Why you should care about Instagram:
- millions of users
- brand engagement rates of close to 3% (better than Facebook/Twitter)
- personal engagement rates can be as high as 20% or more
- allows sharing up to 15-second video clips
- can set up ads through Facebook for both Facebook and Instagram feeds
What that will do for you?
You care about that, remember? Sharing the message of hope through creative, engaging ways - that's what Church Films is all about, and that's why you're here.
You've created a video. Great. Now what?
You (person, nonprofit, church, business, snow shack, etc.) - have a small Instagram following, usually less than 200 people.
Knowing how to grow that tribe makes about as much sense to you as cheese grits and okra to a westerner.
Most of the followers you do have are from your immediate circle.
They're the same people you live life with on Sunday mornings-
-OR, they saw the notification that “your so-and-so Facebook friend is now on Instagram.”
Either way, you’re still small.
You know that feeling - you post faithfully on Instagram but you have the same 137 followers that you had 6 months ago.
I can relate. I was that guy.
Sound like your group?
Approximately 98% of American Christian churches have less than 1,000 members each and about 94% of churches overall have less than 500 members each.
I think small churches take this small mindset with them into the online realm.
They act small and think small. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.
But churches have a mission to share the message of hope - Jesus. In this day and age, it’s not about packing the seats on Sunday morning.
It’s about the original mission and vision of a church: taking the Gospel outside the four walls to where people are gathering.
And boy are there dozens of places where people are gathering online, like your stagnant Instagram account.
Here’s what you’re going to do.
- Find a volunteer.
- Let them own the account.
- Don't micro-manage.
One, it gives them a real interest in the health of your group. Ownership is crucial.
Two, you will grow as a leader.
Tell them to water and grow the account, but not to be that spammy account that looks like a dose of, well, good ole spam.
Instagram’s here to stay for the time being. Millions and millions of people use it. Get out there, and share the message of hope.
If you only have 120 followers, you can easily get 240 followers in less than 2 months. In fact, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to amass 3x that humble amount.
If you have 500 followers, you can put in the sweat equity and have 1500 followers in 2 months.
It only takes 2 months, and the grand sum of zero, ten, or twenty dollars, and 5-6 minutes of elbow grease approximately 5 days a week. For the millennials who remember, it’s a regular choose-your-own-adventure.
1. Download The Crowdfire App
Go to your browser or app store and look up Crowdfire.
It’s a freemium service; i.e. it’s free up until a point.
Now, I’m not an affiliate for Crowdfire; I’ve been using this app since May of 2015, and I’m simply a fan of great tech.
You can do this tripling strategy with the free service. It will take longer and you will work much harder than if you just shelled out $10 a month and ran the subscription for two months.
I look at it this way. I can walk 75 minutes to get to the gym.
Or can I can drive to get there in 12 minutes. Yes, gas costs me, but so does time, especially over a month of going to the gym 5 days a week.
When I started Instagram for Church Films at the beginning of 2015, I had one man - me. I grew the account to about 125 people by May.
Then I learned of Crowdfire. I tested the waters, as I’m sure you will too initially.
From May to November, I grew the account to about 550 followers casually using Crowdfire.
That’s already better than the 4 months before.
Then I pulled the trigger on the cheapest paid account right around when my son was born in November.
Over the next 45 days or so, the account tripled.
Can you get the same results with your account of 5,000 followers?
You can definitely double down, but you will have to work for it.
If you have 200 followers, you can easily triple your account, if not more by following this plan.
Warning: Instagram has hourly limits on your actions. They think of an action as a “follow” or “unfollow” of someone’s account.
They cap actions at about 100 an hour in my case. There is no official word from Instagram because they don’t want spammers blowing up the system.
It varies from individual to individual.
Honestly, you only have to crack open Crowdfire once a day for 5-6 minutes, five times a week.
The steps I’ll outline below will help you reach your goal, but in the meantime, we have to step back and shore some things up.
If your posts are consistently weak and the images are lackluster, this will be a lot harder.
Since you’re committing to growing your Instagram account, consider adding a few other small adjustments with each post.
This isn’t just a growth opportunity; it’s an opportunity to overhaul the front window of your “store.”
a. Post pictures of people.
You have to break out of the “throw up an inspirational quote” on every post mentality. And please, please, please don’t post pictures of forests, sunrises, and snowy mountaintops, even if your Bible verse is the end-all, be-all.
When everyone else posts the same stock photo of Yellowstone, you’re just white noise.
Pexels and New Old Stock are my two favorite curators of public domain stock photos. Freely Photos is another one, and it’s geared for ministry.
You want to share the hope we have in Christ through this visual medium called Instagram. So be creative and stand out.
Let that volunteer who’s owning the account know that. When you hand over the reigns, HAND OVER the reigns. Put some training wheels on at first if you must, but then show some faith and let go.
b. Post pictures of you every now and again.
If you’re a one-man band, this is easy.
If you’re a church of 150 people, you need to show that there are real people in your organization. This is something a lot of church accounts already do.
But they don’t show their senior pastor very often - if at all.
Same goes for businesses.
Put a candid photo up (or video) every now and again. It centralizes your group in a way you just can’t get when you randomly throw up “faces in the crowd” photos.
For example, I threw up this short clip of me and my boy back in November.
c. Avoid super-detailed pictures.
This isn’t a blog forum.
Graphs and charts are great for a blog because that’s a different venue with different expectations.
For example, you know when you go to a movie theater, you are in a for a 2-3 hour experience from the moment you walk in the door.
When you watch tv, you are in it for a 30-60 minute program.
Those are built-up expectations that we’re used to.
But when you surf the web, your attention span (along with everyone else’s) is incredibly short.
Instagram is great for engagement because people can double-tap to like your photo and then move on in a flash.
That’s what’s great about it - the low barrier to entry (to participate) in this community.
That’s also Instagram’s downside - people move on very quickly.
I tested this idea of using detailed photos out for about a week. It was NOT well-received.
People will not spend time analyzing a statistic on Instagram.
Instagram is not your blog or your church newsletter - don’t treat your Instagram account as such.
d. Throw a curveball.
To emphasize that you are all about life in Christ - and I mean LIFE - you need to throw in a curveball.
You’re real. Your team is made up of real, silly, broken, and serious people. Show them that.
Every now and again, I’ll throw up a flippant picture. I use this tactic sparingly.
For example, the best poker players know they have to mix up their strategies and even lose a few hands to keep the other guys on their toes.
If you are consistently showing your volunteers at work, your pastor preaching, your office workers working, then… ZZZzzzzzzz…
Mix it up.
I once uploaded a solid black square photo with zero explanation on the Church Films account.
It got 8 likes.
e. Use video every now and again.
Variety is the spice of life, right?
Remember, Instagram is home to super-short attention spans.
If your video is boring in the first three seconds, then you’re toast.
Use videos every now and again, but understand, you will not get the same engagement that your pictures will because you’re asking people to spend more time on your post.
f. Give ‘em something to do.
Just throwing up a photo and saying #YARDWORK doesn’t do much for your crowd.
Teach them something. Encourage them. Give them a call-to-action (CTA), even if it’s just “tag a friend who needs to hear this story.”
Every post needs a CTA.
Bury the old #YARDWORK or whatever useless hashtag or tagline you’ve been using and be intentional.
You’ll find great results when the CTA can be processed in a second or less AND is a part of the picture.
Now put all of these ideas together and you’ll have a comprehensive overhaul to your account’s growth.
2. Follow Strategy
Whether you decide to use your mobile device or your laptop, you’ll be able to log in to Twitter and Instagram, authorize Crowdfire to use your accounts, and BOTH will be on the left panel.
The Instagram options are scaled back, compared to Twitter. That’s because Instagram has less features than Twitter.
There are only two features with Crowdfire that you have to use, and they’re both very straightforward.
Let’s talk about the first - “Copy Followers.”
Warning: do not be too aggressive with following people. You could get banned by Instagram, not Crowdfire. Keep it to one run-through of Crowdfire per day and you’ll be fine.
You can push that number, but that’s up to you.
This strategy requires a two-pronged attack.
a. Follow related accounts.
What accounts are connected to you?
For example, I do a series of podcast interviews on failures, faith, and filmmaking twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays.
That gives me two accounts to pull up on Instagram and copy their followers.
After all, if John is a follower of George, and I just posted a picture of George to promote his podcast, then by following John, there is a mutual connection.
John might follow Church Films.
This strategy works about 20% of the time.
That’s a pretty good conversion rate; you won’t get that elsewhere with other media, except of course on Twitter using this same Crowdfire app to manage your Twitter growth.
b. Follow relevant accounts.
Are you a church? Follow other churches. If you split hairs over kingdom theology, then follow other churches in your denomination.
If you're a business, follow your competitors.
Are you an artist? Follow a like-minded artist.
Then use the “Copy Followers” feature and load up.
I’m out of ideas…
Quit fussing already.
If you truly have zero ideas, use a catch-all.
Look up “Bible” in the search field and start following those accounts and their followers.
These accounts will turn up droves of followers who would be more than happy to follow another ministry that is doing big, bold things and doesn’t post boring pictures.
3. Unfollow Strategy
The last part of this equation is the unfollow. Or at least the idea of “unfollowing.”
If you just follow a bunch of accounts, you’ll have an 4:1 follow/follower ratio (or worse). Remember, you don’t want to be the spammer.
Use the “Non Followers” feature and every other day or so (or every morning if you’re ambitious), you can unfollow the accounts that aren’t jumping onboard with your account.
The people who were following you and then stopped following you will show up in their designated "Recent Unfollowers" tab. Check this periodically too.
I keep my accounts balanced for the most part. I don’t want to spam people, and the reality is, a lot of people will not even log in to Instagram every day while you’re doing this march.
Won’t people unfollow me too?
Some will. Most will not.
It’s the party principle. If you invite a bunch of people over to your house, your guests won’t vanish because you are entertaining other guests.
They will stick around and mingle, and they understand you can’t be everywhere once.
If you step out, they will still be there. It’s easier for you to exit stage right than for 1,000 other people to be convinced to bounce the same time you do.
Another way: which is harder? Convincing 1 person to complete an action or 1,000 people to complete the same action?
It’s why email newsletters work.
Now make sure you whitelist your favorite accounts so you don’t accidentally unfollow them.
With a paid account, you can whitelist up to 10,000 accounts. That’s plenty.
The best part of the paid account is the ability to hide followers that you’ve previously followed.
Actually, Crowdfire does the hiding for you so you’re not following, unfollowing, and then following the same people over and over again.
That alone is well worth the $10 a month, especially if you’re running the gauntlet for two months with this strategy.
Remember, it’s not about the manpower that you have. You know as well as I do how the few can impact the many. Look at Esther, Gideon, the 12 disciples, Paul Rusesabagina or Oskar Schindler.
There’s no reason you can’t reach thousands with your Instagram account. Dare I say, millions?
If one man (Church Films is now made up of several volunteers) could raise a lifeless, directionless account from 0 to 100, then 100 to 500, and finally 500 to 1500, imagine what your team can do.
P.s. Head on over to their Instagram profile and leave an encouraging word for our brother in Christ.
Jeremy had this to say (click to expand):
Take the Gospel outside of your four walls. Be intentional about reaching more people with the hope we have in Jesus.
So that’s all you have to do.
That’s the general outline of what I did to triple the Church Films Instagram account and its engagement.
I want you to be able to do the same thing.
So I’m giving you several bonus items to help you get started.
First, I’ve put together this exact blueprint I followed to triple my instagram following in less than 2 months… for the grand sum of 30 minutes a week. You can’t beat that with a fresh pan of cornbread.
Second, I summarized this overhaul strategy as a video so you can get additional help.
Third, one person who grabs the bonus will get a one-on-one Skype chat so they can get this plan in place for their Instagram account, be it a business, church, or artist account.
To get all of the goodness, enter the bonus section here.