I’m a doula and educator, not a social media coach; however, I did want to grow on IG and I wasn’t sure how. Posts, stories, reels…what was I doing? In the last few months, I have seen my account grow to 4 times its size, and I hope to share with my CAPPA friends what I found really works to grow on IG.
If you are new to IG, let’s start with some quick definitions:
Posts are things that go on your IG page (often called a grid). They can be photos or videos, but they need to be your original content. They stick around and everyone can see them that follows your page.
Stories are featured images, videos, and interaction tools that only show up for 24 hours. You can save them onto your page, but they live in the archive after their 24-hour viewing window. They are only shown to those that follow you, and only those that look specifically, not in the IG feed.
Reels are short videos, often set to music, that can go on your page. You can create them in the IG app. These go out to the world at large. I think of them like grown up TikTok.
What I Did That Worked
I posted almost every day on my grid. Usually, a baby related image I built in Canva, but sometimes a photo I owned or had permission to share. Even done consistently, this would only add about 5-10 followers a month. I was growing, but not very fast in this huge market. Each of the graphics I made took about an hour to design, upload, and tag with hashtags. It wasn’t a great payoff for my time investment.
I started making stories, usually things shared from other content makers with credit. This resulted in a lot more interaction, but not more followers because those people already had followed me or they wouldn’t be seeing my story at all. These were quick to make though, and I loved the interaction, as someone who craves company (and has been quarantined for way too long).
Then, I was able to film a baby being soothed and made it into my first reel. Bam! I got 100 new followers THAT DAY. And it kept going. The reel went on to reach 34k views and had 572 likes—more than anything I had ever shared. So, I made another. That one flopped a bit. I tried again and again. I was getting decent reach (1500-3000 views) and 25-ish new followers every day, but I knew that was just the learning curve. The 15th reel went to 11k, but the 16th went to 436k! Then, about 100 new followers started pouring in every day!
I have only made a few reels that really took off, but the reach of reels is so much bigger than anything I have posted. IG pushes this content out to new followers, and this is how you grow. If I make a post and get 50 likes, I am doing well. But when I make a reel that is doing well, it gets over 30k views, hundreds of likes, and that is just from a few thousand followers. And even the reels that don’t get much traction fare better than my posts that get attention.
Reels are for FINDING NEW CLIENTS, STUDENTS, or CONNECTIONS. They are the broadest audience on IG, and they get results, sometimes weeks after you post them. People will comment on them and you can you interact with new potential connections there, and some people will share them onto their stories.
Reels = Growth. They are by far the fastest way to get your content out there to the world.
The Strategies I Found Effective
If you want to INTERACT with your followers (however many or few there are) use STORIES. There are tools there that invite interaction, and you can get some great conversations going with people you know and people who want to know you (clients or students potentially). This is a great place to show your face, and be more personal with your followers.
If you want to EDUCATE or SHARE information (like infographics) or create content that is shareable for others, POST on your grid. There are many ways to do this, and I am not an expert. Use brand colors and try to stay on topic, as your audience likes to know what they are getting by following you. You can work with a professional or you can use a free tool like Canva to build a lot of beautiful things for your account.
If you want to GROW, use REELS! I know video is challenging, but don’t be afraid. Use Canva (there are templates and videos you can use to take the scary part out of creating a video) and then use music you see trending on reels (take 10 min and scroll through reels—it will be obvious what is trending).
Then use the IG app to add comments and add in your timing (this took me a few YouTube tutorials to get straight) and publish. Be sure to add it to your post, and feature it in your stories. Then you can use the features on stories (questions, polls, and other interaction tools) to get your followers talking to you.
Once they DM you, make sure to follow up and comment back, opening up dialogue between you for future opportunities.
One thing I think is easy to overlook is to add a CTA somewhere in your content. These are CALLS TO ACTION which tells your followers what to do if they want more info. Invite them to check out your website, your sales pages, follow you, etc. This needs to be seen 4-6 times before they are likely to respond, so you need to put it everywhere. I know it feels like it might be annoying, but it really needs to be there to get people to know what to do next.
There is way more. You can do live videos, share live videos with another speaker, run ads, and learn about content pillars. But I have stuck to these 3 things because it is all I can manage in my own life. Plus these are fun and feel very achievable–with help from Canva.
One more thing…if you are a busy doula with too many clients or an educator with packed classes, don’t feel the need to grow on Instagram. You can interact with it, have fun and connect with others, but you don’t need to grow. You are already where everyone on IG is trying to be! I get comments from people all the time about trying to grow their account but they are too busy serving clients. This means you are already getting paid to do the work that you are trying to get others to notice. Take the pressure off and just enjoy being social.
I have a busy doula practice and very full classes. I didn’t set out to grow on IG for these, but rather to build an audience for my online classes that are evergreen (ongoing, self-paced). If I were trying to build my audience for my practice, I would need to hire another 30 doulas—and I can’t even train them that fast! So, check in with your intention before you embark on a huge new journey on IG, because just maybe, you are already a success and just feel like an imposter.
What I have learned so far is that it is way more fun than expected, and that during this pandemic I have loved getting to interact with new people all over the world. Growing on social media is a fun process, full of new things to learn. I’ll see you on IG!
About the Author
Kimberly Bepler, IBCLC, CPD, CLE® has been serving breastfeeding families since 2001, first as a postpartum doula, then as a hospital educator, then as a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC since 2011). She founded a ABC Doula Service in Portland, OR in 2001 and has seen it grow to serve over 1800 families within the first 15 years. She has a passion for newborns and their families, as well as new doulas and educators launching into their own businesses. She has been Faculty for CAPPA since 2005 and now trains postpartum doulas, lactation educators, and her own advanced program for working with multiples. Kimberly is the mother to two lively school aged kids, and enjoys the collaboration at home and work with her husband of over 20 years. She also teaches breastfeeding, newborn care, and twin/triplet classes as within the Providence Health System. Kimberly has also produced 2 instructional videos for educators and new parents about newborn care. Her joy is in really making a difference for new parents and new doulas, and changing the world one family at a time.