This is a step-by-step article on how to use Instagram in a very unorthodox way to grow your list from nothing to 1000 in as little as two weeks. It is applicable to any niche. Here are my results:

How I Grew 0-1000 Email Subscribers in 14 Days With Instagram

It’s become common rhetoric that email subscribers are the most effective way to grow and sustain a digital business. They’re more lucrative than Twitter followers, Youtube subscribers and Facebook likes combined due to their high conversion to sales rate. Plus, you legally own your email list, whereas your social media following isn’t really yours.

When I made the transition from solo freelancer to e-course creator a few months ago, I had 0 email subscribers. Bummer, huh? My Instagram following spans 22k, but I never thought to collect emails. That proves that being ‘big’ on social media doesn’t necessarily mean very much. I knew that if I wanted my new courses to sell, I had to carve out my first few thousand as quickly as possible. There are far too many who push out content and passively wait for subscribers to trickle in organically, and while I don’t knock anyone’s method, the bottom line is: The quicker you get to 1000, the quicker you will sell.

It’s worth investing in that initial 1000.

If you’re familiar with the notion of 1000 true fans, you’ll know what I mean.

A creator only needs to acquire only 1000 true fans to make a living.

– Kevin Kelly

(Although in 1000 subscribers you’ll be lucky to carve out 200 true fans, which is amazing still. Going from a readership of 0 to a few hundred in less than a month is nothing short of a miracle. You’ll have to cultivate relationships with your new audience, but that’s easy compared to getting that audience in the first place.)

You’re probably wondering how.

We’ll be using Instagram hubs to capture email subscribers, and probably not in the way that you think. From my conversations with my entrepreneurial circle, this method is severely under-utilized. Only one other person knew about it, and he’s written for TIME and is coming out with a book next year.

Let’s get on with it.

Disclaimer: You don’t need a huge Instagram audience for this, nor do you even need an Instagram account. That being said, if you do already have an Instagram audience – amazing! If you’re not on Instagram, I highly recommend getting on it so you can start building social proof regardless.

What the heck is an Instagram hub?

An Instagram hub is an extremely popular account that features one niche. You can find hubs in just about every niche: graphic design, photography, fashion, fitness, calligraphy, travel, writing, beauty, motivation—that’s the true beauty and power of Instagram! I’d recommend going for the ones with at least 100k+. That means plenty of eyeballs without inflated prices. See? You don’t need your own powerhouse account. Just leverage what already dominates the market.

Examples of Instagram hubs:

  • Photography: @filmpalette @dark.daisies
  • Motivation: @mindsetofgreatness
  • Travel: @thetravellerslist
  • Art: @worldofartists

A unspoken rule of Instagram is that if an account has an email in their bio, it means they’re open to business.

People normally use hubs to promote their own account.

Here’s the kicker: You want to promote a highly valuable opt-in freebie instead.

Using Instagram hubs to promote your opt-in freebie

Have a killer, high-value opt in freebie ready to go. Something your target audience cannot say no to.

Email the Instagram hub casually asking for their shoutout rates. They will usually have options from 3hr, 6hr, 12hr, 24hr to permanent posts. You want to just get the cheapest possible. I’ve tested various post types and the sweet spot is 12hr, but if a hub is charging high prices or you just want to try how effective the hub’s following is, 3hr shoutouts are still super.

You should get a response like this:

How I Grew 0-1000 Email Subscribers in 14 Days With Instagram

Make sure to tell them that you’re not promoting your account; you’re promoting a free eBook you’ve written, a free mini guide, or whatever your opt-in is specifically. Hubs aren’t used to this type of shoutout. You might have to explain to them what it’s all about.

When negotiating, make sure you get their bio link too. You need the bio link for your opt-in! I’ve noticed some hubs have begun to charge extra for bio links, so be transparent from the very beginning and don’t be afraid to negotiate. This form of advertising is VERY new, meaning industry standard rates are constantly changing—be assertive and firm. If a hub flat out doesn’t do bio links, move on.

Let’s talk prices

Prices between $30-$150 per shoutout are normal. If these rates seem high, let’s break it down like this:

A good shoutout may get you 150 new subscribers in one shot.

If you paid $60 for that, that’s 40c per subscriber.

Based on the standard 1% sales conversion rate, that’s 2 out of 150 people that’ll convert.

If you charge a $100 product, you’re making $200.

That’s $140 profit from your initial $60 investment. WIN.

Plus, you get 150 brand spanking new humans to cultivate an intimate, genuine, long-term relationship with that can and will convert into sales as you bring out more products/services. DOUBLE WIN. You only need a couple of shoutouts using this method to get your first 1000.

When broken down like this, you can see that 1000 isn’t even a lot. It’s completely doable, and hardly anyone is utilizing this at the moment. I hope you give it a go.

Breakdown of my 0-1000

How I Grew 0-1000 Email Subscribers in 14 Days With Instagram

@filmpalette 35 Euro: 100 subs

@worldofartists $100: 200 subs

@dark.daisies $36: 100 subs

@mindsetofgreatness $100: 200 subs

@expofilm $150: 300 subs

Total paid: $465

Per subscriber: $0.47

Again, based on the standard 1% conversion rate, 10 people in 1000 subscribers will buy. If you sell a $100 product, your revenue becomes $1000.

Revenue: $1000

Profit: $1000 – $465 = $535.

Plus, you keep your 1000 subscribers for further sales down the road.

If growing a sizable email list is one of your priorities, get on this method ASAP. Find out the top Instagram influencers in your niche, fire off some emails asking for their prices, put together your first opt-in freebie and collect your first subscribers! Getting to 1000 takes months, even years for some. Too long, in my book.

The idea: Get to 1000 as quickly as you can, and go from there.

Click here to learn exactly how to find the right Instagram hub for your niche!Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

Jenny Gao

Jen is the founder of Other Worldly, a creative entrepreneurship platform where she teaches millennials how to start and scale profitable digital businesses and lead effective lives. She is a photographer and a writer, and has spent the past two years traveling the world while working with international brands like Daniel Wellington, Thompson Hotels London and Four Seasons Paris to promote experiences.

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