where folks are coming from is my strategy for making them want to stay.

Because when you have a follower, it’s not about; oh, great, how do I go get the next one. It’s about; how do I honor the time that someone put in to clicking follow and commenting and liking things so that I’m still providing them value. Without, of course, totally putting my content on its head.

Another idea that I have for you is I want you to use the tools that Instagram provides you. We all know that there’s this mysterious algorithm; sometimes you’ll get featured on the homepage. Sometimes your stories will get bumped up in line. Sometimes your posts will bubble to the top of the Instagram feed when folks are scrolling. And it all seems like this big mystery. And I’m not going to sit down and break it apart, because I feel a little bit like the blind leading the blind. There’s so much I don’t know.

But what I do know is that in general, Instagram will reward you for using the tools that they have created. So what are tools that Instagram have created? They have created comments as a tool. They’ll reward you for engaging in comments. They have created lives. So use lives, and they will like that. Especially if it’s a new tool. They’ve created stories. Use stories. Try to stay active. They’ve created these fun little engaging buttons on stories. Questions. Polls. How much do you like this meter. Try to use at least one of those tools a day in your stories within a 24-hour period. So you can just stay on top of making sure you’re using those tools.

I can’t quantify it for you, exactly how much more it’s going to help. But just from a qualitative perspective; the more that I use the tools that Instagram has provided, the better my reach is.

I would also say; again, I talked about this earlier. But give your audience what they’re asking for, and then call that out. Don’t just; if they voted for apple recipes, don’t just then, next time, publish an apple pie. Acknowledge; “You voted, and here you go.” I think it’s really important to actually call out that you are honoring their engagement with your posts. So it’s not just in giving them the answer, but it’s talking about what you’re doing while you’re doing it.

And then again, going back to the old days. This is still something very, very worthy to do that will still really work. Offer to do guest posting as often as possible. This was really popular when blogging was the end-all, be-all. But now that folks are blogging on Instagram or on YouTube, you still can guest post. You can do what they’re calling a takeover, right? Where you go onto someone else’s account for 24 hours and do a takeover. Or, heck, maybe you pull up an account at a slightly larger following than yours. You really admire their work. Maybe you think your work fits in really well with theirs. You can write that person genuinely, and say; “I love what you’re doing. Would you ever be interested in a guest post? I would love to provide some great value. Here’s an example.” That’s how you pitch a guest post.

I would do it in an email; I wouldn’t necessarily do it in a DM, depending on how much reach they have. Because there’s a chance they might not see it. But detail what you would offer them, and talk about it. Because depending on the size of the account, they might get PR pitches a lot, and weird guest post pitches a lot.

But you could say, if it’s a nutrition account; or heck, maybe it’s an enneagram account, following up on Diane’s point. And you’re like; I’ve done these 9 illustrations on enneagrams and Disney characters. This actually exists. And I would love to offer these to you for your account as a guest post. Right? That’s content that you’re able to provide that might get you featured on a huge page, and then redirects their followers if they liked your content over to your page.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. We do this for the 21-Day Sugar Detox for coaches. It’s like an added value that we provide the coaches when and if they’re ready. And people will see this if you follow 21-Day Sugar Detox on Instagram. You’ll see, typically on the weekends, we have a coach do a takeover. We do that because weekend views do tend to be higher. And it’s a nice value for our team member, who posts during the week, to not be posting on the weekend. So it’s kind of a win-win.

But I love the idea of, when you approach someone, to say “here’s an example.” Because otherwise, it’s like; what’s in it for you. You’re not showing them what’s in it for them. By showing them the example of the type of content and the high level of value. This is the type of content where; if you’re going to pitch an account that has a larger following to feature you, you show up as your best. Right? This isn’t the time that you’re doing the messy, I just woke up, and it’s poorly lit and all of that. This is the moment where you say; you know what? I’m going to walk you through this recipe. And it’s daylight, and it’s well lit, and I’ve figured out how to set my camera up the right way. No, it’s not perfectly staged and produced, like professional. But it’s real, and it’s clear, and it’s done in a way that you’re proud of.

And not only will it provide value to their followers, but it’s something that people can expect to see more of from you, too. Maybe this is where you’re walking them, again, through recipes. I know people did this with Cook Once. You had people do little mini takeovers where they cooked up one of the weeks of your meal plans. But it can be like; what’s in your grocery cart. Let’s take a tour of my pantry. It can be so many different things.

Cassy Joy: Totally. That takes me back to your point of making this your best work. I don’t remember what year it was; maybe 2015 or 14. I did a guest post. Stacy might have reached out to me, but Stacy Toth, of Paleo Parents. Now she’s Real Everything Blog. But back in the day, it was Paleo Parents. And I remember I was going to do a guest post for her. And y’all; it is still, to this date, the most involved recipes I have ever done in my life. I did a paleo gingerbread house. I spent so much time perfecting paleo gingerbread so that it could build in construction. I even made an outline that they could download to print off the dimensions. We made real fruit gum drops and real food frosting. It was beautiful, and it’s just…

Diane Sanfilippo: I need to go find it right now.

Cassy Joy: It’s incredible. The time has passed, and I think we actually reposted it on Fed and Fit about a year ago or so. But it is, yeah. If you want to Google it, it’s Fed and Fit paleo gingerbread house. And there’s a good chance Stacy’s article still shows up, the one on her website. But it was crazy involved.

And to her point; that was my best possible work. And when she gave me that opportunity, I was like; I am going to knock this out of the park. And I’m not saying that that was the thing that helped break me into the next level, but it’s so many different decisions and always trying to put your best foot forward when you can.

Ok, another quick idea is an Instagram support group. There’s probably a few of you listening who already know about these. But it’s essentially a group of colleagues. The people that you can call colleagues on Instagram. So let’s say you have 700 followers on Instagram, and you are an NTP. These are the people who you know they do want to; you know you want to build and expand your reach online, but you have to cross promote. You have to show some sort of validity. Like, “hey, Katie really knows what she’s talking about over here. Go check her out.”

It actually benefits you to promote other people and endorse other people. And when you get this kind of support group and you say; we’re all going to go, and not in a spammy way. And not in I’m trying to hack Instagram algorithm. But I’m going to go and make sure I make a concerted effort to comment on these people’s post. I’m going to like them. And when I really like their content, I’m going to share it on my stories. So that can really help.  

The last tip that I’ve got for you is; when you’re creating content on Instagram stories, kind of like how we said, the people who are on Instagram are different from the people who are going to websites. It’s also important to remember that even within the app, the people who are only on stories may not be going to the feed and clicking through photos. Maybe they are; but there’s more crossover here than the other example. But it’s not always the case.

So if you create content in stories, then I would reference, and say; go check out my feed for more. If you’re creating content on your feed, then maybe think about pairing something in your stories to complement it, and say; “Go check out my stories for behind the scenes.” In a perfect world, what I would be doing is, “Here are these paleo apple muffins.” Posting a beautiful photo. “Go check out my feed for behind the scenes of how I made these muffins.” And then when people are on stories, and they’re seeing the behind the scenes of how I made these muffins, “Go check out my Instagram feed for the full recipe.”

Right? That’s how you cross promote within an app. And what that does is it really shows value, right. You’re providing a tremendous amount of value within; you’re keeping people on Instagram. So you’re honoring their favorite app. And you are engaging them in this kind of fun conversation. So in every single post, I like to write some sort of a question. Ask them a question. “What’s your favorite muffin recipe?” Something where you can actually offer. Or, if you want to get really strategic, I would say ask them a question or say, “What was your answer to the question I asked in stories?” Right? And really get them to go between the two.

And all that’s going to do, to my point on growing your following, is it’s going to show that you have really engaged followers on Instagram. The people who are already there are really engaged. And that’s only going to help your exposure. Because the app will see; this is a valuable account. More people are going to want to engage here, so we’re going to go ahead and bump it up. Because this account is keeping people on Instagram. And it’s keeping them happy.

Diane Sanfilippo: So to that point, I want to say something about what not to do.

Cassy Joy: Do it!

Diane Sanfilippo: And I think this will be uncomfortable for a good number of people. And they might want to tell me they don’t believe it, or I’m wrong, or, I don’t know. Whatever. Come at me. {laughs}

Cassy Joy: {laughs} I’m nervous.

Diane Sanfilippo: No, you have nothing to be nervous about. The one thing not to do is to buy followers.

Cassy Joy: Oh, amen.

Diane Sanfilippo: So, this happened twice in the last, I would say three months, ish. That there was; one of them is an account that I’m familiar with. Someone that I know, at least somewhat personally, who I knew did not have a large following. And when I say large; again, I’m kind of thinking over 10,000. It was just a benchmark that I knew that compared to someone else who, they were friends, she definitely did not have a following that was that size. And I looked at the account and I was like; huh. What happened here? And she said; oh, I bought followers.

Well, it doesn’t do anything for your engagement. All it does is give you a whole bunch of fake likes. You’re not going to get valuable comments. And even if it does give you an inflated or a boost shot in the arm injection of likes that does seem like engagement, the next step, which we are going to talk about in our next episode, which is kind of ultimately the point of having these engaged followers. You have just created a terrible situation for converting them into customers. Because they are not going to convert into customers. So, I would rather have 1000 true fans and followers than 10,000 who are not real.

And I understand the element of; I don’t know, I guess it’s just ego that’s happening where it makes people feel like it’s social proof. But I’ll tell you exactly what happened; this happened again recently a couple of weeks ago. I looked at someone’s account that had 14,000 or something followers. And look; if you want to gain followers who are not that aware, who am I to stop you. Do whatever you want to do. I looked at this account; I scrolled back, and I immediately thought to myself; and maybe I’m not her target customer anyway, so that’s fine.

But I immediately thought to myself; where did these people come from? I don’t see anything here that would tell me. It was not a beautifully curated account. Which sometimes I could see; ok, well if you have a beautifully curated account, I could see how something that is visually engaging and enticing would bring a lot of people in. I didn’t see that she had a blog. She did not have a blog. So there wouldn’t have been a following that came from somewhere else, that then found her on social media. She hasn’t written a book or created a product or done something else outside of social media that would have told me where these people came from.

There was nothing about the account that said; there’s a reason for these people to be here. And I don’t know how else to explain that. Perhaps it’s just my intuition. But I looked at it and I said; where did these people come from? And she said; I have no shame, I bought them. And I was like; I can tell. And I really, you know, she said she had no shame. Fine, that’s fine. But at the end of the day, she admitted; it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t move the needle.

So I really want to encourage people to work hard for that every 1. That every 10. That every 100 new followers that you have who are real. Thank them, comment back, and nurture them. Because you can build a business with way fewer people than you think. And I have seen accounts who have had lots and lots of followers; and I’ve talked about this, probably before on this show. I think I talked about it on Build a Badass Business when I had that show that I was talking into the abyss by myself.

But there were people that I had consulted with many years ago that had a huge account. Maybe at the time it was half a million followers. Or 300,000. Which was even huge that long ago. And they actually weren’t even able to convert everyone there. Because they hadn’t really nurtured that audience in the right way. And I think that the point is not to have the largest following. The point is to have the most engaged, the most connected, and the most ready to convert following.

Because at the end of the day, the point of you creating a following is to create a living, isn’t it? That is the point. To convert people; even if initially we just want to provide value, and be a resource, and be trusted. The intent for everyone who is creating that is to then convert and pay the bills. Right? And create a living.

So, if you’re doing that, I want you to examine. I don’t know if there’s a way to undo it. And that’s kind of sad. Because what’s worse than having 1000 followers who are engaged is actually having 15,000 followers who are not. Now your account is less valuable. Because your ratio of people who “follow” to those who engage or comment who are actually there and real is not going to be as high.

So I get it. I get why people do it. I understand sometimes people maybe want the swipe up function; which I don’t think is the end all-be all of converting people. I get why people do it. But I really want to encourage you not to do it.

Cassy Joy: Amen.

Diane Sanfilippo: I can see right through it.

Cassy Joy: I love it.

Diane Sanfilippo: I sniff it out. And honestly; for anyone who is in my space and my sphere, there’s almost nothing more disappointing to me. And anybody who works with me or adjacent to me will tell you that disappointing me is basically the worst feeling. And that’s not to say that I’m everyone’s boss, but I think if you’re listening to this show, what you would love to do is say; hey, I took yours and Cassy’s advice, here’s what happened, and it worked. And the last thing you want to do is operate against it, then have to come and say; well it didn’t work because I went this way because I thought that would work. You know what I mean? And it was just out of that ego thing. You’re never going to lose by connecting with real people in a smaller setting. You’re just not going to lose that way.

Cassy Joy: I think that’s really smart. And just to add on to your point about; even if you’re listening to Diane say; because I have talked a couple of friends off the ledge of buying followers, also. Just from a moral and ethical perspective; you can do this. Do not doubt yourself. Just adjust your strategy and you will find traction.

But if you’re also thinking; well, I want sponsored posts, and I want more money, and they’ll give me more money if I have more followers. Let me tell you something; when I look at my rate card for sponsorships; the engagement that I have relative to the number of people who follow my account is the reason why I have top of the line aggressive rates. And even though I have, let’s say page views on Fed and Fit are relatively low. My audience is extraordinarily engaged compared to other accounts that’s a little bit more click-baity.

And so if you’re looking from a business perspective; it’s bad business to have inflated numbers. Because you’re showing that your work product is ineffective. If people are not engaging at a high rate, you have an ineffective product. Who is going to want to put money into that?

Diane Sanfilippo: I mean, to that exact point; somebody contacted me through Balanced Bites looking for sponsorship on their account. And I scrolled on through. I was like; you don’t know who you’re asking. Because I found the day that she bought the followers. You can find the day that someone goes from 300 likes to 3,000. And it’s not just one post that was; here’s a sonogram. Because that’s the kind of post that will get you from 300 to 3,000 likes. It’s not that kind of thing. It’s literally; all the history before that is 2-500 likes. Then suddenly there’s a day. 3,000. 4,000. And it’s like the same exact number post to post to post. People are smarter than that. And they’re getting smarter and smarter. By the day, by the month, by the year. Do you know what I mean?

Cassy Joy: Yeah. Don’t do it. You’re better than that, you guys.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. Don’t do it.

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3. Tip of The Week: Post consistently [53:26]

Cassy Joy: Our next segment is Tip of The Week. In this segment, we give you one tip, an action, that you can take this week to move your business, or life, forward.

Diane Sanfilippo: Alright; my simple tip for you this week is to start posting something to your Instagram; whether that’s to your stories or to your feed, or both, that is consistent. Maybe it’s once a week. Maybe it’s every day. If it’s something that you do every day that’s easy enough to post. But something that people can know and look forward to. And it does not need to be perfect or beautiful or curated. But it’s something that you do consistently that can help people connect to you as a person.

Here’s a couple of examples. For a long time, I did a coffee pour in the mornings. People love seeing that. They definitely wish I would post that as consistently as possible. I know there’s a woman; That’s What She Eats. She does a really consistent coffee pour. It’s just very satisfying when someone does something consistently.

The one thing that I’m super consistent about, if we are on a walk with the dog. Especially at sunset. But it hasn’t been as often lately just because our schedules have changed, and I’m typically at the gym in the morning now. But, I do the same kind of post every time. Our dog walking to the edge and putting her paws up, because I just can’t handle how cute it is. And she looks out at the sunset. And people love seeing that. And it’s not necessarily delivering content that is of value to educate or inspire or motivate. But it does serve to really connect to your audience. There can be educational content in this piece you’re going to do.

One of my friends, Lainey, from Life is But a Dish. Every week, she does What’s in my cart. Whenever she goes to the grocery store, she puts it all on the countertop and tells you everything she bought that week at Trader Joe’s, for the most part.

So whatever it is that you do consistently. I know one of my other friends, Ashley, at Just South of Perfect, she’s been trying to do a Thrive Market haul, or grocery haul. Whatever it is. Look; we all have things that we do consistently. And a lot of us assume that mundane or imperfect or uncurated or not a recipe; we assume that those messy moments are not what people want to see. And in fact, they’re exactly what people want to see.

So, I had this conversation recently with Kate Markovitz. She’s at Holistic Kate on Instagram about; she has Balanced Bites meals. She gets them regularly. And she’s getting some more now. She’s like; I feel bad, I don’t always show what I’m eating because it’s like this random plate of whatever. I’m like; Kate. Your random plate of whatever is exactly what your followers want to see. Because they just want to see that you are hanging on as a mom the same way they are.

Cassy Joy: That’s what I want to see.

Diane Sanfilippo: Right? You don’t want to see what’s perfect. And you do sometimes want to see what’s beautiful and perfect from someone who writes a cookbook, and you want to see that yes, you’re the one who cooks the food. Or comes up with the ideas. Or you shoot the photos; whatever your part is in that. I actually don’t enjoy a cookbook author who doesn’t cook. I’m not; that’s not going to connect with me. I’m like; really? You don’t cook, or do photos, or none of this? That’s not really my vibe. But I also want to see what is the messy every day realness.

So anyway. Whatever it is that you’re experiencing all the time. So, you do this really well with your walks. You’ll walk with the family, and it’s like Gus at a glacial pace.

Cassy Joy: {laughing}

Diane Sanfilippo: By all means; move at a glacial pace.

Cassy Joy: Oh, it’s so good.

Diane Sanfilippo: We’re going to have to start quoting The Devil Wears Prada a lot. I feel like that’s a good movie for this podcast.

Cassy Joy: That is a good one.

Diane Sanfilippo: And then Grayson toddling along “walking” Gus.

Cassy Joy: Yes.

Diane Sanfilippo: And that is a little moment that we see regularly on your stories. And I think it’s fun and it’s endearing. And it’s actually also satisfying. We love to see that expected moment.

That’s it for Driven this week. If you liked this episode, be sure to subscribe in Apple podcast, on Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and a review. We absolutely love seeing your reviews. They are so appreciated. Follow us on Instagram @DrivenPodcast. Cassy is @FedandFit and I’m @DianeSanfilippo.

Tune in next week for the third in our series about social media, and this episode will be all about the truth about social media and converting your followers into customers. We’ll see you next week.