An Honest Review of Hiring A Social Media Manager & Trying to Achieve 10k Organic Followers On Instagram
As an online business owner (or an aspiring one) do you find yourself coming across the “fact” that you must have a ton of social media followers to serve your dream clients, make a great living, and have an impact?
That advice seems to be everywhere we look these days — but is it correct?
Or maybe an obsession with getting that damn “swipe up” option on Instagram, because it seems sooo cool? I felt like I was missing out and I really wanted to have that feature.
I hired a social media manager for a year and dove headfirst into a very intentional social media strategy to find out just what it takes to reach 10k followers on Instagram.
Now I want to share with you exactly what happened — the good, the bad, and the lessons you can bring into your own business…
For the first five years of my business, I sold out my signature coaching program every year without giving direct focus to growing my followers through a “list” or on social media.
Social media was never my main focus. Because my brand is so personal, my social media activity was just an extension of my personality. My focus was inviting women to experience my work and I spent very little time caring about how many followers I had or what I was posting on Instagram.
I used social media to connect with my tribe so I could create powerful content and experiences they’d love and learn from — and so I could better serve them through my signature programs, Mentor Masterclass and The Sisterhood Mastermind. My business grew both tangibly (an increasing number of students and a skyrocketing income) and I became more spiritually connected to my work, too.
It was my passion and authenticity that brought so many women into the program, rather than a slick marketing strategy. I spent more time connecting with the souls of my clients and their needs in this lifetime then stalking them on Instagram and counting likes.
Because I care so much about my tribe, I also care about the things being promoted in the coaching industry. I decided I needed to investigate the social media strategies my students were always asking me about. These included things like best practices for content creation, #hashtags, social media strategies for building followers (especially on Instagram), and more.
As you may know, the promoted logic of investing in a social media strategy and support goes like this: more social media followers means more reach. More reach means you seem more legitimate, leading to opportunities like podcast invites, paid promos, and a higher profile in your industry. This, in turn, leads to more money, more people in your programs, and more exposure for your work.
The idea of creating a marketing plan for most of my daily social media activity, automating it, and as a result limit the time I’d spend doing it, was very appealing to me. I knew I wanted more time to focus on things only I could do, like creating and holding new in-person workshops.
And as life became more complex with my daughter Violet turning three, being constantly present online was getting more difficult. For instance, my biggest launches were during the holidays, and I wanted more time with my family. I desired a quieter year where I didn’t put my life out there quite as much.
But could I actually outsource my own vulnerability and brand voice while increasing engagement and calling in more ideal clients? I wanted to go into it with an open mind and knew the research would be worth trying it out for myself…
I hired a highly recommended social media manager.
My new social media manager rewrote my social media bio and established exactly what my brand was speaking to in the content I was posting. She’d pull from all the content I’d already created on the front and back end of my business as she came to know my voice and repurpose it.
Then, for $800 a month, my new social media manager created:
One piece of content (one post) every day for Instagram. (She used an awesome tool called Planoly to make this happen.)
One story a week for Instagram Stories.
Did all of this social media strategizing and an investment of almost $10,000 pay off? No, not really — and here are the pros and cons.
1. By focusing on a social media goal, I got wrapped up in the numbers, comparisons, and mini-tasks.
I couldn’t stop checking my numbers! Checking in and seeing which content had been posted and how many likes it received became an obsession. Instead of spending less time on social media, I actually was required to spend more. Apparently, if I wanted to see real growth I had to be present online.
Because of the financial and time investment, I wanted to make the very most of this test. Unfortunately, when you’re on social media more you can get caught in a comparison trap: paying more attention to numbers and stats, making note of who’s popular. For the first time in my business, I went into a stage of rapid comparison.
Social strategists say: “The only real strategy is to create consistent, free, and amazing content. Then follow and unfollow other users in order to gain new followers.” This includes liking and commenting on others posts, hoping they’ll follow you and engage in return.
While my social media manager would do some of this, it was a huge commitment on my part as well. We also ran into problems with her commenting and liking on people or posts that I didn’t authentically like or agree with. I found this to be more of an energy leak and drain then an asset and boost to my business over time.
Most importantly, I had to find a way to be mixed in with all the ego and beliefs of the social media marketing world while staying connected to my deeper truth, intuition, and unique way of sharing my work in the world. I feel well-resourced in this area, and yet it was very challenging to come back to my soul purpose and intuition while staying committed to the “growth strategy.”
2. The successful, laid-back, spacious lifestyles of social media’s biggest stars are largely an illusion.
A lot of the women who seemed to have lots of followers (even women I know in real life) aren’t experiencing true success behind the scenes. Their incomes aren’t where they’d like them to be, and they’re feeling burnt out. Their whole lives have become about living their false online lives. If you were to bump into them in real life, you’d see they’re actually anxious, obsessed with numbers, wishing they made more money, and more focused on posting than being present with you.
After being in this mindset for a while, social media becomes all about ego, and gaining more followers becomes the end goal, period. They aren’t building authentic relationships and their programs, clients and intrinsic peace suffer as a result.
Some people are creating powerful content and building a following this way (and in a moment I’ll share what I learned about who should consider this business model). But most people are buying followers, likes and using comment pods to make it appear their work is well known and well received. In truth, it’s all fake or bought.
What’s sad is that some new customers fall for it and then become disappointed when they pay to work with these “influencers.” Meanwhile, their colleagues think they’re doing something wrong or that their work isn’t valued in the world because they aren’t seeing the same buzz around their shares.
I struggled with pulling myself away from the frustration of seeing that — and avoiding it myself. I found myself asking, What’s really real? What’s really important in my work in the world, and in my sharing of my work? Why doesn’t this business model work for me?
3. The “strategy” meetings with my social media manager weren’t organized.
She had too many clients and couldn’t give me that extra personal touch. I’d thought that part of what you pay for is strategy. But your business strategy and innovation has to come from you in order to work. Nobody cares about your business or your clients the way you do.
The “pay to play” networking and one-size-fits-all marketing strategies are saturated and don’t work anymore. There’s no easy way out kid, you gotta put your heart, soul, wisdom and unique intuition into your strategy. Period.
I can’t even tell you the exact number of new, engaged followers we brought in as a result of working together or why — because she didn’t know. I expected her to be aware of and completely on top of stats. I thought she’d know what numbers worked, which content our followers loved most, and which actions were yielding the highest return on investment.
Instead, our strategy meetings were more about getting clear on what content I wanted shared and setting deadlines.
4. My numbers didn’t actually grow very much.
Lots of effort, money, and planning resulted in… not much. By comparison, the same social media strategy I’d already created and had been running for five years brought in over 500 new, engaged followers in one month.
1. Having someone appreciate my work and reflect my core values back to me was useful.
It’s always great to have a sounding board and a chance to talk through ideas. My social media manager served that role for me, and she even traveled to California to attend one of my workshops as a trade. This meant a lot to me and also helped her to write more authentically about the experience of working with me.
2. I loved having beautiful images, creating a gorgeous Instagram space, and repurposing content I put a lot of heart and work into.
I’ve been writing a blog and creating content for new and aspiring coaches for seven years. It was awesome to see this content repurposed and to have someone posting every day. The thought that something valuable I created years ago reached even one more person feels really good. Take a look at how beautifully-designed my profile is now!
3. While investing in a social media manager isn’t worth it for me and my feminine business model, it does work wonders for some, and will be useful for some of my clients.
If you’re a writer and devoted content creator with a solid fan base, having someone be in charge of your social media can help you get the most out of your time.
I saw the social media growth over time for some of the other women my social media manager worked with. Coaches who are writing for mainstream media platforms (like @Refinery29 or @WellandGood) were able to create relationships with those brands’ followers by having a home of their own on Instagram.
Coaches with other consistent content streams like a podcast or YouTube channel had a place to continue the conversation with their listeners and viewers. The key here is these women are very busy already, creating content constantly. They’re gaining exposure themselves because of their devotion to getting their work out there online.
These women put consistent time and effort into building relationships. In those cases, having someone manage and curate your Instagram feed gives people you’re already connected with from around the web a place to hang out with you. The key here is the social media manager is not gaining you followers and increasing your traffic.
Not everyone can handle a business model that asks you to constantly be writing and creating content. Your zone of genius might not be seeking out relationships and submissions to increase your online exposure. If you want to spend less time online, writing and creating alone behind your computer screen, the truth is a social media manager and content creator is not going to be able to grow your following for you.
It also doesn’t mean you’re exempt from making millions as a coach. There are other business models that will work better for you. Some women I work with in Mentor Masterclass are writers and natural born content creators. Others love being present and are sick of the computer. Like me, they prefer to be experiencing life and real people.
I don’t teach my business model to the women who join my program. I teach women how to create time and financial freedom in the coaching industry with their own unique and fulfilling business model.
Now I know from experience exactly how some women can use this mainstream marketing business mode to create a schedule that supports self-care and time freedom, all while doing less. I also know exactly who it’s not for, and why these women can feel confident not taking this approach.
4. My social media manager was all about organic followers — not buying followers.
I loved that about her! As I’ve mentioned, too many influencers are buying followers, likes, and comments. Building authentic followers is, of course, more challenging — but ethically it’s the only right way for me. Through our work together, my social media manager helped me see why it doesn’t pay to fake your growth online. There were times I wondered if I too should just buy 10,000 followers and go on my merry way! But she really helped me see that the end goal should be a beautiful relationship of creation and receptivity.
5. I learned it’s okay to not always have something to say and share.
As you may have guessed, I’ve parted ways with my social media manager. Through my year of outsourcing so much of my social media, I’ve found it’s too important for my brand that I’m the one talking. There are too many people talking, constantly, with very little value to add. I want to post when I have something real and important to share. More importantly, I want to actually be connecting when I’m in an open and aligned space to do that.
Here are some lessons I hope will help you in your own business journey:
You do NOT have to be on social media 24/7 to be successful. Make your online interactions count, and you won’t have to feel guilty about taking time away from social media.
Success for a service-based business with heart is about authenticity and vulnerability. When people are telling you how you must have a social media manager, a funnel, etc, keep in mind that it’s always quality over quantity. These things can be helpful, but they’re not a golden ticket.
When you’re in a space of readiness to create and your work is ready to be put out there, just be yourself. You’ll do better to just skip over investing in pay-to-play strategies or an overly-planned social media schedule. Instead, focus on your unique way of innovation. Bring your work into the world in your intuitive and purposeful way.
Mainstream marketing strategies and massive social followings aren’t the only path to success. I sell out my programs, bring in over half a million dollars a year, serving dream clients, all while I travel the world with my family and keep a minimum of $200,000 in my checking account at all times.I’ve got less then 6k followers on Instagram after 8 years in business, and I’m still thriving without the “swipe up” option.
Hire mentors and support that will help you to access your unique zone of genius. Avoid those who pretend they can make you successful. Instead, they should promise to take part in some of the implementation to make serving your clients easier and more potent.
It turns out, I couldn’t outsource my business growth, just as I had suspected. I spent $10,000 dollars on social media support and did not get the 10k followers or the “swipe up” option. But the numbers on the front don’t matter at all.
When I took a break from being really vulnerable online, in the moment — we actually saw slightly lower sales this year!
I’ve decided I want social media to be about connecting, fun, and pleasure. For me, spending all of my time online and connected to the social media conversation is just not a business model. Ultimately, in my high-touch, service-based business, the energy behind everything needs to be coming from me. When I’m intrinsically vibrant my energy is magnetic and my work reaches whoever it’s meant to serve. The universe supports the connections with women I’m here to walk beside, far greater than Facebook, Instagram and an email list ever could.
If you want to get to know more about how I help women create their unique and successful soul aligned business models, join me live for Self-Discovery Week, or find out more about my signature program, Mentor Masterclass.
I’ve got more to say about launch strategies that work for women who want to spend less time online and more time experiencing their lives and doing the actual work they love with clients. Let me know if this is of interest to you in the comments and I’ll work on a piece to share with you soon! In the meantime follow me here to witness what kind of growth and engagement pure, present vulnerability can bring.
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