The Cheetah and the Gazelle, an Instagram Social Growth Story

Part One of the Sollevarsi SOCIAL Series: Pillars of Social Media Growth on Instagram in 2017

The Cheetah and the Gazelle

A seasoned sales person knows it. Nature knows it. So why do so many fail at social growth before they even start?

A cheetah hunting on the Serengeti identifies prey almost instantaneously. They thin out the herd quickly and pounce or they fail. For a sales person, the good ones know if a new prospect is worth selling within minutes, sometimes seconds. They attack pain points and make a quick judgment call. We make similar judgements for good or bad thousands of times in an hour every day.

Social Media is no different. Social Growth converts in an instant or it fails.

The shock for many is that in this story you're not the cheetah. If you want to seriously start with Social Media marketing and grow your brand and business, first you have to be the gazelle. 

Part One of the Sollevarsi SOCIAL Series: Pillars of Social Media Growth on Instagram in 2017 will walk you through getting the basics covered so your Instagram is ready to grow! (Twitter users follow along as well because these principles apply to growing your Twitter as well).

Before you ever start on Social Media, you have to know the story of the cheetah and the gazelle. This is the first thing we review, coach, and build with new Sollevarsi SOCIAL clients. The Story of the Cheetah and Gazelle illustrates a basic core principles of Social Growth.

Be easily accessible, quickly identifiable, and simply relevant.

You are not always the cheetah in this tale. More often, you will be the gazelle. 

On Instagram, your first impression is your name, BIO, profile image, and recently posted content. This is all reviewed at a glance by prospective followers before they decide whether to follow you or not. We'll get into what makes great content as we progress through the pillars. First, we need to make sure your Instagram is setup to succeed.

It's pretty simple, but so many are failing right at the start. Sollevarsi SOCIAL may introduce a million people to your page, but if they can't easily categorize you and identify you as relevant, you will lose out. Let's get you off on the right foot and make that first impression authentic and effective.

For our gazelles, we will look at @billbuster95 who has grown their Instagram brand with Sollevarsi SOCIAL from 300 followers in March 2017 to over 7,000 as of Sept 1st 2017. This is our example of a growth profile. We will also look at a public, professional superstar profile, a photographer by the name of Chris Burkard who has 2.8 million followers and has an exceptionally effective and well-crafted presence. Chris is our superstar example. (Chris is a public profile and in no way affiliated with Sollevarsi SOCIAL.)

How does a cheetah spot the gazelle?

Instagram Name

Let's start by crafting your very first impression. This is the spark that fires so fast, we call it instinct. You have this one blink of an eye in social media to make a new connection. You need to be easily identifiable and relevant so the "cheetah" can make a quick determination to follow you or not. Remember, you're the gazelle.

Started Following You.jpg

How small is this window? 30 characters small (often less). 😮

It's a social media first impression in the blink of an eye. They have a new follower...who is this person? They are scrolling through their Instagram feed or someone found you from a search in Instagram...Do they click on your profile to learn more? This is the impression that makes that initial step towards a conversion.

Here is the window you have. It starts with your Instagram Name and a tiny image. 

Follow Request Example_billbuster95.jpg

Instagram Name and Username: 30 characters or less (Image: name on top, username below). Instagram crops out your full name when you have different action assets in the app like follow buttons (pictured). Keep this in mind and don't load important details at the end.

Be identifiable and relatable. Your username is most often a variation of your brand name, business name, or your actual name if you are a personal brand. The Instagram "Name" is your headline. This is your brand snapshot. These are your top level keywords. Hit the highlights and make sure that you are easily identifiable and relevant. Make sure your brand is identifiable in this instant. Show substance (your business category) that makes up your brand (ex. nature photography, personal fitness, political blogging, home decor products, or whatever it is). A broad keyword supported by a slightly more specific focus is a great blueprint. Be general and don't be crafty. Show the action of what you do.

🔥 Rise Up Tip: Pictures tell a story. Make your brand identifiable with a couple of emoji's. If you're a photographer, put a camera in your Name. If you're in fitness, add a strong arm emoji. 1-2 emoji's at the front of your name are perfect to make that quick connection with your ideal customer, follower, new social friend. 

What does a Gazelle look like?

Profile Photo

You have to look like a "gazelle" if you're going to attract a "cheetah" to follow you, engage with you, and buy into your brand. Instagram growth especially depends on being visually identifiable, and relevant.

With Instagram, it is exceptionally simple. You have a small profile image. That's it. Here is how you get that right.

The profile image on Instagram isn't something you change often because it is important for identification. You want to be identifiable to prospective followers. But, you also want your content to be matched to your brand as your follower's see your content in their feed. Every time you post content, think about how it connects to your brand and how your followers will see it as they scroll down their feed. 

The difficulty with Instagram's profile photo is that it is mostly viewed on mobile. Your profile image is small on a phone. Use that space well. When it shows up next to content, it is very small. 

billbuster95_profile image_2017.jpg

The trick is to be identifiable and relevant in a small image. Most brands on Instagram use their logo because it is difficult to make other images identifiable. This works well for many. 

We recommend doing something that identifies your brand. Billbuster95 doesn't use his face because he is a small growing, brand, and that face wouldn't identify him with the brand. Instead their brand is best showcased in images. In this case, the iconic image of a stormtrooper and some "geek" glasses tell the story of their brand effectively. This isn't achievable for many and your brand will help define what you can do creatively with your profile image to be identifiable and relevant. Research what others in your field do and put your spin on it.

Do You. If you have a personal brand, this image should be of you doing what makes your brand special. It is best if we can see your face and your eyes if you are going to be your brand. It's harder for some to do this, and depends heavily on your field. Chris Burkard is a photographer who takes pictures all over the world, so he took a great shot of himself on one of these adventures.

Chris Burkard_profile image example.jpg

Be Authentic and Active. Note the specifics of Chris's profile image. It fits really well in a circular form. It could take on the symbolism of being in a fish tank (Instagram being the great big fish tank) he is swimming in. Whether intended or not, it's a great touch and fits the meaning behind photos. This image tells his story. It is also a close-up which you can clearly see a face in, a happy face enjoying life. The beauty of the face doesn't matter. The smile does. Instagram is at its best authentic, human connections about the things we love (insert your brand for things we love).

Tell your story. Find your "face." Don't be shy because of all the Insta-models or fitness profiles highlighted by the media and Instagram itself are of the most beautiful people. Remember, it's about human connections on the the things we love, not just the best looking people. Instagram isn't only about those brands. If your brand is that, great! Go for it and show you at your best but don't forget to show the human side of you, not just the ideal. If your brand isn't about beauty and selfies, be your authentic self as a brand. Be an influencer, a professional, freelancer, creative, tech guru, sports fanatic, any identity as a brand...if it isn't about looking good, don't worry about being that. Tell YOUR story. Billbuster does a good job of giving their brand a "face." Find yours. Tell your story. Remember, the primary goal is to be identifiable and relevant. 

Instagram profile image: Visible 110x110px and 180x180px optimal. Design at a ratio of 1:1. We recommend taking 300x300px and working down from there. 

🔥 Rise Up Tip: Notice the colorful circle outline around Chris's image. This denotes that his profile has an Instagram Story posted in the past 24 hours. This can be accessed simply by pressing on his profile image. This is a great way to provide a piece of content that prospective followers can look at to get interested in your brand.

Be careful with this tip though. If you don't have a story, pressing the profile image will take them to your profile page where they can see your BIO, several pieces of your content, and more. This may be best for growing profiles. If your Instagram Story is off-brand and does not accomplish the goal of being identifiable and relevant, you may lose out on some growth conversions. 

What makes a gazelle?

Instagram BIO

Every time someone visits your profile, they need you to be accessible, identifiable, and relevant if they are going to follow you.


Be accessible. Use keywords relevant to your brand, business, and industry in your description. Start with large categories and end with more specific relevance. Accessibility is all about search in organic and paid social growth. Instagram (and Twitter) use hashtags in search so include them in your BIO where you can. Billbuster95 needs the exposure and is heavy on keywords and hashtags. Chris Burkard is at the top of his field and needs a clean, beautiful profile more than growth. He gets all the exposure he needs at his level of followership through his content. 

Chris Burkard Instagram BIO example

Be identifiable and relatable. This does not mean identifiable as a unique individual but more as a persona. We don't know the intricacies of Billbuster95 or Chris Burkard's lives or personality. This is their brand profile. They likely have their own personal profiles filled with images of friends, loved ones, parents, kids, colleagues, and holidays. Yet, we do know exactly who they are as a brand in an instant. For social growth, you don't need to differentiate yourself right away. It's actually the opposite. You want to be the tasty treat they are looking for, the gazelle to their cheetah. They are on the hunt, whether they know it or not. A visitor to your profile needs to immediately identify that you are part of their "tribe". You have seconds to do this in social media (actually less). Your BIO should be easy to read. Think bullet points not paragraphs, like Chris. Or go with something raw like Billbuster95 and include a ton of hashtags. These will be scanned, not read. There is a big difference. The BIO and profile images are not what make you special but what category you fit into. Identifiable. Relatable.

Instagram: 150 characters, and one hyperlink

🔥 Rise Up Tip: Include emoji's where you can for visual identification and to make your profile pop a little bit. Drawing interest and standing out is good with emoji's as long as you can stay easily identifiable. Keep these relevant as well. Tell your story, but be easily identifiable.

What makes a Gazelle unique?

Most Recent Posted Content

Give prospective "Cheetahs" a teaser of what makes you tasty. For Instagram profiles for business focused brands, social growth is a step towards driving traffic to their website, blog, products, and services to convert followers and leads into sales and revenue. Instagram does not have the same pinned post organization as Twitter and Facebook so you can't choose one especially on brand content post. Instagram displays your content chronologically according to posted time in rows of three columns. Your content is what will ultimately convert new followers, keep followers, turn followers into members of your brand army, and become warm, nurtured leads for your sales funnel. Keep that in mind with all your content. Don't always be selling or post ads on Instagram. It's still about authentic human connections, but that connection is between a follower who likes your brand and a brand who posts for those followers. It's a relationship. Much more on these principles later.

Instagram's structure makes every piece of content important. We like to recommend the ratio of 5:1 (at a minimum). For every six pieces of content, only one can be something off-brand or experimental. Off-brand content are those picture, videos, or galleries that aren't easily identifiable and relevant to your core brand, identity.

Keep in mind that with most every piece of content you publish, from photos to videos, these need to be identifiable and relevant if you're going to convert impressions (views of your account) into new followers. 

This is especially important when you are a Sollevarsi SOCIAL client. We are going to be accelerating your growth by sending more traffic and putting more eyeballs on you and your content. Our shared goal is to convert the right impressions (views of you and your content on Instagram) into active and engaged followers. Your content is a big part of that success. Stay focused.

🔥 Rise Up Tip: Follow our content ratio and experiment with something new around every 6th post. Try video. Try stories. Speak directly to your followers. Ask them questions. Tell them more about a particular pain point you experience as part of their tribe. Learn what works by following along with your Rise Up Social Dashboard which tracks your growth progress with key metrics.

Continue on to Part 2 of the Sollevarsi SOCIAL Series: Pillars of Social Growth on Instagram in 2017 for a look at our amazing Social Growth methodology and why it is winning on Instagram. 


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