Today I have Jamie Bailey with me of Expedition Marriage to talk about boosting platform growth. Jamie’s a good friend and a former client as well as a member of my insider mentorship and also creator of some of the most fun Reels you’ll ever see on Instagram.
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Check out Jamie’s guest podcast on securing a book deal below!
When to trust your instincts for platform growth
J: Surprisingly, it’s been exciting to grow like we have lately.
R: That’s what we’re going to talk about today. Jamie is a professional Christian counselor and marriage coach together with her husband, Chris. They run a private practice and expedition marriage: a marriage ministry.
Countless couples learn to enjoy the journey of marriage through their guidance. They are also weekly hosts and founders of the expedition marriage podcast and co-authors of the newlywed couples devotional. Jamie has a real passion for helping healthy couples continue to thrive, and helping hurting couples find the fullness in Christ they were meant to have.
Jamie we’ve referenced your growth on Instagram and we started at rock bottom together.
Growth starts small
J: I remember some of those early conversations. What am I supposed to share in stories? My life is boring. There’s nothing to share yet. I remember the early conversations of how do I make a colored background in my stories, all the basic things from basic tech to strategy.
R:You have come leaps and miles, haven’t you? Share with us why you decided to add Instagram into the mix of your practice and your ministry.
Instagram, for us, was an opportunity to reach more people. We run a private practice and that’s the day to day, hour by hour situation. When you’re trying to help save marriages and help marriages grow and hurting couples one at a time, that is not cutting it in today’s society. It can be exhausting as well. I love what I do, but there’s a lot of heart and emotion, and it’s a lot of heavy lifting that I will do in a day’s work. So, being able to have a platform like Instagram, where I can cast that net wider instead of just doing one-on-one. Most of the people we would see in our office are already in trouble and needing hope. A lot of them are last ditch efforts. At some point, we knew we had to get ahead of this problem.
IG as a helpful tool
Instagram has provided an excellent way for us to do some of that PR preventative work and start reaching people and guiding them and giving them resources and tools and even just solid biblical marriage advice.
Long story short Instagram allows us to reach thousands of people instead of just one couple an hour.
R: I know as you started growing and picking up traction, it was blowing your mind how many times your quotes are being shared. For example, you would actually send me your stats and you were so excited because it’s proof you are hitting the pain points there and really resonating with people in there. They’re consuming your content and sharing it. That is just helping spread the word.
How quickly did it take to get to your current number of subscribers?
J: It’s a little challenging to answer that because it was slow, then a little bit faster. Then boom, take off running because if you were to look at our feed from the very beginning, it looks entirely different than what it looks like now.
Small growth pays off
So we were fumbling around, honestly, for almost eight months to a year just trying to figure out how this whole thing works. That’s about when I met you. Now we’re almost two years into this and we’ve got it down.
Once we learned what works for us and the tools to use it just took off and we can’t even keep up with how many new followers we’re getting a day and all that.
It is growing based off what we’re doing now. It was really slow going and it took a lot of effort in the beginning to figure things out.
Then once we got it figured out for us, Instagram started growing. It’s fun and it’s purposeful. Like you said, when people share, it’s so exciting to us because statistically 750,000 divorces happen every year. To know every time somebody shares something is getting into the hands and into the heart of somebody who probably needs that is just tremendous.
Remember your purpose in platform growth
So the more we grow, it’s not about having this big following, it’s about we’re changing lives. So that follower count absolutely is important to us, but for a very different reason. Now that we’re in our groove, we are just growing so much faster than we did during that first initial year.
R: It is slow going at first and you have to figure out your system. Speaking of systems, what are some of the things that are just right in place for you now that don’t take a lot of things.
Creating content has become much easier for us now because I keep a little notes section on my phone and when I have a thought, I just put it in there. So I have a one-stop shop to go to when I’m going to create. And we’ve really gotten good at repurposing our content. We repurpose a podcast, a blog, a quote, a carousel, a reel, and hit the same topic in all those different neighborhoods, all of those areas.
We’ve become like a well-oiled machine in doing so. That has been a great tool for us.
Re-purposing for platform growth
Re-purposing is where it’s at. Really know your audience and their pain points then rather than consistently putting out content the best thing you can do is to repurpose.
I do love how you do that so well. Let’s go with the beginning of 2021. I don’t know how many thousands of subscribers or followers you gained in 2021. But it really picked up. What do you think finally changed or clicked?
J: I think it was a couple of things. One thing that helped us a lot is something you’re always telling us which is in your bio, have that freebie! Have that call to action, go grab this thing, go do that. We were doing that. In the beginning, we would throw this and that out there and all these different things.
What I finally came up with was a 30 day prayer challenge. Promoting that through Reels, through Carousels, through all neighborhoods that you teach us about, promoting it there and then having it in our bio. So, if anybody comes and looks at our page, they’re going to see that we have a 30-day free trial.
Implementing challenges for platform growth
We have a praying for your husband and praying for your wife challenge, a challenge that hits our niche and hits our people and where they’re at, they were all over it. So that helped us with platform growth by leaps and brown and by leaps and bounds alone.
Another thing that helped us gain platform growth is I kinda got good at what I was practicing. All of those things, like you mentioned in the beginning, you know how to show up in stories and how to do things like that and get in your story feed and share your life.
I was so uncomfortable doing it at first, but I began to practice. Our content was getting really good. We knew the pain points of our audience, but they were also getting to know us through our stories. The more we would practice that, and the more I changed our minds, I say ours, but it was really my mindset.
Fighting analysis paralysis
My husband has no problem showing up and all that stuff. That’s obvious. But for me, I had to get over that analysis paralysis. Because I wanted to know when you remember me from the beginning, I had all the questions. What about this? How do I do this? I would get stuck researching things all the time, but now what happened is I’m like, I don’t care about all that.
I found the middle ground, the sweet spot of knowing all the technical stuff and the algorithm stuff you teach us. But also was combining that with what works for us. Where’s the natural fit. So, combining those two and just going and doing it and being willing to fail and mess it up and realizing when you stumble on a word that’s relatable, when you have hypo in your carousel or in your, in something, there was days where I would have taken that down and deleted it, but now I’m like, whatever.
Natural feed vs forced feed
It’s so natural. The more natural our feed is, the more we grow because it’s who we are. We’re trying to attract people to what we have. And really, we’ve learned to give them that.
When it comes to challenges, you have to know how the algorithm works. You have to know what things work well, but if those rules take you out of your authentic message, then you want to stick with your authentic message all day long. We’d rather have the 300 people who need what you have than 10,000 followers who aren’t going to participate in what you’re offering.
R: Maybe you already told us this, but what advice do you have for others who are struggling to grow?
J: Nail down your niche. This is going to sound like a simple thing, but it is really hard. You have to practice being yourself. You have to practice showing up as who you are and you can’t be afraid to embrace trial and error.
Trial and error is a doorway
We had to work so many kinks out and realize, okay, we tried that. We thought it was great in our heads. This was wonderful, but we cast it out there and heard crickets and that’s okay. Embracing that trial and error phase. Because you have to do it. You have to move to grow and you have to practice all that and you have to make it natural to who you are, because really I am a big believer and I think you are as well.
Instagram should be fun. And there is some stress in the beginning, but you can’t let that stop you. You just have to embrace that it’s uncomfortable.
Keep your head down, stay in your lane, stay true to what your message is and stop looking around.
Be consistent and show up.
Know your product
R: Amen. So knowing your product, obviously, knowing it well has a lot to do with your success, even with a small following which you had in the beginning.
How would you advise women to narrow down their content? If they want to take their business to Instagram?
I would start with making sure they know their stuff. They have to be excited about what they’re going to do and what they’re going to offer and that falls into line with knowing your niche as well, knowing what you’re even going to do.
If you don’t know what you’re going to do on Instagram, you’re probably gonna be all over the place with things. You want to know what your passion is and think about what excites you. What makes you excited to show up. We get excited to show up knowing we can make a change, and that has lent itself to platform growth.
Be excited about what you are presenting
You have to be excited about what you’re presenting and what you’re putting out there. And you can use that. You can figure out your passion by what excites you, what you’re good at and what stems from your life experience.
For me, I’m passionate about this. I grew up in a divorced, dysfunctional family. I have that history. I have that understanding of what it’s like to be in that position. I want to use my life story on Instagram as well. I think using your story, using your gifts and knowing what you’re excited about, and that’s what you want to focus on because these broad brushes, they’re never going to attract your ideal customer.
You’re showing up looking for very specific people and you have to identify who those people are and then bring all that you have to them.
R: What comes to mind when I think about combining the threads, like you said, of your passions and what you’re good at and things like that, is just mind mapping or just writing out circles and connecting the dots.
I remember doing an exercise like that way back in the dark ages when I first started blogging, because I didn’t know and then it became clear to me, oh, I’m supposed to be talking to young moms because this is what I do, and that was that phase of life. But a lot of times it’s obvious to other people. This is one of the biggest keys for platform growth.
I think there’s so much pressure to be all things to all people. We get on Instagram wanting to start out doing that, and you can’t do that. You have to know who it is that you’re talking to because that’s, we’re not going to reach anybody if we’re speaking so generically.
Monetizing on IG with platform growth
R: What would you say are your top, like your top three tips for the woman entrepreneur who wants to monetize on Instagram?
1. Get to know your audience
J: I would say you have to get to know your audience.
You have to figure out the things that they want based off of what am I putting out there that’s working and what’s not. And that’s information. If you have a failed real well, aside from the algorithm, if you have failed content, a failed product, a failed challenge, that’s information.
It’s actually not a failure. It’s an opportunity to learn. And so you have to put stuff out there because you have to get to know your audience and pay attention to them. Look at your insights. Like you always teach, know what are my top posts? What are my audience? What are they wanting? What do they like? What do they resonate with? And in addition to that,
2. build relationships with your people.
Respond to their DMS, use those sticker buttons to communicate on your story. Feed, respond back to people, get to know they will tell you their stories and it can be, even if you’re looking for new candles, people will say, “Hey, do you have this kind of set” or I’m trying to set this mood in my house.
They want to talk to you. We’re still humans. God made us for relationships. You have to bring relationships into this Instagram game and use it for what it was made for and that’s engagement in relationships. So don’t be afraid to talk to your people, pose questions, open-ended questions are or not, and just engage back and forth with them.
The third one would be,
3. remind them of the problem that they have.
Whether it’s a messy home and they need organization or it’s, they need beautification, they need new hair products, whatever it is, they need help in their marriage, know their problem and let them know what it is and that you have the answer to something.
That’s what it’s about. So don’t be afraid to talk about the problems they have to be reminded. Remember this? Why are you struggling with this when I can help you? So that would be my three, know your audience, build relationships with them and remind them of the problems and that you have the solution.
R: Sometimes, we have to spell it out. You have to say state the obvious on Instagram because everyone moves so fast. Everyone’s scrolling so fast that you have to spell out what you offer and what you can do for them. And like you said, Those conversations in the DM, those come from stories and from sharing your real life like you were talking about.
Keep it real
And it’s okay if you don’t sell candles, but you talk about candles. We’re talking about regular conversations, just sharing your life in those stories. That’s what stories are for, because that’s where the DM is, right? Don’t assume that because you’ve put it out there once that everybody’s seen it and you can’t write.
We need to repeat things. We just did a Reel where we shared a little bit of our story and got a big response from it. I took it upon myself. I took a poll and asked people how many of them knew that we originally had a difficult marriage.
It was a 50, 50 split. Half of our audience had no idea that we had had a difficult marriage. So now I know, and I would’ve thought surely we share this all the time. Don’t assume your people know things. Be repetitive, get that message out there and repeat it in different ways and in different manners, because not everybody’s going to remember it.
Dream to reality
J: It was a dream of ours, but because of the content we put out there and that’s one of the things you’ll hear different Instagram experts all over and make your caption shore, make them medium length, whatever. That’s not who we are. And this is one of those areas where we think, here’s what Instagram says they want, but here’s, what’s true to us.
We have longer captions because we’re teaching from them. Those longer captions are the things that landed us. That book deal, because it allowed a publisher to read and to start to understand, this is what this person’s going to write. This is what they’re going to do. And so you have to stay true to yourself.
R: This has been so informative. Our followers and our listeners are going to love your practical tips of how you went from point a to massive growth, exploding growth and connection with people. Thank you so much today for taking the time to share with us, Jamie.