The wellness industry has an affinity for Instagram. From beautifully curated photos of smoothies and artfully arranged products to yoga-by-the-sea posts, Instagram has been a seamless vehicle for brand founders to get the word out about their wellness and beauty brands. As Instagram’s algorithms change and followers’ appetites for content continue to evolve, though, brand founders are faced with challenges on how to reach people and elevate their brands.
When we asked green beauty brand founders, influencers and social media strategists what they would do if Instagram disappeared tomorrow, their answers had a lot in common: Get creative, diversify and always be authentic. Here, five female entrepreneurs share their stories about building their brand with Instagram, and what they would do if the social media platform disappeared tomorrow.
How has Instagram changed your business?
Sarah Villafranco, M.D., Founder, Osmia Organics: It has allowed me to connect really deeply with a large community of people who are inspired by our message. I never thought I would end up in the beauty industry, but knowing that we are helping people change their lives in a very empowering way keeps me fired up to share our message. I am not a natural sales person—I’m very conscious of not wanting to push products on people in an aggressive way. But I love connecting with people, I love sharing my medical knowledge and I love helping people embrace their power to be well. Instagram allows me to do all of those, which ultimately helps drive sales.
Ksenia Avdulova, Founder, Breakfast Criminals and host of the Woke and Wired podcast:
It didn’t change my business, it started it! I began posting on Instagram and diving into the world of wellness, and Instagram had the perfect community to receive my message. I share my story in the first episode of my podcast, Woke and Wired.
Rebecca Casciano, Makeup Artist, Natural Beauty Activist and Founder, The Sacred Beauty Movement: It’s helped me define and establish personal brand by encouraging me to curate the images and words that best represent my philosophy and services. The people and brands I follow on Instagram inspire me daily to create new content and find new ways to engage with my followers. It’s helped me expand to reach new markets, new clients and collaborators worldwide!
Sarah Hjorthol, Founder, Lyfe Inc.:
Speaking for me and my brand, Instagram is a huge part of my marketing strategy. Since I’m in the wellness industry, and so are my clients, this tool helps elevate the visual representation a website sometimes can’t.
Chelsea Williams, Founder & Chief Strategist, That’s Chelsea, LLC: Not only has Instagram helped me drive more traffic to my website, but it has also helped me earn spots on live television networks as on-air talent. Producers have contacted me via the direct message feature.
What is your favorite part of using Instagram to engage your followers?
Sarah V.: I love taking pictures! I studied photography in high school and college, and have always had the feeling that I see the world though a camera lens. Instagram allows me to express the heart and soul of our brand through photographs, which I find so much more interesting than more traditional marketing and advertising.
Rebecca: The ability to reach and connect with people from all over the world, to share my philosophy on beauty from the inside out and to remind women that they are inherently beautiful. Also, being able to meet and connect with so many amazing brands and sister entrepreneurs. I have met and collaborated with many people thanks to Instagram!
Chelsea: My favorite part about using Instagram is curating compelling images and videos that drive positive behavior change. Oftentimes, we know we should be adopting healthier lifestyle behaviors, but until we see images or read health-related information that resonates with us, we don’t feel compelled to make improvements. A major aspect of social behavior change is community, which Instagram provides.
Sarah H.: Instagram is a huge part of my brand’s marketing strategy. Since I’m in the wellness industry, and so are my clients, this tool helps elevate the visual representation a website sometimes can’t. I look at the feed as a mood board.
Have you found there are any drawbacks to using Instagram to market your businesses?
Sarah V.: The main drawback is that not everybody has or uses Instagram. Much of our customer base does, but I’m sure I’m missing some people who just never got on the Instagram train. Also, the changes in their algorithms can be frustrating at times, but if you’re persistent, you can find your rhythm again.
Ksenia: It’s addictive. It’s easy to be on it all the time. But that’s on us. It’s our responsibility to create our own healthy boundaries with social media. I believe firmly that social media is a tool. We can be more successful, we can connect, we can create impact—whatever we get from it is what we make of it. It’s up to us to actually create those things with these tools.
Rebecca: Other than getting sucked in and spending too much time on it? No.
Sarah H.: The most challenging part is what to post, and how. Do we have enough content? What caption? Are we using the right hashtags? Are we posting stories enough? All the features can be overwhelming. But remember, you don’t have to everything at once.
Chelsea: Constantly adapting to Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm has been a hurdle in terms of marketing. However, I have found that if I consistently put out quality, engaging content, I can continue to beat the algorithm.
If Instagram were to disappear, business owners would have to get creative—fast. Do you have any other tools you employ to market your business? If not, why not? If so, what are they, and what do you love about them?
Sarah V.: That’s a great and slightly unnerving question. I love Instagram so much that I can hardly imagine life without it! But, I think I could shift to other social channels like Facebook, which now has stories, Snapchat and Pinterest. We use all of those channels now, but we are most heavily invested in IG because it works so well for our brand. Also, email marketing remains a very strong channel for us, so we could continue to expand our tactics there if (sob) Instagram disappeared. I do a lot of educational writing for our blog, and the email campaigns tend to drive traffic to those posts. Since education is a huge part of our brand’s mission, we really love using email to nudge people to poke around on our blog.
Ksenia: There’s a lot of talk among brands and influencers of diversifying our content strategy and tapping into email marketing, YouTube and podcasting. I’ve personally been using all of the above much more regularly. I’ve been putting more energy into email marketing, so I can reach people directly—and it’s working. If I look at my Instagram reach, it’s around 18 percent, and my email open rate is at least 20 percent. When I post about my product, the @heartbowl on Instagram, I reach 20,000 people and get two to five sales. With email, I reach 1.6K people, and have gotten up to 50 orders from a single email. The conversion with email is so much higher.
Another thing to remember here is that it’s not just about the numbers—it’s about building a community of loyal, niche customers. It’s more impactful to get 1,000 people who really care about your business than 100,000 people who ended up on your page because of a photo that went viral and don’t understand what you’re all about.
Rebecca: Yes, I love hosting and speaking at live events as a way to introduce my services. There’s nothing like face-to-face connection and I find that people are most likely to book a service or join a Sacred Beauty Salon with me if we’ve had some personal interaction.
I also enjoy writing articles for my online Journal, as well for others’ sites and blogs. This is a great way to share ideas and keep online content fresh, which then comes up in searches and helps direct potential clients and partners to my site. Collaborating with aligned brands and platforms is great for reaching a new audience within my businesses demographic.
Sarah H.: The most important thing I try to practice is diversity in how I reach both my personal audience and the audience of my clients. Even though Instagram might be the “big thing” now, it might be gone tomorrow, so it’s important to have a presence on more than one platform. The crucial thing here is to be able to identify with that certain platform. If it doesn’t resonate, you don’t have to use it.
Being confident in your brand is knowing how to present it. Where can you best tell your story? YouTube? Podcast? Amazon Ads? We tend to limit our visualization because we see the one thing working for many, but this doesn’t mean this will necessarily work for you. I always recommend my clients to do a brand mapping where they really think about their goals, the aesthetics, their voice. No one knows your brand better than you. Authenticity is key. I can’t say this enough. Gary Vaynerchuck has been an incredible source for me when it comes to this topic; he teaches the importance of diversity and learning different tools within the social media world.
Chelsea: Instagram has been a tremendous asset in helping me grow my business. However, the reality is I do not own Instagram or any of these other social media platforms. In terms of my digital presence, I only own my websites (thatschelsea.com, livesacreddc.com) and email list. This is also another reason why building real-life business relationships is so critical. Get on the phone with people and meet them in person if you can. If Instagram were to disappear tomorrow, I would continue to drive traffic to my website via my email list, word-of-mouth referrals and current network.
Surprisingly, Instagram is not my top social media tool for marketing my business. I prefer LinkedIn. I can create and share content with potential clients without the noise of Instagram. In most cases on LinkedIn, you can reach the appropriate contacts for partnerships directly. It can be difficult to gain the same level of visibility on Instagram.
What do you see as the future of social media marketing?
Ksenia: There’s a lot of talk today about Instagram not being the same as it was when it just started: It’s not chronological, there are a lot of ads, and in some ways, it’s harder to connect with people that you’re following. As a result, as a business or an influencer, you don’t reach as many people.
Instead of blaming Instagram for changing their algorithms, let’s look at what makes people spend less time on Instagram: the abundance of sponsored posts and staged content. The solution? It’s time to find a way to create more aligned partnerships. Instead of giving $100,000 to 100 influencers, brands should form long-term ambassadorships with five influencers who are truly on the same page with them and will share their product in the most organic way possible. Result? Happier followers, better relationships, growing sales.
More and more people are starting to use the “Boost” feature and run ads. I have this conversation all the time with my blogger and influencer friends: How do we diversify? For most bloggers, paid content partnerships with brands are their bread and butter. But we can’t rely on this forever. It’s a panicked conversation, but more people are jumping to YouTube and podcasting as the way of the future. Video content is most resonant to the millennial audience, even down to watching podcasts on YouTube. I’m very curious to see what the launch of IGTV will bring.
Why do you think Instagram resonates so deeply with the wellness community?
Chelsea: I think most people engage with the visual aspect of one’s wellness journey, and with written content and native video, Instagram humanizes this journey even further. Instagram has proven that wellness has no one shape, size or method. Instagram is a great digital storytelling platform that displays the various facets of wellness.
Instagram allows followers to glimpse your family, your lifestyle, your surroundings—as well as your brand. How do you balance the personal and the professional through Instagram?
Sarah V.: It’s tough, actually. I want to show people that I am a mom, doctor, CEO and athlete who is actively living the life I promote, not just preaching pretty words. But I don’t want to bore people stiff by taking pictures of every bowl of granola I eat. So, I try to find the right balance of healthy living, nature, fitness, parenting and, of course, Osmia products and the beautiful wellness rituals they can help you create.
Because it’s so visual, Instagram seems like the ideal modality to market yourself, but if were to disappear tomorrow, how do you envision pivoting to be able to continue to grow your business? How would you connect with current and potential clients?
Rebecca: I started my business way before Instagram or any social media platforms were born, so I would have no problem pivoting back to the foundational marketing approaches I used at the beginning of my career. Although Instagram is definitely helpful, most of my clients still find me through personal referrals, networking and Google searches. In terms of connecting with current and potential clients, I have a newsletter in which I share my latest projects, events and ideas, so that is also something I would definitely continue.
Do you have any advice or best practices for using Instagram that you’d like to share with other brand founders?
Sarah H.: Learning by doing, you see pretty quickly what works for your audience and what they respond to. Take note of that. How can you tell your story in a way that captivates your audience? How can you be creative today? Remember, without your followers’ engagement, you have nothing. Listen to what they say, answer every single comment and DM—never be too busy for this! With so much content out there, for that person to actually stop scrolling, go on to your feed and taking the time in their day to write you? You answer. Being authentic and have gratitude is so important to establish a relationship with your audience. Never underestimate the marketing of word of mouth.
How can you monetize social media to grow your business? Learn our favorite tips here.