How to Leverage Instagram to Grow Your Business

unnamedSince the emergence of social media, digital marketing has drastically changed.  Many marketing professionals are now asking the question: Is traditional marketing dead? That’s what Forbes contributor R.L Adams is asking.  According to Adams, 21st century marketing “…isn’t about massive ad spends or media buys, it’s about building a platform through social media and commanding the authority of millions upon millions of actively engaged individuals ready and willing to follow your advice and your lead.” Instagram in particular is one of the most popular social media tools which you can utilize to grow your business. There is a countless number of strategies you can use to grow your reach, acquire customers, and increase your revenue all through the use of this free app.  Personally, its my favorite social network as I’ve grown my page to nearly 80k followers with more than 120k impressions a week which I use to promote my clothing company, Hidden Harbor.

Photo Credit: Entrepreneur Magazine

However, mastering social media and amassing thousands of followers who are willing and able to buy your brand isn’t easy.  It requires hours of time and commitment and can be a quite frustrating experience.  This is why many business owners who don’t have the time and patience to grow their own page will outsource the difficult task to social media consultants like myself or professional business enhancement firms like Brainstorm Startups.

For the brave few who want to successfully master the platform themselves here are a few tips:

  1. Use Hashtags

Hashtags are a must for growing your page.  If used correctly, they will allow hundreds of users to view your post within a short period of time.  Instagram limits the number of hashtags to 30 per post; make sure you don’t go over this limit or else none of the hashtags will be activated!  Here is a list of the 25 most used hashtags.

2.  Use “Native Ads”

A few examples of “native ads”

Native ads area great way of keep customers engaged and help spark natural conversations on your post.  Simply repost images off of your customers’ pages of them using your product or service.  This “naked” post is meant to look natural and even amateur from a photography standpoint which makes the viewer feel relatable and more personable to your brand.

3. Spark a Conversation

Create clever and innovative captions for your posts.  Sometimes your caption can make or break the entire user experience!  On some posts, but not all, add open-ended questions in your captions to encourage users to comment on your post.  Getting followers are great, but remember that it is comments and user engagement that will really grow your page and which will lead to the aquisition of the most prospective customers who may buy your products.

4. “Like” Others’ Photoslikk

Liking other users’ photos who interested in the products or service your brand is selling is a very effiecient way of increasing your follower count.  They will receive a notification when their photo is liked, this will increase your reach and the chance that users will follow you given your account has relevant content.  This can get tedious as liking hundreds of photos a day gets old.  Some automative alternatives like Robolike can be helpful in liking photos for you, however be careful as using a bot on your account can be very risky and could get your page banned from Instagram!

5. Post Only HD Content

High defentition content is a must for any Instagram profile looking to increase follower count.  No one wants to see a blurry, unnatractive image on their feed.  Make sure to use only aesthetic HD photos in your posts. (Unless you’re posting a “naked ad” mentioned earlier.)

Stock photo websites like PEXELS provide HD free content to fill your page with.

The preceding tips are just a few of the most important strategies to use in building your Instagram page.  If you arent seeing the kind of results you’re looking for keep in mind that building a social media page from the ground up can be an exhausting and tedious process.  Want to learn more?  Check out this video by marketing guru Chalene Johnson which explains so additional tips on how to utilize Instagram’s new algorithims.


What’s the Best Method to Pick a Manufacturer?


Product development/prototyping is in my opinion the most important part of your company’s pre-launch business structure.  If your product isn’t perfect upon release you risk losing potential customers forever and creating a bad reputation right off the bat which is why many startups fail.  Keep in mind that bad news always travels faster than good news which is why it’s always better to put the best product you can on the market over something that is “just good enough” while you risk a poor final product even if it may take a short amount of time. In order to have a successful prototyping and manufacturing experience, you must find an accredited manufacturer.  It is critical, and I can’t stress this enough, that your manufacturer is merited.  Remember, the quality of your product is up to the manufacturer, it’s up to you to find the best value.

When you set up your first meeting with your manufacturer here are things you may need to bring:

  1. NDA – Non-Disclosure Agreement

    Above is an example of an NDA, availible for free on sites like Rocket Lawyer.

Before you and your manufacturer begin talking about design, you MUST make sure that they sign a Non Disclosure Agreement.  This is essential in order to protect your ideas and trade secrets from theft. Without an NDA, the manufacturer can essentially do whatever it wants with your idea including patenting it in their name, selling your idea to competitors, and even copying your idea and selling it privately if you already don’t have a patent. There are many real life horror story examples of when businesses fail to bring an NDA to the table.  Bottom line: get an NDA. You can find a generic one for free all over the web and it will save you a massive headache in the long run.



2.  A sketch, design, or existing prototype of your product.

A design spec, like one for this wheelchair, may be required for your manufacture to work with.

Without something tangible like a sketch, the manufacturer’s job will be miserable.  It will take them more time, which in the end will cost you more money, time, and personal frustration.  Make sure to have your produced spec’d before you meet with your manufacturer unless you have an existing prototype.  Expect to give up the prototype to the manufacturer if you end up working with them.  I was lucky enough to have an original prototype which is making the prototyping process easy and affordable.

3.  Ask for  information about SKU policy. 

This is an example of SKU spreadsheet.  Organizing your SKUs will be essential to your inventory management efficiency.

A stock keeping unit (SKU) is an individual exact spec of your product.  For example, Company A sells small, medium, and large pants in navy and khaki colors.  Each individual combination, i.e., large navy, small khaki, medium navy, etc…, is considered one SKU.  Manufacturers will have a minimum order per SKU, not per generic product.  This is costly as you could be forced to buy more of one SKU than meets the demand.  For example, Company A needs to fill 200 pairs of small khaki pants, except their manufacturer’s minimum order is 500 pairs per SKU.  This means that in order to fill the demand, you’ll be forced to buy 300 more pairs of pants than you can actually sell!   Inventory management can make or break your company, therefore, your potential manufacturer’s minimum order is one of the most important parts of choosing a manufacturer.

4. A confident attitude.

Remember, the manufacturer is earning YOUR business, not the other way around.  The first meeting can be intimidating for some people, change your attitude and put yourself first in this situation; you’re paying them for a reason.  Don’t be afraid to walk away from the table if you don’t like what you see, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Additionally, try to negotiate price with your manufacturer if you decided you want to work with them.  Start with an offer that is 20-30% less than what they tell you their price is and go from there.  Some manufacturers, like the one I work with, don’t negotiate price.  This isn’t the end of the world, just make sure you stay within your budget and don’t overpay.

5. Manufacture domestically!Print

Yes, it’s true, it’s MUCH cheaper to have your products manufactured in China or Mexico than here at home. Don’t! Get it done here in the USA.  American manufacturing is more expensive, however, it will also come with peace of mind.  Working with a Chinese manufacturer almost guarantees that your product will be stolen, produced, and re-sold in Chinese markets by third parties.  You’re probably thinking, “Tom, I’ll just sue them!”  Think again.  When you’re running a startup odds are you won’t be able to afford spending tens of thousands on legal fees.  Not to mention that nations like China generally like to shelter their manufactures from legal action and rarely lose cases as it’s in their economy’s best interest.  According to the Owens & Mulherin Law Firm, it’s essentially impossible to win a lawsuit against Chinese manufacturers as a startup. This is much more unlikely to occur here at home.  You also will be able to exploit some marketing potential when your products are made here.  Consumers often will buy the product that is made over than the competitors that is made in China if the price is the same.  Your profit margin may be lower, however, if you market the “Made in the USA” bit correctly you may sell more units than if your product were to be made overseas.

In conclusion, an NDA, tangible sketch/design spec, SKU information, a confident attitude, and an American geographical location, will make your prototyping experience smooth and efficient.  Feel free to message me in the “Contact Me” page if you have any comments, questions, or concerns.  Good luck!

For more information on the American manufacturing comeback, check out this video from the Financial Times here.

Courtesy: The Development Corporation, Rocket Lawyer Inc., Karman Healthcare Kathleen Fasanella,, Harry Campbell Wall Street Journal, Owen & Mulherin Injury Lawyers