Communication Rebel Blog

Show Up and Engage on Instagram with Sue B. Zimmerman

Sue B. is joining me on today's episode and we are talking about the importance of being visible and really showing up in the world. We'll be digging into Instagram and why it is such a valuable social media channel.

Sue B. is a network ninja who believes that sometimes all it takes is a smile, a selfie, and a sunset to make people happy. Using her passion for all things social she has built a thriving online community that is helping business owners, big and small, take charge of their social media marketing strategies.

Also known as @TheInstagramExpert, she has built her career empowering entrepreneurs and marketing professionals to utilize the power of Instagram to get tangible business results. As a highly sought after business coach, she has traveled the world speaking, inspiring, and sharing her knowledge and extensive experience about social media marketing. With over 30 years of business experience, including SueB.Do, Boxer Rebellion, and Sue B. Zimmerman Enterprise, she what it takes to build a million dollar business. As a mentor to young people, Sue B. has spoken at multiple universities about building a business and how you can find success doing what you love.

Tune into the Audio:

Michelle: Welcome Sue B. Zimmerman to the Rebel Rising Podcast.

Sue B.: I love the name of your podcast because I'm a rebel.

Michelle: Thank you. I love it too because I think more rebels need to rise up and make a change in the world.

Sue B.: Oh, yeah. I've always been a rule breaker so let's just start with that.

Michelle: Okay. Well, we're gonna have a great conversation.

Sue B.: Good.

Michelle: Because for me, you are my role model of visibility. You are someone that shows up, serves day after day, and I feel like you just came out of the womb that way like, “Hey, I'm Sue and I am here to rule.”

Sue B.: Rule the world, tell the story. Yeah. So you got some of that right. Yes, I've been an entrepreneur since I was 13, my first business, and so I've had many businesses. And with having a business, if you really wanna make money, you can't be shy. Or you can be an introvert but when I say shy, you have to know what your audience you appreciate and get value from and put it out there. So even when I was a young girl selling hand-painted barrettes, I still hand made a poster and kind of waved it in their faces like, “Which one do you want?” Not, “Do you wanna buy one?” but, “Which one do you want?”

So it's all on the messaging, the language, the delivery, and how you make people feel. Right?

Michelle: Yeah.

Sue B.: So I think I just have always had a knack of making people feel good in all of my businesses, but especially on Instagram and specifically on Instagram Stories. Is that what you're mostly referring to?

Michelle: Yeah. Well, and I'm just curious,

Was there ever a time that you did struggle with being visible and showing up into the world?

Sue B.: Honestly, I was always a trendsetter and I always liked to stand out. So I purposely tried to be different in a fashionable, fun way and I usually set the trend that everybody would copy in middle school. Like whether it was buying Timberland boots in the boys' department and then everyone's wearing Timberland or clogs. It's a thing, it was a thing back in the day.

Michelle: Yes.

Sue B.: And I used to have every single cover IZOD shirt because I liked rainbows and I had all the different colored Chino pants. And I grew up in Hanover Massachusetts, yes, it's kind of a preppy town or it used to be, and so I think there was some influence from that but I didn't want to … Even though I bought those IZOD shirts, I would dress differently than everyone else that wore them, like I didn't put my collar up.

Michelle: Oh.

Sue B.: Or I would do something different. I just … I don't know. But I even remember … Oh my gosh, this is a good story to share. Back in the day, I was on the ski team in high school and Olin Mark VI's were the skis that I wanted and I coveted and my dad actually bought them for me, and they were orange and blue. And I insisted that everything I got had to match those cools skis, my hat, my gloves, my ski pants, my jacket. And even though I think my jacket was a little small, I still made my dad buy it because it was the only orange and blue one. And so I just … I don't know.

Branding, it all had to go and be part of a message or a statement or stand out.

So I guess you can say to answer this question honestly, I don't remember a time when I wasn't showing up this way.

Michelle: Wow. That is amazing. Because I do feel like especially women can struggle with standing out and being different and giving themselves a voice and I love the fact that you're like, “No, that's not me.”

Sue B.: Well every day I wake up and think, “How can I stand out from all the noise? How can I be different? How can I be myself? How can I infuse my true personality and my vibe and give people a piece of my personality?” Because the word “person” is in personality. And a piece of me in a way that's relatable. And it's great to hear you say that that's what you take away from watching me online is that connection.

And I believe more than anything, it's the intimate connection that you give another individual so that they feel like they're on the inside, they feel like they're a part of something, they feel like they're a part of your tribe or your community and then they show up more for you. Right?

Michelle: Yeah. Yeah, you're really talking about creating a place of belonging for your people.

Sue B.: For everyone. For everyone and my people. And the truth is, I'm midlife, my employees are all in their 20s and 30s and I'm like midlife here. So I wanna leave a legacy that really makes an impact. And I wanna be touching the younger generation and inspiring the younger generation to really fully understand, and part of this comes from being a mother of three daughters as well, that you can wake up and do what you want and have vertical markets and side hustles and opportunities to show up in a creative, fun, loving, passionate way and often that can turn into opportunities. And for me, it's always turned into money.

So it's just all about making money. At the end of the day, that's that … I'm being honest, that's the end goal, but that's not what I lead with.

I lead with the nurture, the relationships, the community.

Because the truth is, if you have something awesome to offer someone, and I know that you're a member of my Ready Set Gram community, my Instagram course, the sale isn't as hard. It's like they already trust you, they already like you, they know that you're gonna deliver on the promise and give value and show up, and it makes selling so much easier.

Michelle: And more fun too right? Because there's not that pressure, they already know … Well and this also brings me to my next question.

I wanted to learn more about Instagram.

I am finding myself more attracted to Instagram just because it seems so much more positive than like Facebook right now and I just could deal with Facebook land. But you have this passion for Instagram that I think is unparalleled. There's a lot of experts on Instagram but you are so passionate about it.

Sue B.: Yeah.

Michelle: So what was it that really won you over versus all the other social media channels?

Why Instagram? Why do you love it?

Sue B.: Yeah. So before Instagram, I used to have a retail store on Cape Cod and I used to strategically alongside Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Pinterest. I used to teach Pinterest, I used to teach social media, so for 10 years, I taught social media. So I always knew how to market and do online marketing, but because my brain is visual and because I used to teach on QVC, scrapbooking, back in the day, I just knew the visual storytelling aspect of Instagram was gonna be explosive when I started using it in my store. And because my sales increased so significantly in my retail store, I then realized that I needed to teach other business owners.

And you heard me say, I used to teach on QVC, but before that, I used to teach art lessons when my kids were little, and I've always taught something, social media, art, scrapbooking. And so I realized that I love educating. So the name the Instagram Expert when I decided to get my business account on Instagram, that was the one I picked, but I'm more of the leading Instagram educator.

Because the word “expert” people throw that around loosely everywhere and call themselves an expert and basically all they're doing is extracting content on Google and just repurposing it on Instagram. But I'm literally teaching tactics and giving insights based on case studies and results and not … And every day in my feed on the Instagram Expert, I teach.

And I also teach as you said, in my stories and I teach in my IGTV videos and I teach on Instagram Live.

And so you asked me why I love Instagram, well, first of all, it's grown to this amazing search engine app.

It's like people go to Instagram to search for restaurants, they don't always go to Yelp. And you can search places and you can search for Pizza or you can search for a gym wherever you're standing on Instagram. It's like an amazing search engine and Instagram now is showing you content and businesses and brands and things to buy based on your day to day, minute to minute, second to second, activity. It is like the most up to date search engine you could possibly have your hands on.

And so, I love it because of what it was from the very beginning as a photo application, and then when they introduced video and then different ways to do video, I liked it even more.

And being the entrepreneur I am, whenever there's a new feature or something I can share and teach, I'm even more excited because there's something for me to talk about and teach in a way that's gonna give people wins. And now, because of stories man, stories is where it's at because of the stickers and the strategies and the animated gifs and the writing tools, and I just feel like I'm teaching scrapbooking all over again.

Michelle: I love it. Do you know what's really interesting to me?

It's like Instagram is allowing you to bring your whole self.

So because in the past you would brand yourself as a high school student and have certain color palettes and start all of the trends, and do you love to teach, you're passionate about teaching and then the business aspect. I really see this as this is a platform that let you bring all of you into.

Sue B.: All of me. All of me. And even the imperfections. Everyone's like, what can't you do? I'm like, “Okay, I can't do a back handspring folks and I don't spell well.” So I'm the kid that should've taken first grade over. So often there might be spelling mistakes, I get my words mixed up, I say words backward or out of context.

I'm that person and I like it. I like that I'm not perfect, because I am so not imperfection ever.

And I don't want anyone to think that I have all my shit figured out every second of my life. I take you with me and I show you that, but I wanna always keep it real.

Because I feel like so many business owners just get so stressed in doing it right that they don't even fucking do it. And so that paralyzes you and with no momentum comes to no progress.

So I am all about progress moving forward and just publishing, printing, going, doing, being, experiencing and giving, receiving what life has to offer. And I opened and closed so many chapters in my life always with the zest of living full on.

Michelle: Yeah. Well, and I love what you said there about perfection because I do believe that's what … Like one of the visibility problems people have is like, “Okay, yeah. I have this great message but now I have to get it perfect like I have to the perfect backdrop and I have to have the perfect feed and like perfect, perfect, perfect. And I have to make sure I spell perfectly.

Sue B.: Yeah.

Michelle: Like that actually holds you back from momentum.

Sue B.: Doing. From doing. From doing. And the only way, the only way you know that you have a good idea or if the market's even interested in your product, service, philanthropy, movement, whatever it is, is by putting yourself out there. And yes, it's fundable, and yes women get caught up in this …

I just had an Instagram direct message with this woman that said … I'm like, “I don't even know who you are because all I see is a logo and graphic posts, like who are you?” “Oh, I'm a busy mom and I would never put my face or a video on Instagram,” and I'm secretly thinking, “Okay, good … I mean not good, but you're just not gonna make it.”

Like no one wants to do business with a logo and text quotes. It's just like, it's not the way the world operates anymore.

And so we're living in this amazing time where you can literally reach out and touch millions potentially, millions of people by going live on Instagram, by doing an Instagram story, and reaching your target audience, those that you want to be serving, not all millions of them but the right people that you wanna be connecting with.

And when you pay attention to the people that give you their attention, they love on you even harder.

And everyone wants to be seen and heard and liked and @mentioned and it's just like loving on the people that give you their attention. And that's one of the things that I think I do really well.

Michelle: I love that. Loving on the people who give you their attention and then they love you even harder. I think that's a great takeaway for everyone. Because some people are like, “Well, nobody's showing up.” I'm like, “Oh, well you got five likes on that post. Why don't you go love those people?” Right?

Sue B.: Right. Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Michelle: Awesome. So my audience is filled with what I call up and coming thought leaders, they're rebels on the rise, and one of the things they tell me it's like, “Oh, well Instagram, it's for like jewelry makers and artists, it's not for me.”

Why do you think Instagram is a good place to be known for your ideas?

Sue B.: Well, your ideas, your products, your services, yeah. Because here's the thing, if you are creating content, or your craft, or your art, in a way that someone has either been inspired or educated or sees it as a resource, and they share it … Because you can easily share a post, under Instagram is the airplane icon, if I were to post something and you loved it, you could share it to your feed, you can share it … If you get tagged in someone's Instagram Story, you get a notification that you were tagged.

So I'll give an example, let me break this down. So today I was doing an Instagram Story, tonight, every Monday at 9:00 PM EST, I go live on Instagram on the Instagram Expert because Monday's is the day that we drop a new YouTube video. Obviously, I love you guys, all subscribe and ring the bell for notifications when I drop one. But I'm telling you this because every Monday I amplify, promote, and broadcast that content, that free content. I'm not even selling anything you guys, I'm broadcasting the free content that builds the trust, that keeps me top of mind, that makes people know, like, trust me and even stalk me. Right? So that is a story that I will share.

Now in my story, depending on what I'm wearing like if I'm wearing a Talbots vest or a Burberry Jacket and Anthropologie outfit or something, I will tag them. I tag some of the brands, and you can tag up to ten brands in your story if you want to. And they get a notification when they're tagged. Now, some of those brands might be like, “Whoa, she just talked about me and I like the way that clip looks or I like the way the photo looks that Sue has. I'm gonna share that in my Instagram Story.”

So it's really easy to amplify your efforts when you align with certain businesses, brands, people, and you talk about them more than yourself or in addition to yourself and potentially you get a share in their stories.

Which is just amazing, it happened to me this weekend when my husband and I went to the Boston Symphony Orchestra and I shared the … What's it called? They hand it to you, build up.

Michelle: Oh, yeah. The Playbill.

Sue B.: The playbill, yeah. That's what I get when I go to the plays in New York City, but this is …

Michelle: It's like the program.

Sue B.: The program, the program. The program. Oh my gosh, I just drew a blank. So I just took a bird's eye view of that and I tagged them and the Boston Symphony Orchestra shared that in their story and I woke up to like 50 to 100 new followers. Now, let's just break this down for a second. I teach Instagram Marketing to business owners all over the world, primarily women, 35 and older who really wanna make an impact in the world. Who are well educated and like the East Coast, Boston vibe for the most part. Okay?

So the people that go to the Boston Symphony Orchestra who follow the Boston Symphony Orchestra, they're all probably midlife, older, obviously music students from Berkeley and the like around the area, but they saw my story and if they liked the content that I'm sharing and who I am, they'll follow me back. Now, these are well-educated individuals that can afford to go and enjoy the Boston Symphony. And so it was Mahler's Fifth, it was amazing. And so that was pretty cool. I got a feature, I didn't ask for it, they saw it, I woke up to a shit ton of new followers, and that's all organic, right?

Michelle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sue B.: So that's what your listeners need to understand, there are so many strategies within Instagram and some of them are gonna really resonate for you and your business more than others. But the tagging is an amazing strategy if you do it well.

And you can tag up to 20 people on a post in your feed, you can tag up to ten people in a story or ten brands. And I think that's underutilized.

Michelle: Yeah. Well, and it sounds like it's a good way to make your idea … Like it's an amplification of your idea. So if your idea's inspired by I don't know, Mel Robbins or Simon Sinek, and your …

Sue B.: Yeah. But by the way, Mel Robbins lives in the Boston area and she and I know each other well, and I used to put hair extensions in her and her daughter's hair back in the day because at my store I sold like the … You know the feathers?

Michelle: Yes.

Sue B.: Yeah. So I did Mel's feathers, I did hair … I knew how to do them well, she came over to my house and I did the hair extensions. And Simon Sinek, I met Simon when I was crossing the street speaking at Social Media Marketing World. So I love that you're saying all these people that I actually have featured in my Instagram feed.

Michelle: Yes.

But if your ideas are inspired by them, just tag them, let them know that … You're letting them know that their work has meaning to you.

Sue B.: Yeah. What annoys me more than anything is when people lurk and they don't engage, they don't comment, they just consume. It's just like they watch, they consume, they take it, and they don't thank you, they don't comment, and then sometimes three years later people will be like, “oh, I've been watching you for three years. I'm like, ‘where have you been? I haven't ever seen a comment. And they'll like sign up for my coaching or something and I'm like, “Well, at least I feel like I've nurtured that relationship but I didn't even know you.”

Michelle: Yes.

Sue B.: So if you're a lurker, don't be.

Always be a part of the conversation, and here's the other thing I want your listeners to know, when you show up in a comment thread, so whether that's on a blog that you've read or a YouTube video that you've watched, which you should always thumbs up if you like it or write a comment, it helps the content creator get more visibility.

It's your way of thanking them for something that was produced for free, right?

Michelle: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Sue B.: And it also endorses what they're doing and gives them the endorphins to wanna keep doing it more and more. And you asked me at the very beginning of this interview like how I stay top of mind and enjoy doing stories, it's because I get daily comments, inspiration and feedback from people like you, that love what I'm doing. And it validates the work that you do.

And so I just think, and you can show up strategically with a great avatar especially on Instagram if you have a great avatar that's memorable and you're leaving a nice thought-provoking comment, not just like, “I liked your video,” but, “I liked your video because you taught me how coaches can have success using Instagram.” And that's a video that we just released today. And you're saying exactly what your takeaway was, you're gonna get my attention, and most likely I will comment back or I'll go check you out.

So for all of you that are just stuck in perfection with the posting, spend more time engaging because that's just as strategic.

Michelle: Yeah. And I think we spend so much time like, “Oh, I've gotta create this content, we forget … And one of the things I liked about your Instagram course is like, “No, you've got to spend 15 minutes a day engaging, like commenting on posts, not just liking it. Like if you like a post, comment on it as well and tell people what you liked or ask a question or give them an observation.

Sue B.: Yeah. And I do call people out. One of my ninja tips for getting more engagement on my posts sometimes if I have time is, like say I just posted something and I got like 30 or 50 likes but maybe one or two comments. You can always tap into who's liked your photo and just see who's liked it. And I'll create a video … I'll hold my phone in good lighting I'm like, “Thank you so much for liking my post about my YouTube video for helping coaches get more clients on Instagram. I would love to read in the comments what you really liked about it.” And how can anyone say, “No,” to that.

So I get a lot of people to go back and then write a comment and that helps with the engagement. Because Instagram is all about the engagement pretty much in the first hour or two, so if I am getting a ton of likes but not a ton of comments, I might call you out but I do it in a loving way that someone says, “Oh my God, that was such a good idea.” Not that it was so bossy and spammy or markety, but like, “Let's connect here people.”

Michelle: Yeah. Well, and I can imagine just spending five minutes doing that, right?

Sue B.: Right. That's all.

Michelle: Yeah. Like looking and being like, “Hey. Yeah, just tell me what you loved about it.” Because that also helps you create better content for these people and be more of service to them and it's also like, I was like, “Oh, she …” I make people feel special. If you did that I'd be like, “Oh, she wants to know what I think. Wow! How awesome is that?”

Sue B.: And Sue B. just sent me a video, I can't believe she did that.

Michelle: Yes. Yeah.

Sue B.: That.

Michelle: Yes.

Sue B.: That.

Michelle: Love it. I love it.

Sue B.: So how can you stand out from all the fucking noise on the internet? That's one of the ways.

Michelle: That is amazing. So I have one last question for you before we wrap things up.

What do you think the world would be like if more business owners showed up consistently and served their audiences?

Sue B.: I love this. I always say, “Serve, don't sell.”

If you serve your audience, you don't ever feel salesy. You feel good. I'll tell you, I used to sell clothing, jewelry, and accessories at my store on Cape Cod and I love selling, I've always loved selling. I love what money affords me to do and have the freedom to make choices I wanna make. And so selling tangible products was really exciting for me. I didn't know anything different until I became an online educator.

Michelle: Yeah.

Sue B.: And as soon as I became an online educator and I made an impact on other people's lives, like they would literally say, “Sue, the way you taught me that was amazing. The way you did that was amazing. Now I understand, now I get it. You're such a good teacher. Oh, my God. My community needs you to do a workshop or I need you on stage,” or whatever positive reinforcement I'm getting, it just…

That impact, that serving others, is so profoundly impactful and it's like a drug. It's like I wake up every day and I want to teach. That's what I wanna do more than anything.

And when you serve and you don't sell, I think the world becomes a nicer place. And I think people buy what you have because they know it's gonna help them because of the way that you have previously served them. And so a lot of members that are my coaching clients or buy my courses or my classes, just say that to me. They say, “Oh, my gosh. I can't imagine what I'm gonna get if I pay you something, because you show up and serve every day.”

Michelle: Yes. And I love the idea of the world becomes a nicer place, it's less pushy, it's less …

Sue B.: Oh, my gosh. The marketers need to go away. They drive me nuts.

Michelle: Oh, my gosh. Yeah. Like all the scarcity and FOMO and everything that marketers create, it's gross.

Sue B.: Yeah. And I try to … Even if we for … Like we're gonna be running a Black Friday special and it will have scarcity because it's only in a certain-

Michelle: Yeah.

Sue B.: Time period that you can do it and tomorrow I have to do my adds for that promo, video ads, and when I'm doing my video ads, I always … Again, I think about, “How can stand out from all the hardcore markets that say, “Let me just take you with me here and show you this,”? Or lead you into someplace that you is trying to make you feel like you're just sitting down and having coffee with them when in fact they have this scripted teleprompter thing going on. And I'm trying to always think, “What would you think you watch that and does that feel like me if you're with me in person?”

Now that's what's going on in my mind. “Does it feel like me when I actually have a conversation with you?” Or like this, “Or do you feel like it's salesy?” And yes, you need to have the right words, it needs to be concise and succinct and it has to have the call to action so that you're not confused and you take action. It has to have all of that, but I'm always thinking, “How can I …”

I think it's a disservice if you don't tell someone what you have to offer that can help them.

Michelle: Yes.

Sue B.: Right?

Michelle: Absolutely.

Sue B.: And it's your job to do that. It's not their job to figure it out. So if you can do that and do it well in a way that's not salesy, in a way that serves, then you're doing it all right.

Michelle: That's so good. If you do it in a way that's not salesy and serves, you're doing it all right. So Sue, thank you for this amazing conversation and how can people connect with you or get started on Instagram? I know you have some great resources.

Sue B.: So I would love to meet each and every one of you. I always say, “When I do these broadcast interviews, I have a little call to action I like to give that's actually kind of fun. So can I do this to your audience?

Michelle: Yes.

Sue B.: Okay. So I have this fun little hashtag it's called, Sue B. Made Me Do It #suebmademedoit. And I would love for you guys, the next time you post a selfie and it can even be a desk if you don't wanna be in the picture. Just use that hashtag and you'll be curated with all the other listeners from all the other interviews that I have done in that hashtag hub.

And here's why it's good for you, this is a place where there are like-minded business owners hanging out, listening to Sue B on other podcast interviews and you just might find another Instagram account to follow, to connect with. And I invite you to just try to find five, five other people in that hashtag hub that look interesting to you.

I'm not saying, “Go follow them.” I'm saying, “Go have a conversation with them.” Because a conversation leads to an opportunity that could potentially lead to a conversion.

And so, that's my fun hashtag, come on over to the Instagram Expert and that's my business account. My personal account is Sue B. Zimmerman, if you wanna know the day in the life of a successful, busy … I don't like the word busy. Successful, productive entrepreneur, that's where you can find me.

And then, obviously, I would love to give your listeners our twelve-page guide, will get you out twelve-page guide. There's a lot of pro tips in there if you're just getting started with Instagram. You will definitely get nurtured over time and you'll see where I am next, traveling, speaking, all that good stuff. Because I really love connecting with people in person as much as possible.

Michelle: Awesome. Yes. And I will give you a shout out for the guide, the guide is amazing. There's a lot of useful information if you're just starting with Instagram of if you have an account and you haven't been doing much with it, get the guide. Because it will give you some momentum to up your Instagram game.

Sue B.: Yeah. And the other thing I think I'll mention to your listeners real quickly is, on the Instagram Expert, I have highlights you guys, and I have ninja tips there, and I have strategies there in the highlights. I have Instagram news, Instagram tips, so if you hang out in my highlights, you'll learn a ton there as well.

Michelle: Awesome. Thank you so much Sue, for being on the show.

Sue B.: You welcome. I had a blast. This was great.

Michelle: All right. Thank you.

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