At Evie, we love social media marketing. Seemingly the best and most effective way we communicate as humans across the globe has also become the best way to market to each other, if you know what you're doing.
Not only can social media be a fantastic resource for paid advertising, it can also be incredibly helpful in building a brand and lead generation. Unfortunately, many businesses overlook the general approach to social media and therefore miss out on a huge opportunity to connect with their clientele and sell big.
In fact, social media can provide free leads and sales through just a consistent yet personable approach to building your brand on the app of choice. Of course there are many platforms you can opt for such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and so many more. However we find the easiest and fastest platform to build a free lead generation source from is Instagram.
Are these leads really free?
Essentially yes. Of course, anything free costs time so you will have to dedicate a decent chunk of your day, especially when setting this up initially, so you can actually build an audience base to generate leads from. This can be made easier with different paid apps but we'll get into that later.
Before you build your lead gen machine (for free) you'll need to have a really solid brand on Instagram and a great connection with your audience. If you believe you already have this you can skip to Step Five, but I'd strongly suggest reading all of the steps in this article.
Building The Brand On Instagram
Make A Plan, Stay Committed
You need to commit to this strategy if you have any hope of seeing results. Just like any other marketing plan you'll need to work on it for a prolonged amount of time but this is especially true for any organic, social media endeavour. This is because Instagram rewards accounts that add value to their app and punishes those who don't contribute to their user experience.
For this reason, it's extremely easy to lose traction on social media in as little as 24 hours because the algorithm is just that intricate and responsive. If you've tried to build a brand on social media before you know just how hard it can be to grow an audience, create engaging content and consistently increase engagement. Just like your SEO endeavours, it can take months to build a social media brand and the work really needs to be put in everyday to see any kind of progress.
So with that being said, the first step is to build a content plan. You need to plan exactly what kind of content you want to publish, how often you want to post and what you actually want to achieve with each post.
For example, we publish six main categories to our Instagram account @evie.studios:
Curated Blogs - these are informational blogs from both competitors and other authorities in the digital marketing space that we think our audience will be interested in reading
Our Blog Posts - to show our audience that we provide free value to their lives
Promotional Posts - these show special offers or just general services we offer
Inspirational Quotes - to bring some happiness and positive energy to our account
Statistics - interesting marketing facts and stats that we know our audience will appreciate.
Aesthetic, Candid Evie Photos - just nicely shot photos of our team, office or things we're up to on any given day
However it's important to note that we do not treat each category equally. Some are more valuable than others, and some receive different engagement rates. For example we only publish one promotional post a week. That's one post bragging about our services out of the nine we upload every week. We'll get into why this is important in a little bit.
Don't Make It Harder On Yourself, Use An App
As you can tell, there is a lot of time being devoted to our social media channels from the content planning to having to upload it each and every day. The only way we survive this, is through automation. We touched on this before but if you're okay with this approach not being 100% free then we suggest investing in an auto publishing application. The app of choice for us is SocialBee at only $19/mth (roughly $25 Australian Dollars).
With this app we can plan each category, upload our creatives (photos, media and videos) in batches, edit text and captions in bulk and save hashtag categories at just a click of a button. This cuts down so much of our admin time in not only planning but also publishing. All your social media accounts can be connected and will automatically post to the respective page. This means you never have to click 'post' every again. We have content going up on our Facebook and LinkedIn that I have personally forgotten we even made! That's how automated and out of sight SocialBee can be.
Now here's the catch. You cannot auto publish to Instagram accounts with SocialBee. They do make it as simple as it can possibly be without being automated but it still a bit of a pain. Essentially when it's time for the Instagram post to go up you'll receive a notification on your phone, you'll hit 'post' and then it will copy over all text, hashtags and media to instagram and post for you. So it's basically a hands off approach but still not fully automated. There are other apps out there that allow auto publishing to Instagram like Later, Planoly and Hootsuite but we simply like SocialBee's layout, usability and pricing better. Check out these comparisons of the different apps out there to make the right choice for your business.
Prioritise - Not All Posts Are Equal
Just like we mentioned in Step One, we do not treat all of our posts to Instagram equally. Out of the main six categories we like to work with, we publish some a lot more than others for different reasons.
Mainly we do this because we want to provide the most value to our audience so they not only give us high engagement but they also stick around. As mentioned, Instagram rewards accounts that contribute to the user experience. Instagram's main priority is their users, not the businesses that give them ad money, so you need to think "If I were to follow my brand on IG, what would I want to see?"
This is where you REALLY need to know your customer and audience base. Read our last article here on building a client/ customer avatar if you haven't already. For example, we know anyone who follows Evie Digital Marketing Studio on Instagram isn't likely to be someone necessarily needing our services immediately but someone who is either interested in digital marketing or running their own business/ side hustle so they want to know how to grow. So our main content on rotation are informational posts with content from either us, or other curated sources, on the latest trends in digital marketing or helpful how to's. We post these three times a week on IG.
However, we are also mindful that Instagram is photo app driven by aesthetic motivations and engagement. So our biggest posting category is simply called 'Aesthetics'. This our 'Aesthetic, Candid Evie Photos' category we mentioned before with nicely shot photos of our team, office or things we are up to on any given day. The thing here is that we make sure these posts are congruent with our brand and colour scheme and are just pretty to look at. No surprise, these posts have the highest engagement out of all of ours. We post them four times a week on IG but barely post them on our other channels that are more text focused. See where we're getting at with this?
Don't Be Selfish - Spread The Love
This is one of the most important steps so do not skip it! So many people focus on their on engagement, how many followers they're gaining, how many likes and who is commenting on their posts - but no one ever thinks of how much engagement they give others. In order to really boost your engagement you need to show that same love to the people who follow you. Try to follow back every account that already follows you, unless they're super outside your interests or are clearly just a bot. Then whenever you post to Instagram, spend 30-45 minutes a day (yes I know that's a lot of time) liking, commenting and sharing posts that you genuinely like or the account their coming from. This shows your followers that not only do you produce awesome content relevant to them, but you also engage actively within the app itself. You'll notice your engagement sky rocket almost immediately with this strategy. Not only that but Instagram will reward you for contributing even more to the user experience!
The more love you show your audience the more love they will return back to you and stick around for the long haul. Plus it's great for public image.
Generating The Free Leads On Instagram
Now that your brand on Instagram is a well oiled machine with decent daily engagement it's time to get to the meat and potatoes of this article!
Slide Into Their DMs
Have you heard of this term? The hip, young people use it when they want to message someone in a casual way through Instagram direct message function. Seems like a super simple, almost obvious approach but it's so overlooked by many small businesses.
Now you're probably thinking "Really? This is the secret step to generating free leads on Instagram, what a click bait article." but trust us, it's how you do this that makes all the difference. Before you message any stranger through Instagram you have to make sure that they're people worth contacting. On your Instagram business account, take a look at your latest post and those who liked it or are commenting on it. They are your high ticket prospects. They're clearly interested in your brand and are keen to hear what you have to say. So they're the ones you need to message in IG.
However, before you do, make sure you follow them and they follow you back so you don't go into their 'Other' folder on IG that is rarely seen. We want to come up right in their primary messages. Once you've found the right account to message, you need to take into action all the other marketing principals you've learnt in this article. Make it about them, don't sell your stuff and genuinely enquire about their life.
For example, do not message them saying: "Hey thanks for the follow and the like, here's 15% off your next order with us!" or "Hey want to have a chat about how our xyz services can help you today?" All of those messages are so jarring, so selfish and so automated that it will turn off 99.9% of people, if not 100%.
Instead, look at their recent posts and find something to connect about. For instance, if you're like us and run a digital marketing business and see one of your highly engaged followers is an owner of a plant nursery and their latest post has a photo of them and their cute dog at work you could simply say: "Omg, your dog is too cute! How old are they?"
Super different approach right? You're showing genuine interest in their life, asking them something completely non-business related AND demonstrating that you're a real person behind the computer. Once the conversation starts rolling, continue the pleasantries for a little while until you can naturally turn the conversation into more business related topics. For example, this how your conversation could go:
Evie Studios: "Omg, your dog is too cute! How old are they?"
"Thank you so much! He's 2 years old this November. His name's Bentley."
"Such a cute name! I love it."
"Thank you, my partner came up with it."
Evie Studios: "Oh lovely. Are you both involved with 'ABC Nursery'?"
"Yeah! Steven and I both manage the business but I'm definitely more hands on with the plants."
"Awesome! I love going to plant nurseries, so relaxing! Where are you based?" *Nursery Owner*
"We're just in Annandale in Sydney." Evie Studios: "Oh I'll have to come by! I'm in need for a few more work plants and we're not far from Annandale." *Nursery Owner*
"That would be amazing! You're so welcome to come by!" Evie Studios: "I'd love to go on a day that you're around, what day works for you?" *Nursery Owner*
"I'm here tomorrow, if that works"
Evie Studios: "Perfect, I'll stop by at 10am!"
That's basically it. We've had this conversation with local account owners a hundred times and 80% of the time that we talk to them on the phone or in person, we end up providing some kind of service for them. Another tactic we use, when they're not local to us in Sydney, is turning the conversation into a goal based, kind of brain storm. So instead of the above, we might go with the below:
"Awesome! I love going to plant nurseries, so relaxing! Do you have any goals for the business in 2021?" *Nursery Owner*
"I would love to open up a second location somewhere but we'd have to grow so much more before then." Evie Studios: "Oh wow that's so exciting! How much do you need to grow by in order to consider the new location?" *Nursery Owner*
"Probably by 25% at least."
Evie Studios: "That doesn't sound too unreasonable. We actually specialise in growing small businesses similar to yours, I'd be happy to have a strategy call with you, free of charge, if that sounds helpful to you?" *Nursery Owner*
"Yeah actually that does!"
Evie Studios: "How does 11am tomorrow sound?"
Once we get them on the phone we can better understand their business, needs and resources. If we can help them we'll definitely suggest our services but if not we can always point them in the right direction. This allows us to be cemented as a digital marketing authority (even if they don't work with us) and we know they will refer us to their friends because they've already built a rapport with us.
Is this tactic exhausting and time consuming? Definitely. Is it a little cringey? Sometimes. Is it worth it? Always. Remember how we said if you want something for free you have to put in the time? Well this is a prime example of that. This definitely isn't our main stream of lead generation but it's a very dependable one because we know these people already have an interest in us and we can manually verify their profile ourselves.
Plus it feels so good getting a $1k plus sale that you spent NO MONEY to get other than just your hard work.
To get max results and truly understand the potential this method has to grow your business, you'll need to message at least 25 - 50 people a day. This will vary greatly depending on your follower count and engagement rate which is why the first four steps are so critical in making this process work.
You can already imagine just how time consuming this lead gen process will be but if you're determined to grow your business but have no resources to spend on marketing then this is your golden ticket!
If you have questions about this process or thoughts on this article please shoot us an email! We'd love to hear your feedback or results if you've implemented this yourself.
(02) 8006 4212