*** The post was updated in March, 2021. The story I share here is my 2016 experience of building audience through Instagram. After almost 2 years of using Instagram to grow my Accent Matters community, I closed down the account that had 11,920 followers. I’ve made this decision to focus on building my Smart Teacher’s Library and helping teachers and coaches build smart, solid and scaleable online businesses.
I rejoined Instagram as a coach in 2019. Please note that many strategies I share in this post are no longer viable. If you want to learn more about using Instagram as a language teacher check out our course.***
Following the advice of the Instagram for education guru Jennifer Nascimento I’ve embarked on this 30-day “Instagram-Immersion” challenge (full story has been sold to Jennifer for 1 mln. bucks, OK just kidding, but I will share more in a webinar with her – so stay tuned), and I’ve just finished week 1 with 1,000 followers.
I must say that this result is a bit shocking and surprising. How is it possible? I barely have 900 followers on twitter after 5 years of constantly putting something up there. I’ve closed down a 600-group on one of the Russian networks after 4 years of trying to get just a little bit engagement, to no avail.
I have 200 people on my Facebook page, but I’m not a fan of Facebook because of its tricky algorithms that end up hiding the group activity from you based on some stats. I also struggle with what to share there because my audience is so versatile (it includes both teachers and language-learners), but oh well… let it be.
I’ve used LinkedIn quite successfully, and it’s appropriate for my teachers-wanting-to-be-entrepreneurs audience. However when it came to promoting my pronunciation courses and other materials I found LinkedIn lacking, and my audience there wasn’t particularly keen and engaged.
So following the #Reach2016 event hosted by Kerstin Cable I decided I would open up my Instagram account and give it a try. I hadn’t been on Instagram before so I had very little idea what was involved, but I knew that if I wanted yet another social media involvement I had to do something 1) unique, 2) not time-consuming, 3) something I loved, 4) preferably something that is connected with what I have done already (so I could potentially use my Instagram to drive sales).
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What content should I provide?
Well, a week ago it was all just a good idea but I put my name out there, connected it to my online LinkedEnglish pronunciation courses and began putting some tips and ideas daily. A little story behind it: after publishing my LinkedEnglish courses where I focused mainly on the prosody of the English language (aka intonation) and connected speech I received a couple of requests for more exercises.
Even though I’ve developed a lot of exercises, it’s been a challenge trying to get people to sign up to receive them. Eventually I just told my students to enjoy the practice they have in the course… And this is the idea that came to mind when I was registering my Instagram account: how about I put all of those exercises together and add daily?
It worked! I had tons of materials, it was very easy to put them together, and since I wasn’t into professional videos, and recording 15 seconds at a time was a breeze (even when my 10-month-old daughter was making noises in the background) I’ve been able to produce 8-12 videos daily explaining some principles of connected speech.
Suddenly people started to follow. Then they’d tag their friends, and those came to see the content and became followers, too. Somebody with over 12k followers recommended me on the 2nd day of my Instagram Immersion, and I had people following like I was a rock star.
I’m completely overwhelmed and overjoyed because of this. I almost feel like, “Why didn’t I have Instagram before?” Well, I didn’t have a smart phone until a few weeks ago, but still. So much could have been accomplished had I opened the account a year ago. However, would I have envisioned myself putting up exactly this kind of content? Not sure.
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What do I think of Instagram so far?
Obviously, it’s a bit too early to talk about any long-lasting impressions, but there’re a few things that I can say about Instagram so far:
- Extremely user-friendly
- Promotes bite-sized information
- Has a supportive community
- Higher engagement than on any other networks (for my materials anyway)
- Makes content marketing easy for such time-limited people like myself
- Nurtures the relationship with the audience to where the followers become fans
- Has a great marketing potential.
Things to consider:
- It’s important to narrow down the focus
- There’s a bit of a learning curve with hashtags and other important things
- Instagram doesn’t have too many built-in functions such as banner or movie makers. You’d have to make that elsewhere and then import them on Instagram.
- Even sharing somebody else’s post requires a special app (!)
- Resist the desire to promote a product or service right away. Allow some time for trust to develop. Side note: I was looking through somebody’s profile, and the person would consistently write in every post: If you want to book lessons with me, here’s the phone number. After 5-6 posts it became rather annoying.
This is my small list of observations at the end of week 1 with more than 1k followers! Let’s turn it over to you: do you have Instagram? If so, what do you use it for? If not, would you open the account and start writing your own story and sharing it with your followers?