‘I have 500k Instagram followers, but nothing prepared me for launching my own swim brand.’

I’ve been on Instagram for over eight years, I have over 500,000 followers and I’ve worked with hundreds of brands for influencer marketing. When I decided to launch my own boutique swimwear business, Michaela Wain Swim, on Instagram, I thought I had everything down pat.

“I’ve got this,” I told myself, but even for someone as Instagram savvy as me, there are so many challenges when starting your own business.

So, to anyone thinking about launching their own product or brand on Instagram, here are five things I’ve learnt in the past 12 months:

1. The algorithm, trends and features are always changing.

Instagram is now so much more than just a photo sharing app. You can upload videos, Instagram stories and more recently IG TV videos. So, as a business you can no longer rely on uploading a standard still image and expect your product to reach the audience you want. To be successful, you really need to understand Instagram as a whole. Not only do you have to regularly use all the features the platform offers (both new and old), but you have to create an authentic voice, persona and brand to really stand out in a saturated market.

With so many brands trying to ‘sell’, uploading a photo every day and saying “buy this” is going to get you nowhere. You will look extremely bland and impersonal next to a competitor who uploads three pieces of content a day (a photo, a video and a boomerang), shows the entire behind the scenes process of designing a product on IG stories, and uploads a weekly ‘vlog’ to their IG TV.

Instagram works off algorithms. This is how the platform chooses when it will show your photo to a current or potential follower, over someone else’s. The way Instagram works is the more you use the features on the app, the ‘better’ your algorithm is and the higher the chances of someone seeing your posts.

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The more you are engaged with the app itself, the more it will reward you! The less you are using the features Instagram provides, the less people are going to know your brand.

People trust brands they know, and brands who they can build a connection with. Instagram is a constantly updating to give us better tools to create these connections and relationships with followers, so it’s pretty important to use them.

2. People underestimate your potential.

Instagram ‘influencers’ can sometimes get a bad reputation. We’re young, and we are operating on a platform that older, successful business men and women don’t understand.

They think we have no chance!

I launched Michaela Wain Swim at 22 years old, and I was met with a lot of criticism
because “what does she know about business?”.

The thing is though, my personal account allowed me to build an extremely loyal and engaged customer base, before I had even launched a product. I love my followers and they trust me, so we have a great relationship when it comes to me recommending products. They know I don’t promote stuff that isn’t amazing, so they also know I wouldn’t release dodgy bikinis.

The week before I officially launched my business I put a ‘pre-launch’ link in my personal bio giving exclusive early access to my collection. I only promoted this link on my account briefly yet I had over 3000 people register. I hadn’t even launched yet.

3. Insta-friends can become real friends.

Media (and even some influencers) perpetuate this idea that Instagram is completely fake and can’t be the basis for making real connections with others. I couldn’t disagree more.

Through Instagram I have developed friendships with a lot of girls, and this was amazing for when I wanted to launch Michaela Wain Swim. Myself, Belle Lucia (@belle_lucia) and Steph Rayner (@stephjrayner) headed off to Hawaii to shoot my brand’s first ever campaign pictures. It was such an amazing experience to share my brand with not only girls who I considered personal friends, but also who Australian followers love, engage with, and trust on Instagram.

Social media can be a ruthless industry, so having people who understand what it’s like around you can be make or break your brand. You might be surprised with how willing your IG friends are to help!

4. Getting someone to love your brand, is different to loving YOU.

Having a personality brand, and having a product brand, are two completely different things on Instagram (and your followers know this).

Yes, my personal account – and what my followers have come to love about me – helped me launch Michaela Wain Swim, but ultimately the brand I created for my bikinis had to stand on its own two feet. If I did run my Michaela Wain Swim account the exact same way I ran my personal account, my followers would get the same ‘value’ from both accounts. This ultimately means they would have ZERO reason to follow both.

I think this is a big thing that people forget when establishing their brand off the back of their personal Instagram account. People follow my personal account because they want to follow my personal journey and they follow Michaela Wain Swim because they want to see my business journey. They get unique and individual content from each account, and therefore want to follow both.

Things that ‘work’ on my personal account just wouldn’t on Michaela Wain Swim, and vice versa. Realising and establishing these differences can be really helpful in ensuring growth and engagement across your social media.

5. There’s more business than social media.

I have promoted brands on my personal Instagram account for years, so when it comes to social media marketing I am a bit of a pro – but there is so much more to running a business. Think accounting, budgeting, planning, designing, dealing with manufacturing, travelling, shipping, establishing websites and payment portals, packing orders, working with Australia post and customer care.

Yes, social media is a big part of getting my name out there but it’s not going to pack my orders for me or fix my website if it crashes. When starting your own business, you need to be prepared with everything that comes this world. Establish processes early and ask for help from trained professionals when you need it.

For more from Michaela Wain, follow her on Instagram.

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