If your Instagram marketing is going nowhere, this is the episode for you. Instagram expert Ariel Carr will show you how to build an audience and how to monetize your Instagram account, even if you don’t have thousands of followers. She’ll share with you some of the overlooked opportunities on Instagram, and how to get discovered even if you’re just starting out.
Rich: From two failed businesses and a typical 9-5, my guest today wanted more for herself, and to live like a millionaire. She transformed her life by learning how to scale social media monetization and grow a loyal following, becoming her own testimonial for her business. She grew her social media following by 150,000 followers in just 10 months.
In 2020, she launched her business, Monetize Your Social Media, generating half a million dollars in revenue in only 12 months. And it all started with an eBook. Her first offering was a $20. E-book all about how to grow your following on Instagram, making $100,000 in the first 90 days. The best part was growing her social media following simultaneously using the tips from her eBook, demonstrating to her audience the power that it had.
Now, the 27-year-old Virginia-based businesswoman has several online courses, masterclasses, and eBooks, that focus on helping budding entrepreneurs monetize their Instagram. Her mission is to teach other hustlers and entrepreneurs her strategies to make money in the digital space. And today we are going to tap into that expertise with Ariel Carr. Ariel, welcome to the show.
Ariel: Hey, thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Rich: I’m definitely excited. This is going to be good. I am curious, because I always love origin stories. What was that moment like when you decided to go all in on social media?
Ariel: Well, it kind of gradually happened. I first started my page as a realtor, actually. And from there, I was like, okay, I’m going to build up a following. I’m going to find some clientele for it. And I was just doing it as a side thing, still working nine to five. It wasn’t until I hit the $300,000 mark in revenue where I was, okay, I think I can quit my job. I could go all in. And I was making a good amount of money from my 9-5, I was making six figures. So after I tripled that on my own, I was like, okay, it’s probably safe to quit and to do this full time and become a real time entrepreneur.
Rich: So you had a full-time job. You did this as a side hustle, kept your full-time job until you felt it was safe to kind of go all in with this new direction.
Ariel: Yeah, that’s correct. And I also wanted to make sure that I had an emergency fund and that I had my business affairs in order. I didn’t just want to just quit my job just because money was being made. You want to get a lot of things aligned before you do that. So, yes.
Rich: Very cool. It reminds me of the book by Daymond John, the people’s shark, where he talks, I think it’s Hustle and Grind was the book. And he talks about the fact that he kept his job at some generic restaurant chain the entire time while he was building up his clothing brand, and how important that was to have the safety net while he was doing something. It’s very cool.
All right. Shifting to Instagram. I’m sure that most of my listeners have an Instagram account already for their business. But I’m just as sure that many of them aren’t generating a lot of ROI from it, myself included, maybe. So, let’s see. When somebody tells you they use Instagram for business but they’re not seeing any results from it, what is your reaction? What do you say to them?
Ariel: Usually I try to figure out why, and it comes down to a couple of things. It’s either the content that they’re putting out. So the posts aren’t reaching people, it’s not resonating with people, and it’s not valuable to people. They’re not finding any benefit from hitting the ‘follow’ button on your page. Or it’s probably consistency. So maybe you have the content, maybe you have a good quality, you have a decent following, but you’re not consistent enough with it. You post once a week, and you expect sales to come in. And that’s just not enough with all of these other users competing for the same eyes, the same attention. You have to be consistent, and you have to have valuable content.
Rich: As you started to build up your following on Instagram, what were some of the things that you did to really start to greatly increase those numbers and get people to hit that ‘subscribe’ button?
Ariel: Well, it came from knowing what people like online. And I always tell people that content should fall into three categories. So it should either be entertaining and that’s the purpose of relating to people and kind of showing off your personality, connecting and should be educational. So that’s where people get a direct benefit, especially your target audience. You should be talking about your industry or things that your clients like to hear.
And then the third category is being motivational. People always love motivational, inspirational quotes. That always does pretty well. So your competence should fall into those three categories. And that’s what I stuck to for a very long time, and still today, that’s what I was building a lot when I first started my page. And the reason I think I saw so much success is because I posted every single day for months. Like literally every single day, maybe 90 days at least in the beginning.
Rich: And what kind of content were you posting at the beginning? Was it all stuff that fell into the feed, or were you also using some of the other tools that Instagram now has?
Ariel: So, yes, I was using feed posts and then I was also sharing stories. And so I primarily worked off of those two, and then Instagram lives like maybe once or twice a week. That really helped out that really connected with people. But I started out with those features. Reels wasn’t even introduced yet when I first started my page, but I would recommend that now for sure.
Rich: All right. And when you were doing Instagram live, is that something that you’re still doing? Are you seeing the same kind of results, or do you find that live is kind of the bloom is off the rose, so to speak?
Ariel: Live was really great in 2020. For this year it’s a little different. So it’s very effective, but you have to be that type of person that does it consistently again. And I’m talking about three to four times a week to really connect with people and to see the sales that you want to see, if that’s the way you want to present your brand, if you want to be that person. I won’t say it’s as a hundred percent necessary to the formula anymore, but it does help.
Rich: Okay. So let’s say that we’ve built up some followers on Instagram, and some of us just attract people over time just by being there. How do we turn followers into customers or buyers? Is there a magic switch that we throw that suddenly the people who were just enjoying looking at our posts are suddenly ready to buy from us?
Ariel: Yes. So not only are you sticking to valuable content for a consistent amount of time, but when you’re actually ready to sell, that type of content should shift a little bit. So it goes from brand awareness and letting people know what your page is about and how you can help them. But now you need to talk about your products and services. Now you need to let them know these are what I can offer you, these are the benefits of my products and service. And then you have to start to use social proof, and you have to start to use call to actions specifically. And so social proof helps because people are seeing, the results, the reviews, the testimonials, and that pushes them to make a decision to buy. And then the call to actions tell them to buy. You have to always have that in your content. So telling people, this is my website, book a call with me, DM me for more information. You got to use that constantly.
Rich: All right. And I know sometimes it can be a challenge to get people to take action on Instagram, if we’re not a big brand and we don’t have some of the features that bigger companies may have. Do you find that it’s a struggle sometimes to get people to go to your bio to find that one link and then drive traffic there? Or has that not been an issue for you?
Ariel: I don’t find it to be an issue if you have the proper content. If you’ve warmed up your audience enough, and when you launch, it’s to the right people. So you kind of need those components first, and then you can still market to a small following. Like I started selling at 1,000 followers, and I sold an Instagram growth book with a small following. So you can definitely still see success just starting out with a small following.
Rich: All right. And a lot of people when we think about Instagram, we think about the images on Instagram and how beautiful and engaging they are, but we don’t give a whole lot of thought to the captions. So what’s your approach to captions?
Ariel: Yeah. Captions are overlooked, and it’s a very important process to the overall sales relationship you have with your followers. Because longer captions tend to do better than shorter captions. And the reason being is because people get to connect with you. People like the microblogging technique where you show some insight into your life, you show your story, you give some background, and then you provide value, then you sell. So that’s the formula I would follow is to have first an attention-grabbing headline. Like, the first line you want to stop the scroller in their tracks so they can open up and read your full passion. Then you will want to provide the value. You want to talk about the content you just posted, give some tips, start with that educational content. And then you want to end with the call to action telling them how your product or service is going to help them with X, Y, Z, and where they can go to find it. So that’s kind of the formula every single content creator should follow.
Rich: So as I think about your business, when you were moving from real estate into becoming a social media educator guru, there’s something built in. Like, of course you should be listening to me because look at how successful I am using this very tool. But you must have clients and followers who are not necessarily looking to become Instagram experts. They are looking to become real estate experts, or they work in a pizza company, or they’re CPAs or business consultants. How does the strategy need to shift if you’re selling products or services outside of something that’s just about education? Or does it?
Ariel: So it can shift a little bit. So in the sense that you have to speak specifically to your target audience no matter what. My students that have learned my system, they’ve come from any industry, whether they’re selling a product or service, the same strategies apply. You still have to have valuable content. You still have to do the preliminary market research to find your target audience. You still have to show up consistently. So all of those, they’ll go into it. The only shift is that you have to have your specific content plan. So what are you going to post that your audience likes, that’s going to be different from a CPA versus someone that’s selling lip gloss. So that’s kind of where the difference comes in.
Rich: Okay. All right. So one of the things I’m sure people are wondering is, okay, that’s great, but it’s one thing for me to find those people, how do they find me? So do you have specific strategies, whether it’s hashtags or whether it’s following people back or whatever the case may be, what have you found to be most successful as we attract a like-minded audience to our Instagram account?
Ariel: Yes. So the best way to grow right now is to do collaborations, have a hashtag strategy like we said, and post reels. So I’ll go through all of them.
The collaborations you want to do with other people in your industry. So whether they be potential partners or even competitors, right? You can start doing Instagram lives with them and have two people in one live. And you can even have posts now that go to both audiences, which is a new Instagram feature. That’s kind of nice. So instead of having one post on one page with one audience and tagging somebody, you can now have that same post go to their audience or multiple audiences. So that increases the reach exponentially.
The other tip is to have a hashtag strategy. So Instagram has made a lot of updates when it came to hashtags. And what they’re saying now is that you only need five. So in the past, people were using up to 30, but now you’ll only need five. And so your hashtags have to be specific. And what I mean by that, is that hashtags have a certain amount of posts associated with them. So you know, how many people are using this hashtag you see a hundred thousand posts associated with it. You can see a million posts associated with it. You don’t want to have a big number hashtag because that’s generic, and so many people are using it that your post is going to get lost. It’s just going to get lost with all the other posts, right? So you want to be discoverable. So you have to niche down hashtags that are specific, have maybe less than 500,000 posts associated with it, so you can really find the people that are interested in that type of content.
And then the last way to grow right now is reels. So reels are very important. It’s almost like you need to be a video creator to some extent now for Instagram. They’re really trying to compete with TikTok and so that’s weighing very heavily in the algorithm. They are pushing reels past just your followers. So if people aren’t following you, they can still see your video content. So I would advise everyone to shift their strategy to producing reels. And I’m not saying you have to be the one that dances, you don’t have to do that. I don’t dance. You don’t even have to show your face. There are different ways to create video content that, if you’re introverted or you don’t want to show yourself, you could still be successful with it.
Rich: All right. So I want to go back. So these are all three specific ways to get discovered, it was very helpful. So collaborations, hashtag strategy, and reels. I want to just circle back around to collaboration strategy, because I didn’t really understand how you were saying that my post is going to be seen by somebody else’s followers. Explain that one more time for me?
Ariel: Yes. So it’s a new feature. And to do that, so first you make your posts, and before you publish it, there’s a new tool called ‘invite collaborator’. And so let’s say you want to partner with someone else and you guys are both doing an Instagram live. You want to post a flyer to your audience and to their audience. So you invite them as a collaborator. They have to accept on their end. And now that post will be on your page, and it will be on their page. So now you have both followings looking at the same post.
Rich: All right. That’s awesome. So this is more like, it’s not like I’m just kind of stealing their audience or anything like that. We are working together on something, or at least partnering on something, so that we’re going to increase each other’s reach. So finding people who maybe have similar interests, similar audiences, but not the same audience that we already have, this would be a very effective strategy then.
Ariel: Yes, I would say so.
Rich: All right. A lot of your conversation is around Instagram monetization. So I’m kind of curious how you define that, and then how do you do it?
Ariel: Yeah, so monetization. So there’s kind of two definitions out there. So Instagram has a feature where they will pay a creator and monetize their platform. So let’s say you make a reel. If you get to 1,000,200 thousand views, they literally pay you money. Facebook pays you money. You can also earn badges. So if you’re on live, people can tip you and send you a dollar or two. If you say like something cool or something they resonate with, they can tip you on the live. That’s another way to monetize. But the sense of the word I’m using it in, I’m talking about people that are selling something to their audience. So I’m not talking about Facebook paying you. I’m talking about you getting paid from your followers.
Rich: So monetization in a business like mine, where yes, we occasionally might have a quick sale. Really what we’re doing as a digital agency is developing long-term relationships. And nobody’s going to click on a ‘buy now’ button at my website and buy a website. That’s just not how life works. So what you’re saying is monetization is also about lead generation. And what we’re trying to do here is really attract that audience who would be likely to buy from us either now or in the future.
Ariel: Yeah, that’s what monetization means. You want to be able to show your product or service to your audience, convert your followers into buyers. And that’s what I mean in the sense, the way you do it is through content. That’s the only way you can do it. You show up with you talking to your stories, you do the reels, you have to do a lot of features now for the algorithm. And you can even generate sales through DM’s, too. There’s a whole strategy you can use to have leads DM you, and then convert the sale that way.
Rich: And Ariel, you mentioned earlier that you were posting daily. Are you still posting at that rate? Are you able to pull back, or is this a beast that you have to feed daily to make sure that you continue to stay visible in front of your audience?
Ariel: At this point now, no, I don’t post every day. I strive to, so that’s the goal. Because I do 100% organic marketing. I don’t pay for ads and so all of my revenue comes from Instagram. So if I post, then I expect to get some sales coming in. So I strive to post every single day, but over this weekend, I didn’t post at all. I took the weekend, I did my thing, and that’s because I built up my audience to the point where if I do ghost for a little bit, my engagement won’t be affected, or sales won’t be affected.
Rich: All right. And do you have any feelings for… do your posts tend to be, is there a ratio of like still images versus carousels versus videos when it comes to the feed, or is it whatever you happen to be feeling?
Ariel: Yeah. So there is kind of a ratio right now, and it’s shifted due to the introduction of reels. So I would advise maybe four to five reels per week now. If you’re just starting out, you want to grow your audience, or even if you want to maintain your audience’s attention, that’s kind of the go-to. And then the static posts, like the regular just photo. You can do that maybe twice a week, maybe three times a week. And stories should also be every single day. So that’s kind of the ratio. You show up on stories, you have behind the scenes of your life going on a daily basis, you post your reels four or five times, and then you post anything else the other part of the time.
Rich: Excellent. From everything we’ve talked about today, or maybe if there’s something we haven’t touched on, if there was one piece of advice that you would give to somebody who’s got an underperforming business Instagram account and wants to turn that into a positive ROI, what would be the one thing that they absolutely need to do?
Ariel: So I would tell them that they have to optimize their page. And so what I mean by that is, I usually start with people’s bio. So your Instagram bio is another important factor to converting leads and getting followers. So does your bio have these components; does it say what you do, who you can help, and does it have any accolades or credentials that speak to your expertise? And then lastly, doesn’t have the call to action. So your bio should have all three of those factors and that kind of optimizes your page outside of your username, which should avoid numbers and underscores and dots, your profile picture which needs to be high quality look good.
And then I would say that your feed, like when someone goes to visit you for the first time, your feed needs to reflect what your bio is saying. I need to know within the first nine pictures what your page is about, and how you can help me, and if there’s a benefit for me following you.
Rich: That’s awesome. Ariel, this has been fantastic. If people want to learn more about you, if they want to follow you, if they want to take a course, or read an eBook, where can we send them?
Ariel: Yeah. So you guys can follow me at @ArielCarr, that’s for Twitter and for Instagram, I’m active on both. And I do have resources, whether you are a brand-new entrepreneur, whether you’re a more established entrepreneur but you haven’t yet monetized Instagram to its full potential. You can go to my website, arielcarr.com and see those resources. I have a course called the Money Bundle, and that goes over how you can find your niche and create profitable content so you can start monetizing today.
Rich: Fantastic. And we’ll have all those links in the show notes as always. Ariel, this was fantastic. Thank you so much.
Ariel: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Ariel Carr made $100,000 in 90 days, and now teaches others how to do the same by utilizing their social channels. Check out her website for her various courses and eBooks, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram for more wisdom and content on how she helps others monetize their social.
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine, and founder of the Agents of Change. He’s passionate about helping small businesses grow online and has put his 20+ years of experience into the book, The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing.