Sue B. Zimmerman is the epitome of an Instagram expert. From the beginning of her career, Sue has always put an emphasis on social media and empowering others. She has such an inspiring journey, and we’re lucky to have her as a brand evangelist for Planoly. Since her team is scattered all over the world, time-saving tricks and extra organizational steps are a must to keep things running smooth and efficiently. Maintaining her authenticity and staying innovative is just one of her many secrets to success. Sue is paving the way as a highly sought out business coach, social media strategist, and speaker.
Hi Sue! Tell us about yourself and how you became known as #TheInstagramExpert.
I have been a passionate entrepreneur my whole life. To date, I’ve owned 18 businesses! Whether it was selling hand-painted barrettes during recess when I was 13 years old or my first “real” multi-million dollar business, Boxer Rebellion, I’ve always loved fostering real connections with my customers and watching my businesses grow.
When I got the chance to open up my storefront, SueB.Do., on Cape Cod I knew I needed to seize the opportunity. Since my store was only open in the summers, I was able to teach social media classes in Boston during the offseason. That’s why when my teenage twin daughters told me about Instagram, I knew I needed to try it. In my first summer using Instagram, my business sales increased 40%. Even though I used Foursquare, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter for the store, Instagram was by far giving me the best results.
I even made it mandatory for my employees to use Instagram and become “buzz agents.” Truly, that’s always been the secret to my success – empowering my employees. At my core, I knew that if I was having such great success, I needed to help other entrepreneurs, too. And that mission hasn’t changed no matter how much my business grows.
You developed the first online Instagram course. When did you start gaining an interest in social media and how did you expand your business when you were first getting started?
In 2014, after leading a successful Instagram Bootcamp, I launched my course InstaResults. While the boot camp focused on the tactics I used in my store to attract my ideal customer, this online course provided over seven hours of course materials. Even though we rocked it, selling almost $100,000 we realized that a seven-hour course was an overwhelming amount of content for small business owners with limited time. To make sure we were providing our clients with the optimal amount of time, we overhauled the course and renamed it Ready Set Gram.
Even though it’s been almost five years since I started teaching Instagram, and now I get to wake up every day to notifications, comments, and direct messages from people who I get to connect with all over the globe thru visual storytelling. I love hearing how much they love Instagram and the way I help business owners find success.
Honestly, a lot of my business growth has happened organically. Morgan Sutton, our Director of Operations, worked for me as my manager when I owned Sue B. Do. She has a masters degree in Engineering Management and is the glue that holds my company together. Rachel Polish, our Content and Marketing Director, found me on YouTube two years ago! She was googling “Instagram for business” and I popped up. We chatted, she became my intern and then part of the #SBZteam. They are both amazing individuals who work hard every day to help our clients reach their business goals.
“I knew that if I was having
such great success,
I needed to help
other entrepreneurs, too.”
What does an average day in your life look like? Tell us how you stay organized and sane in the non-stop and ever-changing world of social media.
I spend a lot of time connecting with clients on the phone and Skype calls. I’m always excited to nurture relationships with people who are interested in learning more about they can grow their business online. But my favorite thing about my business is the opportunity to teach. Whether I’m speaking on stage, casting a webinar on Periscope or Facebook Live, or leading a workshop on Instagram Live, teaching is my passion.
I think this passion comes from a willingness to stay up-to-date on the newest social media updates. So much has happened this past year in the space of live broadcasting and video. Each business can now have their own channel where they can amplify, broadcast and promote daily. I actually did the #InstaHappyDance when Instagram added Instagram Stories because I am so comfortable on video. The truth is that the more people can get to know you and all your quirky personality traits, the more they will feel connected with your brand.
It always surprises me when people at conferences meet me and say, “OMG, you really are that fun, high energy passionate gal I see on Instagram” LOL who else would I be! I’m always pushing my coaching clients to think strategically about how they can use social media tools to cross-promote and work smarter and not harder so that they can better connect with their customers.
Organization is also a large part of my business success. Thanks to Morgan, I am committed to being hyper-organized (I used to work in organized chaos). Using tools like Google Calendar, (and 15 min. notifications) my team and I are better able to understand everyone’s time commitments and plan ahead for longer projects. Dropbox and Google Drive are our go-to tools to stay organized. Dropbox is also a lifesaver. Instead of sending documents back and forth, and losing track of edits in the process, my team stores the majority of our files in shared Dropbox folders. Dropbox and Google Photos are both great tools to help me stay organized so I can always post the perfect pic. Planoly is also an AWESOME tool because of the integration it provides us for both of these tools. Available as both a web and mobile app, it’s perfect if you want to plan out your Instagram content visually.
How do you communicate and coordinate with your team in an efficient way?
Since my team is all over the world, communication is a unique challenge for my business. While Morgan and Rachel are my full-time employees, I also have four contractors and a web support team in the Philippines. While we use standard methods of communication, emails, and texts, we also make an effort to check in regularly. Morgan and Rachel are committed to having consistent Skype calls (typically 3xs a week) to catch up on what’s going on in the business and recap all of our current assignments & commitments. Believe it or not, these short meetings are often all we need to make sure we meet our deadlines and plan future tasks. Our success comes from that fact that we balance each other’s strengths and have a lot of respect for what each person brings to the business.
How do you stay ahead of the curve in this ever-changing landscape of social media and where do you see social media going in the future?
My brain often sees opportunities and trends before they become mainstream. I see videos increasingly playing a role in connecting and solidifying relationships between businesses and their ideal customer. Customers love behind-the-scenes videos and any other chance to get to know the people behind the brands they love. I also see niche marketing becoming more prominent for businesses, both large and small. Staying in your lane and focusing on what you do best, using your stories, highlighting your personality and your character is what people are looking for when it comes to connecting with a business or brand.
“The most important thing
to remember is that
you should always create content
with the intention
that your ideal customer
or client would be
interested in seeing.”
What is the number one piece of advice that you like to give your clients?
Remember to have the confidence to ROCK YOUR GREATNESS and not give a SH%* what anyone thinks of you. Go ALL IN and be 100% real and authentic and you will attract those you are meant to serve.
Tell us more about your class Ready, Set, Gram!
RSG is an online Instagram course for people who have under 1000 followers. RSG is designed for individuals who are new to Instagram or changing their personal account to a business profile. There are seven easy to follow videos, all of which are under 20 minutes. There is also a workbook that allows you to follow along and actively take notes. Also, the course offers bonuses, which includes a printable posting planner, time-saving tip PDF, and a PDF that dissects a perfect post. We also have a fabulous VIP Facebook group. So far over 500 happy students have completed the course. You can meet many of them in this hashtag hub #RSGCommunity.
What advice do you have for aspiring social media gurus and content creators?
Do you!! Don’t copy your competitors. Find your sweet spot and point of difference and stake your claim. I decided I wanted to teach Instagram marketing to a global audience five years ago and, with a #ShitTon of heart and hustle, I’m proud to say that I have over 100,000,000 people all over the world learning from me.