Welcome to the first episode of our new podcast: Mastering the Feed. In today’s episode, we chat with Social Media Strategist, Ben Leavitt, who brought a brand new Instagram account to 10,000 followers just by using an organic social media growth strategy. You can listen to the podcast here, or read the full interview below!
How do you use an Organic Growth Strategy on Instagram?
Could you just talk a little bit about yourself and how you got started?
Yeah, absolutely. So I think the best term that I’ve coined myself is a Social Media Strategist. On YouTube, I release weekly videos to help people better leverage social media, to enhance their brand, their business and their presence online. So everything from tutorials to strategy, and then my Instagram is an extension of that.
And how did you get into that?
That’s a great question. It’s kind of a weird story because I always had this mindset that “I was going to be something” – I think everyone has that mindset, but I thought about it from a tactical perspective.
I was looking at up to entrepreneurs from a very young age. I’ve been following Gary Vee’s content for a long time. And some other people like that, like Mark Cuban, I’m a huge fan of him.
And then I thought about it. The only logical destination was to go through social media. I realized pretty quickly that even while leveraging social, you need to have some sort of unique reason for being there. And more importantly, a reason for people to follow you.
So through doing that, I realized that I didn’t really have that yet, but I became obsessed with social media platforms. And then organically figured out that my natural aptitude towards social media became my unique value. And it just kind of happened again organically from there where I started sharing that stuff, all this came very, very easy to me and not to others.
When you first started, for example, posting videos, what was that like? What kind of content was that? Was it just experimental?
Yeah, very much. I always am a huge believer in doing a little bit of thought and planning before any action. I think not too much, obviously, because the over-analysis process can definitely set in, but I would say I probably at the beginning had too many influences coming in.
I saw that as you make content, certain things will resonate with people. And I found it very quickly. I actually started off in the fitness niche, because that was one of the passions within my life.
And it honestly didn’t pop off the way that I was hoping for it to. And looking back in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense because while I’m passionate in that field, I would consider myself like a six or seven out of ten within that. And when you’re competing against a sea of people who are ten out of ten, or those who are willing to become a ten out of ten, I never really stood a chance.
Whereas social, I would say naturally I’m about an eight or nine out of ten, and I am willing to get to that ten out of ten every single day. So it really formed that direction from there. It was because the market dictated that that was where I had value and I continued to have value.
And what changed your mind about Instagram?
I changed my mind pretty shortly after I had made an account. I think it’s because I’m a huge believer in education and positive consumption. So, I saw that you dictate what you consume on any social platform and that’s including Instagram.
I was surrounding myself with awesome people. And I think the big ‘aha’ moment for me was the true one-to-one aspect of Instagram that I think is unmatched on any other platform. That interaction you can have with a real human being that is like-minded and could potentially become one of your friends or a future colleague or customer.
“The Big ‘aha’ moment was the true one-to-one aspect of Instagram that is unmatched by any platform.”
I don’t think that exists anywhere else. So I saw the real opportunity there from a business perspective, as well as a networking one very early on. And that was the big sell for me – how many relationships can be cultivated through Instagram.
You made a YouTube video where you showed the process of using an organic growth strategy to get an Instagram account from 0-10,000 followers. Could you talk a little bit about what’s essential for people when they’re starting to grow an account from scratch?
So people had said before that you need lots of time or effort or countless growth hacks or tactics to grow. So for that Instagram account, I utilized organic growth strictly by posting content and then leveraging tags. That was all I did for that page, but I started by knowing my exact niche.
I knew exactly who I was targeting for that specific example. For anyone who hasn’t watched the video, the account was a theme page of The Office. I’m a massive fan of the show, so I have a good eye for what would be interesting to other fans. And then I just started posting content. When it comes to a theme page, there’s no such thing as too much content.
So I was literally posting like four or five times a day. I’d schedule them all at the beginning of the week and just let it run. And it eventually grew and snowballed. I’d say that the principles that you want to apply when you’re starting from brand new are to get started and get posting because that’s going to bring you an opportunity to bring people into your world.
From there, you really want to ensure that you actually take the time to truly connect with anybody who connects with you. So I was replying to every single comment and every single DM, all that good stuff. Another thing I would definitely recommend doing is supporting yourself with more like-minded people. So going out and seeking people that are doing what you’re doing that are similar in size and scope to you.
You’re going to want some of those people within your audience or within your following, so you can actually interact with their stuff and then connect with people who are interested in that. I would definitely say do this – I call it building your tribe.
A consistent posting schedule is also very, very key. Hashtags are also very, very key. A lot of people, are too confused by them that they don’t even try them or they try to use them like their Mom or Grandma would, where it’s like, they just describe exactly what’s in the photo.
So, definitely become comfortable with hashtags because as a small account, that is one of the biggest tools that you have to grow. And then right now at the time of recording this, Reels is also a huge feature simply because of the priority that they’re putting on the content. So for anybody who’s unaware, whenever a social media platform – especially Instagram – rolls out a new feature, they put it in front of everybody’s face as much as possible to normalize it and to get more people using it.
So right now, if you go onto your Explore page and look at a tag, they’re giving a huge chunk of real estate on your screen to Reels. So, that means that you’re competing in a smaller, less competitive pool of people and you’re getting favorable treatment. That would be kind of the broad stroke advice that I’d give to someone starting from zero today.
Are there any specific mistakes that you could pick out or see that a lot of people are making on Instagram?
Yeah, for sure. One of the most serious mistakes that I see so often is people creating solely for themselves. So often I’ll hear someone say that something is great content just because it’s a high-quality photo – literally high-resolution photos. That’s not what’s quality, that’s not what value is, I don’t care what platform you’re on.
You’re creating for other people. You can love it, but if your goal is to grow, it matters more about what your audience thinks about it. Create for someone else, not for yourself. I think that’s the biggest mistake that I see and not focusing on value, especially for businesses.
They don’t see the importance of value. And instead, it’s like a big online ad, and who wants to follow that? Like I always ask them that question. It’s like, would you follow this? And the answer is often, no.
And if that is the case, that’s a problem. So you need to try to get into that mind frame of, okay, how can I shift this and actually make this a valuable place to be for our ideal client? And you do that by providing them with resources. There are so many different kinds of content ideas that you can create, but when you shift your mind frame from just the sake of posting to actually posting valuable content for a specific group of people that changes everything.
When it comes to your personal content strategy, do you have certain rules that you always follow when you’re posting or planning out your posting? I think a good thing is to, have a few pillars that go along with your personal brand. That means you are never going against the grain of who you are as a person, but are also targeting like-minded people that you would want in your world and could derive value from your content.
Writing ideas down is actually a very, very important thing too. One is you won’t lose them, but two, it also creates a sense of accountability to try to bring that idea to actual life and to a piece of content. And if you think it can bring value to someone it, probably can. Even if you’re starting out from zero, if it can help even one person, it’s definitely worthwhile. They will be your best word-of-mouth advertising ever, even on social, because it’s so easy, they can share your content, share your profile, etc.
Considering that you make content across multiple platforms like YouTube and Instagram, how do you convert users between the two platforms?
That’s a great question. And one that so often people are like, Oh, “Why don’t they come over?” It’s very difficult to convert one to the other. Those who come from YouTube to my Instagram are my most loyal YouTube followers, and they come for that more intimate relationship. They come over to Instagram because they know they are somewhat separate, but you have the ability to convert. Both are going to have a proper alignment with what you offer, and I think that is going to be your best advice.
Knowing that you are on both platforms and that it’s not going to be the exact same experience, just simply regurgitating content isn’t going to work. People want to consume different types of content on different platforms. So, if you’re not creating or at least repurposing specifically to that platform, you’re not going to have a high-value proposition for a potential follower.
“It’s all about relationships when it comes to converting and then also maximizing your exposure on each channel.”
It’s all about relationships when it comes to converting and then also maximizing your exposure on each, by doing things the right way, specific to each platform so that you do have the opportunity to grow on both. That’s why the benefit of being across multiple platforms is awesome. Because if you make a deep connection with someone say on YouTube, they could become also an Instagram follower, and then it helps to feed both of them.
When it comes to analytics and metrics, what do you suggest?
Obviously, it pays to be creative and posting out really amazing content, but also checking in on what’s working from an analytical perspective to understand if it resonates with your audience. I call it social listening. I think that it is so important. See what resonates more with people, but then also externally within your niche find out the that things that work – they work for a reason on social and they’ll work for you if it makes sense.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. Honestly, if there’s a reason why something worked for someone else, it’ll probably work for you. I think the real skill that’s had from that is obviously looking at your analytics. That stuff’s very important. But also going deeper than that and understanding why something worked.
So of course they got X amount of likes, X amount of comments, etc. but getting down to the root of why and the human element of a post’s success, and why someone may have resonated with that, that’s going to make you a way better creator.
And then in terms of which analytics to cover, I look at all, I’d say I’m fairly like an analytics junkie when it comes to social. Just because I think information and knowledge is power and they’re giving it to you for free. So they’re literally giving you an opportunity or a report to then better yourself.
But what I would say to throw on top of that, is don’t become too consumed by performance post over post because a lot of people can get very easily discouraged and there is a major discrepancy, especially on Instagram and even YouTube of performance.
I have posts on my account that will get around 250 likes and some that will get close to 1000. So a lot of people will get one that has the 250 and they’ll be like, “Oh, I suck and they’ll just stop.”
I would say, take the opposite approach and say, okay, this didn’t resonate. Why? How can we refine, move forward, and then do it better next time?
We’ve noticed that a lot of people on Instagram will get in these content ruts and they just won’t know what to post. So they’ll stop posting. What do you suggest to help with this sort of scenario?
That’s very, very common. I think everyone’s dealt with that at some point or another, or they’re bound to eventually.
I think it comes down to stepping away from all that a little bit and understanding that this stuff’s going to happen. There are ebbs and flows to it. So don’t get so attached to the numbers. Like it doesn’t have anything to do with who you are, the value you provide, or what you are as a person.
So don’t get too, too attached to it. And then I think to go back to the basics, like start posting about stuff that you think would help you, or make you feel better. Chances are it’s going to help other people as well. I would say stop overthinking it.
If you’re in that position, just post stuff that you think is valuable. And as long as you get back to that, chances are other people are going to as well. It’s important that you understand who you’re targeting. I think that’s very, very important. And typically if you’re in the right niche, you’re going to understand and have an eye for that.
There are so many other variables at play, so instead, say, okay, yeah, that didn’t do well, but I have an opportunity every single day to post something that may resonate with people. So just don’t stop trying is another one that I would say too.
I’ve had this on both Instagram and YouTube posts that didn’t perform well. But then later down the road, there’ll be like a customer that really, really resonated with that singular post. And I always ask, whenever people find me, I’m like, where did you find me from? And so often sometimes the deepest level of connection that I’ll have with people came from stuff that I almost debated deleting because it wasn’t doing well, but it really resonated with that one person.
So I think that’s really what it’s about, is understanding that what resonates with some people may not resonate with others. And another thing is what resonates with the masses typically, isn’t going to result in that really deep level of connection.
And on that as well, would you separate your content into these different buckets? Like some types that will resonate, some that will generate awareness, and some that might convert?
Yes, that definitely plays a role. And even when I post some things, I think understanding that and coming into that with that kind of approach can really allow you to step away from the numbers a little bit and not be so attached to it. So like I’ll go into something, posting it and be like, okay, this probably doesn’t have a viral appeal, but I think this could really help even a small subset of my audience and that’s enough.
Naturally not everything’s going to go viral, even on some of these huge pages, like there’s still a big discrepancy in the performance of things. So understanding that they all play a role and serve a purpose, makes it so that you’re not so attached to every single post. If I could stress patience and the long-term perspective on social, I would stress that to every single person, because it definitely is a long game, especially if you want sustainable results.
Where can people find you and your content?
Sure! I’m just Ben Leavitt over on YouTube, and then over on Instagram it’s just benleavitt_ – you can find me there and if you want to connect with me, the best place to reach me is via Instagram DM. If you have any questions or anything, I get back to everyone so I’ll definitely be in touch.
We hope you enjoyed this episode of mastering the feed. If you want to learn more about organic Instagram growth strategies, how to use the right hashtags and more you can visit our blog.