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Grow an Instagram following for your business: practical tips to put in place today

Don’t be left behind on social media. A Pyrmont boutique owner with more than 500,000 followers shares how to make Instagram work for your business.

St Frock boutique

Sandradee Makejev took a Bondi market stall and turned it into an online fashion empire with a $12 million-plus yearly turnover. She attributes much of the success of her company, St Frock, to a strong social media strategy.

She recently shared her Instagram tips and tricks for business at our Small Business Digital 101 seminar at Customs House.

Getting started

St Frock’s social channels are populated with beautiful imagery and amusing memes with strong customer engagement. But Sandradee said her initial efforts looked very different.

“I started with 10 really terrible images. The clothes were creased and not even hung on the hangers properly!”

St Frock uses studio imagery to promote new, best-selling, or pre-order products. “If you're starting out, try to take the best photos you can of your products with natural light on your phone or digital camera,” said Sandradee.
St Frock uses studio imagery to promote new, best-selling, or pre-order products. “If you're starting out, try to take the best photos you can of your products with natural light on your phone or digital camera,” said Sandradee.

Sandradee launched the St Frock Facebook page on a Sunday night in 2009. After posting a few images of her current market stall stock, Sandradee invited a few friends to like the page. The next morning she woke to $350 worth of orders. “I thought, ‘This is something, maybe I could turn it into a business.’”

Within 3 months, St Frock’s Facebook page had grown to more than 1600 fans. Sandradee quit her day job and focused on developing the e-commerce aspect of her fashion business. Within a year she had opened a bricks and mortar boutique in Pyrmont.

9 years on, St Frock has 556,000 Facebook fans and 62,000 Instagram followers. Sandradee says online sales supported by social activity is her biggest revenue driver.

“We had $100,000 in sales come through our bio link on Instagram, up 18% on the year before. It works because we’re creating fresh content and keeping the conversation going.”

Content tips

For anyone aspiring to build their own social channels for small business, Sandradree says it all comes down to good content.

St Frock’s social media posts are 50% product and 50% of what Sandradee calls ‘personality’ content.

These tend to be branded meme-type tiles. “Often these are regrammed by others which helps build our reach. We often see lots of likes and followers tagging their friends which is also great for brand awareness.”

She acknowledges that while this works for St Frock, the context mix would change according to the nature of your business. “If you’re an art gallery you may be able to get away with 95% product and 5% personality. But if you’re a renovator you might do 50% of your work and 50% inspo.”

The power of Instagram stories

St Frock uses Instagram Stories to create polls, trigger the audience to ask questions about its products and to show behind the scenes of the business. Sandradee also recommends the feature for market research.

“We’ll ask our stock buyers: what are the questions you would like to ask our customers?” said Sandradee.

Questions have included should we stock this product? Where would you wear this product? Would you wear this to the office or to drinks?

“We’ve been using polls to trigger great conversations,” she said.

Consistency, timing and learning

If you're starting out, Sandradee says you need to work out how many posts you can commit to a week and be prepared to constantly test and learn.

“It’s all about consistency and having a plan. If you can only do 3 posts a week you need to think about the 3 best pieces of content you can post every week. This will help your engagement and get your posts in front of your followers.”

She recommends businesses review their Instagram account at the end of each month to learn from analytics. “You take what works and repeat it slightly tweaking it a little bit going forward. Anything that didn’t work – make it redundant and move on.”

She also suggests using a website such as Schedugram to schedule your content in advance.

It can take a while to build an audience.

“Sometimes for your schedule going forward you may not feel like you are getting traction for a while but you’ll get a few small wins – a few extra comments here, a few likes there – try and use that information to learn from.”

Her number 1 tip is to never compare yourself to others and the size of their audiences.

“Don’t worry if your competitor has more likes or followers, you will get there. Just concentrate on bettering your own page, not bettering them.”

St Frock founder, Sandradee Makejev
St Frock founder, Sandradee Makejev

Sandradee’s Instagram success tips

  • Interact with other likeminded social accounts to build audience - like their content, comment on it. It will help build awareness about yourself and help you get noticed.
  • Make sure to respond to the comments you receive, don’t just like them - followers like to feel valued!
  • Watch your hashtags - make sure they are relevant to your post and that you don’t use too many.
  • Feel free to share your Instagram posts on Facebook - but don’t do it all the time. Some content won’t resonate with audiences on both channels.
  • Posts that have good engagement can be reused (just not straight away) - give it a good break between posts so you don’t become repetitive and tweak it to make it new.

Power up your business with our Reboot seminars for small business.

Published 24 August 2018, updated 29 February 2024