The Wicks Effect: Grow A Small Business On Instagram (and win like Joe Wicks)

No average Joe
This is Joe Wicks. There’s nothing average about him.
If you don’t know Joe, he’s a massive fitness celeb in the UK. He also has a rippling six pack, steely pecks and guns that look like they can crush tin cans. He is the envy of young men and a pin up for women. (My wife is convinced that I have a man crush on him. Joe, I don’t. Honest.)
The reason that I like Joe is because he is one of Instagram’s best success stories (or at least here in the UK) and has come out of nowhere starting without a big budget.  
But Joe wasn’t always successful
Joe was a fitness coach living in London and struggling to make a living much like other fitness coaches out there. It was hard to standout.
This is when Joe turned to Instagram to promote it. And life changed.
He told The Sun newspapre:

“It never crossed my mind I could make money from it…I just started uploading photos of recipes, and answering people’s fitness questions… And when Instagram opened video options, I started filming my 15-second recipes… At first I only had about 500 followers so I decided to jazz it up and have fun with the recipes… I started throwing in catchphrases such as ‘midget trees’, and singing silly things like ‘sexual lean-ing’… It just exploded... I got thousands of followers every day.”

In an interview with The Daily Mail newspapre, Joe admitted that he makes over £1 million every month.
To repeat: not £1 million every year. £1 million every single month!
This leaves a big question for businesses…
Businesses spend a lot of money trying to reach their customers. And in the US next year, businesses are expected to spend almost $10 billion on video advertising online.
That’s big money (even at Joe’s monthly rate).
So, can businesses do the same as Joe without blowing their budget? Are there ideas that can give you a fighting chance on Instagram?
In this article, I’ll explain 3 ideas that can help build a business on Instagram without breaking the bank. (Though I can’t promise that you’ll make £1million pounds a week).
We’ll cover:

  1. Distinctive ingredients (what they are, why are they important and we’ll look at how Joe does it)

  2. The importance of video and why you’d be crazy not to use it

  3. Why paying your way to success will probably frustrate you and your bank balance

Let’s kick off with the first point:

1. Choose Your Distinctive Ingredients

The phrase 'Distinctive Ingredients’ sounds fancy and a bit cryptic. So what are they? Why are they important?
To understand this, let’s first take a trip into the world of film and look at the masterful director Wes Anderson.
Wes Anderson has a clear distinctive ingredient in his films: symmetry.
His use of symmetry is utterly unique.
You’d be able to identify a Wes Anderson film from a mile away.
Look at these images from 2 of my favourite films: The Grand Hotel Budapest and The Darjeeling Limited. Look at how perfect his shots are. They’re a work of art…

Joe 2
Joe 3
* Source: Wes Anderson 101 Blog, Dakotajadecs blog,  * 'Distinctive ingredients' isn’t 100% original as a phrase. It is a concept identified by Professor Byron Sharp, who calls them ‘distinctive assets’. I just prefer to call them ingredients.

* Source: Wes Anderson 101 Blog, Dakotajadecs blog, 
* 'Distinctive ingredients' isn’t 100% original as a phrase. It is a concept identified by Professor Byron Sharp, who calls them ‘distinctive assets’. I just prefer to call them ingredients.

Distinctive ingredients catch the eye before they catch the brain

Distinctive ingredients are things like logos (e.g. the Nike Swoosh), a tone of voice (e.g. Guiness' bold and poetic voice), a palette of colours (e.g. the steel colours of Apple's products).
The eye knows which brand it is before the brain has time to analyze it.
That's because our brains are wired for instant recognition. Instant Recognition allows us to spot something straightaway without a lot of time and energy analyzing the situation. It helps us quickly spot a friend from a savage, long-fanged sabre tooth tiger.
When it comes to Wes Anderson, instant recognition means that we know that it’s a Wes Anderson film in a heartbeat because of his distinct use of symmetry. 
Less is more
It can be tempting to have 5-10 distinctive ingredients.  But 1-3 ingredients are way more powerful than 5-10. Think of Apple again. Their colour palette, logo, design of products.  They don’t overload you with lots of distinctive ingredients.
It’s like Duck A L’orange.  A great recipe. Just 2 distinctive ingredients: The Duck and the Orange.
Quacking stuff.

Just look at Joe’s distinctive ingredients
Look at how Joe only uses 4 types of post.
15 second food recipe videos, ‘before and after’ shots of clients, ‘Joe in action’ photos or videos, Joe’s products.

Joe sticks to these types of post
When you are scrolling rapidly through your Instagram feed looking at posts like visual popcorn, it’s this consistent style that helps it stand out from other posts.

Joe also use 2 other distinctive ingredients: the #leanin15 hashtag and his distinct language. (As written earlier, he calls broccoli 'midget trees'. Nice.)

 But there is one more powerful tool that Joe uses to create the Wicks effect: video.


2. Why video is a powerful way to create the Wicks Effect

Okay, let’s ditch Joe for a moment (sorry Joe).
Instead, let’s talk about video and Nike.
Video is a powerful way to get attention.
On Instagram, video gets lots more 'views' than images. Of the top performing videos that I’ve seen, videos regularly get about 5-10 times more than images get likes! That’s a lot!
Videos used to be (until fairly recently) limited to 15 seconds. Now videos can be filmed up to one minute. If you are a confident storyteller, that’s a good amount of time to tell a punchy, dramatic story. (And if you are not, maybe keep it shorter.)
Just look at how Nike does video
Below is a screen grab from Nike’s Instagram feed. Look how many more views the video posts get vs likes.

The highest number of 'likes' for an image (in green) is nowhere near the lowest number of 'views' for videos (in red). 
How does video work for Joe?
It works even better for Joe. Look at how 1 video outperforms all of his photos!


The only video in this example is about x10 more popular than his highest rated image.

That's the power of video.

But is there a quicker route to getting noticed?
Is it better to get more attention by paying for advertising?

Let’s look at this in the final part...

3. Why buying advertising is no guarantee of success

In 2010, Pepsi invested 100% of its budget in social media.
It moved large media budgets away from TV with their social cause ‘Pepsi Re-fresh’ campaign. And the campaign looked to be done amazingly well.... at first.
80 million votes registered. Yay!
About 3.5 million "likes" onFacebook page. Yay!
60,000 Twitter followers. Yay!
But it didn’t sell much Pepsi. Boo!
In fact, it was worse than that: Pepsi slipped from 2nd to 3rd place in the market. For the first time, ever!
No ‘yay!’
And who wants to be like Pepsi in 2010?
Pepsi might have thrown money at paying for social media advertising, making social media posts and driving likes - but it didn’t drive enough sales.
Why can Pepsi fail and Joe succeed?
Because Joe focused on 1 thing. Joe made Instagram his channel. Joe and Instagram were inseparable.

On the other hand, Pepsi is a big brand with big audiences, needing to reach lots of people. This means that they needed more media channels to reach lots of customers and grow their business. Social media was just too limiting. 
But for Joe, Instagram was big. Joe was a small one man fish in a big pond, and he patiently grew followers who knew him on one channel only. Being one one channel made it easy for people to find him, and he made it easy to recognise him quickly from any busy Instagram feed.
Big businesses can afford to throw money at advertising, to fail and to try again. Small businesses can’t easily. Throwing too much money at a problem can break tight budgets. And nobody wants that.
Patience is everything
There is no guarantee of returns when you spend money on advertising. Especially when you are small. Patience is everything. You might get a lot of likes and awareness by throwing money behind your Instagram posts, but you’ll need to keep throwing money at it again and again to maintain those 'like' levels. And then there's no guarantee that these likes will convert to customers either.
I’m not saying 'don’t invest in advertising'
If you are going to invest, do it. But invest small, and increase it gently over time, if you must. Test and learn. Ensure that you are going to get returns (like traffic to your site and sales), not just vanity results like ‘likes' or video views.
I would however, focus on the basics of growing patiently before you spend a penny on advertising. Fail small, learn, move upwards. And spend on advertising if you must.
 Go to Australia
There you’ll find an exceedingly bright professor called Professor Byron Sharp. He is head of The Ehrenberg Institute of Marketing Science and his exceptionally bright team has done a lot of work into the science of marketing across large and small brands across many countries.
When it comes to social media, they have found how the odds are stacked against smaller businesses:

  • The bigger you are as a business, the more 'likes' you will have. (This is because people are more familiar with you, so they'll 'like' you more. Plus, when you are big, you can outspend smaller businesses on advertising and get your Instagram post seen by more people.)
  • The smaller you are, the fewer followers you will have and the fewer 'likes' you will get. (It’s because people aren’t as familiar with you, so they'll 'like' you less. Plus you will have less to spend on advertising and your ability to get noticed is lower.) 

Instagram makes it harder
And it doesn’t help that Instagram has made it harder for your posts to appear on people’s feeds with an algorithm that shows users only the most popular posts. (In the past, it just showed posts sequentially, in order of time.)
So, is Instagram worth doing?
That’s up to you and your business. If you feel that’s where your audience lives, where you can standout well, then do it. You’ve got to start somewhere.

But this post is a reality to check to any raw enthusiasm that expects overnight success and healthy returns from any advertising that you pay for.
"But my business is different?"
Possibly. You might get lucky in the short term by throwing money at Instagram. But I’d imagine over the course of years (not weeks and months), you’d plateau in terms of 'likes', 'comments', and click throughs to your website.

Unless you have deep pockets, be prepared to be patient, and build upon your few distinctive ingredients. 
Just like Joe did.
This brings me to the end.
So, what have we covered?

  1. We talked about the importance of creating few, quickly identifiable Distinctive Ingredients. Catch the eye before you catch the brain
  2. We talked about why video is a powerful way to create the Wicks Effect and how much more powerful it is to get attention than images
  3. Lastly, we talked about why buying your way to get people’s eyeballs on your Instagram post is no guarantee of sales in the long term and why a patient approach is the way to go. It's hard, but nothing in life comes easily.

What’s the 1 thing you could do today?
Plan what makes you instantly distinctive. People have extremely short windows to notice you. So, make it count. Get scribbling on an A3 piece of paper.
There’s more to say for another day
You might be thinking, what about hashtags, what about connecting with influencers and Instagram communities. Yes, there’s more to this but these 3 ideas in this article should give you a good start if you want to create your own Wicks Effect.
And that’s why I am writing my large Instagram book.
This is just a taster and it's coming at the end of September next. If you want to find out more, click here.