How Many Followers Do You Need to Make Money?
Updated: Mar 5
Disclaimer: Tips in this post work best for small B2C businesses, like those that sell handmade products and home goods.
How not to run ads
I tend to bookmark all posts from local businesses, so Instagram shows me ads of local candle/soap/skincare shops all day long.
Here's the weird thing I've noticed.
Let's take a handmade soap brand. When I go to their profile, I see no prices, no website, and NO instruction on how to buy their handmade soap.
I guess I should DM them to ask for details, but hell, why would I do that? This is the 10th local handmade soap ad I’ve seen today. I'll just wait until another ad shows up and buy from them because they have their prices listed.
"Why would this brand run advertising if they aren’t ready to sell their soap yet?" I wonder, but then it hits me.
When followers become more important than sales
The handmade soap brand I saw had a very “fresh” profile with 3 posts on their feed and under 30 followers.
(I personally wouldn't run advertising without at least 9 posts on my profile, but everyone is different.)
"Oh my god. They're probably trying to gain followers FIRST."
It is extremely common among small brands to try to gain followers before feeling ready to sell, although it is completely illogical.
Just think about it: a brand that should SELL soap gets so overwhelmed with this whole social media game that they try to GAIN followers (which is not necessary) instead of SELL soap (which is necessary).
I can see that's what they prioritize: there are no prices, no website, no opportunity to BUY soap, but there is already advertising running.
Having a small following freaks them out more than the possibility of not selling their soap, although they DON'T need followers for their business to survive. They need to sell soap.
Their ads are useless either way: no one will buy anything, and no one will follow them because it’s impossible to buy from them.
Needless to say, I am not going to follow the soap profile that I can’t buy soap from.
How many followers do I need before I start selling?
Ideally, more than zero.
It's 2021, and microbloggers finally get the spotlight.
If you're a small business, no one will buy your stuff based on the number of followers you have - they will buy from you because they want to support local businesses/buy unique pieces/purchase high-quality products/shop sustainably/etc.
Imagine I open the profile of a small local business in Vancouver that sells soap. I can clearly see that their account was created recently; they only have 9 posts and 50 followers. Will I think "Oh no, I'll come back when they have 5000 followers"?
I will probably think: "Oh, it's local, I can pick it up. Oh, that's a good price. Their photos are adorable. Such a cute little brand, they're so tiny, I bet they need my support!"
No one expects you to have many followers before they will buy your goods in 2021. They expect other things.
What do people expect from a brand?
If you're a large company, your quality control protocols are in place, but no one controls the little guys.
Use your posts and stories to assure buyers that your soap is harmless and there are no chemicals. Tell them what allergies might be triggered. Post testimonials from your existing customers who loved their purchase.
Prove that although your Instagram profile is new, you are a real business and not a scam.
Sprinkle your personality all over your soapy business profile. Tell people your name and how you started this business. Feel free to post a picture of you working on the soap or packing an order.
Good customer service.
Big brands have extensive customer support resources, and you don't.
That’s why you do your best to show how well you handle customer support by: making sure to respond to DMs as fast as possible, mentioning your shipping options and costs in your posts, and showing how thoughtfully you pack the orders so nothing gets damaged on the way.
People want to see prices and get to checkout quickly and effortlessly.
Whenever you post a picture of your soap, add the price to the caption. Leave clear instructions on how to buy your goods in post captions AND in your bio.
A human touch.
Supporting small businesses is trendy now; ride that wave. Always make little extra gestures that won’t hurt your business, but that leaves a long-lasting impression on your buyers.
Tell your customers how much their support matters to you. Add tiny thank you cards to the orders. Engage with customers, share their content, ask them for feedback and reviews, and don't forget to mention how important their feedback is.
When creating posts for your profile, you might think that many of these things are obvious.
OF COURSE, your soaps are safe. It's quite hard to make murderous soap by mistake.
OF COURSE, you're a real person and not a scammer.
OF COURSE, you wrap all your orders in craft paper. Doesn't everyone?
But it's not obvious to your customers: we have no clue if we’ll develop skin irritation from your soap or not. We would feel safer if you told us that your kids use it, and what the ingredients are.
Use the list above for your content ideas to make your process as transparent as possible. If people trust you, and if it's easy to buy from you, they will buy your soaps no matter how many followers you have.