Marketing Tips

Should You Do What Meta Recommends? Here’s What an OG Instagram Strategist Has to Say

May 7, 2024



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I'm Kara - the voice behind some of the brands you know and love (I know because I love them too!). I'm results-driven and ambitious, just like YOU.

Meet Kara

Have you been feeling frustrated with the ‘Gram lately? I know every single one of you are probably raising your hand right now. That is EXACTLY why I brought Ashley Watkins onto the podcast today. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know, I have had a love/hate relationship with Instagram. Like I am sure everybody else has. Should we be doing what Meta recommends now? Hear me out on this.

Ashley is the founder and owner of The Marketing Pros, a social media consultancy that specializes in helping entrepreneurs improve their organic conversion rates on Instagram. No chasing vanity metrics here! Her vision is to see all women entrepreneurs attracting aligned clients on social media without compromising their authenticity, values or mental health.

One of the things she says all the time is, “it’s not that serious”. I just LOVE that, don’t you? She also loves to dig into the data. She’s been in this business for over 12 years, and she really walks the walk when it comes to researching and developing buyer behavior based marketing strategies and is just super good at building community.

I adored our conversation and I did NOT hold back. I asked her the things we really want to know. Questions like, what does it take to really grow on Instagram now? What was your schedule like? How often should we REALLY be posting? What do you think about what Meta recommends? You guys, I asked ALL the things.

Okay, let’s get into it!

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Who is Ashley Watkins? 

Ashley is a digital marketing content strategist. Marketing on Instagram and Facebook for the last 12 years. Since it came out! She got her start as an entrepreneur and got clients primarily from Instagram. So over the years she perfected her strategies and now likes to say she specializes in conversions.

Ashley is not that person to just give a quick tip. She really wants you to be able to hit your marketing goals with your content. She has a passion for helping women without burning themselves out and losing themselves to the stress that can often come with it!

Now, let’s dive in!

How do you feel Instagram has changed over the last six months?

It’s interesting to watch because I love research, analyzing data and watching how people act, react and socialize on the app. I like watching the changes and the stuff people do, it’s very interesting to me.

What I’ve seen is posts get shared outside of your followers now. Which I know some people are very upset about because they want their followers to see their content. But for me, that is an opportunity to get in front of people that are not warm, who have not heard of me or have not seen me is very refreshing. Because I have an older account, it can be discouraging to see those numbers stay the same, so I like that change.

I tend to be more optimistic because I take a more scientific approach to marketing where I’m not saying it’s good or bad, I’m just observing it and then pivoting to get the benefit out of the change.

What are your thoughts on what’s working, versus what Meta recommends?

My ideology is that everything works. What I think the people at Meta are not taking into consideration when we talk about what Meta recommends is the capacity we business owners have to try out these different techniques. It’s a very big disconnect as far as what people are about to keep up with.

Recently, Adam Mosseri (head of Instagram) said if you post a lot you might lose some followers because people don’t want you to spam the feed, but over time you will gain more followers. Entrepreneurs are too emotional and impatient for that, and don’t want to see themselves lose. I’ve been around a long time so I’m used to the trends, and I look at the economics. If I were to try one of these suggestions they have, I will give myself three months to be in there and watch it play out.

I’m a marketer though, the average entrepreneur might not have the tools and systems set up to be able to execute, text, analyze or even sit and think about what’s going on. They are very much like, “I posted this, you told me to do it, so I better be getting some sales”. I like to set the expectation that they can either be up to the challenge, or measure what they can reasonably do and that changes they should expect to see.

What would you say is the biggest mistake people are making with Instagram?

There are so many mistakes people are making. One I will say is the mindset. I can tell when I work with someone that they don’t really think their content is going to do good or that they don’t think they can sell a high ticket offer. If you don’t think it’s going to work, think about how that’s coming out into your content, your voice and your messaging, how you show up, how consistent you are. You’re not going to even set up the systems if you don’t truly believe it’s going to be worth it.

I have a medium audience, some people think if I have a larger audience than them, it works for me but wonder if it work for them. That’s why I made the point of liking that content is being shared outside of your followers, because follower count no longer matters as much as the individual piece of content. People have to shift their mindset that the one piece of content could potentially reach a million people.

This is probably going to be a little bit of a hot take. I don’t necessarily believe in outsourcing your marketing. Because what you’re saying on video needs to be authentically you, a lot of entrepreneurs should be spending the majority of their time creating content and outsourcing the things that they CAN’T do.

But we do the opposite. We want a social media manager to look at a brand messaging guide and just do it. That’s the pill people don’t want to swallow. It needs to be you. There’s a lot of content out there, and you need to not worry about outsourcing it until you are golden on your messaging and you have your systems and SOP set up really well. People want to outsource the main message but that’s what builds your community, you can’t outsource that. That’s like sending somebody else to go date your husband!

You said what Meta recommends is posting three times. I don’t think about posting frequency. I’m always looking at my offers and looking what needs to be said. What does my audience need? What objections am I getting? What are people thinking about before they work with me? What do they need to learn about? So however many posts that it takes for me to get that across and maybe even repurpose some of it, then that’s my frequency.

I’m not freaking out if I don’t have exactly five posts because each post is intentional and that piece of content has its job that it needs to do. I don’t think in frequency, and I don’t think people should, even if they’re paying someone.

How do you suggest small business owners create a better relationship with Instagram? Do you have rules that you suggest for people that are starting out beyond what Meta recommends?

I feel like people should police their time on social media. I’ve accepted that i’m addicted to social media. However, I think that with your own content, you have to be strategic.

Sometimes people feel guilty because they’re spending 90% of their day consuming content and then you start to have a lot of shame and then your relationship becomes unhealthy because you feel like a failure to your business in some sort of way. Whereas, I realize that I’m going to be on there. So, I’m very intentional about making connections with people, DM-ing people, sending voice notes. I have more friends on social media than in real like because I treat it like a real social experience.

If you can organically combine the real you and the business you in some sort of way so that you’re not in this shame cycle. What helps is being very committed and disciplined about creating good content, setting your schedule, taking your time and writing content that you feel good about. Then you don’t feel guilty when you’re scrolling because you know you are putting our your best and also consuming content that you like. And that’s okay!

People feel bad if they are neglecting their stuff but then they are watching everyone else all day and it discourages them from creating content. Then if they keep going down that hole, they might not even want to do it anymore. There are people on Threads that are saying, “Instagram is giving them the ick”. When I see that, I think they’ve taken in more than they are giving back, or they don’t have a healthy relationship with it, so now it has become a negative for them and it doesn’t have to be.

How can we better evaluate if our content is good or not? What if we THINK our content is good?

I love research, and for everybody I work with, I always encourage them to do research. Not only for their audience, but even competitor research. It can be very eye opening to see what people are searching, what people are saying in a competitors comments, what your competitor is posting, because now you have a benchmark. When you’re in your head, you have what you think is a good idea but nobody asks you those questions, so how do you know that that’s what they want?

Even when I am stuck, I go and do some research. I even suggest people go on YouTube and look in the comments. Many times we try not to compete with people so we don’t want to look at what other people are doing. I didn’t say to compare yourself and make yourself feel bad. I said to look and do a competitive analysis so you can see where you can improve and then start showing up in more excellence.

I always tell people, a simple fix is to write your content from your heart and the way you talk. If you look at your content, you can tell that you may not be doing that. You may be over strategizing or overthinking it. If you take an objective look at your content compared to what you see out there and think is this really coming from my heart, how I feel, my true thoughts, does it really look like that? Most people would say no.

Most people know what they’re doing wrong, but what will they do to change that moving forward? What will they do either weekly in your habits when creating content to actually see the change? We’re really good at criticizing ourselves, but when it comes to changing something and not letting that turn into something you feel bad about, the action is not there. So just actually making the changes if you do notice them.

Are you a batching or posting in real time person? What does a week or month in the life look like for you?

This is random, but I try to batch, but whenever I make a random piece of content, it goes viral. It’s always the one I didn’t plan or think through. It was a random thought and it does well. When it comes to batching a lot of content in a day, I do it but it drains me.

What I prefer to do is go live on Instagram (which is what Meta recommends doing too!). because then I can save the video, I can share clips of it, I can share it in my feed and I’m killing so many birds with one stone. So on Tuesdays, if I have a little bit of makeup on, I will shoot a couple of reels and I will go live. That live is going to be my long form content that is going to eventually be something else. I’m going to chop it up and share it later as reels. And I do that weekly.

I know a lot of people aren’t going to relate to this, but I actually like going live. I could sit there talking to myself and going deep and I really don’t care if anybody is watching or not, because I’m already thinking, I’m going to use this regardless. And I find it flows better because it’s a conversation and then I’ll chop those up.

The people that are super organized creating 10 videos in one day and they change shirts and stuff. That’s not me because I have kids and a dog and my life is not going to allow me to batch for 10 hours. I think sometimes that can kill your creative flow too, because you’re trying to put out that amount of content.

I think people don’t realize how much you may have to work on your content every day, because it’s not like you can do it all on a Thursday. I’ve been trying to tell my audience not to beat themselves up that they can’t market a business to six or seven figures on a Thursday afternoon. It doesn’t work like that. If you have a robust strategy, you’re probably going to be looking at keywords, looking at data, some days we’re researching, saving sounds, shooting videos.

I want people, if nothing else, to grasp the concept that you may be doing something that has to do with content four or five days out of the week. And that is where we are. You can put systems to it and there’s things that can make it easier, but I’m doing something that has to do with content most days out of the week.

Do you prepare for your lives in advance? Do you come up with a training for your lives, or is it more of an ask me anything style?

I definitely prepare. My specialty is curating topics, so those topics should be warming up your audience or maybe for a cold audience. I approach organic marketing, sort of the way you do ads, and I feel like you should have a couple of bullets. You don’t have to have the whole thing planned out, but the better you plan it, and organize it, makes it easier to edit.

I need to be organized and stay on track, because especially if you hire someone else to edit it later, it’s going to be crazy for them to try to edit if you freestyle it. But I do like doing Q and A’s. I also do feel being in the stories helps too because people forget you can save those archived stories and share them as reels as well.

Last question, what do you suggest for people who want to get in front of new audiences?

My new favorite thing is talking about trends that are in your industry. For instance, you work in Pinterest, you could talk about Pinterest as a company, or a bigger brand doing well with a green screen, or something that would just get you a lot of reach because the topic is broad and relatable. It’s sort of like a collaboration, without a collaboration. You’re just talking about something that’s trending, big or popular in your industry.

This is my new “reach” pillar, because every piece of content has that purpose. If that gets you in front of a ton of people, then maybe later you need to nurture them and have other types of content out there.

Another one, because you can’t always predict how a reel does, is that I will go live with someone that shares the same audience as me. I also like to do live series, so I get my audience really into it. If I’m having a special guest 5 Fridays in a row, they are happy because they don’t have to get on my email list (or receive an email) to come watch it. It’s just right on Instagram. That way, you get to share audiences with people, and then if you schedule it in advance, you can also promote it to your audience and they promote it to their audience.

That’s very intentional because you’re in front of a niched audience depending on who the specialist is, and you get in front of not “just new people”, but new people that could be potential leads for you down the line (unlike the trending reel idea above). With that one, you’re going to get in front of a lot of people, but you’re not sure if they’re actually qualified to work with you. So, if you pick someone from an adjacent field to go live and collaborate with and maybe even build a referral relationship with them, you have a much more curated audience that you’re going to be in front of.

Thank you to Ashley for breaking down social media marketing strategies with us today!

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I'm Kara - the voice behind some of the brands you know and love (I know because I love them too!). I'm results-driven and ambitious, just like YOU.

Meet Kara