This challenge aims to grow my Instagram following during peak pool season. But why spend time chasing these so-called “vanity metrics?”
Two words: Brand Momentum.
What is Brand Momentum?
Brand momentum is a measure of the brand’s quality and how good it is at out-growing its competitors. Think of it as the public perception of an up-and-coming and trustworthy brand that’s seemingly everywhere all at once.
This reminds me of Pat Flynn’s “Be Everywhere” strategy back in 2011. Here’s episode 28 of the Smart Passive Income podcast talking about it.
Brands with momentum typically have higher sales than their competitors. This is common with Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) brands like AllBirds, Graza, and HopLark (all products I’ve bought thanks to their work on Instagram).
The goal is to show brand strength, vision, and popularity without spending a ton of money. And this is my wheelhouse!
This strategy is part of my Untouchable Business Model of creating high-quality content across a wide distribution network and collecting those people into my ecosystem.
And since Swim University is slowly becoming a DTC brand, I felt it was time to invest in growing traffic and customers outside of Google and YouTube. Plus, Instagram is a great place to sell products via Shopify.
The Plan to Create 30 Instagram Reels
For the last few months, I’ve spent more time on Instagram. I look for content that stops me from scrolling. I’ve been taking screenshots and recordings of the content that tickles my fancy.
Some of the tips I learned from my research include:
- Videos must be short 30-60 seconds.
- Start with a scroll-stopping image (motion, human, interesting shot) and story beat (a question or what the video is about).
- Quick editing with no more than 3 seconds per shot.
- Follow a basic structure: Setup, meat, punchline.
- Use text to add extra value and eye-catching motion.
- Hashtags don’t work anymore.
- Add humor.
- The caption should contain 3-4 paragraphs of extra, in-depth information and behind-the-scenes content.
- End the video with a CTA like there’s more info in the caption or ask a question in the comments.
So with these ideas in mind, I sat down to create a kick-ass short video.
View this post on Instagram
This worked! Reels provide a much greater reach than traditional in-feed posts on Instagram. At the time of posting it, I only had about a hundred followers. But this post had a reach of 4,901 plays.
Now, I needed a plan to make creating more videos like this. So I sat down with Steph (my GF) and devised a plan to batch create 30 short videos.
1. Make a List of Video Ideas based on Existing YouTube Content
On day 0 of the challenge, we sat at the kitchen table and came up with 35 pool care tips. I wrote them all down in Asana.
Each card will act as a “home” for the video content.
We’ll also be re-editing our YouTube videos to be vertical. This means using the existing YouTube scripts and creating a new short video from scratch.
2. Edit Videos in Adobe Premiere
I’ll use Adobe Premiere to edit all the videos. This will give me quick access to all the footage and graphics I’ll need to make the video.
3. Upload Video & Description in Asana Cards
Once the video is complete and exported, I’ll upload it to the original Asana card we had planned out. I’ll also copy and paste the text from the YouTube description to later use for the Instagram caption.
Since I can’t schedule Reels in any third-party app, I’ll use Asana to send me a notification when the reel needs to be published.
I’ll download the video to my phone and copy and paste the text. I can then open up Instagram and publish the Reel.
Making The First Reel of The Challenge
I’ve hired my brother to help me with this challenge. I created the first Reel myself using the steps above and filmed everything to teach him.
Hopefully, he’ll get the hang of it quickly, and we’ll be off to the races. Let’s see what happens next!
Week 1 Results, Lessons Learned, & Plans for The Next Set of Reels
We posted an Instagram reel every day at 9 am mountain time.
My brother didn’t grow up working in the pool industry as I did. But he’s creative and a fast learner. So I told him just to recreate our YouTube videos into Reels using the built-in chapters as a guide.
Out of the seven reels, one of them did surprisingly well. It was posted on a Sunday, contained a popular audio track, and was timely content.
We only gained 58 new followers in a week. Not as fast as I was hoping, but we’re just getting started. All it takes is one great reel. And we’re still learning.
One of the reels we posted was actually an ad I made for one of the products we sell on Shopify. And I know a few sales came in because of this organic post. In fact, sales were up by 0.9% this week from Instagram!
I’ve also been posting our vertical videos on TikTok because why not. And I hooked up our Shopify store to TikTok. Just not sure how well it’ll convert. Only time will tell.
Speaking of which, I had dinner with a friend who suggested I buy a course on how to make Reels. So I bought Reels RocketShip. I’m not an affiliate, but I highly recommend this course already. I binged it in a single day.
A lot of what she practices doesn’t apply to our business, but it’s cool to see how others think about the platform and how we can shape similar concepts to our brand.
Here are just a few things we plan on doing for our next seven reels based on what I learned from this course:
- Shorter reels. Everything is under 30 seconds.
- Catchier hooks to stop people from scrolling.
- Editing to trendy songs.
- Faster edits with less text.
- Adding text via the Instagram app instead of in Adobe Premiere.
- Including a human element like a hand or ME!
What’s The Plan for The Next Set of Reels
Ironically, I own a pool company, but I don’t own a pool. So we decided to book an Airbnb to create a massive library of vertical video b-roll that we can repurpose for the rest of the year.
To prepare for this massive video shoot, I bought a drone, a gimbal, and an iPhone mount for a tripod. I’m also shopping at the pool store for all the gear we need.
I teach this b-roll concept in my YouTube For Bloggers course. In 2017, I spent a week at a friend’s pool getting hours of video footage that we continue to use to this day to create our YouTube videos and Reels.
This course shows you exactly how we earn money with our YouTube channel and how to produce high-quality, effective YouTube videos that make money (without a ton of subscribers).
We’ve been using this footage, but it was shot horizontally on a DSLR. This time, we’re going to get all the same types of shots using an iPhone in vertical mode, so it’s better for Instagram.
Week 2 Results, Lessons Learned, & Plans for The Next Set of Reels
We continued to post new Reels every day at 9 am MST. We had a few hits and misses, but nothing as big as last week’s 15k reach.
This week’s batch included two meme-style reposts with trending music. One did well with 4,837 plays while the other got our worst performance yet of only 839 views. So it ain’t all about the meme content. Good to know!
We only gained 20 new followers this week. And our sales from Instagram were down by 31%. Again, we’re still learning.
That said, it feels like we’re getting more likes, comments, and shares. And someone even reposted one of our Reels as a story. We just haven’t nailed down our content style yet.
I’m hoping next week will be different. You’ll see why.
We did some shorter reels, but I don’t think it made a difference. It’s all about the content, not the length.
Trendy songs didn’t help us either, but I don’t think it hurts in the long run. I’d like to try some voiceover work next week and talking head Reels.
We also made all the Reels inside the Instagram app instead of Adobe Premiere, assuming it would help Instagram read the text. But it didn’t make a difference. Just something we tried but don’t need to stick to in the future.
What’s The Plan for The Next Set of Reels
This week, we rented an Airbnb with a pool to shoot a bunch of vertical b-roll. We’re also shooting a bunch of videos of me answering short questions by the pool for easy Reels.
I created a massive shot list using Apple Notes.
Steph created an editorial calendar in a Google Doc. In the document, she writes…
The social media content should focus on helpful, straightforward questions, answers, and tips. And includes a CTA after to Get Free Pool Care Cheat Sheet which helps build our email list (and sells products).
She created a list of hook templates to brainstorm content, including:
- Should I Use or X or Y?
- Don’t Do XYZ
- Are You Doing XYZ Wrong?
- Are You Making XYZ Mistakes?
- Which is Better: X or Y?
- Does XYZ Really Work? (Is XYZ Product a Scam?)
- Doing _____ the Right Way
- The XYZ Trick for ABC Result (e.g., Pool Vacuum Trick)
- # Secrets to the Perfect _________
- Is XYZ damaging your pool?
- Is this secretly causing ABC problem?
- Is your XYZ measurement in the “safe zone,” “danger zone,” etc. (chlorine level, water level, pressure gauge, etc.)
- How Long / How Much / When Should…
- “I Did XYZ, and This Happened. What’s Going On?”
Using these templates, she fleshed out the editorial calendar for August.
What’s brilliant about these hook templates is you can take a small topic and turn it into at least ten different Reels.
In the next update, you should see a big difference in the Reel quality and content.
Week 3 Results, Lessons Learned, & Plans for The Next Set of Reels
We spent the week shooting b-roll at an Airbnb 30 minutes away. We just used the pool and didn’t stay in the house. We got a lot of great footage we’ll be able to use for years for both short vertical videos on Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube.
Everything was shot on either an iPhone 13 Pro Max, a GoPro Hero 9, or a DJI Mavic 3 drone. Here’s a drone shot. 🚁
We got there on Tuesday at 4 PM. We stayed and set up two iPhones and a GoPro to get time-lapse weather and sunset footage.
The only hiccup was the owners were still living in the basement. The listing said “Entire House,” which was not the case. We were a bit thrown off.
On our last day (Thursday), their neighbor pull up on his lawnmower and questioned us. The host warned us about this police officer neighbor before we arrived.
Apparently, they had some past party guests that didn’t make the neighbors happy. But he didn’t believe me when I told him what we were actually doing there. He sarcastically said, “good story,” and proceeded to drive off.
Who in the living fuck would make up a story about owning a pool business and renting an Airbnb for a video shoot?! He must run into a lot of creative criminals.
We gained 65 new followers and a few decent Reels. These were mostly based on Steph’s editorial calendar and used both old and new footage.
I mentioned last week that we were gonna shoot videos of me answering short questions by the pool for easy Reels. Well, we only shot one. And it got 1,190 views.
I didn’t like doing it, and I’m glad it didn’t go viral because I don’t want to get stuck being on camera in the future.
We stuck to the scripts, used b-roll, edited everything in Adobe Premiere (instead of the Instagram app), and started using a scheduler called Later (not an affiliate link).
This allows us to batch content and schedule it out. Up until recently, most platforms didn’t allow Reel scheduling.
But now, they offer Reels, Stories, and Carousels. Later also allows us to keep an organized media library and post on TikTok, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Totally worth every cent!
What’s The Plan for The Next Set of Reels
Honestly, we will continue doing exactly what we did last week. Our process is much tighter, and we have a clear output system.
I also created a landing page to link in the bio to collect email addresses, and it’s been working. Nothing crazy, but at least something.
We have one more week of this experiment. I doubt we’ll have any real big impact on the results, but we’re growing, and it’s a new venture we hope pays off in the long run.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint 🏃♂️.
Week 4 Final Results, Lessons Learned, & Plans for The Future
Over the last seven days, we gained only 46 followers for a total follower growth rate of 3.98%. At this point, growth is not insane, but it’s still growth. We’re also performing this challenge in August 2022, which is when pool season starts to slow down.
Using Later.com has been a big help. It allowed my brother to get ahead of schedule and post on multiple platforms, including Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn. And their analytics have been more helpful than Instagram’s.
Also, we started using their Link In Bio tool which allows us to track profile link clicks and monitor email subscriptions and sales from our Shopify store so we know what’s working.
I think this is simply a long game, but worth the effort for what we offer. I got an email from a customer who said:
“I’m a huge fan of your YouTube videos and I’m excited to see you on TikTok. I always reference you when I argue with my husband about our pool… lol”
So that was validating.
I learned that we could follow trends, hacks, and tips to game the Instagram algorithm. But that’s only going to get us shitty followers. We need followers who actually own swimming pools and hot tubs. Not just people looking to be entertained.
At the end of the day, our brand is called Swim UNIVERSITY. Meaning, our job is to educate people on how to take care of their pools and hot tubs. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do on these social media platforms, even if it means growing slow.
What’s The Plan for The Next Set of Reels and the Future
Steph said she will continue building our social media editorial calendar so Chris can focus on creating and scheduling the short videos. We’re going to start mixing in hot tub content too.
I think growth will be even slower over the fall and winter, but will pick up again in the spring. But by then, we’ll know a lot more about social media. And maybe one of the platforms really takes off for us.
Over the fall and winter, I have big plans to update the website and create a seamless integration with our Shopify store. I also plan to introduce new products and nail down an even tighter funnel to take advantage of all this organic reach.
I highly recommend subscribing to Money Lab if you haven’t already to hear about what’s to come with this brand and more.
Thanks for following along and I’ll see you in the future!
Matt GiovanisciI own three authority sites across different niches, including Swim University, Brew Cabin, and Money Lab. They earn a combined total of roughly $700,000 a year. I design and code all my own sites. Write the words. Film and edit the videos. Produce the podcasts. Illustrate the graphics. And I have a small team that helps too.
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