Grow an Instagram following for your business: practical tips to put in place today

This article was first published on City of Sydney News and shared by Australian Retailers Association

Pyrmont boutique owner Sandradee Makejev took a Bondi market stall and turned it into an online fashion empire with a $12 million-plus annual turnover. She attributes much of the success of her company, St Frock, to a strong social media strategy. 

She recently shared her tips and tricks for Instagram for business at our Small Business Digital 101: Instagram seminar at Customs House. 

Getting started 

St Frock’s social channels are populated with beautiful imagery and amusing memes with strong customer engagement. But Sandradee said her initial efforts looked very different. 

“I started with 10 really terrible images. The clothes were creased and not even hung on the hangers properly!” 

Sandradee launched the St Frock Facebook page on a Sunday night in 2009. After posting a few images of her current market stall stock, Sandradee invited a few friends to like the page. The next morning she woke to $350 worth of orders. “I thought ‘this is something, maybe I could turn it into a business.’” 

Within three months, St Frock’s Facebook page had grown to 1600+ fans. Sandradee quit her day job and focused on developing the e-commerce aspect of her fashion business. Within a year she had opened a bricks and mortar boutique in Pyrmont. 

Nine years on St Frock has 556,000 Facebook fans and 62,000 Instagram followers. Sandradee says online sales supported by social activity is her biggest revenue driver.  

“We’ve seen a $100,000 sales uplift thanks to Instagram. It works because we’re creating fresh content and keeping the conversation going.” 



Content tips 

For anyone aspiring to build their own social channels for small business, Sandradree says it all comes down to good content.  
St Frock’s social media posts are made up of 50% product-focused and 50% of what Sandradee calls ‘personality content.  

These tend to be branded ‘meme’-type tiles. “Often these are regrammed by others which helps build our reach. We often see lots of likes and followers tagging their friends which is also great for brand awareness.” 


She acknowledges that while this works for St Frock, the context mix would change according to the nature of your business. “If you’re an art gallery you may be able to get away with 95% product and 5% personality. But if you’re a renovator you might do 50% of your work and 50% inspo.”  


The power of Instagram stories 

St Frock uses Instagram Stories to create polls, trigger the audience to ask questions about its products and to show ‘behind the scenes’ of the business. Sandradee also recommends the feature for market research. “We’ll ask our stock buyers: what are the questions you would like to ask our customers?” says Sandradee 

Questions have included ‘Should we stock this product?’ ‘Where would you wear this product?’ Would you wear this to the office or to drinks?’ “We’ve been using polls to trigger great conversations,” she says. 

Consistency, timing and learning 

If you are starting out, Sandradee says you need to work out how many posts you can commit to a week and be prepared to constantly test and learn. 

It’s all about consistency and having a plan. If you can only do 3 posts a week you need to think about the 3 best pieces of content you can post every week. This will help your engagement and get your posts in front of your followers. 

She recommends businesses review their Instagram account at the end of each month to learn from analytics. “You take what works and repeat it slightly tweaking it a little bit going forward. Anything that didn’t work – make it redundant and move on.” 

She also suggests using a website such as Schedugram to schedule in your content in advance 

It can take a while to build an audience. “Sometimes for your schedule going forward you may not feel like you are getting traction for a while but you’ll get a few small wins – a few extra comments here, a few likes there – try use that information to learn from.” 

Her number one tip is to never compare yourself to others and the size of their audiences. “Don’t worry if your competitor has more likes or followers, you will get there. Just concentrate on bettering your own page, not bettering them.”  

Watch Sandradee’s and other speakers share their tips from the Small Business Digital 101: Instagram seminar on Youtube.


Sandradee’s Instagram success tips 


  • Interact with other likeminded social accounts to build audience – like their content, comment on it, etcetera. It will help build awareness about yourself and help you get noticed.
  • Make sure to respond to the comments you receive, don’t just ‘like’ them – followers like to feel valued!
  • Watch your hashtags – make sure they are relevant to your post and that you don’t use too many.
  • Feel free to share your Instagram posts on Facebook – but don’t do it all the time. Some content won’t resonate with audiences on both channels.
  • Posts that have good engagement can be reused (just not straight away) – give it a good break between posts so you don’t become repetitive and tweak it to make it new.


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