Do you want timeless Instagram strategies regardless of algorithm changes? Or better yet, do you want to use Instagram to generate more revenue? If yes, then this episode is for you! In this episode, Crista Grasso is joined by Nicole Doumato, an Instagram marketing coach dedicated to helping small businesses make it online. Nicole dives into some of the most common myths about Instagram marketing, how to create high value content your audience can't ignore, and what you need to know in order to grow your business through Instagram. By the end of this episode, you’ll have simple and effective strategies for leveling up your Instagram presence that you can use starting today.
In this episode, we discuss:
- 1:50: Some of the most common myths about Instagram marketing
- 3:30: How to be successful on Instagram
- 4:35: Why you don't need 10,000 followers
- 6:28: How to build authentic relationships on Instagram
- 9:23: How to increase engagement
- 12:15: How to create high value content on Instagram
- 13:54: Metrics to pay attention to
- 15:23: What you should be posting on Instagram stories
- 16:45: Timeless Instagram strategies regardless of the algorithm
- 19:41: Nicole's backstory and show she got started
- 21:38: Nicole's latest pivot in her business
- 24:00: How Nicole works smarter, not harder
Dive deeper into each of these topics over on the podcast.
Listen to the podcast here:
Simple Strategies For Success On Instagram With Nicole Doumato
[00:00:50] I'm excited to share Nicole Doumato with you. Nicole is an Instagram coach. She's a content creator at heart, and a strategist by trade. She specializes in coaching female entrepreneurs on how to up-level their business on Instagram with any size audience. Nicole, welcome. I'm excited you're here and I cannot wait to dive into all things Instagram.
[00:01:11] Thank you for having me. I'm super pumped to talk about Instagram with you.
[00:01:17] The first thing we've got to start with is myth-busting because I will say a lot of my clients and a lot of my audience struggle with Instagram. They either grew up on Facebook or with all of the changes that happened so often on Instagram, they're always wondering, “What do I need to post? What should I post? What features do I use? Should I be doing a feed or stories or reels? How big audience do I need? How often do I need to post?” There are many questions that they ask me quite often, probably many more that they're not asking me. I'm sure you hear these a lot. Let's start with what are some of the common myths that people have on Instagram? Let's bust those and simplify this for them.
[00:02:00] There are so many that exist. We could do the entire show episode on just busting myths. For me, the biggest ones that I hear all the time are consistency equals frequency, which means that you need to post every single day. You don't. You need an audience of 10,000 with a swipe up in order to be successful on Instagram. You don't. You need to use large hashtags with high reach in order to reach a bigger audience and cast your net. You don't. Those are the biggest three that I come across the most. You can find those even in my content. I am constantly beating the horse dead on them because they get perpetuated over and over again, and spewed out by other marketers. The other one is the algorithm, constantly. Anything and everything about the algorithm, ask 100 people about the algorithm and you'll get 100 different answers. That's the other one too.
[00:03:02] If you're not following her on Instagram, tell people your handle because it's the best handle ever.
[00:03:08] My Instagram handle is @LattesForLunch.
[00:03:14] What I love about your content is it's super practical. I feel like it does make it simpler. It takes some of the stress and some of the overwhelm out of, “What do I do and what do I need to be successful on Instagram?” I highly recommend you go check her out. Let's talk about what you do need to do on Instagram. If you want to keep things simple and you want to see success, what does that look like?
[00:03:40] It's such a cliché because a lot of people will tell you this too, but the biggest thing is absolutely consistency. Consistency does not mean being present every single day. Consistency does not mean creating content every single day and posting every single day, or even being visible on Stories every single day. Consistency is this spectrum. What's consistent for me might not be consistent for somebody else. You have to find your zone when it comes to that. Consistency is the number one thing. That's consistency through your messaging, approach, the way that you interact with your audience, the type of content that you're creating and how you're serving your audience through that content. That's the consistency that we're looking for that will create that Instagram magic where you can up-level your biz with any size following.
[00:04:31] Let's talk about the any size following. You had done a post that I resonated with where you had talked about instead of being so focused on trying to get to 10,000 followers, nurture and serve the audience that you have of any size. Let's talk about why you don't need 10,000 followers and what you should be doing while you are trying to grow your audience.
[00:04:56] I want to start at the beginning for me. When I launched this business, I had 100 followers and zero posts, and I was able to monetize right away. I am the living proof and embodiment of that. I truly believe that for all of my clients and that's what I work on with them. Serving your audience through your content, it comes down to your messaging. It comes down to positioning. How are you positioning yourself as the go-to expert in your field? I know expert tends to get overused a lot as well when you're talking about small business owners. How are you positioning yourself through your content and creating a memorable digital experience for those followers that you do have and how are you connecting with them?
[0:05:38] How are you talking to them? How are you showing up for them? How are you commenting on their stuff? What are the conversations that you're having in the DM? Don't be afraid to take the first step and lay the foundation of your connections through Instagram by reacting to somebody's story, and then leaving the door open to a bigger conversation. It's not necessarily always about coming out of the gate with a pitch. It's about starting a conversation and not being afraid to take that first step in that direction, whether you have 10, 100 or 100,000 followers. If you can't sell to your audience with 100 followers, you're going to be frustrated when you hit 10,000 followers and you're still not selling and your selling problems haven't been solved. It's about getting in there, doing the work with opening the door of communication.
[00:06:28] What you said there is some serious brilliance and it's worth repeating, if you can't sell to 10 followers, you're not going to be able to sell to 10,000 when you get it, so don't wait. Start adding value now, figure out how to build that audience. I love that. We connected originally in the DMs. My audience knows my intense dislike for the cold DM strategy where you instantly are pitching somebody. You did it so beautifully. You sent me a comment on a story or something, and we started chatting. Now you're on my show. It's all about those relationships, and you do that well. You never cold pitched me on a thing yet we have a relationship. That's a good example of how you properly leverage Instagram.
[00:07:16] I don't like to be cold pitched either. Let's say I follow an account, they follow me back and I get that first DM that's like, “Tell me about your business.” They're asking me those leading questions in order to sell to me or they come right out of the gate with a sell in the DM, I very politely say, “Thanks for connecting. Looking forward to getting to know you more,” and then I swipe and delete because I know that they're not taking the time to get to know me and my business by asking me those leading questions. I know that they're building up to a sale immediately and that's not how selling works.
[0:07:51] You have to remember that if you don't like being sold to that way, that it's not going to work with your audience. If you don't connect with people that way, that is not going to work for your audience. There's another person on the other side, it's not just a number. There is a whole human being over there with needs for their own business. You have to remember that because if you read those DMs out loud, what would they sound like? “How are you? How long have you been an Instagram coach? Tell me more about your business.” The other thing too, if you wouldn't walk up to somebody at a networking event, I know those passé at the moment with restrictions that we have in place. If you would walk up to somebody at a networking event and those words do not come out of your mouth, they shouldn't come out of your mouth through a DM either. Be cognizant of that.
[00:08:38] I've been coaching for 20 years now. I have a robust coaching experience. I've been doing this a lot longer than a lot of other people across a lot of industries. Usually, that gets people quiet quickly when they ask me, “How long have you been coaching?” As soon as I say “20 years and things are going great,” I never hear from them again.
[00:08:57] That's the other thing too. You can't make assumptions based on somebody's content or somebody's follower account. They can't look at your page and go, “She must be new.” Then you come out of the gate saying, “I've been around for twenty years,” and then suddenly they don't know what to do because they're on the other end of the spectrum. Don't make assumptions and don't cold pitch people. Nobody likes it. You're not going to make a sale. You're not going to serve anybody. You're not going to further your business in any way.
[00:09:23] You are so speaking my language. Let's talk about if you do have a smaller audience or even not necessarily the size of the audience, but your audience is quiet. You're not seeing a lot of engagement. You're saying, “Why am I posting all day long if nobody's commenting and nobody's liking what I'm doing? Is this worth it? How do you get that engagement up and feel confident that it's worth your time investment?
[00:09:51] When I work with my clients, this is usually one of the first things I hear, “I'm creating this high value content. Nobody is engaging. Nobody's talking to me in the DMs.” My follow-up question to them is always, “What is your engagement strategy?” That's where we get the deer in the headlights look. They either don't have an engagement strategy at all or they ask me what an engagement strategy is or they say, “I have to admit that I've been posting and running away because I haven't had the time or I spent 30 minutes this day, but I haven't consistently shown up to engage with my audience.” This goes back to not being afraid to take the first step and not being afraid to reach out to somebody, even with a nice compliment on their most recent content or a simple reaction to a DM, door openers to get the conversation rolling and build that relationship from there.
[00:10:50] What you said there is providing value content but also you have to engage. It's a social media platform. You're supposed to be social. A lot of times, and I've been guilty of this as well, is you post content and expect magic to happen without taking the step to go and engaging other people. Do you think that just the use of hashtags is going to get you seen? It's very passive, you post and run. From my experience anyway, that has not worked super effectively.
[00:11:24] I learned that very early on because I've always known myself to be a content creator and a creative in that way. I thought, “If I put all of this high value content, if you build it," mindset. I learned very early on that, especially with a platform like Instagram, not necessarily Facebook, it doesn't work that way. I said, “If I am going to build my business brick by brick, then I have to start forming these relationships. I have to be genuine. I have to be authentic in my approach. I have to want to serve the person on the other end.” That goes both ways. It has to be a two-way street. It has to be beneficial. I am referring your business. You're referring mine. We're checking in with each other. We're thinking of each other. We're not just going, “Sign up for this. Sign up for that.”
[00:12:15] Let's talk about what is high value content. As you're thinking about what you're creating to post in Instagram, for people who are used to using Facebook, it might be a little bit different. What do you create and what is high value content on Instagram?
[00:12:30] I like to boil this down to a very basic phrase from somebody that I admired for so long in the Instagram community, is the what and the why is free and the how is the paid. If I am telling you how to market your business on Instagram, I'm giving you the what and the why, but I'm never giving you the how because that's where you're going to come in and work with me. I have content pillars for my business. I also gain audience feedback. That's big for me when I create. I have to know that I'm creating with an audience first mindset and the content that I'm outputting is something that is wanted. It's not just something I enjoy talking about. It's something that's serving a need for my audience and potentially a new audience. Every time we posted on our feed, that's a way of reaching someone new. Stories are for the audience that we already have and serving them, connecting with them. Our feed is for the audience that we have and a new audience. You have to keep that in mind as well every time you post on your feed. My content pillars, my audience feedback within my zone of genius and that's how I pull the topics for my feed.
[00:13:38] That sounds all very lean and intentional. We love every bit of it. We make things so much harder than it needs to be sometimes.
[00:13:49] Yes, I agree especially when it comes to a platform like Instagram.
[00:13:54] Let's talk a little bit about metrics because it's easy to fall into the vanity metric trap. We all know we're not supposed to, but when you don't know what to look for and what you look at, number of followers, likes, comments. What are some things that could be more meaningful for somebody to start with if all they're looking at is more of those vanity metrics?
[00:14:17] Likes and comments still count as engagement on your content, but they are vanity metrics. If that's all you're measuring, you're not getting an accurate feed on your insights for your content. I personally love to also look at saves. I love to look at shares, who's sharing my content. Why? How did it resonate with them? What did I say that was on their mind that they weren't able to save for themselves that they shared it? I'm reaching a new audience, which is another topic. I love to look at those four across the feed posts. When you do get a high reach post and all of that stuff is running like clockwork in the background, I love to look at website taps from there. Who took the extra step to tap for my content over to my bio, to my website? That’s where the magic is because that means to me, they're ready for a connection. They're ready for the next step. They're ready to invest in their business by working with me or whatever it is they're ready for collaboration. That's magic for me.
[00:15:23] I want to go back to something that you had said about the difference between the feed and stories. I know one of the questions that I get asked so often and I struggle with this myself sometimes is what on Earth do I post to my stories? People have an easier time with their feed. What do you think works pretty well from a story perspective and what your audience is looking to see?
[00:15:45] Stories are for the audience that you already have and deepening your connection to them. What works for me might not work for somebody else. I like to give mini trainings in stories. I like to do fun roundups, polls, multiple choice questions and sticker questions. I like to provide them with feedback if they're struggling with something through the sticker question. I like to give them a glimpse of what my day looks like or what my work schedule looks like or what my personal life looks like from time to time, but always with my audience in mind first. Secondly, always with deepening the connection to them because you're not going to be found on stories by a new audience. You can use hashtags in stories, they work. It's not as strategic as using them in feed posts, but your stories are always for the audience that you have.
[00:16:37] I know I personally can seriously up my story game. That’s great. You mentioned also earlier on algorithm changes. There's always all this buzz about, “What do I do now when there's algorithm changes?” What I'd love to hear from you is what do you see that's working now and what are the timeless things that you should be doing, that it does not matter what algorithm change comes our way, that it’s still a recipe for success for Instagram?
[00:17:05] You should be posting in your feed weekly, if not multiple times a week, regardless of the algorithm. You should be engaging so that your audience comes back and engages with you. You should be creating high value content. Those are the three big things. That's what's going to drive it and being present consistently in your feed and creating the expectation with your audience, that you are going to show up in your feed. It is going to be something doable to them each time that you do show up. What works for me is three times a week, and engagement on those days and engagement in between. That might not work for you, that might be too much for you. It might only be once or twice a week for you and engagement 2 or 3 days. You have to find your zone of genius with that.
[0:17:52] When the algorithm talk comes out, this is a big one you always hear on Instagram is the “beating the algorithm.” The algorithm is developed by the software developers at Instagram. We don't know what it is. We know that it's a tool for visibility. We know that it's how we output content and how content is served to us. We need to view it as a tool. If we're using it as a tool for our business, why are we trying to always beat it into submission? I never understood that phrase. I find it to be very predatory. It feeds people's fears of being present on Instagram and using it to market their business. I loathe it so much. If I could burn that phrase to the ground tomorrow or now, I so would. Don't listen to it. Focus on you, focus on your audience, get your insights, focus on creating high value content and block your ears when anybody says beat the algorithm. It's baloney in the simplest terms.
[00:19:01] One of my pillars in the Lean out method is Kaizen. Kaizen is making small, continuous improvements and changes for the better. You may not feel like the algorithm changes or for the better, but the reality is you always have to be constantly evolving your business, adapting and making changes. You should expect that things are going to evolve and you need to evolve with them. If you stick with the tried-and-true practices that Nicole shared with you, I feel like you don't need to stress about it that much. You might need to pivot and make those small continuous improvements, but your overall strategy is going to remain largely the same. Tell people more about you. Let's hear a little bit more about a couple things. I want to know how did you get into Instagram? Why Instagram? Where does this align with your zone of genius? What do you have going on and where can people find more about you?
[00:19:56] Here's my backstory. 2013 is when I launched my first business and I was the editor of a feature-based wedding blog. That's how I got into the creative space. A few years ago, I let that business go. It's now under a bigger umbrella of other companies within the wedding industry. When I was working with wedding professionals to feature their content on my site, I saw the need for them to invest in their own marketing. It wasn't something that was talked about at the time. Everybody was investing in publications and amplifying the voice of their business through other brands that were already big. Being frustrated with the fact that it wasn't working for them, it wasn't connecting them to their couples. That's when I said, “There's a better way. This is how it was.”
[0:20:49] I started with content calendars in Trello, of all places. That was the very first thing that I sold, content calendars through Trello. I no longer do that. That spun into Lattes For Lunch. As Lattes For Lunch grew and grew, I let go of the wedding blog. It still exists. It's called SoThisIsLove.co. It's still out there, it's just not run by me. You can go check it out, all the contents are still up and everything like that. I spun from there into Instagram. I very quickly see how Instagram can be used as an effective tool. I approached that both creatively and logically. That's why I fell in love with it. Being able to be creative and to connect can be logical in your marketing approach there.
[0:21:38] The newest pivot in my business, which happened in 2020, is I now offer Instagram VIP intensives, where I sit and work with client one day for about five hours. We go through their Instagram marketing from A to Z. That's still new. I'm going to fit that into the horizon bucket. If you want to find me, you can find me on Instagram, @LattesForLunch. I also have a Facebook page, but I use it to market very differently. If you were to go look at the two pages, you would see the stark contrast in how I connect with people on Instagram through Facebook. My website is LattesForLunch.com.
[00:22:14] One of the things that you've said that I resonated with is the balance of creatively and logically. That in and of itself is where a lot of entrepreneurs struggle is they're too stuck in creative, but not leveraging enough logic to keep things lean and do things smart in a simple way. That is a great approach and great way to blend the two together in one platform.
[00:22:38] Sometimes that can go the opposite way too. You're too caught up in it or your emotions are too caught up in it. You can't see the forest from the trees on what it is that you need to be doing. For me, the balance between those two is how I approach the platform.
[00:22:53] For the VIP days that you do, if somebody has a full-time team member, somebody from their team who does their social media for them, how does that work? Would they attend that session also or would they send them to that session?
[00:23:06] If it's a team member, absolutely yes. If you are outsourcing to a social media management or social media agency, no, because they're going to have a different approach and a different vision. I'm working specifically for you and your business, or you need to take the approach of, “I'm going to learn this for my business first, before I hire my own team member and have them do it in my vision.” That's where I come in is drilling down into your messaging, drilling down into your content and aligning all of those things first before you make the decision to offload it. A lot of frustration can come in when you go, “I'm throwing my hands up. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't have the time for this. I'm to offload it.” You offload it without first having your ducks in a row. You still end up frustrated because you didn't have your ducks in a row when you handed it off to the person that's trying to keep them lined up for you.
[00:24:00] I have one final question, which I always ask everybody. I'm dying to hear your answer to this. How do you work smarter not harder and keep things lean in your business?
[00:24:11] This is a good one because I only have from the time that I drop my daughter off from school until the time that I pick her up to work on my business and that's it. That's 8:00 AM to around 2:00 PM, depending on the day, depending on whether her dad gets her or whatever. That's not a lot of time to build a business. I am very intentional with my time. I time block my day at the beginning of the week. I am very intentional about not being on an Instagram when I am working either for my own business or my client's business. I don't use a lot of tools. I don't have a lot of, “I use this for this and I use this for that.” I have very few tools that are my go-to and I get in there and do the work, that's it. It's more important for me to sit there, head down to the work, than it is for creating a whole system or a process or looking at this new shiny thing over here or whatever it is. Being very intentional with my time.
[00:25:08] It sounds like you right size what you need from a system and tool perspective to your business. Instead of over-architecting and going too far in a system direction, you're right sizing it and keeping it with exactly what you need and nothing more.
[00:25:24] That can happen a lot with creative businesses, “You need this and you need that,” or even with courses, “You need to follow this course or watch this course or get this platform or do that.” I'm like, “No, that doesn't work for me. I don't have the time. I don't think I need to find the time because I don't see how that's going to help me in the long run.”
[00:25:46] I'm a big fan of systems and tools, but first you need to lean-out your business because you want the system and the tool for only those things that you know are important. You don't want systems and tools for everything. You don't want those systems and tools to dictate what you do in your business. It's the other way around. It sounds like you already have that all figured out and balanced.
[00:26:08] I had to. With that five hours a day, it doesn't leave much room for choice. I could sit here and fiddle around with those things all day and then a year could pass by and I could go, “What am I doing in my business?” I could sit down and do the work and then go, “This is what I need,” and then go find it.
[00:26:27] Any final parting thoughts for people on how to simplify and find success using Instagram?
[00:26:34] Don't be afraid to create. Don't be afraid if you have a couple of posts that flop. Don't be afraid to ask questions to your audience. Don't be afraid to form connections and don't be afraid to get out there and start.
[00:26:47] Thank you so much. I've loved our conversation. Thank you for being here. Everyone, we will see you next episode.
- Nicole Doumato
- @LattesForLunch – Instagram
- Facebook – Lattes For Lunch
- Lattes For Lunch
About Nicole Doumato
Nicole Doumato is an Instagram coach, content creator at heart, and a strategist by trade.
She specializes in coaching female entrepreneurs on how to up-level their business on Instagram with any size audience.
by Crista Grasso
Known as the "Business Optimizer", Crista has the ability to quickly cut through the noise and focus on optimizing the core things that will make the biggest impact RIGHT NOW to grow and scale your business. As a lean business consultant, she specializes in helping businesses gain clarity and focus through strategy, planning, and lean practices. She is the creator of the Lean Out Method and the 90-Day Lean Out Planner, and is also the founder of the global accessories brand Criscara Jewelry.