You might think of Instagram as a mindless channel. After all, it distracts you from your to-do list with endless scrolling images of rock-hard abs, 16-year-olds who have more successful businesses than you do, and yet another one of your Aunt Anne’s cats photoshopped into a unicorn (Seriously, who showed her that app!??).
But even in this funny depiction, there is a clue that perhaps Instagram has incredible power to increase your bottom line. Audiences of all ages and backgrounds are spending unreal amounts of time on Instagram, and savvy marketers are using this to their great advantage.
I realized this firsthand when I discovered Amar Patel (yup, while browsing through Instagram). He’s a young entrepreneur who’s realized the value of Instagram. Patel says he’s managed to build a powerhouse network of contacts worth over $15 billion via Instagram marketing.
Patel’s story is both motivational and replicable, and I had the privilege of meeting with him recently to learn some of his tricks of the trade. Here are some key takeaways from my chat with him.
1. The power of a direct message
The direct messaging function, or “DM,” as it’s often called, is one of the simplest ways to reach out on Instagram. The biggest reason most choose not to utilize this feature is fear of rejection. We often far too quickly assume that if we send a DM, it won’t be read or will be denied, and it won’t provide any value.
If we choose to let go of our fears and chase our goals in life, then we will come to realize that rejection simply doesn’t matter. Patel actually reached out to me via direct messaging, and it wasn’t automated, as you might expect from large companies or people with big followings.
It was real, it was personal, and therefore, it resonated with me.
The best thing you can do when using the direct messaging feature is to keep it authentic and simple. Even something as brief as, “I love your photos and what you’re doing with your page (insert something specific they’re doing with their page here). Excited to follow along!”
2. Outreach through value
Above I talked about keeping it authentic; this next point brings that rule home even more. If you’re consistently reaching out to people you can’t bring any value to, you’ll come off as inauthentic.
Furthermore, this will bring little or no value to your business. One way to bring value to those you’re contacting is to offer a compliment. Letting people know you appreciate what they’re doing and the positive impact it has on the world is always a good idea.
Encouragement feels good. And when you bring value to others, it will come back to you in some form. Just ask yourself as you’re reaching out to others on Instagram: What value does this bring them?
3. The money is in the research
Patel’s rule of thumb is this: If you cannot gain their attention within the first line of your message, then you’ve already lost them.
What does this mean? Research, research, research. This is the key to Instagram outreach.
This only builds on our last two points. When you know the individual you’re reaching out to, you’ll seem authentic (have I drilled the word “authentic” into your brain yet?), and you will know how to positively impact and bring value them.
If you reach out to someone without having first cared enough to learn about him or her, this will only result in failure. You’ll have already lost them within the first few words of your attempt, as Patel says.
The more you know, the better you’re able to adequately address people’s challenges and convey the solution you can provide.
4. Throw the pedigree out the door
Remember that little fear of rejection we talked about earlier? Get rid of it — yes, even if you’re getting ready to message someone on Instagram with a huge following and a verified profile.
Everyone started somewhere, and most of these “celebrity” Instagrammers remember this fact and know that it took hard work to get where they are. Usually, they’re more than happy to connect with you, especially when you prove that you have something to offer them.
If you don’t contact these people simply because of fear, you could be missing out on many opportunities that would have offered you great potential. Don’t be afraid of rejection, and don’t be afraid to hear the word no.
If you present the correct message, coupled with interesting content on your page, they will want to know more about you.
Patel told me that some of the most successful people he knows who are worth hundreds of millions of dollars have fewer than 30,000 followers on social media. Don’t be afraid to reach out, no matter the size of their following.
5. One powerful direct message
All it takes is one powerful direct message. Well, I lied — it takes more like 100 direct messages. But if you get one answer back from one of them, then you win. Your goal here should be engagement and connection.
If you can engage and connect with the right people — even if they don’t directly contribute to your business — chances are that in the long run, they’ll know someone who can contribute. Never bypass a relationship simply because your business doesn’t necessarily benefit from it.
As Patel put it, all you need is one answer, one conversation, to work your way into a network that could lead you to many people with similar interests, and in turn, further networking connections.
Twenty-six-year-old Patel is a total inspiration both to me and other millennials in our world today. I hold a great deal of respect for him and his work.
I look forward to seeing all of his future ventures. And as Patel so graciously taught me, let go of your fear, don’t be afraid to hear the word “no,” be authentic, be yourself, and start reaching out!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.