Top Instagram Strategies with The Instagram Expert – Sue B. Zimmerman

Sue has been teaching Instagram for the past NINE years and she shares a number of great tips to help business owners use Instagram as one of the best FREE online marketing tools out there.

She has spoken at hundreds of events around the country, so you’re absolutely in this for a treat!

Visit Sue B.’s website.

Check her out in Instagram The Instagram Expert

Subscribe to her Youtube channel for your weekly dose if Instagram for Business tips and tricks!

Katie Brinkley 0:02

Hi friends. I’m Katie Brinkley, and you’re listening to Rocky Mountain marketing. This podcast is all about helping Colorado based small business owners, entrepreneurs, realtors and professionals discover the strategies and systems that take their marketing to all new heights. Let’s dive into today’s episode.

Katie Brinkley 0:23

Welcome back to Rocky Mountain marketing. I am so excited for this week’s guest, Sue B. Zimmerman. She’s known as the Instagram Expert over on Instagram, but she teaches a lot more than Instagram. And I think that you are in for a very special treat listening to her and her entrepreneurial journey, hearing her story and of course, hearing some of her best Instagram tips and advice. Sue, welcome. I’m so excited to have you here today. Yeah, I’m excited to bring the fire to your audience. Well, and you know, sue you and I’ve been able to get to know each other very well, Sue, you’ve been my business coach, you and I host clubhouse rooms together. But you know, let’s be honest, I was social media stalking you for years, because you give a ton of great tips about how business owners can use Instagram as a marketing tool. I think a lot of people think it’s still just a way to post pretty pictures. But what you teach is so valuable for entrepreneurs. So I’m excited to dive into that. But before we do, I would love it. If you just tell us a little bit of your background, a little bit of your backstory, I know that we’ve had the opportunity again, to get to know each other very well. But your story is pretty unique. And I think that you know, you’ve always had that entrepreneur mindset. And you’ve always been out there trying to figure out different ways to run your own business. So I’d love to hear your story.

Sue B. Zimmerman 1:47

Yeah, so full circle, Instagram is this free app, and you get to basically create content. And what I call the difference to be neighborhoods using filters or embellishments, embellishments, being the text tool, the stickers, the gifts, the emojis, all of that. And about 12 years ago, 13 years ago, I used to literally be onstage at QVC teaching people how to embellish their real photos, using my treasure tape, double sided tape and little tiny micro beads that we call beat Blitz. And this was back in the scrapbook phase craze where everyone was scrapbooking. And so I am that entrepreneurs who seize opportunities and seize them based on kind of market trends. And I knew that scrapbooking was the thing, I also knew that it was a way for you to preserve your most prized possession, which for me, and probably a lot of people listening or your photos. And so Instagrams become this digital scrapbook, and a lot of people use it that way to post things that they want to just hold near and dear to that memory. But I teach you all how to make an impact and make more money doing what you love, using Instagram as a marketing tool that really highlights you as the go to authority, brand business author. And when you get laser focused on who you are in your points of differences from everyone else who does a very similar thing to what you do. You can like grow an organic community, and one that is thrilled to be connected to you and also thrilled to buy from you. And I think that’s the ultimate goal for the audience that I serve at large. But yeah, I’ve got this thing for photos. And I just love that it came full circle from QVC.

Katie Brinkley 4:04

And that’s one of the things you’ve had the opportunity to be on a lot of different stages and speak. I mean, you’ve been on Netflix, you’ve been featured in Forbes and Inc magazine, you like you said you’ve been on QVC you’ve been at Social Media Marketing World, the list goes on. And it’s all exactly what you said, teaching people how Instagram can work for them. So I’d love it if you could just share what made you decide to be an entrepreneur? Why did you decide to start your own business as opposed to going into the corporate side of the world? Yeah, I’ve

Sue B. Zimmerman 4:37

Always been a creator and crafty and someone who just loved to sell things whether it was lemonade or polliwogs grow into frogs, a little tadpoles, and barrettes handpainted barrettes at a young age, or just consumer products that I sold and then eventually had my own retail store on Cape Cod.

Sue B. Zimmerman 5:00

But I am a true entrepreneur who sees opportunity in making money doing the things that bring me joy. And I’ve always been this way. I mean, this is just part of my DNA. So, making money has been easy for me because I love what I’ve always sold and know that there is someone who wants it. So whether it’s selling my hand painted barrettes, at recess when I wasn’t supposed to be, or selling my treasure tape and beads, to crafters, or even selling workshops to moms that needed to understand social media, or even teaching art classes in the basement of my home, I always saw an opportunity to be self expressive, while making money. And I think that’s really served me well, on my entrepreneurial journey where I am today. And with each chapter that I opened, and one that I’ve closed, I’ve grown as a person, as a leader, as someone who gains confidence along the way, and understands hardships, and you know that things aren’t always rainbows and unicorns every day and how you kind of navigate that and, and bounce back and be resilient and just stay on course to again, the thing that lights you up. And I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve always kind of followed that pulse that has lit me up. And I’m now able to kind of light other people up by giving them some Mojo and motivation and inspiration. And lots of education that I’ve learned along the way, specifically teaching Instagram marketing as a tool as a marketing tool to just get that global visibility, if you do it strategically. Wow. Absolutely, absolutely. I mean, so I’m curious, you know, as you said, you’re you’re selling barrettes. And for those of you that that noticed Sue’s amazing accent you know, she’s in the Boston area. I love love. You hear it here, you say wicked, smart theater, and about rats. But I’m curious, Was there anyone in your life that was an entrepreneur that you looked up to? Or did you just always have that kind of mindset? Well, I had parents with a great work ethic, both of them, my dad, my grandfather, my mother was a nurse, my dad was a entrepreneur, and that he sold automobile parts at my uncle’s shop, he was kind of a partner or manager, I should say. And he worked so hard. And I hardly saw him except on the weekends or the days that I chose to go in and work alongside with him. And through observing my dad’s work ethic and taking on jobs like filing distributors and mufflers and sweeping the floor, I noticed things like how close they were to their customers, and how they would say their names when they walked in the door and how it was this community business that thrived and grew, and just was exciting for me to see. And even though I don’t even remember, like, you can ask me questions about automobile parts, because I don’t remember a lot. I just remember like stocking the shelves and noticing the environment, the culture around that business. And so I think that has helped us grow a phenomenal business, phenomenal team, with company culture, you know, like the ethics around what you stand for, and the way that you serve. And so that was probably subconsciously a big part of my journey, just having my dad as that role model. And then my grandfather worked at a department store as a manager. And he had a lot of those similar traits. And then I don’t know if you know this, Katie, but my uncle, my mother’s brother, was a finalist on America’s Got Talent. And he’s, yeah, he’s saying, and His name’s big Berry, if anyone Google’s it, we’ll put the link in the show notes. My uncle was like, really pretty famous because of that exposure. And what I learned from him as a owner of three restaurants in New York, who was so cool, he was the cool uncle that had a band and play drums and traveled around the world. He was very comfortable doing ads on TV. And because he was so comfortable in front of the camera and the lights he didn’t like crash and burn at when he got a chance to audition and could handle the millions of people watching which a lot of people that have a great talent just can’t handle the pressure. And so I saw my uncle handle the pressure in his 70s like he was a finalist in the 70s. So

Sue B. Zimmerman 10:00

As a true inspiration around creativity, branding his restaurant, it was called Big berries. He was like Mickey Mouse, the kids all loved him. He was only, you know, he’s only for 10. He’s not a midget, but he’s tiny. So people just loved my uncle. And it was this whole Western vibe. And a lot of his branding and marketing was memorable for me as well. So I was surrounded by creative people who were doing what they loved.

Katie Brinkley 10:28

I love that. And I mean, I think that I didn’t know that about you. That’s really, that’s really cool. He was on America’s Got Talent. But I think that what makes a big difference is who we have in our lives that we can look up to. And looking back on my story in my life. Now I’m like, Well, of course, I ended up running my own business, you know, looking back at what I did as a kid, of course I did. But when I started my business and started my freelance, at the time, as a freelance business, is now evolved into an actual business where I have an office and everything, I never expected it to end up where it is, now that I’m looking back my way, of course, I mean, I, that’s the work ethic that my parents taught me, that’s what I saw around me. And I wanted to craft the lifestyle that I wanted. And I think that that is how it is for a lot of entrepreneurs. I mean, one of the, you know, you are the Instagram Expert. So we’re gonna dive into Instagram here. But I think that that’s one of the biggest struggles for entrepreneurs is they do all the things, they have a great work ethic, they think they can do all of it, but they might just not have the time they have, you know, okay Instagrams, a great marketing tool, I’m going to go ahead and put up a picture of this, I did my post for the month, I’m done. And I think that that’s a problem that many entrepreneurs have is because they know they need to do social media, or they know they need to use Instagram and have the social proof, but they just don’t have the time. So one of the things that you and I both are in alignment with is strategically posting, I would love it, if you told us all a little bit about how you can still have a very strong social media presence, without spending all day posting on Instagram.

Sue B. Zimmerman 12:03

Yeah, so it really is important to have a plan and be strategic and map out that plan so that you can create content that is in alignment with your audience. So many people make the mistake of just posting in the moment, and not batch producing their content. And we are two weeks ahead on our social content, because we don’t want to be stressed. And we want to do all the other work in our business. And when you really sit down and batch produce an optimized I really want to lean into the word optimize, because a lot of people don’t optimize the work that we’re they’re doing. For example, if you’re posting in your feed, are you using the alt text? Are you getting in researching the right hashtags for your audience? Do you have a hook that’s going to hook them into the conversation with a compelling description and a great call to action. And so a lot of people are just doing it and wanting to see results, wanting more followers wanting more growth, wanting more money, but they’re not optimizing it, because they’re not slowing down and planning and really doing all of the different aspects of what is required to get the most out of the time that you’re putting into creating

Katie Brinkley 13:22

that content. And you know, you’re talking about creating content and batching. And the latest word is from Instagram is the help, we’re gonna have to start using more video. I would love it if you just told people a little bit about what you’ve I love the term, you’ve given it the Sue B. neighborhoods, can you tell us a little bit about the neighborhoods and then we can dive into using strategically?

Sue B. Zimmerman 13:45

Yeah, so you mentioned video, and you can create video in every subi neighborhood because here’s what you need to think Instagram is a village. And it’s approaching I think 2 billion monthly active users now. And you need to communicate with your audience, not all the people on Instagram, right, and you have five ways right now to do that strategically. Post in your feed, doing stories, doing a real igtv and going live. And in each one of these neighborhoods, you can do video. And the reason I think that Instagram is really leaning into video is because that’s where the real authentic content gets created. Because you can’t hide behind your voice, your body language. Are you looking at the camera and talking to me? Or are you hiding behind some Canva created graphic and so now more than ever, people want real people want authenticity and Instagram is leaning into that with their announcement and you can be very strategic and each one of these to be neighborhoods to create that video. content that’s relevant. Now, I do want to say full disclosure, I’m not saying don’t do photos, but videos is what’s being preferred. And so that’s why we teach a lot of our content strategically, which you can see in our feed around the power of video and what you need to know.

Katie Brinkley 15:18

You know, and I think that many people might be listening and saying, Wait a second, I have to do a video. I know. Okay, social media, Instagram is not for me. What would you say to them if they are a little shy about stepping in front of the lens?

Sue B. Zimmerman 15:32

Yeah, so most people are most people didn’t grow up with a phone in their face, at least my audience, which is typically women, 40 and older. So it’s important for you to get comfortable on camera, it’s important for you to practice the more you practice, the better you get, the more you understand good natural lighting and backdrops and brand colors and energy, the more you will seem real. I mean, I think one of the reoccurring comments I get from people who talk with me is they like how real and relatable I am. Because I don’t have a pretense on Instagram. Like, that’s me the real deal, like I am jumping on trampolines, I am I am a sweaty, hot mess often. And yes, I love dressing up and putting on that Chanel skirt and showing some of that too. But for the most part, everything that you see in my feed is an exact representation of how I show up in person. And so I think that’s really important so that people build that trust so much faster. Right?

Katie Brinkley 16:31

Exactly what and you said something to you’re like, yeah, show up how I am. And sometimes it’s me exercising or me working out it. It’s not all filters and sunshine and rainbows, you’re you’re putting your true self out there. And I had the opportunity to meet you in real life. And it was really like meeting an old friend. Because I’ve been falling on social media, you and I have had text conversations. You know, and I’ve seen you on video so often that when we met in real life, it was kind of like just seeing someone that maybe I hadn’t seen in a couple months or a year or two. But it was someone that I already knew I already not liked. I already trusted, because I see you show up all the time, whether it’s an igtv alive or stories. And actually speaking of stories, I would love it if you just kind of told us the everyone the difference between what they should put out in Instagram Stories versus what they should put out in Instagram reel the latest Instagram Sue B. neighborhood.

Sue B. Zimmerman 17:25

Yes. So stories are an opportunity to really kind of peel back the curtain show behind the scenes or amplify whatever content you’re promoting, that’s living on in that evergreen format in your feed and your grid. And so stories are a great way to do that with all the amazing features, the engagement stickers, and the opportunity to actually alternate the video and the photos and take people with you where you want them to go. An example of how we use this strategically is when we release a new piece of content on our YouTube channel, which by the way, you can all easily subscribe to by just typing that YouTube in my dm and this is the best resource for everything we’re talking about.

Katie Brinkley 18:10

And so I just want to stop you real fast. If you guys are not checking Sue out on I know we’re talking Instagram, but follow her on YouTube. If you want to learn a ton about Instagram, she has over 400 videos, they’re bite sized nuggets that you can watch while you’re waiting in line at Starbucks her coffee to come out. And they’re they’ll help you level up your business. So be sure to check out Sue’s YouTube channel, be sure to subscribe to it. Alright, I’ll let you go again.

Sue B. Zimmerman 18:36

No, seriously hit the bell and subscribe. Because every Monday I drop a new video and you want to be in the know, they’re definitely the relevant organic strategies that work that we’ve tested and that you need to know. So when we do stories, we, you know, weekly, we will talk about our YouTube channel because we get hundreds and hundreds of new people following me daily and that, you know, 1000s a week or so. And we want to make sure that they know about the YouTube channel because that’s where we show up in search. That’s where we build the trust. That’s where we have our opt ins and our offerings for our free webinar and some of our free downloads and our lead magnets so that you all get on our email and we can stay connected with you and nurture and build those relationships. So we do stories consistently talking about our YouTube channel with the swipe up to subscribe. And then in terms of reels, we are experimenting, like many of you within our channel, you can tap in and see often I’m teaching mindset strategies and tips lately my CEO Morgan showing up more and more so that people understand that she and I have, you know, built this business together over the past nine years. She’s kind of in the forefront a little bit on my Instagram, and some of the shifts that our clients have made, or that we’ve gone through over the past nine years we’re sharing openly. I’m also often sharing Instagram hacks and tips and strategies. And our channel is just exploding our reels channel. And we are always thinking about that hook. The text took the call to action and the messaging and often it’s done within seconds. But I will tell you from our last launch, when we taught our real workshop, all of the reels that we did over that launch period, which was just five days, but we had five reels, they helped our conversion so much to get people on the training, which was really exciting. It was a paid training, and it was $97. And we were just trying different neighborhoods of promoting and amplifying that live workshop, which now is a recorded workshop. So that was like just knowing what our audience wants and needs and knowing what stories are going on in their head. For example, Katie, I think one of the best ones that we did is my message that I simply said, You’re not too old, and it’s not too late. And that was a real that was it. Right there. Right?

Katie Brinkley 21:02

Yeah. And I think that that’s one of the biggest things too, with reels people are thinking they gotta stand up and dance and everything else. And it’s just how are people going to get the message that you’re putting out there quickly? And how can you help them? And are you relatable? And I think that those are the three things that really help a reel do well is what you’re pushing out there in it, like his head, it can be six seconds, it can be 15. But you got to be fast because people’s attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. So now, I think that okay, we discussed the Sue B neighborhoods, we’re deciding that we want to go in and start using Instagram as one of our marketing tools. What do you think that the biggest mistake that a lot of small business entrepreneurs are making when they are first getting started on Instagram?

Sue B. Zimmerman 21:49

So the reoccurring there’s two mistakes, one is they’re missing their SEO, the search engine optimization in their name field, Katie, and I, you know, I say this, anyone can type SEO in my dm, and we’ll link the guide, it takes you to my guide, teaching you what this is. So they don’t know what their SEO is. And I think you got laser-focused on this as we work through your optimizing your account. And because when you use that you show up in search, for example, I was looking for a puppy trainer for my new puppy. I just searched puppy drainer and I found one who I’m going to do virtual training with on Instagram, it didn’t matter where she lived. It mattered what she did, how she did it. I found her searching on Instagram, because she had the right SEO. So if you’re missing that you’re missing out. And then the second thing is, there’s no you the human aspect of your business, your brand, the face behind it is missing. And it’s a bunch of graphics, and even the avatar is just a logo. So I think you know, you can relate to this right, Katie?

Katie Brinkley 22:56

Absolutely, yeah. And I think that that is one of the biggest mistakes that I see now that you brought it to my attention. And I think a lot of business small businesses, especially real estate agents, are doing the same thing. They’re using the logo instead of their picture instead of themselves. Why is that an issue? Because I mean, you know, Nike does it. So why should I have not done that?

Sue B. Zimmerman 23:16

So big brands absolutely have a following and brand recognition, but most solopreneurs small businesses don’t. And we want to know the person behind that brand. I mean, let’s just look at Sara Blakely, for example, the founder of Spanx she’s out there loud and proud. And I feel so much more connected to her and connected to her brand because of it. Same with Alli Webb, the founder of the dry bar, and Richard Branson. I mean, when we get to know the face and the name behind a business, we feel more connected to it.

Katie Brinkley 23:50

Right? Absolutely. And that’s that’s what changed things for me and my business. I mean, I, I tell this story all the time I was I’ve been helping businesses, their social media for a long time, but I was treating myself as my absolute worst client, I was putting zero strategy into my social presence. I had a logo, I didn’t use this. Yeah, I was doing everything wrong for my for my own business and do everything right for my clients and watching them grow and succeed. But once I made that shift, once I put my face out there, once I optimized the SEO, once I had a bio that said, who I was and what I did, and you know who I was helping, everything changed. And I think that that’s absolutely one of the biggest mistakes that many, many small businesses are making. Alright, we’re almost up with our time, but I have two more questions. I want to ask you, someone sitting here saying All right, I’ll fix my bio Sue, I’ll get my face on there. I’ll start trying to do a video. But can I really make money using Instagram as a marketing tool? Can I really make money from it? Cuz I mean, I’m posting now but I haven’t made any money yet. So what would you say to them? Well, I’m

Sue B. Zimmerman 24:53

curious Katie, I know you’ve made money. I’ve made money. So I would just call bs on that mindset. Make a mindset shift, you know, it’s like you’re not making money, probably because you need to optimize your bio and be more strategic and create content that’s relevant to those who you want to do business with. Right?

Katie Brinkley 25:15

Absolutely, absolutely. And I think that it’s, there’s many things that we haven’t had the opportunity, I think that you and I probably could talk about Instagram together for maybe like four or five episodes, but um, we only have 30 minutes. And but it is there’s so many different parts of social media that need to be implemented to make money from it. And when you start being strategic and utilizing the tools that, you know, you teach, it makes a world of difference. And it really will help you make money. It’s not just a photo-sharing app anymore.

Sue B. Zimmerman 25:45

Totally. It’s everything. It’s a marketing tool that’s on fire. And it’s everyone’s favorite marketing tool. If you look at people’s mobile habits, nine out of 10 people are on their Instagram account, scrolling, and looking at their Instagram, if not getting news or shopping or laughing, or connecting or building community. I don’t know about UK, but that one click to purchase on Instagram is pretty impressive. Like I’ve purchased so much stuff just by tapping and putting it in my car.

Katie Brinkley 26:16

Me too. Me too. So before we finish up here, I just want to end with what is the biggest piece of advice that you would want to give somebody who’s just starting out and ready to take on Instagram for their marketing.

Sue B. Zimmerman 26:30

I would just say go and subscribe to my YouTube channel because it will convince you why it’s so powerful. It all of the data is there all of the inspo is there and you know if I can do it, you can do it. You know, anyone can do it. If you put your mind to it. That is what I want to leave your audience with.

Katie Brinkley 26:47

Absolutely love it. So if anyone wants to connect with you further, what’s the best way for somebody to get in touch with you?

Sue B. Zimmerman 26:54

Yeah, you guys come on over to the gram. It’s my jam. And just let me know your favorite thing that you heard on this interview with Katie at mentioned Katie Brinkley and myself, the Instagram Expert and we will comment back I want to know what you enjoyed learning or hearing and why Katie’s Instagram account is I am Katie Brinkley and subi is at the Instagram Expert. If you don’t want it to be a public comment, you can just send it to me in the DM and let me know I really would love to connect and hear from you. I’m all about my action takers. You know that Katie? Right?

Katie Brinkley 27:28

Absolutely. Absolutely. And Sue has a course about Instagram if you want to take her course is called Ready, Set grow. She also was you know, has a ton of free resources out there with her YouTube channel. And of course, he’s on Instagram at the Instagram Expert Sue B. This has been awesome. It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time. I can’t thank you enough for joining me in my audience. And you have just been a pleasure to have on the show.

Sue B. Zimmerman 27:55

Oh, it’s been a blast. So great to see how far you’ve come with your Instagram journey as well. You’re a great example for everyone to follow to Katie. Thank you.

Katie Brinkley 28:03

Thank you. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of Rocky Mountain marketing. As always, I’d love to hear from you. You can visit my website at

Connect with me on LinkedIn or check me out on Instagram. Let’s keep taking your marketing to new heights.