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EPISODE 58 46 mins

How Yacht Harbour grew from 0 to 42,000 Instagram followers in 12 months

Posted on 17th January 2016 ,
by Kunle Campbell


About the guests

Dimitri Semenikhin

Kunle Campbell

Dimitri is the founder of Yacht Harbour - an online portal for buying, selling and renting Yachts. He is also published science fiction author.



I am super excited to introduce my youngest guest on the show so far. Dimitri Semenikhin is a highly talented 19 year old entrepreneur. Last year he founded and launched Yacht Harbour, a yacht listing portal. In just 12 months Yacht Harbour has grown their database to 1,300 yachts worth a combined $6 billion, along with an incredible 42,100 followers on Instagram.

Yacht Harbour’s social media reach is well over half a million users monthly. And while being quick to jump on new channels as they arise, Instagram remains their biggest channel of success to the business.

In this episode of the 2X eCommerce Podcast Show, Dimitri shares his expertise, experience, and formulas for starting and growing your Instagram account successfully.

We cover Yacht Harbour’s timeline of growth and the steps to you need to take to have your account followed by key influencer accounts. We also get practical about the real time investment that is required in particular when starting an account. And then we go into the finer details of publishing content and frequency of posts to maximize your follower retention. Dimitri furthermore covers all our bases in regards to paid influencer content and the option of advertising.

If you are serious about starting or growing your Instagram account to raise brand awareness for your business, then the tips and insights shared by Dimitri in this episode will definitely launch you in the right direction.

Key Points in Instagram Account Creation and Growth Success

yacht harbour instagram

1: We grew in one year from 0 to 42,000 followers on Instagram by:

  • Getting There First: When we started the Instagram accounts, the yachting industry hadn’t migrated to the social platform yet. Our competition was mostly nonprofessional influencers that had large followings, but weren’t regarding it as a business.
  • Engaging With Influencers: We reached out to those influencer Instagram profiles to raise brand awareness. Writing comments I think is a good way to start out because it puts emphasis on the brand. And that’s easier for the yachting business than other industries because when you’re sharing beautiful images there’s naturally more engagement.
  • And then we just reached out also to all the key people and key brands that were already on there so that they would Follow us. So at that point if anyone with an interest in yachts was looking at who others involved were already following, we were right there on each list.
  • Building Our Target Client Base: One problem we had was that these influencer accounts mainly had followers from yachting enthusiast, who were not exactly our target client base, but we still had to build the following so we started off with that. And at that point Instagram hadn’t gone so popular as it is now, so their followings were smaller than ours is today. It was about 5,000 people, maximum 10,000 people in those accounts. And a lot of them died since, so we had to look for new ones every time. So we also had to ensure that the smaller accounts with our target client base, especially accounts from shipyards or brokerage agencies that weren’t very active, all followed us because they had our particular client base as followers.
  • The way the yachting industry works is that the marketing of the vessels is a done by central listing agents similar to the real estate agencies where they have one broker representing them and then they are in charge of their marketing. We have developed several applications to help accelerate that process for the brokers. The way we monetize for now is through advertising, both on social and web. Today we have 1,300 yachts in our database which are worth a combined $6 billion. At this point we’ve past the breakeven point about six months into running it, so in terms of revenue we’re probably for this year around the $40-50,000.

2: Managing Yacht Harbour Channels

Managing Social Media Accounts: The Instagram account I do myself because it doesn’t actually take so much time now is did before. With regards to the other social networks, our news editors handle that part.

Maximising Additional Marginal Channels

I think Instagram is definitely the biggest channel in terms of direct impact because it generates a lot of brand awareness. But we’ve also tried to go for different marginal channels to expand on that.

  1. With a search engine called DuckDuckGo, we have a partnership with them that for all yacht queries, there’s an instant response that appears on top of search results which links back to us.
  2. Each time there’s a new social network or something picking up, we always have to be the first ones there. For example, when Periscope the streaming app launched we picked up I think 50,000 Likes in the first two days.
  3. GooglePlus also is a big channel for us even though a lot of brands have written it off as a failure.

Key Performance Indicator of Channels:

We’re consumer-faced, so the key indicator for us is not how many brokers sign up, which is a consequence of the deal flow and traffic, but how many leads are sent out from the platform to those brokers.

3: Growing Your Instagram Account

Key Tips For Driving Growth On Your Instagram Account:

  1. Have a Good Account: If you post only promotional stuff of yourself it’s never going to work, people will never subscribe to see only advertising. You need to figure out ways to have news or updates about something else, or maybe creative ways to promote your brand.
  2. Time Investment: You need to realize for yourself how much are you willing to invest in it, because it’s a myth that social media is free: it’s not. You need to spent time or hire someone that will spend time on this, because it’s very time-consuming.
  3. Paid Advertising Alternative: In some instances paying for advertising is actually more beneficial because for example, now Instagram offers the opportunity to advertise directly on the platform. So if there’s something strategical that you only need to do one-off, you may not need to build a following straight away but you can just pay for those clicks because it can be cheaper than building out a following, especially if you don’t need it daily. With paid advertising you can actually even get the cost-per-click for Instagram. Otherwise on Instagram there’s no direct links so it’s very hard to measure the impact it has. It’s actually only by talking to those people or tracking conversions on posting times that you can sort of figure out a little bit about its effect.
  4. Influencers: Get key people following you, and I don’t mean people that have very large followings, but people that don’t follow a lot of accounts. Because that’s where you can get organic followers. For example there’s a lot of people who have a million followers, 8 million, hundreds of thousand, that are following only a select few accounts, maybe 50-100. And there’s a lot of people who just go through those lists to see who they’re following. And if you’re on those lists, it’s similar to an organic search to linkable assets.

Steps to Get Followed By Influencers

It’s difficult of course, it takes time. I mean some of the biggest people that are following us right now, we’ve done nothing to reach them particularly. They just discovered the content through an accumulation effect of everyone in the yachting industry following us and then they just, when they see it a few times then they follow themselves. But it definitely takes a few months to get a few of those people.

  1. Create a Quality Account: Like I said before, first you need to have a quality account before trying to reach out to key influencers. You definitely need to have at least a month of content to go for that.
  2. You need to have at least 1,000 followers first, because people tend to sign up more easily when they see that is it’s a followed account.
  3. After that you need to engage with them, you need to comment on their pictures, maybe get to someone they’re following post one of your pictures with a link back.

Get key people following you, and I don’t mean people that have very large followings, but people that don’t follow a lot of accounts.

Specifics on Time Investment and Effort Requirements

  1. It definitely takes a lot of time. When we were starting, we were spending 4-5 hours a day because when you start it’s not like you can do it for 4-5 hours a day for a couple of days and then stop. Because people monitor at such an early stage if you’re committed to that or not.
  2. I think something that’s undervalued is effort. Because we see a lot of spammy comments like, ‘we have the best furniture or luxury items,’ and that is just not something people react to. You need to tailor each comment to the place where you’re posting it, you need to message those people, pick engaging content. So I think at least 4 hours a day for the first month.

    You need to realize for yourself how much are you willing to invest in it, because it’s a myth that social media is free: it’s not.

  3. Right now, I will still spend I think an hour and a half minimum. So you know it still takes time, just less but it still takes time because you need to respond to all those people that are messaging you, keep posting good content, keep up with competitors. And if your account slows down on growth, people notice it too so it’s sort of like running a public company because now all this data is public for analytics tools. So you need to outperform yourself every month.
  1. Growth Rate: We took a month to get to 1,000 followers, then six months to get to 10,000. And then for the last six months ago on about on average 4000 followers a month. We needed quality followers, if you just get in the general industry, it’s faster than that. But it takes time to start those effects of exponential growth.

Posting: Content and Frequency

  • Monitoring Images: Since we deal a lot on our website with this, we do have a lot of images from brokers and also photographers who send them directly to us to get featured. But we still need to filter for a lot of them, we need to look at them, sort of monitor engagement. I think we know from the first half hour how well a post is doing, and it’s happened that we removed some images before because they were performing poorly. The general rule of thumb we use is that in the first half-hour it needs to get 300 likes. If it doesn’t, then it’s sort of an indicator that that’s something that’s not for our audience. It happens only maybe once a month that we remove an image, and it minimizes the risk of first of new subscribers unsubscribing.

Experiment with Frequency vs Retention Rate:

  1. Right now we tend to do about four times a day because that’s a rhythm that we found was best for retention rate. We’ve gone through a trial and error process so there were times when we would experiment with posting one time a day too, or 10, which is the other extreme, to sort of find out what was the best rate.
  2. There’s a lot research that shows that if you post more often, the posts would be performing less well but the traffic and the engagement you can get is higher. But that depends a lot on the industry you know, in the high-end sector you need to maintain the client base, so you can’t afford to have a smaller client base responding more. For more general audiences I think it’s better to post six times a day.
  3. We publish with time intervals that can vary sometimes. Mostly in the morning and in the afternoon, from kind of the period from 4 to 9 pm is where we see the highest engagement.

Trial and Error at the Start:

When you’re starting out, the advantage you have is when you post something no one cares, so you can go for trial-error process. We can’t do that anymore because if we you know post stuff that turns out to be bad or behaviors tend to be worse, that is going to have an impact. This is more like the lean startup philosophy where it’s better to launch straight away and get feedback than to prepare for months an account with content and then no one cares. It’s better to find out straight away what people are thinking and if they want to see those pictures.

Paying an Influencer to Publish Your Content:

We’ve never paid for anyone to do that because there’s a lot of people that just repost our pictures and news organically. But that’s definitely something that a lot of people do and I think if you’re going to do that, then:

  1. It needs to be an account at least the size of ours. So you know, it takes time, there’s no shortcuts.
  2. You need to see how effective it is, because there’s a lot of accounts with a lot of followers that just bought them so, they’ve no real traction. If you’re serious about doing this, you need to use monitoring tools to find out their growth rate and if they gained 200,000 followers in a month, that’s clearly fake.
  3. Only use verified accounts because if you don’t, it could just damage your personal accounts.
  4. Run tests on the customer acquisition costs because advertising can be a cheaper option, depending on the sector. For the yachting sector it’s not because to gain reach to those followers you’d pay a lot more than for our pages but for some industries it’s cheaper, so you need to run tests on the customer acquisition costs.

Photo quality = Account Quality = Readership

Photo quality definitely plays a major role in the quality of your account, and the quality of your account is the key aspect of gaining followers. Because accounts that don’t have high-quality ultimately don’t build a large follower base, people don’t have the incentive to follow you. And for us, Yacht Harbour behaves in a lot of ways like a media company so we need to have this readership. But some accounts don’t. If you need to promote specifically one picture and sell it, maybe the best way is not to build your account but to go for influencers, so that they can market it direct, that’s an option as well.

Notes on Photo:

  1. It needs to be high-quality. There’s a lot of people posting low-resolution images and it just doesn’t work.
  2. It needs to have the appropriate size, because you need to fill out the whole screen, which for some reason not everyone does.
  3. We’ve seen a correlation between the amount of light in the picture and the amount of engagement it gets. Darker images tend to get less engagement.

4: Instagram Tools + Parting Advice

Tools:

  1. There is range of free apps which I don’t recall the names but they just show basic metrics. If you’re really serious about building Instagram profiles, there’s a series of websites that provide the analytics. One option is Iconosquare.
  2. To really get professional account development, we use the SocialRank. And basically that can show you the most valuable followers of any account. It takes a lot of time to process the data, but for example you can get to any competitor accounts and find out what those influencers are and the most valuable people that need to follow you right now. But that’s a pricier solution; it costs $3,000 a month.
  3. And then we also use Minter, which is a more open solution but there’s more analytics there.
  4. But you know I think it’s just in a matter of time before Instagram opens an analytics API. They have to in some regards, all the other platforms have them. And when this happens, Instagram marketing points get a lot harder. Because for now you know, I think it’s definitely harder but it’s still possible to build Instagram followings. Whereas on some platforms, it’s not anymore. I mean Facebook right now, to build an organic reach in Facebook it’s not a good strategy. But going through paid Facebook advertising, that’s a cheaper option than Adwords that not a lot of people are using.
  5. We post from the mobile app because we want to get the same feeling as the user. Because the moment you start automating it, going through publishing backend, I have the feeling that you sort of lose the feeling that the readership has, which is going through the app.

Parting Advice:

I think you need to consider the possibility of really investing in it, because social media is not free. A lot of people want to build out their social media accounts but they’re not properly investigating it. And that’s something you need to keep in mind, you to figure out what’s the time or the monetary cost that you’re willing to invest in it.

Key Takeaways

(02:00) Introducing Dimitri Semenikhin

(06:40) Yacht Harbour and Instagram Account Growth:

(12:44) Managing Yacht Harbour Channels

(15:33) Growing Your Instagram Account:

(26:50) Posting: Content and Frequency

(37:30) Instagram Tools + Parting Advice


Transcript

Kunle: Hello! I'm super excited to introduce today's guest he's my first non e-commerce guest in the traditional sense of e-commerce, just due to the fact that his website does not have a shopping cart. But he has a lot to share today with us about influencer marketing on Instagram, how they've managed to build their Instagram account to 42,100 followers and counting. They're into brokering yachts. They're a yacht listing or portal and it's been around since 2014. He's a 20 year-old entrepreneur all born in Moscow raised in Monaco. He's currently in London as a student while running a business with five staff in London and in Monaco and in Russia. And the social media reach every month is more than half a million, they reach out to more than a half-million people every month on social media. So without further ado, I'd like to welcome to the show Dimitri Semenikhin. Welcome to show, Dimitri.

Dimitri: Thank you, thank you.

Kunle: Brilliant. I've said a bit about you but I think you'd be the best person to tell us about yourself so could you take a minute or two to just tell listeners some more about you?

Dimitri: Yeah, sure. So as you said, I was born in Russia, moved to Monaco when I was four. Finished high school here, so that's where the yachting side comes from. And then I moved to London to study mathematics at King's College. And I have been there for two years.

Kunle: That's brilliant. So where are you now at the moment, are you in London or in Monaco?

Dimitri: Right now I'm in London.

Kunle: Okay, and how often do you commute between London and Monaco?

Dimitri: Well, between London, Monaco, and Moscow I think a few times a month.

Kunle: Wow. That's a lot of mileage. Yeah, so another quite interesting thing about your profile is you have authored how many books?

Dimitri: Five.

Kunle: Five. And are they business books, are they... [laughs] ...what genre?

Dimitri: They're actually science fiction books.

Kunle: Wow, that's quite interesting. Why... what's your fascination with science fiction? And please tell us a bit about your books.

Dimitri: Well I actually... the first book was published when I was 12 years old.

Kunle: [laughs] Okay.

Dimitri: So at that time I had much more free time, so I had to do something and the options are limited you know when you're 12 years old - you can't build a company, you have to do something else. So that's why I started writing and because I liked the genre as well. So the first four of them were in French and the fifth one was in English, and I think it ranked for a month or a bit more on the Amazon top hundred list.

Kunle: Not bad, not bad. Where, on Amazon UK or USA?

Dimitri: UK.

Kunle: UK. That is not bad at all. Because I was going to ask you about the language and what did you write it in, because from your LinkedIn profile I see you're bilingual in Russian, English, French and you speak professional Italian and a bit of Greek?

Dimitri: Yes, that's right.

Kunle: Interesting. Very, very interesting. So from a background standpoint, are any members of your family entrepreneurial, in a sense? Are you the first entrepreneur or do you come from a family of entrepreneurs?

Dimitri: My father runs a big construction company in Moscow, Russia. And my mother runs an art foundation in Moscow as well. And before that it's mostly academics and scientists.

Kunle: Interesting, interesting, interesting. Okay, now you're 20 years old?

Dimitri: 19.

Kunle: You're 19. Wow, okay, interesting. Okay, right and when did you start the business, Yacht Harbour?

Dimitri: So, we started in December of last year, so we've been running it for a year now.

Kunle: Okay, so from December to this year, for one year. And in 12 months, pretty much, you've been able to get 42,000 followers on Instagram. What has been your most effective means of marketing for Yacht Harbour?

Dimitri: Well, the first thing is you have to get there early. When we started the Instagram accounts, the yachting industry hadn't migrated to the social platform yet. So the only competition we had were mostly nonprofessional influencers that had large followings but they weren't regarding it as a business, so they were less invested in that. And from that you know, we had to reach out to their Instagram profiles. Writing comments I think is a good way to start out because it puts emphasis on the brand. That, for the yachting business, you know it's something that's easier than in other industries because you're sharing beautiful images, so there's more engagement. And then we just reached out also to all the key people and key brands that were already on there so that they would Follow us. So that basically each person that has an interest in yachts just at that point looks at who others involved were already following and we were on each list. So that definitely helped in the beginning.

Kunle: Okay. Okay, so let's take a few steps back with regards to when you started. So you started in December of 2014 right...

Dimitri: Yes.

Kunle: And the first thing you did was to identify influencers and most of them were hobbyist, probably yacht bloggers and people who just like yachts and were building up their Instagram followers. Now, what kind of followers did these yacht influencer accounts have when you first got into Instagram?

Dimitri: So yeah, the first problem was that these people mainly had followers from yachting enthusiast, not exactly our target client base, but we still had to build the following so we started off with that. I think at that point Instagram hadn't gone so popular as it is now, so their followings were smaller than ours is today. It was about 5,000 people, maximum 10,000 people in those accounts. So we had... a lot of them died since, so you know we had to look for new ones every time. And making sure the smaller accounts that were target ones, especially from shipyards or brokerage agencies that weren't very active, all followed us because they had the particular client base.

Kunle: Okay, okay, And I want to be clear with regards to your business... so with you with Yacht Harbour, how do you guys monetize, how do you make money off the back of Yacht Habour? You have a huge database, I think the total value of yachts on your database is to the tune of $5 billion. So how many yachts are in your database and how are you monetizing this data has a business?

Dimitri: Right, so right now there's 1,300 yachts in our database which are worth a combined $6 billion.

Kunle: Six billion, okay.

Dimitri: And the way we monetize for now through advertising, both on social and web. And then we're going to develop new features as well as the future to help in that regard.

Kunle: Okay, okay. And would you mind sharing what kind of revenue you've done in the first year of business?

Dimitri: Well, at this point we've past the breakeven point about six months into running it, so in terms of revenue we're probably for this year around the 40-50,000 so that's sort of the range in which we're at now.

Kunle: Okay, okay. 40-50,000… dollars, euros, pounds?

Dimitri: Dollars.

Kunle: Dollars, okay. Right, and from what you guys, from advertising, are you advertising on behalf of the owners? Is that how you're getting revenue, off the back of the owners or?

Dimitri: No. So, the way the yachting industry works is that the marketing of the vessels is a done by central listing agents similar to the real estate where they have one broker representing them and then they are in charge of their marketing.

Kunle: Okay. Okay, so the brokers are actually bringing in their portfolio of yachts and then when you get to deal with a broker you then, so he may have or she may have 100 yachts to sell and you bring their portfolio on there. Is that kind of like the case?

Dimitri: Yes, yes that's sort of... and then we have developed several applications to help accelerate that process.

Kunle: Okay. Okay, now with regards to the Instagram do you manage Instagram yourself or do you have a team of people who manage the Instagram account?

Dimitri: So for the Instagram account I do it myself because it doesn't actually take so much time now is did before. But with regards to the other social networks, that's our news editors that handle that part.

Kunle: Okay. And what's been the most effective channel on for you as a business that's driven the most amount of revenue, direct revenue, what's the most important channel you've tapped into in the last one year?

Dimitri: I think Instagram is definitely the biggest one in terms of direct impact because it generates a lot of brand awareness. But we've also tried to go for different marginal channels to expand on that. For example with a search engine called DuckDuckGo, we have a partnership with them that for all yacht queries, there's an instant response that appears on top of search results which links back to us. Then you know, each time there's a new social network or something picking up, we always have to be the first ones there. For example, when Periscope the streaming app launched we picked up I think 50,000 Likes in the first two days.

Kunle: Okay, okay.

Dimitri: But then kind of the platform as a whole started being so popular, so we've kind of slowed down on that as have all other people just because there's no interest there. But GooglePlus also has a big channel for us even though there's a lot of brands that have written it off as a failure.

Kunle: Okay, from a traffic standpoint or customers? Because at the end of the day, how do you measure returns? It's probably off the back of contracts you sign with brokers who list on the site. So the key thing is... so what's the key performance indicator in the business? Is it kind of like traffic you're getting into the site?

Dimitri: Well, we're consumer-faced you know, so the key indicator for us is not how many brokers sign up, which is a consequence of the deal flow and traffic, but how many leads are sent out from the platform to those brokers.

Kunle: Okay did you make a commission of the back of any completed sales or are you purely a listing?

Dimitri: No, we don't make a commission. We work on the marketing fixed costs.

Kunle: Okay, okay. Makes sense, make sense. Okay so, getting into Instagram as a channel, as your most important marketing channel, what top tips do you have or have you realized in the last 12 months of growing your Instagram following to over 40,000 followers? What are the key things, if you could sort of give a number of key...you know, we've this number of things to our Instagram to kind of grow it, what would they be?

Dimitri: Well, the first think you need to do is to have a good account, because if you post only promotional stuff of yourself it's never going to work. People will never subscribe to see only advertising, so you need to figure out the way to have news or updates about something else, or maybe creative ways to promote your brand, that's also an option. Then I think you need to realize for yourself how much are you willing to invest in it, because it's a myth that social media is free, it's not. Only the opportunity. Cost is quite high because you need to spent time or hire someone that will spend time on this, because it's very time-consuming. In some instances paying for advertising is actually more beneficial because for example, now Instagram offers the opportunity to advertise directly on the platform. So if there's something strategically that you only need to do one-off, you may not need to build a following straight away but you can just pay for those clicks because it can be cheaper than building out a following, especially if you don't need it daily.

Kunle: And there's the direct response aspect, because when you're buying the traffic or advertising you could easily measure its impact. Okay.

Dimitri: Yeah. Definitely because on Instagram as you know, there's no direct links so it's very hard to measure the impact on it. It's actually only by talking to those people or tracking conversions on posting times that you can sort of figure out a little bit how is has in effect. But for paid advertising you can actually even get the cost-per-click for Instagram.

Kunle: Okay, okay, okay. So you talked about the time investment with Twitter (Instagram), having quality posts and the fact that you should actually if possible experiment with paid. Are there any other core tips that have driven the growth, significantly driven the growth for the account for Yacht Harbour?

Dimitri: Well, you need to get key people following you, and I don't mean people that have very large followings, but people that don't follow a lot of accounts. Because for example there's a lot of people who have a million followers, 8 million, hundreds of thousand, that are following only a select few accounts, maybe 50-100. And there's a lot of people who just go through those lists to see who they're following. And if you're on those lists, it's like you know it's similar to search, an organic search to linkable assets. Because that's places where you can get sort of organic number of followers.

Kunle: Gotcha, gotcha. Makes sense. That makes a lot of senses, because, I don't know,Rihanna for instance is probably following 50 people as you said and you happen to be on that list... Given the fact that she's got millions of followers basically, there's just a tendency that's a certain fraction on her followers will just naturally want to follow all the accounts she's followed just due to the fact of her influence. That makes a lot of sense. Okay. All right. So with regards to Yacht Harbour, how did you find these accounts that have huge followership and don't follow that much, and how did you get on their list? How did you get them to follow you?

Dimitri: Well, you can't exactly start by doing this. Like I said before, first you need to have a quality account. Then you need to have some sort of, I think at least the first thousand people, because people tend to sign up more easily when they see that is it's a followed account. And then you know you need to engage with them, you need to comment on their pictures, maybe get to have someone they're following post one of your pictures with a link back. It's difficult of course, but it takes time. I mean some of the biggest people that are following us right now, we've done nothing to reach them particularly. They just discovered the content through an accumulation effect of everyone in the yachting industry following us and then they just, when they see it a few times then they follow themselves. But it definitely takes a few months to get a few of those people. I mean right now there's people that have millions of followers that are following us so for us it's easier to get discovered. But if you're starting out an account, you definitely need to have at least a month of content to go for that.

Kunle: Okay. And how much to time did you spend? You said more recently you don't spend as much time on your Instagram as you used to. So if we rewind back to December of 2014, January of 2015 and February - the first three months of 2015 when you started, how much time were you putting on a daily basis? Because one thing I'm kind of thinking about is, you talk about commenting and engaging. That takes quite a lot of time going through all the feeds and like that. So how much time, on a daily basis how much time did you spend on Instagram?

Dimitri: It definitely takes a lot of time. I think when we were starting it we were spending 4-5 hours a day because it was important for us to get... and you know once you start it's not like you can do it for 4-5 hours a day for a couple of days and then stop because people monitor at such an early stage if you're committed to that or not. I think that something that's undervalued is effort. Because we see a lot of spammy comments even on our account now, like, 'we have the best furniture or luxury items,' and that is just not something people react to. You need to tailor each comment to the place where you're posting it, you need to message those people, pick engaging content. So I think at least 4 hours a day for the first month.

Kunle: Wow. And, wow, so that's a lot of time commitment and lot of listeners will be thinking about what the returns are. But I was just speaking to somebody yesterday and we were talking about terms some businesses that require a lot of upfront work at the start where you put in a lot of work at the start and after a period of time it just starts to sustain itself as a living organism, really. It just starts to work itself and the amount of effort required to make it generate money just minimizes over time. So I suppose with Instagram it's the same thing, 4 hours a day for the first three months is a significant amount of time so let's fast forward to today. How many hours do you spend on a daily basis now on the account?

Dimitri: I will still spend I think an hour and a half minimum.

Kunle: Still a lot. [laughs]

Dimitri: So you know it still takes time, just less but it still takes time because you need to respond to all those people that are messaging you, you need to keep posting good content, keep up with competitors. So you know there's... and if your account slows down on growth, people notice it too so it's sort of like running a public company because now all this data is public for analytics tools. So for example if for 3 months you gained 5000 followers a month and then you drop to 2500, people notice it, they say you know they're slowing down. So you need to outperform yourself every month.

Kunle: Okay so what has been the growth like I'm in terms of follow acquisition from... could you share what the growth over the last 12 months has looked like? If you have the data, how to did you kind of grow from 0 to 42,000?

Dimitri: Right, so for the first few months we've taken like a month to get to 1,000 followers, then six months to get to 10,000 and then...

Kunle: Six months to get to 10,000. Wow.

Dimitri: Yeah because we needed quality followers. If you just get in the general industry, it's faster than that. And then for the last six months ago on about on average 4000 followers a month.

Kunle: Wow, okay, okay. So it started to exponentially grow by month seven, eight, and nine. That's quite interesting.

Dimitri: Yeah, yeah, it takes that time. That's what i was mentioning before, it takes time to start those effects. And you know especially for us in the yachting industry, it's a fairly limited market because there's not that much high-value clients yet, because that's who we need to reach. But for more general brands they are selling direct to consumers without such high costs, it can definitely be quicker. But the time investments is there too.

Kunle: Okay. Two things: let's talk about content and let's talk about frequency of publishing. So starting out with content... I'm on your page right now, on the Instagram page, you've got lovely, lovely photographs. I suppose these are photographs directly from your website or do you have to hire a photographer to produce these images or are these straight from your website?

Dimitri: Right, so since we deal with our website a lot with this, we do have a lot of images from brokers and also photographers who send them directly to us to get featured.

Kunle: Okay, okay.

Dimitri: But we still need to filter for a lot of them, we need to look at them, sort of monitor engagement. I think we know from the first half hour how well a post is doing, and it's happened that we removed some images before because they were performing poorly.

Kunle: I see, I see, so sometimes you just pull stuff out. At what point in time... sorry, at this point I'm on your page, on the first two pages and every single post has 600 or more likes, right. So on that basis, if you posted today one image and... Sorry, my question is if you posted today, what sort of pointers would let you that this post is not going to perform to the quality you wanted and when would you take it off?

Dimitri: Well so the general rule of thumb we use is that in the first half-hour it needs to get 300 likes.

Kunle: Wow, okay.

Dimitri: And that if it doesn't, then it's sort of an indicator that that's something that's not for our audience. It happens very rarely, I think we need to do it only maybe once a month we have such an occurrence, but when it does it's better to remove content that's performing poorly because that way you're reducing the risk of first of new subscribers unsubscribing.

Kunle: Okay, okay. That makes sense, that makes a lot of sense. Okay now let's talk about frequency. How often do you publish photographs or videos to your Instagram page?

Dimitri: So right now we tend to do about four times a day because that's a rhythm that we found was best. But there's a lot research that shows that actually if you post more often, the posts would be performing less well but the traffic and the engagement you can get is higher. But that depends a lot on the industry you know, in the high-end sector you need to maintain the client base, so you can't afford to have a smaller client base responding more. But for more general audiences I think it's better to post six times a day.

Kunle: Six times a day. Okay, okay, so with regards to your situation where you post four times a day, has this always been the case?

Dimitri: No, we've gone through a trial and error process so there were times when we would experiment with posting one time a day too, or 10, which is the other extreme, to sort of find out what was the best rate. And that was definitely the one that had the better retention.

Kunle: Okay. What does your daily schedule look like? Are you publishing all four to go, or do you sort of do it every six hours?

Dimitri: So we publish with time intervals that can vary sometimes. Mostly in the morning and in the afternoon, from kind of the period from 4 to 9 pm is where we see the highest engagement.

Kunle: Okay, when people are awake. Okay, right. What about, what's your advice for personal... have you got a personal account yourself on Instagram?

Dimitri: Yeah, I do but I don't...well I use it sometimes but...

Kunle: Not very often.

Dimitri: Yeah.

Kunle: Okay. All right. For people who are looking to build their personal Instagram brands, do you have any tips in terms of frequency or?

Dimitri: I think the frequency... if you can produce great content... because you know when you're starting out, the advantage you have is when you post something no one cares so you can go for trial-error process. Like, we can't do that anymore because if we you know post stuff that turns out to be bad or behaviors tend to be worse, that is going to have an impact. When you are... and this is more like the lean startup philosophy which not all people subscribe to, it's like it's better to launch straight away and get feedback than to you know prepare for months an account with content and then no one cares. It's better to find out straight away what people are thinking and if they want to see those pictures.

Kunle: Absolutely, absolutely, I agree with you. Rights, so are there any other tips? Like I've heard of people who go to like particular influencer accounts and they would publish to them, they would ask the influencer accounts or they would pay them to publish their content and get them to be tagged on the influencer's pages. So they publish your content, basically, and then they say 'follow these guys.' Have you practiced, have you done anything like that on Instagram?

Dimitri: That's definitely something that a lot of people do. We've never paid for anyone to do that because there's a lot of people that just repost our pictures and news. So we see that organically. But I think if you're going to do that, it needs to be an account at least the size of ours. And you need to see how effective it is, because there's a lot of accounts with a lot of followers that just bought them. And you know, there's no real traction. And if you're serious about doing this, you need to use monitoring tools to find out what's their a growth rate, if they gained you know 200,000 followers in a month that's clearly fake. So you know, it takes time, there's no shortcuts. You need to really invest time in this. And I think using influencers is not a bad way, but I think it's, at this point you can only use verified accounts because then if you don't, it could just damage your personal accounts. And advertising can be cheaper, depending on the sector. For the yachting sector it's not because to gain reach to those followers you'd pay a lot more than for our pages but for some industries you need to test. You need to run tests on the customer acquisition costs.

Kunle: That makes a lot of sense. So am I right in saying that one of the core pillars to your success are the photographs, the quality of photographs in your account? So if I a yacht enthusiast and I come across your page just due to what I see, I'm in a 50% more likely to follow your feed as compared to some other competitor in the same space?

Dimitri: Yeah, definitely. The quality, like I keep coming back to saying, is the key aspect of this. Because accounts that don't have high-quality, ultimately they don't have the means to build a large follower base because people don't have the incentive to follow you. And you know for us, Yacht Harbour behaves in a lot of ways like a media company so we need to have this readership. Some accounts don't. If you need to promote specifically one picture and sell it, maybe the best way is not to build your account and to go for influencers, so that they can market it direct. That's an option as well. For us the pictures obviously was a great way to attract new followings because you know there's a lot of people that want to look at the yachts compared to you know, industrial equipment. So that's definitely an asset that not everyone has.

Kunle: Okay. And I'm on your site now and besides yachts, there's a really, really interesting... there's some other photographs and interesting... I can see a Mini, for instance, that's been hacked as a boat. A Mini Cooper boat. I can see a seal, which is pretty cute. And there are lots of interiors. Now my final question around photographs really is what makes, in your opinion, the perfect photo on Instagram?

Dimitri: It needs to be high-quality. There's a lot of people posting low-resolution images and you just see that directly, it just doesn't work. It needs to have the appropriate size, because you need to fill out the whole screen, which for some reason not everyone does. And the I think we've seen this a lot, that there's a correlation between the amount of light in the picture and the amount of engagement it gets. Darker images tend to get less engagement.

Kunle: Okay fine, that's perfect. Okay, now let's talk about tools growing an Instagram account. What tools have you played around with in the last 12 months with Instagram? What would you recommend based on stuff you've tried and stuff you've retained and stuff you've had to ditch? Tools.

Dimitri: So there's a lot of different tools that get pitched to us and we can't try them all just because of time. But we've experimented with many of them. There is range of apps that show just basic figures, like followers, engagement. And there's a lot of free applications like that, which i don't recall the names but they just show basic metrics. If you're really serious about building Instagram profiles, there's a series of websites that provide the analytics. I think a free option is called, before it used to be I think Iconosquare and now it's Statigram, which is a free option. And then to really get professional account development like us, you need to... I talked to a great start up out of New York recently which are called, I think Socialgram or something like that. And basically what they do is they can show you the most valuable followers of each account. So you can analyze any account, it takes a lot of time to process the data, but for example you can get to any competitor accounts and find out what those influencers are and the most valuable people that need to follow you right now. But that's a pricier solution; it costs $3,000 a month.

Kunle: Wow, that's a lot.

Dimitri: So now it depends on how serious you are about running it.

Kunle: Okay. Okay, I'm on Crunchbase page. Okay. Are there any tools? So what tools do you use to manage your Instagram account on a daily basis?

Dimitri: On a daily basis we use the SocialRank I mentioned earlier which is the influencer-finding startup which provides great data analytics. Then we also use Minter, which is a more open solution but there's more analytics there. And...

Kunle: Minter?

Dimitri: Yeah.

Kunle: Okay, gotcha.

Dimitri: And then a few Instagram, just the basic app. But you know I think it's just in a matter of time before Instagram opens an analytics API because they have to in some regards. All the other platforms have them and when this happens Instagram marketing points get a lot harder. Because for now you know, I think it's definitely harder but it's still possible to build Instagram followings, because on some platforms, it's not anymore, I mean Facebook right now, to build an organic reach in Facebook it's not a good strategy. But going through paid Facebook advertising, that's a cheaper option than Adwords that not a lot of people are using.

Kunle: Okay, okay. That makes sense. What about posting to Instagram? Do you just fire up the app on your mobile or are there any desktop hacks for posting images to your Instagram account? Because I don't know about you but posting four times a day can be stressful from a mobile device. So how do you schedule that workflow from...

Dimitri: We post from the mobile app.

Kunle: Wow. Okay.

Dimitri: Because we want to get the same feeling as the user. Because the moment you start automating it, going through publishing backend, I have the feeling that you sort of lose the feeling that the readership has, which is going through the app. So yeah, I think you definitely should go through the app. I know there are some ways to automate it but I think you still need to confirm when you post a picture on Instagram.

Kunle: Okay, okay. Okay so yeah. This is really, really...this has been a brilliant talk. Is there any other thing that you think I haven't yet covered that will be beneficial for listeners trying to build out their Instagram account?

Dimitri: I think you need to consider the possibility of really investing in it, because social media is not free. You know, there's a lot of people who want to build out their social media accounts but they’re not properly investigating it. And that's something you need to keep in mind, you to figure out what's the time or the monetary cost that you're willing to invest in it.

Kunle: That makes sense. I like that statement, 'social media is not free.' Okay, before I let you go, could you let our audience know how to find and reach out to you if they wanted to connect or follow you on social, are you active in any social media platforms?

Dimitri: Right, so you can definitely contact me on LinkedIn, I respond to all messages so just look 'Yacht Harbour' on LinkedIn and you'll find me. You can also always follow me on Twitter, which is @dtriskin

Kunle: Okay, okay.

Dimitri: Yeah, and follow us on Instagram.

Kunle: Brilliant. I'll link to all your accounts from the show notes on this episode. Dimitri, it's been an absolute, absolute pleasure having you on the show. I appreciate your time and I appreciate you sharing all that you know around Instagram. And best of luck with Yacht Harbour.

Dimitri: Thank you

Kunle: So listeners, thank you for sticking to the very end of today's show and I hope you found Dimitri's story about Yacht Harbour and Instagram marketing inspiring. To download the show notes and read the full transcript head over to 2XeCommerce.com from about one week from the iTune's publish date. For updates and tips to help grow your store be sure to sign up to our email list over on 2XeCommerce.com again. Until the next show do have a fantastic one. Bye-bye for now.

About the host:

Kunle Campbell

An ecommerce advisor to ambitious, agile online retailers and funded ecommerce startups seeking exponentially sales growth through scalable customer acquisition, retention, conversion optimisation, product/market fit optimisation and customer referrals.

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