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I built a multimillion-dollar business on Instagram, and you can, too

Millennial entrepreneur Natalie Ellis, cofounder of BossBabe, spills the secrets to building a loyal following and monetizing Instagram.

I built a multimillion-dollar business on Instagram, and you can, too
[Photo: Sharon McCutcheon/Unsplash]

With over 1.4 million followers and up to 600,000 people seeing each post we put out, BossBabe is one of the largest and fastest-growing communities of ambitious women on social media. Along the way, we’ve been able to build a multimillion-dollar business off the back of our social strategy.

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As the cofounder of BossBabe and an entrepreneur from the time I was 13, I learned plenty of lessons. But one thing I realized very quickly was that this journey could be incredibly lonely. As I was leaving university and deciding between a great graduate job offer or setting up a company, most people around me thought I was crazy for taking the leap and deciding to start a business.

I launched my first business–Oh My Glow, a product-based company–with zero marketing budget. Using Instagram, I was able to ship to over 60 countries within the first few months. From there, the product was in over 200 stores in the UK. From there, I started BossBabe simply as an account on Instagram sharing sassy, ambitious quotes–which no one was doing at the time.

From there, we’ve been able to scale rapidly, a feat that owes its success to a few simple strategies that help cultivate an online community of raving fans who share the message and buy the products. Here’s how we did it.

Cultivate buying power

Having followers won’t make your business a success, but having followers with buying power will. That means your audience isn’t just double tapping your posts; it means when you recommend a product, they have the trust and the means to buy the product.

This is what I believe has made BossBabe such a social media success. Our audience knows that if we recommend something, they better get their credit cards out because it’s about to improve their lives.

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To cultivate this buying power among your audience, you need to adhere to what I call the three T’s: Targeting, Timing, and Trust.

Targeting

It’s better to have 10,000 targeted followers than 100,000 random followers. So it’s essential to have an extremely clear picture of your ideal client. This is the person who is going to take your calls to action, whether that’s buying your product, downloading your app, or simply sharing your message.

You’re going to want to understand who they’re following on Instagram and what content they’re already engaging with on a daily basis. Once you know this, you can find them and create the content they enjoy seeing. Speaking directly to them boosts both engagement and buying power. People want to feel as though you understand them. There’s so much generic content online, you’ll stand out if you niche down.

From there, one of the easiest ways to scale an audience of your ideal clients is to have them tag and introduce each other to your brand. Generally, your ideal client is in a friendship circle with even more of your ideal clients. Create content that they want to share with these people and you’ll quickly find your follower base growing with a niche demographic.

Timing

When cultivating buying power, timing is everything. You need to find a balance between providing valuable content and pushing toward conversions. If every post looks like a sales pitch, your audience will lose interest. Creating valuable content that allows you to distinguish yourself as a thought leader or expert in the space will not only help you build an audience who trusts you, it will give them a reason to follow and likely want to buy from you without you even having to ask for the sale.

Trust

Trust from your audience is going to come from your integrity. As you start the journey of building and monetizing a following, it can be easy to say yes to selling products that you don’t actually believe in. While it might bring in money at the beginning, it’s going to seriously limit the money you can bring in from your account in the future, as your audience will see straight through the promotion and know if you’re genuinely passionate about the product or not. It might sound counterintuitive, but if you want to build an audience with buying power, sell fewer things less often.

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Convert followers to customers

Once you’ve identified your ideal client and you’ve been able to start building up your followers and audience buying power, it’s time to start converting that audience into revenue.

Sell in stories

Since the introduction of Stories, sales have become even easier to make on Instagram. If you’re the face of your brand, there are two essential things you need to focus on: excitement and transformation. Energy is contagious. If you want your audience to be excited to buy something from you, you better be excited about it, too. Next, you want to be selling the transformation, not the product. People aren’t buying the product, they’re buying what it can do for them. Make sure you have a really clear idea of your transformation statement.

Create an opt in

The success of your business shouldn’t be determined by an algorithm. I highly recommend building your audience both on social media and on a platform you own. Enter your mailing list—this doubles as a way to demonstrate value and sell without selling. I recommend creating an irresistible free offer that you know your ideal client would love and consistently direct them to this page from Instagram. Once you’ve been able to demonstrate your value, you can invite them to purchase from you, using an email funnel or Facebook retargeting campaign.

Make it really easy to buy

Don’t make your audience jump through hoops to buy from you. If you’re selling via swipe-up links or links in your bio, make sure you’ve tested the UI from start to finish for a customer purchasing straight from Instagram on their phone. If your process has too many steps, you’ll see that reflected in your conversion rate. This also means simplifying the number of things you’re asking them to do. Instead of having five things for them to click on or view, pare it down it to one consistent ask.

Install a pixel

There’s often friction that comes from in-app purchases on the customer’s side. One wrong click and the browser can disappear, so installing a pixel on your click-through page is essential. A Facebook pixel is code that you place on your website. It collects data that helps you track conversions from Facebook ads, optimize those ads, build targeted audiences for future ads, and remarket to people who have already taken some kind of action on your website. If your follower abandons their cart or is finding it too difficult to purchase in that very moment, using a pixel will allow you to retarget them as soon as they’re back on social media or on their laptop or desktop.

Train your team

It’s essential that your social media manager stays up-to-date with the latest releases on Instagram and finds ways to quickly integrate new features into your social strategy. At BossBabe, we’re at 1.4 million and growing daily thanks to a team who’s well-versed in the methods I’ve outlined here that continue to convert these followers into paying clients, effortlessly and consistently.

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Natalie Ellis is the CEO and cofounder of BossBabe.

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