Instagram has become a business hub and marketing tool that can help you, as an entrepreneur working anywhere in the world, expand your influence far and wide. Take the example of a rabid basketball fan and amateur player I know.
Eliot Robinson (@eliot) is a social media influencer and entrepreneur who started the online basketball community Dunk (@dunk) on Instagram. In the past year, he initiated a movement on Instagram that now involves tens of thousands of people, gathered together under the simple symbol of a ✪. Too simple to be true? It wasn’t!
Growing up, Robinson told me, he realized — as do so many other young men — that he was never going to make it to the NBA. Like many of us, too, he used social media as an emotional outlet for his disappointment.
That’s how he began posting about his beloved sport — to help him cope with this new truth about his future with the game; and as his page started to grow, he decided to work toward Instagram verification, proof that the poster is a public figure, celebrity or global brand.
Posting was not simply a means for Robinson to validate his successes, but a way to reach more people, stand out and make better business connections online. Still, Robinson wanted more: He needed more than just external validation. So, he started the “star” movement.
He began putting a star ✪ next to his name and sending the symbol out to friends and people he knew personally, asking them to do the same. He shared the message that by placing this star in their Instagram bios, other people could join a community of those who believe that everybody is a star in their own way.
Before he knew it, others were intrigued, wanted to know more and asked to use the symbol on their own profiles as well. Robinson even got star NBA players, past and present, to follow his page: People like Russell Westbrook, Lebron James, Chris Paul, Shaquille O’Neal and Dennis Rodman began to follow him.
Of course there were also plenty of followers who weren’t anywhere near those players’ level. But that was okay: Robinson’s idea was to make everyone feel like a “superstar” and show them they didn’t, and don’t, need to be “verified” in order to be involved. Here are three tips Robinson, in an interview, offered for entrepreneurs to effectively market themselves or their business on social media, and gain a bigger presence:
1. Include everyone.
At the beginning of his star movement, Robinson initially felt his ego taking over; he thought about making his ✪ symbol exclusive. But, as he realized the positive message that could be spread through offering the symbol widely, he began his efforts to share it with everyone and anyone. “Society is continuously excluded on so many levels, and I just wanted to make them feel a part of something,” Robinson told me. He said he wanted to make people feel part of the community and to choose, themselves, whether they wanted to join.
The takeaway: By including diverse individuals through positive marketing strategies, you can take your reach and involvement tremendously higher. People will organically spread your movement when they feel that they are part of something larger.
2. Break the mold.
Break the pattern of social media norms and stay consistent, promoting positive energy in your movement. Robinson decided that Instagram (or any organization) didn’t need to validate his “superstarness,” and that pushed him to decide to make his own validation — both for himself and his online community.
Through positive interaction with those who participated, Robinson shared the wealth of his online presence with his followers. For example, when he saw someone put the star on his or her profile, he’d send a shout-out in his story.
The takeaway: By encouraging community involvement and promoting goodwill among those participating, Robinson saw his movement spread awareness among all of those involved. Entrepreneurs can apply this to their businesses themselves and aim for an interactive social experience.
3. Keep it simple.
When starting a movement, make sure it is simple enough so that everyone can join in with minimal effort. Find something that will not only get people excited to join, but will also make them feel good for doing so. Robinson, in our interview, brought up the example of the newly famous egg, “Eugene.” To gain the superstardoom, Eugene (or the people behind it, at least) perfectly utilized the three steps Robinson has described.
As a result, the title “most-liked Instagram post,” is now in the hands of a simple egg (having been ceded by billionaire celebrity Kylie Jenner). Eugene in a sense came to represent an “everyday” person. Proof? The egg post has reached almost 48.5 million likes, with more than 2.8 million comments, since its debut on January 4.
Takeaway: By marketing themselves and their products on social media platforms in a simple yet disruptive way, entrepreneurs can achieve greater success and create a more positive environment for their users.
4. Don’t give up.
When Robinson fell in love with basketball, one of his biggest dreams was crushed. However, he persisted and found a way to channel his passion for basketball … and never stop. When you first grow your own social media channel, you’ll find it extremely slow. You’ll barely have followers, likes and comments; and you’ll get lost trying to figure everything out.
But when you are consistent, things will slowly start to piece together. Someone might reach out, someone might share something you had on your channel, someone might even want to collaborate and help you grow. Who knows?
The takeaway: Your chances of getting that help will increase dramatically once you become consistent with what you are putting out. Start now, and even if nobody is watching, stay optimistic that somebody will, as you continuously post more and increase your chances of — finally! — being seen.