How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business: “Don’t Fear Consistency” With Nico Hodel, CTO of Start It Up NYC and Candice Georgiadis

Don’t Fear Consistency: In the days of the chronological feed, businesses were right to worry about overwhelming their audience with too much content. Gone are those days. Today, Instagram’s algorithm means that organic reach of each post is quite low, so posting more often is necessary to maintain visibility and engagement with your followers. Many of my past clients were slow to adapt to the change in Instagram’s algorithm, and experienced an uptick in conversions after doing so.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Nico Hodel, CTO of Start It Up NYC, a media company and startup accelerator providing app development, digital marketing, investor relations, and PR services to New York tech startups.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii and took an interest early in web development, which led to a passion for marketing, as programmatic marketing was in its early days. After starting my own web development company in college with a few friends, working on mobile apps in the Angular and React Javascript frameworks, I began work with Start It Up, building a media site and accelerator program that we’ve leveraged to provide clients a broader range of services to accompany development.

Can you explain to our readers why you are an authority about Social Media Marketing?

I had experience early programming to the Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook APIs and have used that knowledge to leverage Instagram for Start It Up, building an engaged audience of several thousand followers, leading to 2000 unique views per week on our media site, agreements with many partner companies, and several clients in just one years time.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

A few years back, I took on a really complex programming project with a UK-based tech company. I like to challenge myself, and I knew that the project was a bit beyond my ability, but didn’t fully realize the extent of it until I got started. I realized that I’d have to learn a new tech stack in order to actually pull it off and that there just weren’t enough hours in the day. I locked myself in my apartment, taking shelter from the New York Winter and adopted a polyphasic sleep cycle to free up time, sleeping just three hours a night, with three 20-minute naps throughout the day. I managed to complete the project but later heard from close friends about how by the end of the project I looked “near death.” While still a proponent of polyphasic sleep when it comes to productivity, I’d definitely advise anyone interested to be cautious.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In my early days, I took a contract with a Honolulu-based ecommerce company. Little did I know, their past developer held login credentials for all of their hosting, domain, and social platforms and had passed away years ago. Two days after starting work their domain and hosting plans expired, and I was tasked with recovering both – a job that’s difficult without any credentials or proof of ownership. I spent hours on the phone speaking with reps from domain and hosting providers and was finally able to set everything straight, but not without a flurry of stress and wasted time. I learned the hard way to always know the full story before deciding to work with any company and to pick my clients carefully.

Which social media platform have you found to be most effective to use to increase business revenues? Can you share a story from your experience?

We’ve found Instagram to be the most useful to increase revenue as it’s led to direct relationships with partners and clients, with our personal Linkedin profiles being a close second.

Let’s talk about Instagram specifically, now. Can you share 6 ways to leverage Instagram to dramatically improve your business? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Perfect Your Instagram Funnel:

Being strategic about the link featured in an Instagram bio can dramatically increase desired conversions. If your immediate goal is to gather data or qualify leads, make sure the link directs directly to a form for the user to fill out. If app conversions are your goal, make sure it directs to a page where users can immediately download your app. Same goes for event signups. Many of my past clients made the mistake of directing their bio link to a web page that was unrelated to the conversion they were attempting to track, and saw conversions increase dramatically when they redirected the link in their bio.

2. Don’t Fear Consistency:

In the days of the chronological feed, businesses were right to worry about overwhelming their audience with too much content. Gone are those days. Today, Instagram’s algorithm means that organic reach of each post is quite low, so posting more often is necessary to maintain visibility and engagement with your followers. Many of my past clients were slow to adapt to the change in Instagram’s algorithm, and experienced an uptick in conversions after doing so.

3. Don’t Fear Bots – But Use Them Judiciously

If you choose to use a bot, make sure it’s done in an extremely targeted and calculated way. Program it specifically to engage only with content that makes sense for your niche, and reduce frequency of each of its actions to avoid being flagged by Instagram. We’ve experienced that when used with caution, a bot is a powerful, cost-effective way to generate impressions, increase traffic to a profile, and potentially boost conversions. However, I’ve had people who used them unwisely come to me for help after their profile was flagged. Start with autoliking, not comments or other actions and keep frequency to less than 40 likes per hour until you get the hang of things. Keep track of activity logs to make sure the bot’s actions are in line with your brand.

4. Ride The Wave of Video Content

Video content has far more engagement on Instagram and should be a pivotal part of growing an audience. Keep content short (between 10 and 60 seconds) and be mindful of its thumbnail image and beginning to make sure you can capture users’ attention early. Videos will also generally have better margins for running Instagram ads, as social platforms try to incentive use of video to boost engagement on the platform. I’ve seen businesses increase their reach dramatically after leaning into video content.

5. Don’t Boost Posts – Run Ads Through Facebook’s Power Editor or Ad Manager

Many businesses I’ve worked with were frustrated by a lack of conversions and growth after boosting their posts through Instagram. Using Facebook’s Power Editor tool will allow you to be far more surgical and granular with your targeting. I’ve seen double digit boosts in clients’ conversions after taking the time to create specific adsets to target specific demographics.

6. Don’t Discount Partnerships

While staying focused on conversions is key, don’t discount Instagram’s ability to act as a digital business card. I’ve developed valuable partnerships for my company and for clients by reaching out to other companies in a direct message and gaining access to decision makers. Particularly if you’re talking about startups, chances are Co-Founders aren’t managing the company’s Instagram day-to-day, but they’re checking up on it from time to time. Keep messages brief, and open up by offering something, not asking for something. We’ve used this method to connect with many interesting startup companies that might have missed us on LinkedIn or other channels.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Part of my goal working with Start It Up is to inspire a movement towards innovation. We’re looking to accelerate a change in business culture that puts intelligently engineered tech products with a social purpose at the forefront. The reason we choose to work with companies like UBQFit, Saavor, and Moad Computer, isn’t financial gain. We think these companies are genuinely offering products that can initiate positive change in users lifestyles and larger social causes.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Having dinner with Elon Musk or Kim Dotcom would be a dream come true and sure to entertain. More realistically, I’d love to sit down with Matt Hartman sometime. He’s been a VC speaker at many of our events in the past, and moderated at Ascent Conference whom we partnered with, and I’ve always enjoyed his perspective on fundraising for startups.

Thank you so much for these great insights. This was very enlightening!


How to Use Instagram To Dramatically Improve Your Business: “Don’t Fear Consistency” With Nico… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.