In this instalment of Flick Talks, we spoke with creator Finn Mckenty (@finnmckenty) who, alongside his strategically successful Instagram account, runs a YouTube channel and podcast entitled: The Punk Rock MBA. Finn unpacks trends related to music and pop culture, to understand why people like, listen to and do the things they do. We sat down to chat with Finn about all things social media, as well as the content strategy behind his Instagram success, which has seen him gain 50k-100k impressions via hashtags every time he posts, and more importantly, convert impressions into followers.
If you want to jump to a specific section, just click on one of the headings below:
- Who is Finn Mckenty?
- Instagram Strategy
- Hashtag Strategy & Results
- Content Types and How Finn Converts Impressions to Followers
- Tips For People Just Starting out
Turning Impressions into Followers with Finn Mckenty
Could you tell us about yourself?
With my background in design, marketing and product development, I essentially take that same approach that I would if I was analyzing any other company and just apply it to music. It seems to be a novel approach that nobody has done before, so I look at it as applying that sort of analytical business framework to music or music related trends. The podcast is a bit deeper down the content funnel – I have conversations with people who have found out how to do what they love for a living, and a lot of those people are in music but not all of them. They could be creators or entrepreneurs of any kind – I haven’t talked to anyone who is an employee yet but that could fit in there too. There’s a misconception around that I would want to correct, because really that’s the smart and right choice for a lot of people.
“I just think you should be deliberate with whatever it is you do, and that’s my takeaway.”
What does your typical Instagram follower look like? You cover a lot of subjects in your content but you seem to have a specific niche.
As far as my “typical” Instagram follower me, it is a pretty specific audience, which is basically set by the standard of the music world it seems – older males who are into guitar – so my target demographic therefore would be males in the 25-35 age range.
You don’t get to choose your audience. You may think “I wish I was a travel blogger” but if you’re not that person, you’re not that person. I can think of a lot of creators and even celebrities that have tried to change their audience, but I can’t really think of one that has done it. You could probably bring someone up, but they would be the exception rather than the rule. The second thing is that you have no choice but to be yourself. You may wish you could be someone else, but you just can’t, and the more that any creator accepts and embraces that, the faster you will become successful.
You mentioned that you are quite analytical and like to break things down. Do you have a strategy for your Instagram, and how do you treat Instagram as part of what you do?
I think of my platforms as pieces of a funnel in the same way that there is a marketing or sales funnel – at the bottom of it is an action you would like people to take and the top is awareness. At the top of my funnel is YouTube, I have around 200k subscribers there, and I get around 1- 2 million views a month. I have basic demographic data about them, but it’s hard to have relationships or a nuanced message with that many people. That’s just me casting a wide net, to get as many people to see my face and hear me talk as possible, and out of that, some portion will go to the next piece of the funnel, which is Instagram.
On YouTube I don’t talk about myself at all, my personality and life experience is part of that but I primarily talk about other people, bands, and music and stuff like that. But some people think, “I like the way this guy thinks, I’m going to check out his Instagram.”
There, I talk about myself and my life and my ideas and it’s a bit more focused on me. The next part of that would be LinkedIn and the podcast which is more about me, and having thoughtful conversations. It’s maybe less entertaining, more informative conversations. So Instagram being that middle part in converting someone into a follower is arguably one of the most crucial parts to me.
That’s the place where I drive people to all my other different things, I move them up the funnel, to tell them I made a new video, I move them down the funnel to my Patreon and LinkedIn and podcast. It’s a key place where I interact with my audience the most, and turn them from casually engaged people into super engaged people, so that’s where you would convert people within the funnel, it’s integral.
Looking at other creator accounts on YouTube, they aren’t always thoughtful about what they post and if you look at their engagement rate you might see that. I want to be really good at Instagram, and really good at YouTube, and that’s where hashtags come into play.
I try to grow Instagram as its own platform, so I can move people up and down the funnel, and hashtags most recently have been really a key learning for me. I didn’t really take them seriously until a few months ago, and I had 30k followers which was pretty decent, but I didn’t understand how important they are and how they can deliver meaningful growth. I would think you just get bot likes or you get impressions and they never really turn into followers, and that can be true, but it’s only true if you let it be true.
Reach on its own might not mean anything, and that is your chance to turn someone from an impression into a follower. That’s when I started to think about more long tail keywords that I can continually rank for, become an invested account and build authority. I’ve noticed dramatic upticks since I started thinking about hashtags in a deliberate way.
“Reach on its own might not mean anything, and that is your chance to turn someone from an impression into a follower.”
What were some of the key moments between using hashtags randomly and using them to grow your account?
The first moment was when I started looking at my Insights on Instagram a lot more often, I used to look at it occasionally even though I’m really data-driven. I started seeing I was getting a lot of impressions from hashtags I had just not very thoughtfully thrown in there. I was surprised that I was getting 70,000 impressions just from hashtags per post and I wondered how that happened, and why they weren’t turning into followers. I didn’t realise that I was doing an ok job of opening up the top of the funnel, but not a good job of bringing people down the funnel, and that’s when I started thinking about what the right hashtags are to use, and how I should treat my content so it will turn people into followers.
What kind of results have you been able to get now that you’ve optimized it a bit more, and started changing the content?
I can very predictably get 50-100k impressions on a post depending on the content. I have a few different types of content on Instagram and some aren’t intended to get a broad reach. If I post a picture of my wife and I on the weekend, that is something to build a deeper relationship with the people who already follow me. But, I now have a predictable formula for content that will get 50-100k impressions and turn 30-100 of those people into followers, and I can do that pretty much as often as I want. And that’s the thing, that I think everyone wants, something to post that will reliably grow their account.
Hashtag impressions from @finnmckenty
There’s something interesting there that a lot of people miss, that there are different types of content that help you do different types of things. There’s content that will allow you to reach more people, but it’s not going to make them understand who you are. Would you be able to name those pieces of content you have?
I do have a framework for this. The content at the top I call the ‘like magnet’ – a post I know I can put out there and it will get a lot of likes. But, I don’t want to do that all the time, because then that just becomes a low value kind of account to me, when they don’t know who you are. The one piece is the like magnet like a meme with a thoughtful caption – the meme will open up the top of the funnel, create a lot of traction and get a lot of reach, but then if I have a thoughtful caption there, that’s what I have found then converts people to become an Instagram follower.
“The content at the top I call the ‘like magnet’ – a post I know I can put out there and it will get a lot of likes.”
The second part of the funnel is more personal stuff where I talk about something I’m working on, or tell a story from the past, or share my wife and I going to the park and asking people a question. All of that, which is the easiest to do, is opened up by the top of the funnel and I think it’s something a lot of people are missing. They are talking about themselves a lot, but there’s nobody listening. And that’s frustrating.
And then at the bottom of the funnel is where I promote a piece of content or merch or something like that and I very rarely do that. It’s maybe 10% of my content because I mostly do that on Stories, as I feel like you have permission to do that in a way that people don’t really look for on the feed. The story is the very bottom of the funnel. Right now I have 38k followers and get around 5k views on a story, and that’s the 5 or 6k people that have really chosen to pay attention to everything I do, and I think they have given you permission to be promotional in a way that is more true than it is in the feed.
I love the mention to permission, like you earn the right to promote to someone. I think a lot of people make the mistake of constantly shoving things down their audiences throats which creates ad fatigue.
Yes, and I get almost zero negative comments. Maybe once a month I’ll get something negative. I think it’s because the kind of energy you put out is the kind of energy you get back. And I always try to make sure I think to be respectful, thoughtful, kind and nice and you can still be cheeky. There’s a way you can be thought-provoking and engaging without being rude.
Just to go back to what you mentioned before – do you have a strategy around the hashtags you use now in terms of size or competition?
I use the Instagram Hashtag Strategy Guide – if you go on Flick and head to the resources section. I was already doing this intuitively, but this really put a clear framework on it. I primarily go after a lot of medium competition keywords, and then I’ve done a good enough job that I am able to rank in the top ten in a few high competition ones, so I can come at it a bit more aggressively there, but I just do what’s in this article. So if you are listening or watching this, read this article, and do everything in it and it really works. It’s great, it’s the best thing I’ve ever read about this.
Could you talk a bit about the feedback loop, how you analyse your hashtags and then make decisions?
The great thing about Flick is that you are able to do the entire piece of that research process, and then feed back what you learn from that into your next post. So I have the hashtag strategy, and then maybe a day later, or after enough time for data, I go look at the analytics there and see which ones I ranked for. Then, if I’ve tried 5 times to rank for something and it’s not happening, I’d remove that from my collection and try to swap another one in, that is in a similar place in terms of competition and traffic. I essentially keep refining that list into things I can rank for and that will drive the traffic that I want. I imagine there are some that are working now and might stop working.
Do you have any tips for people that are just getting started on Instagram?
The main thing is to flip the switch in your head, if you really want to grow your account on Instagram or any platform. You have to let go of the idea that it’s all for you, it’s for each Instagram follower. It’s not for you anymore, it’s for them. There’s lots of things I would like to talk about or other parts of my life I would like to share, but nobody cares. And you can be upset about that, or be resentful that they don’t care about this or that, and you just have to let go of that and think about it as serving the audience.
If I can entertain them or make their day better by creating something they enjoy then I am happy about that, and that to me is the switch that a lot of people struggle to flip. You don’t get to choose your audience or what they like, and you can choose to say “I don’t care what they like, I’m going to talk about this anyway”, but you also then have to accept your account may not grow in the way you want it to. There’s a continuum. There’s some people who are all about growth and don’t care about personal stuff or creative satisfaction, some people on the other side, where they don’t care about growth and it’s about saying whatever they want to say.
I understand that my account could grow bigger if i wanted to do certain things, but I don’t want to do that because I feel like it wouldn’t be creatively fulfilling and that’s a deliberate choice on my end. I think that everyone needs to make that choice on their own, where you fall on the spectrum – is this account for me, or is it for them?