This weeks featured writer has co-founded 2 digital start ups and has made a name for himself in the digital marketing world through his work in podcasting, Instagram marketing, consulting and more. Carson Jones co-founded Podcast Influencer and has worked as an independent consultant on other high profile projects. He is also well known for his Instagram influencer expertise and is currently working on releasing an in depth guide to collaborations and organically growing your Instagram brand. We had a chance to ask him a few questions about the industry and get a few insights:
Q: Carson, you do a lot of different things but I know your main business is in podcast marketing. Why has podcasting exploded so much?
A: Podcasting has become the content outlet for busy people! We are constantly craving content and entertainment, but we don’t always have time to sit down and watch TV or consume a 20 minute YouTube video. Podcasting fills that void because it’s passive consumption. You can listen to a podcast while walking the dog, working out at the gym, driving to work, etc. Podcasting allows us to learn or be entertained, without sacrificing our productivity.
Q: That’s interesting! So how come podcast listeners are still so much smaller than other platforms?
A: The current state of podcasting is still so new! However, Edison recently reported an 84% year over year growth in podcast listening which is ground breaking for any industry. Every day, we are seeing huge media outlets investing millions of dollars into the production of their own internal podcasts because they realize their listeners are there! If you are still only relying on traditional media or even just Facebook/Instagram, you are missing a large portion of your audience.
Q: Let’s talk about Instagram, it seems to be the most popular platform but it also seems to be getting more difficult to break through. Is that an issue you see continuing?
A: Absolutely! People forget that Instagram is FREE, so of course it’s going to be difficult to break through. The platform is amazing for so many reasons and is reaching nearly 1 Billion users. Between that and all of the savvy marketers/bots on the platform, it makes it very difficult to break through.
Q: So, do we just try to find the next thing or is it possible to break through?
A: If you are an entrepreneur, business owner, blogger or anyone looking to create an online presence, it’s vital that you are on Instagram. Instagram’s discovery features through hashtags, locations and follower targeting still makes it the best organic platform. If you can find a way to navigate through all of the automation and show people that you are a real person, you can set yourself apart from the crowd.
Q: How do you do that then?
A: I recently wrote a few articles about Instagram marketing and am writing a manual on collaborations and organic growth. You have to show people that you are authentic. Comments like “Cool” and “Awesome,” or “hey I think we should work together, check out my page” are almost certainly scheduled posts where algorithms are specifically targeting your hashtags and leaving generic or lead driven comments. This may work on the average person, but any savvy marketer knows exactly what’s happening and you can actually lose the right people, instead of gaining them. However, because we have become used to seeing these automated comments, it opens the opportunity for real people to break through. For example, if you are a food blogger and a top influencer in your market posts a picture of their hummus plate from the trendy new Mediterranean place in town, a comment that reads “Wow this looks delicious, I was there last week and absolutely loved it. Have you tried their feta??” is much more likely to get a response than one that says “Wow, great post.” If you really want to break through, you have to find influencers within your niche and leave thoughtful responses on posts. Begin following top influencers in your niche and winning in the comments section. Follow likeminded users and make sure your content is great so that when people visit your page, they are compelled to hit the follow button. If you need a place to start, simply type in a hashtag that represents what your page is about. For example, the #entrepreneur hashtag will yield hundreds of thousands of people interested in entrepreneur/business content.
Q: How can businesses use Instagram to grow their business?
A: Business owners can use a similar strategy to target their customers through 1 on 1 communication, however I recommend business owners shift a small portion of their Google AdWords budget and run an influencer campaign. What is an influencer campaign?
When you partner with a person of influence in your market (local blogger) and run some sort of promotion or giveaway with their audience. These are effective because that local blogger has already built a large local following of your potential customers. There is a beauty and cosmetics company here locally that has started investing heavily in influencer collaborations. They have local bloggers in all the time to help curate more content and show potential customers how their treatments work with before/after photos, daily stories and influencer giveaways.
Recently, they did a giveaway where they gave away 50 free hair removal treatments through one of their preferred influencers who has over 25,000 loyal local followers. To some, 50 free treatments may seem like a loss or hardship on a local business, but not a business with vision and a confident product. Think of these 50 small treatments as lead generation and brand awareness! If 50 people come in the door, that’s 50 new people that didn’t know about your business before. Let’s say that 25 of those customers come in for the free treatment and don’t purchase anything else. You may take a small loss on those customers (time/resources), but consider that 15 more customers decide that they want to also get their legs zapped as well! Those 15 customers that you were able to upsell, now cover the 25 that only came in for the free treatment. Let’s also say the other 10 decide “well I’m here already, let’s get everything taken care of.” Now you have gained 50 new fans, most likely their emails (which you can market deals/offers to forever), word of mouth awareness, social media shares and you likely turned a profit from the customers that you were able to upsell! If you are wondering if this strategy is working, simply give the influencer a promo code that they can redeem online or in-store, so you can track how many people the influencer is bringing in. This is just one example of how you can leverage an Instagram following to drive real sales and awareness for your brand.
Q: What kind of content should businesses be posting to attract an audience?
A: Storytelling is so important in todays marketing world, because posting photos has such a low barrier to entry (meaning anyone can post a photo and put a nice filter). People want to see behind the curtain and find out who you or your brand really are! For example, a picture of your restaurant head chef that says “Here is our head chef John,” isn’t going to resonate as well as that same photo that says “John has been the head chef at Tortorellas pizza for 17 years! Want to know what makes our pizza so good? It’s the secret sauce! John’s grandmother grew up in Sicily making pizzas day and night for 30 years before her family came to America. The sauce recipe is written down on a tiny piece of paper that John keeps in the front pocket of his apron and refuses to show anyone.. in fact, if you ask to see to recipe, John will simply smile and say “If I told you.. I’d have to kill you” in the most playful tone.” Those sort of things help people connect your brand with the people behind it and believe it or not, the copy (caption) really does make a difference with Instagram and your consumer engagement. Great story telling isn’t a new thing, its simply become a lost art because we are so focused on the photo itself. It’s important to understand that the best way to separate your business/brand is to fill the void in the space. If you have a story to tell, and everyone does, then people will better relate to that story.
If you want to read more about Carson’s work with influencers, podcasting and other ventures, check out his website or tweet him @carsonjones1.
More about Carson Jones
Carson Jones is a digital entrepreneur who has successfully co-founded multiple digital start ups and is a published writer. His expertise includes podcasting, digital marketing, Influencer marketing and mental health.