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Top 3 Ways to Build a Brand Without Followers and Budget on Instagram






Over the last few years, Instagram has become a disruptive marketing force. Last year, Instagram reached 1 billion monthly active users. Unlike Facebook and Snapchat which have stagnated, Instagram is just getting warmed up.


Isn’t Instagram’s organic reach dying? Absolutely.


It’s going in the same direction as Facebook, which has seen organic reach stabilize at around 2%. However, you’re in luck -  Instagram’s organic reach is still significantly higher, and you can still get great results with a small budget.


Instagram is literally one of the greatest platforms for marketers, e-commerce, business owners, young entrepreneurs influencers and. There is serious business behind Instagram and it’s not going away anytime too soon.


So how can you capitalize and make the most out of the platform? Especially if your late to the party, have no followers and no budget?


The first step is patience.



Patience is the key to realizing your Return on Investment (ROI)


Building your brand on Instagram won’t happen overnight. In order to gain real followers and start seeing some results, you need to put in 6 months up to a year of consistent work.


What kind of ROI should you expect?


This will differ from business to business, but the most straightforward and quantifiable returns are sales, website traffic, and followers.


Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see instant results. Your ROI will only be realized through patience. Put in the work, experiment, see what works best and keep doing that.


No cheating by buying fake followers and other unethical strategies. You want real, engaged followers.


What’s the point of having thousands of fake followers who won’t take action or help your business in any way?


Now that you’ve understood you need to be patient, you might be wondering what strategies you can deploy?



Strategies to deploy


There’s so much information on how to create a ‘killer Instagram page’ on the internet, it seems like all the articles are providing the same information.


Have a unique, unified aesthetic, create amazing visual content, use hashtags smartly, use Instagram stories and so on.  Timing is also important, but we won’t explore that too much in this article, so check out this stunning infographic on the best times to post on social media. by Oberlo.


Sure. These are all things you should do, but there’s already a trove of information available on those topics, so I’m going to refrain from exploring them in this article.


The strategies I’m going to provide you aren’t secret. In fact, many marketers are using these exact strategies because they have proven to be the most effective.

There’s no need to re-invent the wheel.


I’m going to flesh these strategies out in this one article so that that you can instantly deploy them and don’t have to spend time collecting bits and pieces of information from all over the web.


Moreover, they are the strategies I’ve used to build my brand for my e-commerce business and I can say with full confidence that they are indeed the most effective strategies.


So what are the main strategies?



The three primary strategies to build a brand without followers and budget


1) User-generated content (UGC)

UGC isn’t a new concept, yet it seems marketers are only starting to realize it’s potential in creating online buzz.


UGC isn’t only the best free marketing for your business ever, it increases brand engagement, builds a community and creates social proof and trust amongst potential customers.


So what exactly is UGC?


The term is rather self-explanatory, but for the sake of clarity, UGC is any type of content created and shared by a brand’s audience. Content is usually shared on social media channels and blogs.


Unlike influencers, creators of UGC aren’t partners of the brand. They’re not contracted and are more like fans than professional partners.



Still not convinced? 

Here are the statistics.


  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from their personal contacts
  • 74% of consumers rely on social media to inform their purchasing decisions


The statistics for Millennials (which will have the greatest combined purchasing power in history in the near future) are even more convincing.


  • Millennials are the biggest content drivers (contributing over 70% of all UGC)
  • 84% of millennials report that UGC on company websites has an influence on what they buy.
  • Millennials trust UGC 50% more than original content generated by brands.
  • 86% of Millennials say that UGC is a positive indicator of brand quality.
  • 71% of Millennials engage in user-generated content daily.
  • Millennials use 2 to 3 devices at least once a day to consume UGC.
  • Millennials spend 18 hours per day with media, and 30% of that is spent looking at user-generated media.


Now that you’re convinced, you’re probably wondering how to get your customers to share content?


Simple. Create an incentive for them to share!


On the bio of your Instagram page, you should include something like “Tag us and use xyz hashtag to get featured on our page.”


Below I’ve included an example from a small e-commerce business

Having users tag your brand or use the selected hashtag will allow you to easily find and access all the content that your users are sharing.


In the example above you can see that although this brand only has 3250 followers, their users are sharing some great content.


This content is also posted on the brand’s feed and on other social media channels. Not only are they getting free content, but they also are building a community and a strong brand.


Keep in mind that you should always give credit where credit is due. If you plan on using UGC on your website, make sure you ask beforehand!



2) Influencer marketing


Influencer marketing is the fastest growing channel for customer acquisition. Businesses make roughly $6.50 per dollar invested in influencer marketing.


So how do you go about finding influencers, building partnerships and getting people to promote your stuff without a budget?


The most successful strategy in finding influencers for my e-commerce business has been through manual searches. There are plenty of great tools that can assist you, but the free functionalities of most are seriously limited.


If you want to go the manual route, look at the accounts you are already following and check ‘suggestions for you.’ This is where you’ll find your influencers.


Create an Excel doc and include their IG handle and e-mail address (if available) to make outreach easy. You might want to segment them by geographic location/ number of followers, etc.


Remember, if there’s an e-mail address available, always use this to reach out.


So how do you go about the substance of the message?


This part is important, as it’ll determine whether your message gets a response or is instantly deleted.


I’ve created myself two templates that I tweak to add personalized touches. The first template is for a free sample based partnership (you provide free samples, influencer posts free content).


The second is an affiliate based partnership (you provide the influencer with products & a discount code, they post content and earn a small commission from every sale they generate).


The terms depend on you and the results of your negotiation with the influencer.


Many influencers have asked what my budget is, to which I always respond: zero.


Despite that, the success rate is still extremely high. I’ve had influencers with 250k followers work with my brand for FREE.


Try reaching out to influencers who have 20-50k followers. These micro-influencers usually have high engagement and are willing to work in exchange for products.


Neil Patel (who is one of the most influential marketers), claims that influencers won’t work with you unless you pay them.


From experience, I can tell you that’s simply not true. If you have the budget, by all means, go for it. But if you don’t, paying someone 250$ (at a minimum) plus products for one post is rather expensive.



3) Giveaways


Giveaways are fun.


Schedule a monthly giveaway to keep consumers happy and get them referring their friends to you.


Not only is this a greats strategy to increase your followers, but the large online buzz it creates usually generates sales too.


A great strategy I’ve been using for my brand is teaming up with influencers to do giveaways.


How does that work?


It’s super simple. The influencer launches the giveaway on their platform and announces the collaboration. The rules to participate are people have to tag their friends and follow both the influencer and the brand.


This is mutually beneficial and allows for both accounts to grow.







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Stefanos Bournias

Stefanos F. Bournias is a content marketer and eCommerce entrepreneur. After building and selling his first online businesses, Stefanos learned to grow and sell a business. His primary areas of focus include product sourcing, business strategy, marketing, general management & operational activities. Ever since executing in these areas and learning as he goes, Stefanos began writing on SaaS, Start-ups, eCommerce & Marketing.

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