Episode 4 of the Self-Made Mamas Podcast
What kind of attitude do you have about Instagram?
Are you feeling personally attacked by the algorithm?
Do you feel like it’s impossible to compete in the increasingly busy feed?
If so, today’s episode is for you. I’m chatting with Instagram Expert Tania Lang all about how to approach Instagram so you can be successful, and she’s sharing how she grew her account from 400 followers to well over 14,000 in one year—without all the scammy strategies, risky hacks, and Instagram overwhelm. Grab a coffee and get ready for an uncensored conversation about what it really takes to market your business on Instagram, and what might not actually be worth your time.
Melissa: Hey, Tania. Thank you so much for being here today. I’m so excited to have you on the podcast. Why don’t you tell us who you are, what you do, and a little bit about your life right now?
Tania: Hi, Melissa, thank you so much for having me. A little bit about me…well, I am an Instagram coach. I love to help ambitious female entrepreneurs get visible and grow their brands on Instagram without the overwhelm. This includes one-on-one coaching, content strategy, and audits. I’m even going to be dipping into some group coaching. And my amazing business coach, Melissa, the Self-Made Mama is helping guide me through this process.
M: I didn’t pay you to say that or anything!
T: Yeah, that is what I am busy doing with my work. I live in British Columbia, the west coast of Canada. I’m a mom of two little boys, and a wife to my husband, Rob. We love being outside. And we’re dealing with COVID the way everyone is these days, looking forward to the light at the end of this COVID tunnel.
M: How old are your boys?
T: My boys are now going to be 10 and 7 this year so it’s gone by really, really quick. It’s also been a fantastic time to really build on my business. I used to own a cold-pressed juice bar. I did all the marketing with my business partner and we were trying to grow this online business. It was an online cold-pressed juice bar and people would order their juices through our website. We were using Facebook and Instagram to really grow our online visibility and be able to attract clients. At a certain point, we decided it was time to close the business because, to be honest, we just weren’t passionate about it. It was a hard business to be in, juggling kids and even the idea of opening a store, eventually, it just wasn’t our passion. We decided to close, but I knew instantly that social media was my thing because that was my big job when we were running the juice bar.
M: I actually remember following you. You guys were like Juice Moms or something like that. I think I followed you back then.
T: That’s so funny! Yes, from that experience I knew right away that I wanted to jump back into social media in some way where I could be helping other female business owners grow their brands using Instagram specifically. I started in 2019 and then just around the time COVID was taking off, I connected with you, Melissa. We built a business strategy that was designed to work with my life and my goals, and design services that were going to help women feel less overwhelmed when it came to their marketing strategies on social media. That’s a little bit about me.
M: It’s been pretty incredible. It’s only been a year really. I think we connected maybe 11 months ago for the first time. It hasn’t been that long and in that time you’ve gone from about 2,000 followers and no offers to a fully booked Instagram coaching practice.
T: Yeah, it’s been a really exciting journey. I started an Instagram account with zero followers and didn’t tell my family or friends what I was doing. I was really nervous going from one business to another. It was the idea that I would maybe be judged. I quietly started this business and just grew my Instagram through a lot of work, spending time engaging with who I thought or was hoping was my ideal client. I couldn’t really figure that stuff out on my own, though. That’s where I sought out your support so that I was much more intentional with my time on Instagram, growing the right audience.
M: I love your story. I always tell people in our group program, The Society, that you are a case study in consistency. You’re somebody that really took action on what we had discussed and you applied it consistently. You took the new data you were getting and worked that into the action you were taking and again continued to show up and do it. I feel like you have pretty good boundaries around your business, and you don’t really falter. I’ve never seen you just disappear, which is something that I’m super guilty of. You are extremely consistent and I really think that’s what you can credit your success to you because you built a very successful business in a very saturated niche in less than a year. I think that’s a real accomplishment and deserves to be celebrated.
T: Thank you. Celebrating those small wins or big wins, whatever they are, I think that’s the biggest thing. Being busy moms, we kind of forget to do that. Being consistent is key, but also looking at my “why”. Ever since my boys were born, I always put myself second, and my career was third. I was second. As they got older, I saw there was more opportunity for me to have time to invest in myself and invest in growing a business I was really passionate about. That is what drives me to be consistent on Instagram, and that drives me in helping coach women to be consistent with growing their brands on Instagram. You’ve got to just look back at why? Why are you there? Why are you doing this? If the passion is gone and you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, then it’s probably not the right fit. You’ve got to rethink the whole thing you’re doing.
M: You don’t want to stay in a loveless marriage with your business.
T: 100%. I can’t even tell you how many times this year I’ve been so thankful knowing this is really what I want to be doing. I’m also really thankful for the women and the endless support I surrounded myself with over this past year and while growing my business. A key to success on Instagram is finding other people in your industry or your niche you can connect with and have as a support system. Being a solopreneur is really lonely. If you don’t have anybody to jump into the DMs with or send a text message to just say, “Hey, I’d love your opinion on this,” or “I’m struggling with this,” it kind of consumes you because then you’re dealing with everything by yourself. Very early on I decided I wanted to build a community for my business, of my ideal clients so I can make money, but also other women in my industry I can look to for knowledge and support and friendship. I think when people go and start spending time on Instagram, they forget about that community component and focus just on the number of followers. Honestly, at one point I had 400 followers, and I was already making my first one-on-one coaching sale. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to get business just because you don’t have 10,000 followers. There are opportunities that lie everywhere. It’s just really what you’re putting out there.
M: That’s a good segue to our main topic for today.
Building a Community on Instagram
Melissa: First of all, to approach social media in particular with a collaborative and community-focused mindset, I think takes a lot of maturity. I think most people, myself included when we first start out are coming from a place of scarcity and almost a fear of collaboration. I see this all the time where people are afraid of their competition and they don’t want to connect with them. You are a really great example of somebody who has intentionally established connections with people that are your direct competitors. It has done nothing but serve your business. This really ties into our overall content for today which is your attitude about Instagram and how that impacts your success on the platform and your success in marketing your business there. Without that maturity, I don’t think you would have seen the level of success that you have. I think it’s false logic to approach your competition on social media trying to keep a 10-foot pole between you. Everyone can see everybody’s content anyway. It’s a public platform, they’re going to see it. You can either be friends with them and they could see it, or you can block them out of your world and they can see it. I think we all know which one is going to serve you better in the long run.
Tania: Exactly, exactly. That’s kind of my motto: let’s build a community for your business. Let’s not just have a massive list of followers that don’t engage, that don’t connect, that have no real interest in what you do. For people that want to have that growth and collaborations with people in your industry, everybody works differently. Everybody’s service experience is different. The women I collaborate with, we all do virtually the same thing but in different ways. What we can provide to our audiences is the value that we offer, our content, our showing up live online. We can tap into one another’s audiences, and give more information to people. Opportunities come from that, whether it’s direct referrals or someone in their audience feels their needs are more in line with the services that I provide or vice versa. We need to stop looking at competitors as competitors and look at it as an opportunity to build those connections to further grow your business.
M: I also think it’s important to understand, for example, if you’re doing a live with a direct competitor, if there are people watching your live that ultimately book with them and not you, they probably weren’t going to book with you, to begin with. There’s something out of alignment, so why not share the wealth? Why not provide that opportunity for them to get served in a way that is best for them and vice versa. As you said there’s going to be people in your competitor’s audiences that haven’t booked with them because something just isn’t quite aligned, but it may be for you. That’s a great approach and I really have loved watching you do that. I’m just going to speak bluntly—when I first started my business, I don’t think that I had the maturity to do that and it’s something that I’ve had to develop and coach myself through. You came right out of the gate with it and it’s been really interesting and a pleasure to watch you do that and to see the way in which you have built a community.
T: Thanks, Melissa. You know, I feel like it was something that was going to set me apart from my competitors. Being connected to them in a way that was like, “Hey! Let’s work together. Let’s grow our businesses together on this crazy platform that’s super busy. How can we stand out and show other women that working together actually benefits your business?” When you decide who you want to collaborate with, it’s important they have a similar target audience. Again, be intentional with your time and people on Instagram. I wouldn’t necessarily go to somebody with no followers and think that would be a potential ideal partnership. It wouldn’t really serve me and their audience wouldn’t necessarily want to hear what I have to say. It’s important to be aligning yourself with people that have similar interests or values or similar target audiences. Again so that you’re using your time more effectively on the ‘gram when you are showing up.
M: Yeah, absolutely. I agree 100%.
Embracing a Changing App
Melissa: Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of Instagram attitude. I think we need to talk about the attitude that we have about the platform in general because let’s face it. The last year or so has been really interesting on Instagram. A lot of changes have happened. I know people like Adam Missouri keep saying there’s no change but I don’t think that’s been our experience. Let’s talk about that. What do you want people to know about how their attitude about Instagram impacts the success they can have on Instagram?
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Tania: Well, Instagram is going to be forever changing. Whether they’re adding, removing, or optimizing current features, it’s always going to be changing. If the expectation for ourselves is that we don’t have to change, how’s that going to work? There are so many more users now on Instagram than there were two or three years ago so the competition has naturally increased and that’s not Instagram’s fault, so I think that mindset needs to shift, too. There are more of us using the app. It’s about understanding that that’s changing as well and it’s good. There are going to be ebbs and flows. We need to continue to ask ourselves, who are we serving? Who are we creating content for? We need to continue to serve them with valuable content, whether it’s inspiring, educating, motivating people, or entertaining people. Stop focusing on all the noise that’s happening around us, like if somebody is telling you that you have to post five days a week. Do what works for your business and what’s going to allow you to be consistent, what is not going to make you go crazy. Growth is going to be that much harder with so many more people on the app. If you want organic reach, it’s unfortunate but you’re going to have to spend more time than you probably want on the app to get it. There are a few different ways you can definitely help increase that reach maybe more quickly, but I think it’s just going to be tougher and tougher as the app gets busier and busier.
M: We know this is the case, more people are joining the platform. It’s also going to get busier as Instagram is trying to compete with TikTok. Instagram really only has one competitor, and they’re trying to compete with TikTok. They’re going to keep rolling out new things for us to do to keep us on the platform, right?
M: What were the problems that you’re seeing? I mean we can talk and say, “That’s a fact, that’s just how it is,” but I don’t think that’s how most people are approaching it, right? I think there’s a lot of foot-stomping shall we say? We’re kind of digging their heels in about the platform. It is important to remember that it’s just a social media platform, it’s not the real world. Your whole life should not revolve around Instagram, but it is a really fantastic marketing tool for your business. For most of us, we do need to be here. We need to be on Instagram in order to market our businesses. What problems are you seeing as an Instagram coach? What are people coming to you with and what are the attitudes that you’re seeing?
T: Yeah. I’m seeing a lot of people that drop into the DMs really focusing on the fact that things aren’t working for them. “My reels are glitchy.” “My reach has decreased.” “My story views have been cut in half.” “My hashtags aren’t working.” There is a lot of why, why, why? Again, I think what people need to realize is that if something’s not working, it’s time to change something. If your story views are cut in half, maybe it has something to do with the algorithm, but maybe your audience just isn’t interested in the stories that you’re sharing lately. Maybe they’ve had enough of that and they’ve evolved and they want to see something more. I think it’s really about experimenting. If something’s not working, try shifting your content a bit. That’s the first thing, the number one thing, I would suggest people look at. Look at your stories. Do you have 25 stories going on and on about how your child hasn’t been listening to you today and your kitchen is dirty? Would you sit there and watch your stories? Probably not. People have less time to spend on the app or are just more mindful of the time that they’re spending on the app. They want to consume content that’s going to give them something to takeaway. Whether they feel relatable to you or whether they feel inspired or you make them laugh or you’ve taught them something. I think the big thing is to look at the content we’re putting out there and not necessarily blaming Instagram right away. The more features Instagram puts out, it’s responding to what users want.
M: I was just going to mention that shift in stories. If you’ve seen a huge decline in your stories, it hasn’t just been a temporary dip, right? Sometimes they shift something the app and your stories will dip and they’ll come back up over a couple of days. If you’ve seen a permanent decline though, it probably means that people are not engaging enough with your story, not watching them all the way through, and that’s why Instagram isn’t showing them as much. That’s how the algorithm works.
M: That’s because user behaviour as a whole has shifted. For example, a lot of the stuff that we were taught a few years ago, even two years ago, about how to show up on your stories and to show all the behind the scenes and to talk to the camera directly all the time. I still see bloggers doing this all the time like they’re having a conversation at the camera. I think user behaviour has shifted away from that and as you said, people are being more intentional. They’re looking for more value because there’s so much noise. I think the pandemic has contributed to that, too. We have even more online clutter and we’re forced to be online even more than we would like to be in most cases. If something is not providing value or true connection, I just don’t think people are as engaged with it. You’re spot on. If it’s not working, it’s time to stop doing that and try something else.
T: Absolutely. Personally, I saw my story views decline as well and I thought, maybe my stories are a little long these days. Maybe I need to shift the way I do some Instagram tips. Maybe I do them in a Q&A format, or a slide format instead of myself talking. When I’m talking, nobody’s going to screenshot my face. If I put up a story slide that’s sharing 3 hot Instagram tips, chances are people are going to stop, read it, screenshot it, and it’s the value that they need. It’s quick and easy to digest and they can go back to it later on. If you’re someone who would normally do a tour of your store, be talking away for 10 minutes showcasing different products, maybe your viewers don’t want that anymore. Maybe it’s time to just do pictures with descriptions and information about how people can buy the products. Everyone’s experimenting right now and until Instagram says, “Hey guys, this is what we’re changing,” it’s all speculation. It’s about looking at your content and understanding that it’s a very cluttered space right now. You know, people that I engage with daily in the DMs, I’m not seeing their posts show up in my news feeds until typically two days later now.
M: Yeah, I agree.
T: It’s just busy, right? Our expectations have to shift and change. Some women that are content creators and have partnerships with brands are terrified right now seeing the decline in their numbers. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I believe the expectations will change as the app continues to grow. Do you know what I’m saying?
M: Brands are usually the last ones to the party, right? They wait. They have traditional marketing departments with people assigned to this, or they outsource to an agency that specializes in influencer marketing, and they are usually last to the party when it comes to effective user-driven content.
M: If you are an influencer, or someone who makes money by promoting things for other companies, their expectations and what they want from you may not be what your audience actually wants from you. That’s going to be a tricky thing to bridge for a while until the brands catch up, essentially. Here’s a callback to something we talked about this on the last episode. If you want to be excellent at what you do if you’re an influencer and you want to bring excellence to your business, advocate to the brands that you’re working with for “what’s working now” content strategy. They’re going to get better results, you’re going to get better results. Your audience is going to appreciate it more, and ultimately it’s going to drive your business forward. Responding to it, rather than digging your heels in, is only going to serve you.
Tania: If you’re somebody that doesn’t have a budget for ads and other marketing materials strategies, whatever it is, and you want to continue to use Instagram and reach people in an organic way, then there are a couple of ways that we can continue to drive that. For instance, just using all of Instagram’s features. If you’re somebody who’s only ever created a regular image or video post and you haven’t tapped into reels, then maybe it’s time to just try out a reel. Or if you’re somebody who’s never gone live or never done an IGTV or never showed up on stories, try experimenting with these different features. There are going to be some people in your audience that are going to love the static posts, and there are going to be other people that just consume reels all day long. Then there’s going to be the other people that stay at home and unwind watching Instagram stories. If you’re not tapping into all the different pieces of content, you’re not necessarily connecting with your audience as a whole.
Melissa: I think you also have to accept, given that there are six sub-platforms inside Instagram, your engagement is going to be lower on each one now.
M: We used to be able to just post pictures. That was the only thing we could do, and the algorithm was different then. I don’t even know if they had one, and honestly, it was just a chronological feed. Obviously, those posts were going to get a huge amount of engagement because it’s all people were seeing from you, but now we’re consuming all these different types of content on Instagram. Across each individual type, that engagement is going to be spread out. People are spending more time on the app but they’re not spending enough time to provide the same level of engagement on all these different sub-platforms, on IGTV, our lives. Different people like different things, too. I don’t actually really like watching lives. If the topic is really pertinent to me, I may go watch the IGTV afterwards. I’m that person when I accidentally click on a live notification I’m like, “Oh my god!” and run away. It’s always somebody that I don’t even know, too, and then I feel like a creeper.
T: Yeah, yeah Then there are those people that are going to really connect with the lives.
M: Yes! Some people love live videos!
Tania: The other thing is a couple of weeks back there was an unofficial recommendation from Instagram…
Melissa: I was going to ask you about this.
T: These crazy unrealistic expectations if you want to get that organic reach and grow visibility, grow your number of followers, then you’ve got to be producing X amount of content. It is completely not sustainable, right? Who can do five to seven reels a week, three to four static posts, two to three IGTV?
M: People with no kids. People without kids can do that, Tania.
T: I guess. I don’t know if I would have been able to sustain that before life with children.
M: Yeah. It’s not very sustainable.
T: What it’s saying is, “Hey, there’s a lot of content out there. If you want your content to be visible, then you’ve got to be posting this frequently, using all the different features that we offer you.” It’s not saying you have to do that. It’s just letting you know, “Hey, there’s a lot of people out here putting out content.” I think that’s also one of the reasons why we’ve maybe seen a shift in our reach recently is because people are still thinking about these unofficial recommendations and trying to do that. It’s getting very cluttered. I’m a firm believer of quality over quantity and so I’m only posting three days a week. That is my strategy, that’s what works for me. What I focus on again is community building, connecting with my followers and other women in my industry, finding ways to collaborate and finding ways to expand that way. Again, how you can organically continue to grow your reach on Instagram using the features, doing collaborations with people. If you’re a product-based business, there’s user-generated content. In all honesty, though, it’s going to go back to the quality of your content. It’s a very visual platform. If the caption is intriguing, it can also be the fact that your image or your graphic kind of sucks, too. Instagram is a social platform. If you’re not connecting with people or even searching content or anything, Instagram’s not going to know what to serve you and doesn’t necessarily want to serve your content to the right people because you’re not engaging with them.
M: Yeah, agreed. You keep saying it’s all about experimentation. Something I like to tell my clients is when it comes to your business, you need to stop making your business, you. Your Instagram account Tania Lang Social is not you the person Tania, right? If people don’t want your stories one week, or if your posts don’t get really great engagement one week, it’s not the same as all of your friends sending you a text message and saying, “You can’t sit with us. We don’t like you anymore.” It’s not the same. Your business is a business and your brand on social is a brand, right? It’s not you as a person. I’d guess most of the people listening to this podcast will have personality-driven brands, so we’re bringing a lot of ourselves to it. I saw a really amazing analogy the other day about how if you’re building a brand online, you should be building a brand that’s kind of like a wrestling persona. You know, like fake wrestling. I was asking my husband about it because he loves that kind of stuff. I showed him this analogy and he’s like, “That’s actually really spot on.” Steve Austin for example is this hugely over-the-top persona, right? In real life, he’s probably 5% of that. It’s still him but it’s not this brand that has been created around him. That’s his business, right? While I’m not suggesting that you go to the extent of a WWE wrestler in terms of your personal branding, I think it’s important to separate the two and understand when you’re experimenting, you need to have your lab coat on when it comes to your business. You need to be looking at the numbers and looking at the results. You need to know, what are the actions that you’re taking on Instagram actually doing, and how do they fit into your overall marketing strategy? I had a coaching call with a client this morning where we talked about this. For small account in the early stages of busines, reels are really only good for visibility at this stage. When it comes to actual lead generation, that’s going to go down in the DMS because you’re building relationships. Which is a better use of your time at this juncture when you’re trying to create a consistent income with your clients? It’s probably DMs.
T: I would agree. I definitely feel like reels are there to help us get that reach and potential growth. They can bring new followers to us, but I feel like the stories and the DMs are where we’re doing the nurturing, where we’re offering them that sort of personal touch to our services or our products. We’re sharing with them a little bit more, and people aren’t going to discover us in stories. They’re going to discover us through the content that we share or the collaboration that we do with other people.
M: From us reaching out to them, too. Us watching their stories and responding to them and creating genuine conversation. If you’re a newer business owner and you’re trying to build a clientele, that is where your clients are. It’s not trying to go viral.
T: I agree. I just did a live this morning with Sarah Alter from MOMENT Consulting and she said something that really resonated with me. The content that you’re putting out there—you want it to be a good representation of you, your brand, what you can offer your audience. It might seem like an uphill battle, nothing is working for you, you don’t have that crazy growth that you’re hoping for…
M: …but it accumulates.
T: It accumulates. Then when you do maybe get that one post or that one reel that takes off, or that one collaboration that’s going to get a whole bunch of eyes on your account, you can have a solid representation of your brand. You’ve got good content on there. It’s about looking ahead and saying, “What I’m doing now is helping me build a strong foundation, a strong brand on Instagram. The results will come over time.” You’ve got to put yourself out there, though. If you’re just providing one piece of content once a week, you can’t really complain if you’re not getting the growth and visibility you’re hoping for. Whether it’s finding support from a social media manager or maybe somebody on your team, or maybe you just carve out time in your schedule once every week where you pre-record some stories and reels. You batch your content or you team up with a photographer once every couple of months so you’re not scrambling to find imagery. Try and plan ahead and take Instagram as this opportunity to easily grow your business. I shouldn’t say “easily”. It’s not easy.
M: It’s not complicated, though. Success is not easy but it is simple. It really is just a consistent application of effort based on information that you’re gathering as you go.
T: Yeah, and I think there are ways that we can simplify it rather than overthink it. If you’re somebody who is always struggling to get a post out there because you don’t have a picture or you don’t know what to write, there are resources out there you can either hire or Google to help you move forward. Think of Canva. Canva has stock imagery now. Canva has a content planning calendar. There are all these different things. Take the time, put it into your calendar, and be dedicated to creating content for Instagram in that time. That’s going to help take the overwhelm out of it if you can consistently do it long-term.
M: You get better.
T: 100%, and understanding that the platform is going to change. If you’re a store owner carrying winter clothes in the summertime, chances are your sales are going to decrease, and you won’t have people coming in. Store owners change things every season. They’ve got new things coming in. Instagram is a changing platform. It is responding to the user’s behaviour and responding to what users are asking for. We kind of have to grow with the changes and shift with them.
M: Absolutely. Instagram is doing that because Instagram is a business. They respond to changing user needs and changing user behaviour because that’s their job as a business. As a business that serves its users. That’s your job as a business, too. It’s your job to read and respond to what’s going on for your customers and what they need from you.
T: I completely agree. Yeah.
M: Well, thank you so much. This has been such an insightful conversation. I’m sure everybody will get a lot of value out of it.
T: Thank you again so much, Melissa, for having me.
Tania helps female business owners get visible and grow their brands on Instagram without overwhelm. She builds strategies to help simplify the process of marketing your business on Instagram.
She offers one-to-one coaching, content strategy sessions, and Instagram audits.
Check her out on Instagram and give her a follow.
A. Start thinking about your followers as more than just numbers. Instagram is a social platform, so build a community. This includes your competitors.
- Are there people in your industry who you consider “competitors” but could actually be useful people to engage with and build a relationship with? Get past the idea of competition and start collaborating.
B. Instagram is busier than ever. Now is the time to ask yourself if your content is actually serving who you want to serve. Is it inspiring, educating, motivating, entertaining? Your audience wants to gain something.
C. Changes in the app are inevitable. Instead of cursing the algorithm, dig deep into your own content to see what you can change to keep serving the best to your audience.
- Take advantage of every feature Instagram offers, including stories, reels, IGTV, and lives.
- If a previous strategy is no longer working, it’s time to try something new.
D. Separate yourself from your business. Even in personality-driven brands, it’s important to remember that drops in engagement are not a reflection of you personally.
E. Focus on applying consistent, sustainable effort. This, rather than the hope of going viral by chance, is the recipe for growth and success.
Thank you so much for joining me for this episode of the Self-Made Mamas Podcast. You can find more information about working with us at theselfmademama.com or connect with us on Instagram at @selfmademama_. I can’t wait to chat.