Instagram Shout-outs. Do they even work?

Collaboration is the #1 way to grow your audience on any platform. From YouTube to Instagram and everything in between, a shout-out from someone who has a more substantial following than yours is sure to pad your belt with a few new followers. Right?

Let’s find out.

In this post, I’ll walk you through a realistic approach to collaborating on Instagram, and later— I use my own account to show you the results of a ‘real life’ attempt.

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If you’re just starting out, it’s natural to feel “too small” and intimidated to reach out to someone with a considerable following. You might be thinking; this person probably gets asked for collabs all the time… and you’d be right. Read below for four tips on how to navigate a respectful collaboration pitch that won’t waste anyone’s time.

Step One: Put your best foot forward

Before reaching out to anyone, make sure your profile or channel communicates your value.

Ask yourself:

  • Does my profile or channel clearly state who I am and what I offer the world? 

  • Is my content ‘brand-safe’? Meaning— are your photos and videos something others would feel comfortable aligning with their brand? Consider controversial topics and imagery from an outside perspective.

  • Is my content professional looking? Most often, collaborations are a business transaction. If you have a mixed business/personal account, consider if this looks appealing to someone who is business-only.

Step Two: Know your value-add

You should always position collaboration as mutually beneficial. If the other party has the most followers, the benefit to you is obvious. Can you clearly articulate what’s in it for them?

Here are some ideas to show your appreciation:

  • Offer them a free or discounted product or service

  • Return the favor by shouting them out in one (or multiple!) places

  • Offer to hyper-engage with their content (dedicate your time to being their #1 fan. We all know the algorithm loves early, substantive comments!)

Step Three: Determine the ask

What’s the most strategic and realistic request?

Considering the other party likely gets asked for lightweight collaborations all the time, think of a way to make the ask easy on them. Here are some common ways to collaborate on Instagram that require minimal time and effort:

  • Re-post a photo from your Grid to their Story.

  • Re-post a photo or video from your Story to their Story.

  • Create a quick video in their Stories sharing what they love about your account and asking people to follow you.

  • Mention you in their Grid post.

    • Be sure they “@” tag you in each instance. This creates a clickable link.

Step Four: Draft your pitch

Do your research and write a brief yet detailed ‘pitch’ explaining how you can help each other.

Here is a rough template:

  1. Warm salutation (hey there!)

  2. Flattery (I’ve been following you for a long time and…)

  3. The ask (I would love it if you could…)

  4. The offer (In exchange for your time and trust in me, I’d like to offer…)

  5. A way to contact you outside of the app (Here is my email address if you’d like to discuss further)

If you’re a small-ish account approaching a slightly larger account, what can you expect for your collaborative efforts?

I’m so glad you asked. My friend Meo (2,500 IG followers) and I (1,200 IG followers) have been testing out a few Instagram theories lately, and she was kind enough to play this out with me…

Here’s the play-by-play of what we did

Meo re-posted some helpful content of mine (IG video tips) to her Stories with this caption:

“@catchfootandrun go follow her. She knows WTF she’s talking about.”

TIP: always tag the account when you re-share their content so they’re aware of your shout-out.

TIP: always tag the account when you re-share their content so they’re aware of your shout-out.

NOTE: It’s important to note that Meo and I share similar audiences. We both share social media tips on our accounts and can infer that our followers are into the same content. Trying to collaborate with someone who does something radically different than you would be a massive waste of time since their followers may not care whatsoever.

To summarize the collaboration, she re-posted one Story image featuring a clickable link back to my profile along with some kind words about me in her voice. I emphasize that last part because it’s imperative in the exchange that the endorsement feels authentic. (In my time working with mega-brands, the #1 mistake they made was insisting that paid influencers “say exactly this” which true fans can see right through. Not cool.) 

TIP: It’s okay to make some suggestions around what you want your collaborator to say, but always give them free rein to riff on the message in their way. Remember, they are in the power position.

So what did I get from this shout-out? Seven new followers. Yep, that’s it!

Here’s the funnel:

funnel

Seven followers may not seem like a lot, but consider the quality of these followers. They already think I’m trustworthy (since Meo vouched for me) which is the end game for having a social profile in the first place. Remember, before we can sell to anyone online, they have to feel like they know, like, and trust us.

These seven followers have been fast-tracked through the funnel and are infinitely more valuable than someone coming in cold.

If I got a shout-out like this one 5x per week, that’s 35 new followers a week. Each week I increase my ability to appeal to even larger collaborators, and within a few months, I’ve grown exponentially.

But remember: When it comes to social marketing, the size of your following only tells a fraction of your business story. Last summer, I wrote about why your follower count doesn’t matter, and I stand by this. Your goal should always be to attract the right people and not an arbitrary number of followers.

Next time, let’s talk about ways to improve your conversion rates from collaboration— how could I optimize my Instagram profile, even more, to convert those 38 looky-loos into more than seven followers?

Until then, thanks for stopping by.

Rachel