7 Steps to Starting a Business on Instagram: POLEVAULTR

It was our last Pole Vault practice before sectionals. I was tired and had already gotten my full workout in, but I knew I needed to clear 13’6” to make it to state. 

I had only ever jumped 13 feet before so I thought I should at least attempt it for the last jump. 

Unfortunately, pole vault can get pretty dangerous after a long workout. 

The fatigue was setting in and on my last jump of the day, I picked up the pole, sprinted down the runway, proceeded to get rejected. I fell from 13ish feet directly on my ankle.

Ouch.

The hardest part about this wasn’t the fall, though. Over the previous three years, pole vaulting had become a very big part of my life and I found myself very passionate about the sport. The hardest part was having to leave pole vault and the incredible culture surrounding it. 

And I didn’t want to give that up.

How to Start a Business on Instagram: 

  1. Create a Growth Strategy.
  2. Don’t Let Instagram be in Control.
  3. Keep Growing. 
  4. Automate and Outsource.
  5. Influencer Marketing. 
  6. Create a Content Strategy.
  7. Sell!

My point is telling you this story is to show how I was able to grow an audience and reach some success in my business and hopefully help others get started too. So here’s how to start a business on Instagram.

  1. Create a Growth Strategy: How I Grew My Instagram Page to 8,000 Followers in 3 Months

So, there I was sitting in bed with a huge boot on my right foot when I pulled up Instagram to watch some vaulting videos and engage in the community. From there I decided something was missing, the community I knew so well was not being represented the way I knew it could be. 

So I did something about it. 

That’s when @POLEVAULTR was born on Instagram.

Here was my first logo:

 

While you can start by just posting a few pictures and videos, its best to start your instagram off with some kind of growth strategy. 

How to create a growth strategy for Instagram: Start by looking at what your ideal audience really wants and make it viral.

But what does that even mean?

When I was starting polevaultr, I needed to think creatively to figure out what would convince followers to: repost my pictures, send posts to friends, or comment and tag someone. 

My idea was to feature Pole Vaulters from around the world and use that as a growth strategy. 

Ideally, I would post a featured video and the vaulter would show their team and the team of vaulters would submit their videos and follow the account.

And it worked! 

With this idea plus a few other strategies, I was able to grow to around 8,000 followers in just 3 months. 

The main reason this was able to happen was whenever someone submitted their video to be on the page, there would consistently be a few comments by their coach and teammates. This was a great way to start growing the Instagram account, but there was a major problem. 

I was only using Instagram and that meant that all of my eggs were in one basket. This is referred to as platform risk.

2. Don’t Let Instagram be in Control: How to Avoid Platform Risk

Platform risk is the risk you have of being kicked off or generally not in control of your main source of traffic. Instagram could have kicked me off at any point in time and I wouldn’t have been able to do anything about it. I would lose everything I had been working on. 

My focus up to this point was on testing the market to really see if this filled the void of a community for pole vault. But now that I knew this was going to work, it worried me to not have control of what happens with my audience. 

How can you avoid platform risk? The best way to avoid platform risk is to create an email list and move your following off of anyone elses platform. 

I like to think of most social media like a river. All this attention is flowing right by you, and all you need is a cup to capture that attention. A cup called an email list. 

The first thing I did when I recognized my platform risk, was make a free account on Mail Chimp and put the link to the signup form in my Instagram bio. 

“Of course people will want to sign up for my mailing list,” I thought. Build it and they will come, right?

Wrong.

I posted all over Instagram that we had a new newsletter that anyone could join. 

Here’s what happened: The hopes of a huge new email list turned into a crushing moment sitting at the computer hitting the refresh button over and over, only to see a zero floating over my reflection in the computer screen. 

Why would this happen?

I started diagnosing this problem by putting myself in the shoes of the audience. Now imagine you see a random page that featured your friend one time a few weeks ago and now they want your email. 

No, thank you. 

Hindsight is 20/20 and from there I was introduced to the WIIFM ideology. WIIFM stands for “What’s In It For Me?”. Why would anyone sign up for your email list without first understanding why it would help them?

This became a very eye-opening and impactful step in my new endeavor.

 

3. Keep Growing.

I knew I needed to give my followers a solid reason to join the email list aside from me trying to sell them stuff, but I also knew that I was not in a position to offer much value. Most of the value in the Pole Vault world comes from coaching and I wasn’t a coach. I’m still not a coach and it felt disingenuous to pretend like I was one. 

So how do you create a lead magnet without making anything yourself? Look at how you interact with your audience and see where you provide the most value, already. 

What people wanted from me was to be featured on my Instagram page. That was where I was providing value. 

So my first step was to tell all of my followers that if they wanted to be Vaulter of the Day, they would have to sign up for the email list. Then I connected a spreadsheet to the email sign ups using IFFT so I could see who was next in line. 

And, boom! 

I had a new process for organizing future posts and I had the emails of all the followers that I knew were pole vaulters. 

4. Automate and Outsource.

After setting up a lead magnet and a new way to organize posts, I was able to plan better for the future. Now instead of picking a random person out of the direct messages to feature. I had a list of vaulters in the order of when they signed up, each assigned to a date where their video would be posted. 

At the time, I was feeling like a slave to my own community, posting every day consistently. So, the next step for me was to automate the engine of the business so I could focus more on selling to the customers we had.

Automating the process was the obvious solution but automating can’t mean to stop growing. So, the question I had to answer was: how can I spend less time on social media but still keep it growing?

My answer was Buffer, essentially, I was able to schedule all of the posts at the beginning of the month and wouldn’t have to think about it again until the next month. Not only that but now I could post the same posts to every other social media platform. 

Small wins!

5. Influencer Marketing.

While the Vaulter of the Day sign-ups were going well, there were a few big problems. 

  1. I could only feature one person every day, so the line was getting longer and longer and vaulters did not want to wait a few months before they were featured. 
  2. The second problem was, everyone on this list just wanted to be Vaulter of the Day, the people joining the newsletter weren’t necessarily interested in learning more or really what I had to say in the newsletter at all. 

Solution: We need a new lead magnet that would find people that cared more than just being posted on the Instagram account. I needed people that were actually interested in the sport and learning more about it.  

Like I’ve said before, while I would have been totally willing to make something, I always felt like I was a bit under qualified to be teaching anything about pole vault. 

Do you know who isn’t under-qualified though? 

Olympic gold-medalist, Sam Kendricks.  Honestly, I would have settled for any Pro-Vaulter but Sam responded right away and really liked the mission of the page, which had gotten pretty big at this point. 

This whole relationship was developed through Instagram DMs, which it turns out, are very powerful. 

Sam had agreed to take a video of himself answering a list of questions that I sent him and gave me permission to release all the videos publicly for free. 

So that’s what I did. With this kind of opportunity, you want to get the most out of this content as possible. 

Time for a content strategy. 

6. Create a Content Strategy.

When Sam sent the videos over, I had already been thinking about everything I could do with them. 

I started by editing all of the videos with our branding and a short intro sequence and posted them as unlisted on Youtube. 

That way I could be in control of who sees the videos. This may sound counter-intuitive, but you’ll see where I’m going. 

Then in MailChimp, I put together a new list and an autoresponder sequence that would send out each video about a week apart with a bit more info attached written in my voice to build up a relationship with the audience. 

On the day I announced the release to my audience, I had people signing up like crazy to see Sam Kendrick’s new video series. 

All I had to do was edit a couple of videos, write the same amount of emails and I was set for the next couple of months on content. 

The vaulters were getting the coaching they needed and I was getting the contact info of everyone who was interested. Win, win!

After the initial excitement of everyone signing up to see the new video series, I eventually made it public on YouTube so we could start bringing more outside people browsing YouTube to the website. 

I also transcribed all of the videos. Some were put up as articles and some were used as content to create more lead magnets.

7. Turning a Video into an eBook / Lead Magnet

Sam had made a video where he spoke about how he mentally prepares for the vault. 

This is where knowing your audience comes into play. 

There’s a popular quote in pole vault that goes like this: “Pole Vault is 80% Mental and the Rest is in Your Head”. 

That became a very popular quote picture on our Instagram page, so I knew this would be something everyone would resonate with. 

Once I had transcribed the video, I formatted it into a lead magnet that looked like this: Sam Kendrick’s 3 Secrets On Being Mentally Prepared to Jump

Once I had released this lead magnet, the people who really wanted to learn about pole vault came out and signed up. 

Finally, I had some people who were interested and curious about pole vault.