Instagram Success: How a Marketer Grew a Loyal Following With Instagram

Do you want to grow your business using Instagram?

Are you wondering how to build a loyal following?

I interview Chalene Johnson for this episode of the Social Media Marketing podcast and explore how she amassed a following of 365,000 on Instagram.

More About This Show

Social Media Marketing Podcast w/ Michael Stelzner

The Social Media Marketing podcast is a show from Social Media Examiner.

It’s designed to help busy marketers and business owners discover what works with social media marketing.

The show format is on-demand talk radio (also known as podcasting).

In this episode, I interview Chalene Johnson. Chalene is author of the fitness book Push, a motivational speaker and her infomercials on fitness have sold millions of DVDs. She’s found great success with Instagram and now teaches other small businesses how to do the same with her Instagram Impact course, and has a new podcast called Build Your Tribe.

Chalene shares how she creatively used Instagram to grow her business.

You’ll discover how to take your Instagram marketing to the next level.

Share your feedback, read the show notes and get the links mentioned in this episode below!

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You can also subscribe via iTunes, RSS, Stitcher, SoundCloud or Blackberry.

Here are some of the things you’ll discover in this show:

Instagram Success

How and why Chalene started on social media

Chalene says she started with YouTube in 2006 and Twitter in 2007 or 2008.

chalene johnson twitter

Chalene joined Twitter in 2008.

In 2009, she got the idea for writing Push. When she told her agent she wanted to pitch a book about goal-setting and focus instead of a fitness book, he told her she didn’t have the social media following or the credibility to write that type of book. 

She got to work and spent a year using social media to build a platform with the intention of writing the book she wanted to pitch to publishers in New York.

Listen to the show to hear how Chalene used social media when she first started.

What Chalene built to support her book pitch

Chalene shares that she had a ton of followers on YouTube and had just started a Facebook page when she decided to write Push. Even though she had millions of DVD customers, her agent had to remind her that publishers don’t care who you know; publishers want to know if you have the ability to reach those people.

To build her email list, Chalene created a 30-Day Challenge for her Facebook audience.

chalene johnson  30 day challenge facebook post

Chalene launched the 30-Day Challenge on Facebook.

She started with three quick videos to show how she uses her phone to organize her daily to-do list and included a simple email opt-in. Every day she delivered a 2-minute video to her email subscribers.

The list grew to 100,000 in 9 months.

Listen to the show to find out how Chalene collected emails from her subscribers.

How Chalene got started with Instagram

After successfully using Facebook to build her email list, Chalene says she was able to land the publishing deal she wanted and the book was released in December 2011. Then she noticed she wasn’t getting any love on Facebook.

She didn’t want to learn about Facebook ads and shares that she kind of picked up her toys and stomped off the playground. That’s when she began to realize her kids were all over Instagram but businesses weren’t.

chalene johnson instagram account

Chalene’s Instagram account now has over 365,000 followers.

In winter 2012, Chalene decided to become an early settler on Instagram. She started with life-casting, sharing personal images to show where she was and what she was doing during the day.

Listen to the show to find out how following a favorite fashion icon drastically changed Chalene’s Instagram strategy.

How Instagram has changed Chalene’s business

Chalene shares that as a business owner and someone with a family, Instagram saves her time. She says instead of spending hours creating content, she can now spend literally 15 seconds and produce content to drive traffic to an opt-in for current or future offers.

Unlike Facebook, Instagram allows her to put a call to action (CTA) in every post without affecting her engagement.

instagram exercise sequence video

Every post closes with a call to action.

Listen to the show to discover what Chalene tracks to gauge the performance of her Instagram content.

How Chalene’s basic Instagram content strategy has evolved

Initially, Chalene posted twice a day—once at 7am and once at 7pm. Each post was a single image or photo collage demonstrating an exercise sequence. She included instructions for the sequence in the image description and ended each one with a CTA prompting viewers to tag others who might find the post useful.

Next, she added video posts to her content mix.

charlene johnson instagram feed

Charlene’s Instagram feed now holds a mix of personal and business posts.

Now that she’s grown her account, she has the latitude to share a few personal posts about her family or her faith. Chalene cautions that she loses followers each time she does this. She explains she’s okay with the drops because she most wants to connect with people who like that part of her.

Chalene also shares two helpful Instagram tips anyone can use.

Listen to the show to learn how photos and videos affect engagement and account growth.

instagram success

Find out how Chalene Johnson grew a loyal Instagram following.

Discovery of the Week

When you put a link for your own site or for another site into a Facebook update, you’ve probably noticed you often have a default image that comes up or an option to shuttle between the images to decide how you want the update to look. But what happens when the site doesn’t have a nice, optimized image for Facebook?

I recently discovered how to upload a custom image to show with any link I post to a Facebook page.

When I paste a link into the update box, I simply click on the Upload Image box to load a custom image I’ve created with Canva or PicMonkey.

facebook upload image feature

Click Upload Image to show your own custom image with any link you post to Facebook.

That’s all there is to it.

Experiment with uploading your own images to Facebook.

Listen to the show to learn more about how Social Media Examiner uses this feature and let us know how this works for you.

Other Show Mentions

social media success summitToday’s show is sponsored by Social Media Success Summit 2014.

This is our largest online event. It’s completely online, so no travel involved. There will be three sessions each day spread over an entire month. Each day has a theme.

If you’re considering starting a podcast, we’ve got some of the best experts in the world talking specifically about podcasting.

First, Cliff Ravenscraft shares 6 Reasons Why Podcasting Is the Best Investment for Building Your Platform.

Next, John Lee Dumas presents How to Grow Your Podcasting Audience: 5 Proven Methods.

Then, Pat Flynn and Lewis Howes join me for How to Build a Successful Podcast by Interviewing Others.

We have handpicked the best experts in the world to teach you all about podcasting and how to market on all of the various channels.

If you want to learn more, visit here where you can check out all of the speakers and the agenda. Make sure you grab your ticket before the price goes up. We’ve got a significant earlybird discount for you right now.

Key takeaways mentioned in this episode:

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What do you think? Do you believe Instagram can grow your business? What are your thoughts on Instagram tactics? Please leave your comments below.

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About the Author, Michael Stelzner

Michael Stelzner is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, founder of My Kids' Adventures and author of the books Launch and Writing White Papers. He's also the host of the Social Media Marketing podcast. Other posts by »




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  • http://stancebranding.com/ Justine Espersen

    This is really helpful! Thank you taking the time to interview Johnson and write this :)

  • Quill & Ink

    I wondered when my two fav biz resources were going to get together – Chalene Johnson and Michael Stelzner! I LOVE Chalene’s Marketing Impact Academy…Going through it right now getting ready to launch.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Justine

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you enjoyed this :)

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: Google Tests Mobile Ad Tracking, Twitter Loses Bing Translator & Yelp Adds It

  • Dave MacKayu

    I appreciate how you have segmented this post and added so many helpful items in the text. Also, great to see how Chalene smashed the obstacles. A most inspiring and helpful article!

  • http://www.murreepoint.com/ Murree Point

    Thanks for mentioning Canva, I am using you since mentioned on your blog. Nice online app.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thank you Dave :)

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you found it useful Murree

  • Amanda Bush

    Loved this podcast – it got me excited about Instagram again! I’ll definitely be putting this into practice.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you enjoyed it Amanda

  • Kelly Youmans

    Yes, I KNOW Instagram can grow my business. It already is thanks to applicable strategies just like the ones you can learn in Chalene’s Instagram Impact.

  • Sarah

    Michael,
    Thank you so much for this great interview! I really enjoy podcasts and the luxury of being able to listen while I multitask. Having your blog post was most helpful to see exactly what you were discussing. I am currently in Chalene’s Marketing Impact Academy. I could not ask for better content as a brand new business owner. Listening to her interview on topics she is covering for us put a nice perspective to so much of what she is teaching. Thank you again for this content and truly priceless service.
    All my best~ Sarah

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad to hear it is working for you Kelly

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Thanks Sarah

  • Kelly Youmans

    Thanks Michael for responding. BTW, I learn a TON from you too. ;)

  • http://candasbarnes.com/ Candas Ifama Barnes

    Michael & Chalene, great podcast. Lots of useful tips on using IG as well as some thoughtful strategies about staying ahead of the curve.

    Chalene, I especially appreciated it that you look to your kids to see what’s trending and used that to get ahead of the game with using IG for business. Also, the tip about first sharing USEFUL content and then, after earning our followers interest sprinkling in some “life-casting” to deepen the relationship. Even though I’ve heard some of these tips from you in your Marketing Impact Academy, listening to them here drove them home in a new way. Thanks again!

    Michael, as always, your tips are brilliant but this one about added a custom image with our own info is awesomesauce.

    Keep up the great work. So glad I found your site and podcast.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Glad you liked it Candas!

  • http://leadsgenerationmarketing.com/ Amanda Michaelson

    Nowadays, most people are addicted to social media sites, especially facebook and instagram. We could not deny the fact that this social media sites could really help us to satisfy our interests because all people that uses this have thier own individual interest. One thing that’s best about these sites is it could really help us in terms of business. All of the people that is engaged in social media could easily access almost everything in just a click. The field of business can easily be market in this social media sites because not only for the interest that need to be satisfied but for the business minded people who wants to achieve thier goals which is to aim their success.

  • http://leadsgenerationmarketing.com/ Amanda Michaelson

    Nowadays, most people are addicted to social media sites, especially facebook and instagram. We could not deny the fact that this social media sites could really help us to satisfy our interests because all people that uses this have thier own individual interest. One thing that’s best about these sites is it could really help us in terms of business. All of the people that is engaged in social media could easily access almost everything in just a click. The field of business can easily be market in this social media sites because not only for the interest that need to be satisfied but for the business minded people who wants to achieve thier goals which is to aim their success.







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