Can You Rely on Instagram?

In my last post, I asked bloggers how they learn about blogging. Laura Lily recommended The Goal Digger Podcast by Jenna Kutcher.

I’ve been reading Jenna’s blog and I found this article really interesting. In it, Jenna says you should focus on building an email list:

Wait, did that catch your attention? Good. It should. We have this odd notion that we “own” our Facebook fans, our Instagram followers, the people who read our tweets but here’s the thing: those platforms own the people. They decide and dictate how their user experience is, what they see, what they won’t see (and chances are, they aren’t seeing YOU or your posts.)

That’s why an email list is so important. When you acquire those names, you are in control of how often you contact the person, what they see, how personalized you will be, and when they will hear from you. Last time I checked, every one checks their email daily, right?

When I started prioritizing my email list over my social media, profits increased by 500%. 500%! So not only do you own the list, but that list is so much more powerful in terms of generating income for your business than social media ever will be.

I decided to ask bloggers about how they grow their email lists.

Tolly Dolly Posh

Tolly(full name Tolmeia) is an ethical fashion blogger. You can find her at

She has 6,953 Instagram followers:

Here’s a more impressive number – she started her blog when she was only 11 years old. Since then she has been featured in:

I asked Tolly if she felt that bloggers should focus on email over social media:

I’d say I feel I experience the opposite. I had no success with my email list and unfortunately, GDPR really hit the final nail in its coffin. For me, Instagram is far more interactive than an email list could ever be because my followers actually get to engage with me, especially on Instagram Stories. I’ve been able to build a more two-way relationship which helps in growing my following further.

Organic reach on Facebook has been declining over the past few years – with some reporting that only 6.5% of your fans see your posts. Since Facebook owns Instagram, it’s possible that your organic reach on Instagram will decrease as well. I asked Tolly if a reduced organic reach on Instagram would make her try email marketing again:

Hmm.. maybe? But I don’t really see Instagram and email marketing being anyway similar. They both provide two very different services, so, I don’t think I can really compare either to each other.

Another blogger elaborated on the difference between the two.

Anett Kovats

Anett is the founder of the Scent of Summer blog.

She has over 7,000 Instagram followers:

Anett is a self-proclaimed minimalist. You can see this “less is more” ethos in her Instagram posts:

But, like any good fashionista, she is not a minimalist when it comes to her shoe collection. I asked Anett to compare Instagram with email marketing, here’s what she said:

The thing is that Instagram has ALREADY reduced our organic reach and it’s a really bad situation both for regular users and for content creators. As a user, I hate to see posts from only a handful of people and I find myself actually having to put my favorite accounts in the search engine so I can see if they have any new posts. As a content creator, it is frustrating because only a small fraction of my followers actually see my posts.

E-mail is not my first choice when it comes to connecting with my readers, it is more like a back up plan for me, but it can definitely be a means of two-way communication between a blogger and his or her readers. The only difference is that it happens in private, not in public (i.e. in the Instagram comment section).

Okay, so here’s my summary of the discussion so far:

Instagram Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
You can quickly and easily have a two-way conversation with your followers You can’t control who sees your posts
Your conversations are public which encourages others to engage You can’t be sure if Instagram will make it harder for you to run your business

Or put another way:

Email Marketing Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
You have full control over your message It is more difficult to have a two-way conversation
You can be sure that you will still be able to reach your followers tomorrow The conversation is private and therefore less viral

What’s Anett’s solution to the problem? Use many channels:

It is not a good idea to depend on any one social media channel. They frequently change their algorithms, and sometimes these changes are not well received by users which can lead to the decline of a social network. Or the next big thing might come along and your favorite platform might lose its relevance. So my advice is to keep your eggs in many baskets and be active on at least two or three different platforms. Building a mailing list is a great backup plan since it will give you a direct connection to your audience in case something unforeseen happens.

To me, this seems to be the most sensible approach. It’s pretty common for bloggers to use multiple social media channels.

Carly Fraser

Carly blogs at Live Love Fruit.

This blog is all about living a healthy and fulfilling life. Carly writes about topics ranging from keeping the right company to picking the right moisturiser. Here’s my favourite thing about Carly – she has a degree is biopsychology…

I’d never even heard of biopsychology until I read her LinkedIn! It’s the “branch of science that explores how the brain and nervous system influence human behavior”. What’s that I hear you say? Stop being a nerd and get back to talking about blogging? Fine!

From our conversation, it’s clear to me that Carly’s top priority is not email marketing. However, she does hedge her bets by using many social media channels. She has…

236,636 Facebook Likes
7,601 Instagram Followers
6,644 Pinterest Followers

You’ll notice that Carly has a disproportionately large Facebook following. Of course, having a huge following is not a bad thing! But look at Carly’s recent Facebook post:

If most of your traffic comes from Facebook, you are at their mercy. Asking followers to change their settings could help, but you never know – maybe Facebook will get rid of that option at some point. If you don’t have an email list, what can you do to protect your business?

Kacie Morgan

Kacie is the owner and editor of The Rare Welsh Bit.

Kacie is, you guessed it, Welsh. Her blog covers “culinary travel and sight-seeing, from Cardiff to the Caribbean”. Kacie’s social media channels are a little more evenly balanced than Carly’s. She has…

7,933 Instagram followers:

And 6,214 Twitter followers:

Kacie told me that she doesn’t have an email list:

I’ve been blogging for eight years, I’m a full-time blogger and I don’t have an email list (although am in the process of setting one up). I think SEO should be the no.1 focus, personally.

This is something I kept hearing. Put your website at the centre of everything.

Hannah Rogers

Hannah Rogers is The Modern Girl.

What does Hannah write about? What doesn’t she write about!? Her blog covers beauty, fashion, culture, and more. Hannah’s Instagram is her most followed social media channel:

Hannah says to put your website first:

I believe focus on your passion and the rest will come but also don’t neglect the website and keep the blog the centre of everything. Instagram is a supporting tool for my blog.

This “website first” approach isn’t just used by fashion bloggers.

John Zukowski

John runs Java John Z’s – a blog dedicated to giveaways and product reviews:

John uses email marketing, but his website is the focal point of his business:

Other than making sure I have sufficient content (blog articles) for my daily newsletter email, I don’t do anything specific. Everything starts at the blog level and fans out from there, either appearing in the daily newsletter or shared across social media.

By the time I talked to John, I had been asking bloggers about email marketing for a few days. Jenna Kutcher was still the only blogger who put email marketing first. Jenna, a millionaire, swears by this stuff. And yet lots of other successful bloggers don’t even use it? I re-read Jenna’s email marketing article. I wanted to know how email marketing increased her profits by 500% – here’s her answer:

Email is intimate… okay, okay, you may be rolling your eyes at me but it is. It’s more personal than a post blasted on Facebook or a pretty Instagram photo because it’s landing in someone’s inbox. My theory? I serve for almost 50 weeks out of the year and sell for two of them. Seriously, we try to get really smart and careful with how we are selling to our audience (and making it an invitation more than a pitch!)

I know, it can get annoying when someone is filling your inbox with constant sales pitches BUT if you focus more on serving your audience with content they will love like free downloads, links to blog posts and inspiration – they will get excited about receiving your emails and when the time comes to offer them a product, they will be the ones who are ready to purchase. My email list is the #1 way I generate profits to my business because it’s more personal, it’s targeted to people who I know are interested, and I’ve served my audience for months upon months before I even offer them a product or service.

Connection is crucial, another blogger echoed this sentiment.

Lela London

Lela London is a lifestyle blogger.

She has over 12,000 Instagram followers:

Lela’s blog is a lot of fun. But she also fosters a deeper connection with her audience – like in her recent Instagram post where she discussed her Type 1 Diabetes:

She told me that email just won’t work if you don’t have a connected audience:

I definitely agree with not focusing on a single platform, as they do change all the time, but even focusing on e-mail might not work. If you don’t have a connected e-mail audience to begin with, utilising it when other things fail won’t work. I think the best advice is to simply focus on your output, being true to yourself and your brand, and building a cross-platform audience that connects with that.

Another one of Jenna Kutcher’s posts offers similar advice:

Grow a following of people that are excited to take action and use powerful calls to action to convert them from simpler followers to eager subscribers. It’s not enough to put a pop up on your website and call it a day, it’s important that you are showing up often in your followers feeds and serving them before you ask them to opt in. Poll your audience, share your expertise freely, and when you’re ready, invite them opt in (understanding that a small percentage of your followers will respond to the call to action BUT the ones that do are your “people.”)

Use simple calls to actions in every single post whether you’re asking them to “like” or comment or even tag their friends below and then when you have a new opportunity to opt in, ask them to follow the link to do so and explain the benefits in a way that makes it impossible to resist. Social media should be a major part of your strategy because it gives people time to know/like/trust you beyond your offers so that when you extend the chance to go further with you, they will be eager to respond.

Our next blogger is taking this route – mixing social media and email.

Giada Graziano

Giada is based in Milan. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Glam Observer.

Glam Observer is the “online destination to inspire all the girls who want to start and build a successful career in Fashion, Beauty and Blogging”. Giada writes about topics like how to network at fashion events.

I asked her if she thinks email marketing is important:

Yes, I agree. If Instagram decides to stop one morning, you’ll lose all your followers’ contacts and information. Building an email list is smarter. You don’t necessarily need a website if you don’t want, you can add a link to your email list on Instagram stories and your bio and ask your followers to signup to receive special extra content and news. In this way, if a new social media pops up, and replaces Instagram, you can email them to follow you along and don’t have to start from scratch, especially if you’re doing it as a job, it’s extremely important you keep their contacts for your business.

Giada has a few stories on her Instagram:

If you go to her membership story, you’ll see what she’s talking about. Users swipe up:

And are brought to a sign up page:

Social media giveaways work in other niches as well.

Ed Baker

Ed is one half of the West End Wilma blog.

I asked him for his top tip for gaining subscribers:

My top tip for gaining email subscribers is to run a competition on your blog and ask people to subscribe for a chance to win. This can also be shared across social media to get additional exposure and entries.

Here is one of their sign up pages:

You can see that Ed uses MailChimp as his email marketing software. Personally, I prefer ConvertKit. In fact, I promote it as an affiliate. But, if I recommended it to you, I’m sure you would think “yeah but he gets paid if I use it”. So I asked another blogger why they use it.

J Money

J Money is the mastermind behind Budgets Are Sexy.

Personal finance is important, but man can it get boring. Some frugality bloggers take themselves too seriously. J Money is the antidote to this – his persona is fun and friendly:

The best thing about J Money is that he’s the real deal – as of July 2018, he has a net worth of over $800,000. People respond to his down-to-earth approach, he has 37,000+ Twitter followers:

And over 15,000 Facebook fans:

I asked him why he chose ConvertKit, he said:

because we were using Active Campaign and weren’t happy with them, and kept hearing about Convert Kit as many other $$$ bloggers use them so we switched and have been pretty happy since 🙂

So use my affiliate link – visit the ConvertKit Website and get your free trial.

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