*** The post was updated in March 2021. Since then, I have changed the focus of my Instagram account and it’s now a space for online language teachers to connect and grow as they’re building their businesses online. Check it out here. ***
Over the last 30 days I have received several messages from teachers on my mailing list asking me about the results of my 30-day teach-on-Instagram challenge. It is difficult to pack all of my emotions, experiences and interactions in one post but here is a brief report that I hope to follow up with a webinar or an interview of some sort later.
This year I got my first well-functioning smart phone. It’s kind of crazy to think about it, because even though I would consider myself technologically advanced, I still preferred to “keep my phone out of it,” and not to bother with all the apps that will supposedly make my life a lot better.
So this year after my good-ole Windows phone asked for a retirement I got a Samsung, and life has never been the same ever since. One of the big changes that have happened is my introduction to Instagram, thanks to Jennifer Nascimento. I thought I’d give it a try and see what comes out of it.
So here’s my short overview of the 30-day challenge (you’ll see the number of followers added to the account daily in the white circles):
I never could imagine going anywhere past 1,000 followers. In fact, I felt like it would take me years, until I found myself on Instagram. I’ve been on twitter for several years, and haven’t yet gotten to 1k, my new Facebook page is growing slowly, and the only social media where I have more than 1k followers are LinkedIn and youtube. But I’ve been active on both of them for years, so what’s with this Instagram thing?
My Instagram focus.
Though I opened my Insta-account as an experiment I still wanted a return on my time investment. Since I’ve been working online for some time I knew that just any Instagram account won’t do, I had to narrow down my focus to something that could easily be used as learning materials, even as short as 15-second videos.
Since I only have 2 main areas of focus now: teacherpreneurship and accent/fluency training, I thought I’d focus on the second one as I immediately saw the benefit of having an account with a number of accent training exercises. The length is only 15 seconds, I can record videos using my phone and post them without much editing. It worked.
My general impressions.
I found that teaching through Instagram is definitely rewarding. For the first time I had all these different people in my “classroom,” and I was able to interact with them, ask them questions and get answers. The amount of engagement blew my mind. I’ve never experienced anything like that.
In my LinkedEnglish pronunciation courses people have a way of engaging with the content, but I rarely get discussion questions, and I think this is one of the weaknesses that online course marketplaces (like udemy.com) have. It’s hard to create engagement where people aren’t naturally inclined to be engaged.
Instagram lends itself to a lot of engagement just because it’s on your phone and it’s easy to text your question, tag people, even respond to somebody else’s question in the comments section. On top of that, few people think of “formal learning” when they’re on Instagram. They’re just having fun and so engagement and application comes naturally (isn’t it what we, as teachers, always want?)
I’ve also enjoyed seeing what other teachers are doing and how they’re positioning their materials and making them accessible to students. The easiness of creating 15-second drills is what really compelled me to focus more on instagram. Youtube is great and it’s wonderful for promotion as well, but it is so time-consuming! On Instagram I can create short videos in minutes and – voila! I got likes, comments, tags and new followers.
Create a vibrant #community on @instagram. Check out this case study.Click To Tweet
The numbers game.
You’ve probably noticed from the graphic above that the number of followers is not evenly distributed from day to day. This pattern continues, and so I can have 10 people follow me one day and 100 the next. What I did notice though is:
1. Fewer posts are better.
2. There’re more people signing up on weekends. Starting Friday and all throughout the weekend I get a lot of people added to my account. Ironically, I don’t post anything over the weekend because I want to give myself a break. Still, there’re quite a few people joining.
3. My list has grown considerably. This is true, but I had to tweak my subscription campaigns a bit. At first I posted a link in my bio an invitation to sign up. That didn’t work that well.
Then I added personal invitations (selfie-videos) telling people what they would get if they signed up, and that worked like magic. Another thing that helped was running free events and posting the previews of what I was planning to send out in an email that particular week.
4. I’ve made 1 sale, which was unexpected and I believe it’s only the beginning. I wan’t really going to make sales via Instagram, but then I saw what other teachers were doing and thought I’d give it a try. To mark my 1 month on Instagram I posted a link in the bio, and somebody bought my course that weekend.
I’ve since had 2 more different sales campaigns and I learned that if you want to sell anything through instagram you have to make it very easy, fast and clear.
Obviously, you don’t want to be spammy either, so no need to end every post with “buy my stuff,” but I feel like sometimes it’s OK to use this opportunity as long as you’re clear about what you’re selling, you have a link that leads directly to the sales page, and you make it a fast sale. I noticed that a 1-week-long sale isn’t that helpful. Plus because you can only have one clickable link (in the bio), you don’t want to keep the sales link up for too long and pass up the opportunity of gaining new subscribers.
4. I’ve met with one very enthusiastic potential client. I noticed that adding my website address to some posts (especially when they’re just images that I make through canva) is also helpful to people who like my content and would love to learn more about what I do. Since as I said I can only have 1 clickable link in the bio (and the subscription link is more important to me) I decided to add my website link on the images, and that’s how I met one more client who’s interested in my coaching.
My gripes and pet peeves.
The report wouldn’t be complete without these, would it? I’ve got a few of them, some are technical ones that don’t depend on me, others are just the normal “fast-Instagram-celebrity” gripes.
1. The apps and other bells and whistles. Instagram isn’t self-sufficient. You want to make better videos? Download an extra Instagram editing app. Want to share a post? Download another app. You can’t post clickable links into post descriptions, which is very restricting, and the desktop version of Instagram is non-existent. If you access Instagram from your computer you’ll feel the pain of not being able to upload stuff from your computer or to edit your post description.
2. Strange people asking for help through direct messages. I haven’t exactly been bombarded with messages (not yet anyway), but I do get direct messages from people asking me for help. Sometimes they’re easy-to-answer questions and people do respect your time and are grateful when you correct their small mistake in a 3-word sentence.
But then there’re those that write these manipulative messages, and you have to somehow come up with a strategy: disregard them or say no politely. Even though I never had this issue, I did find myself pulled into the back-and-forth a couple of times and decided to just disregard people who have no respect for my time.
4. People can “hunt you down.” For lessons scheduling I’ve always had a form that I invited students to fill out. I’m pleased to be past the stage where I teach 5-7 hours a day, so for me lesson scheduling isn’t a big deal. However I’ve always avoided students contacting me directly through skype. I never post my skype anywhere, and unless people are referred to me directly through other clients I don’t add anybody.
So somebody from Instagram decided to look for me on skype and found me, then she proceeded to tell me how much she would like to have lessons and can we have a trial now? Then came the long back-and-forth about, “Will you give me a discount if my husband signs up, too,” to which I responded that I’d first work with her and see if we click and then I’ll commit to anything else.
After a 40-minute (!) back-and-forth I finally set a date for our free trial, which she canceled 2 hours prior to the lesson, requesting to reschedule. There was obviously neither rescheduling nor any further communication, but I felt robbed of my time, again (!). So, a word of wisdom to myself: when somebody contacts you via skype, send them the link to fill out the form, don’t ever get into the back-and-forth.
I guess that’s it for my Instagram report. I’m now on week 7 with 3,931 followers. I made another sale yesterday and hope to make one more today, but we’ll see.
Instagram has changed a lot since this post was published, and some of the strategies no longer work. My case study here is by no means a “normal” way of growing your Instagram account as I’ve had a lot of boost initially through shoutouts and recommendations.
I have since developed an online course that I co-teach with 2 other coaches every year, and we talk about all the new features and tendencies. Check it out.