Perseverance, Storytelling, and Instagram Growth with Laurie Berglie
Have you ever wondered what it takes to grow an audience of 20k on Instagram for your horse business? In this episode, our guest, Laurie Berglie, with Maryland Equestrian, is refreshingly honest about this process. Guess what? It’s a LOT of work. But it’s also super possible, and you don’t have to have a marketing team or superpowers to get there. Laurie embodies the idea of collaboration in marketing (something we are HUGE fans of here on the podcast) and shares some great ways she has collaborated to sell more of her books and grow her account. If you are on Instagram, you don’t want to miss this Episode!
Perseverance, Storytelling, and Instagram Growth with Laurie Berglie
Laurie Berglie is an independently published author with a three-book series. Her books include Where the Bluegrass Grows, Kicking On, and Taking Off. Laurie grew up as a very creative kid. She was always working on a short story or a poem. She knew she wanted to write a book at some point, but had no idea where to start.
She started with a blog and got to the point where she could sit down and write a little every day. What she began writing eventually became Where The Bluegrass grows. She didn’t have an outline, and she didn’t know how the story was going to end, she just started writing. The first draft took her six years. Two years after that, she published the book.
Laurie does the bulk of her marketing through Instagram and has 23,000 followers. Initially, she didn’t want to join Instagram. She was on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and felt she had enough social media in her life. Her friends kept bugging her to make an Instagram until one night, Laurie’s husband and friends grabbed her phone and created MarylandEquestrian.
If Laurie had made the account herself, she would have left it private, but they left it public. Before she knew what was happening, strangers started following the account. That was back in 2014. There was no algorithm, all the posts just displayed in chronological order, and Laurie’s following grew like crazy.
She engaged with people, but she didn’t have to jump through any of the hoops we do in growing our accounts. Today you have to comment regularly, you have to follow people and hope they follow you back, and you have to be active on the platform. Once the account started taking off, Laurie decided to make it more of a professional presence for her blog and her writing.
In the beginning, Laurie would try to plan out her grid and make it perfectly color-coordinated. After a while, it became restrictive, and she decided that she is going to post what she wants. If people want to follow her, great. If they don’t want to, that’s fine, too.
Giveaways have been Laurie’s best growth strategy. She’s seen as much as 200-300 new followers in just a few days with a giveaway. On a typical day, her follower growth is static. The best giveaways are simple. If you ask the participants to do too much work they are less likely to enter. It’s important to partner with a mix of people with massive followings AND smaller accounts with good engagement.
Laurie tries to be mindful of what she posts during the giveaway. She wants her new followers to get to know her and decide to stick around. If they unfollow after the giveaway, that doesn’t do much good. Giveaways typically last four or five days. This way, you can post about it a few times without overloading people with content.
Laurie is very active on Instagram Stories. She uses them to post in real-time because she doesn’t feel like she is bombarding her followers with content like she would if she constantly posted in her feed. Her stories are informal. She posts about home renovations, horse care, or whatever is going on in her day to day life.
Her goal of posting in stories is to help people get to know her as a person, the face behind Maryland Equestrian. Laurie doesn’t enjoy showing her face on the camera in her stories. Instead, she points her camera at whatever she is talking about.
If you struggle with not liking the sound of your own voice or seeing yourself on camera, Laurie can feel your pain. Sometimes she posts and then takes it back down because she re-watches it and doesn’t like what she sees. But, she does her best because she knows that when her favorite accounts hop on stories and talk, she enjoys watching it.
There are wild foxes around Laurie’s farm. A few years ago, she started feeding one of the foxes. She was injured in a blizzard and looked incredibly pathetic trying to get through the snow, so Laurie started leaving food out for her.
Before long, the fox would come every day, and wait on the hill behind the horse pasture. Laurie started sharing the fox in her stories and people LOVED it. She returned for the next four years, Laurie could recognize her because she had a limp. She would bring her babies to meet Laurie and everyone on Instagram followed their story.
Swift is Laurie’s newest horse. She got him in November 2019. He is her third horse, and she doesn’t have space, time, or money for any more! Swift is a six-year-old thoroughbred who never made it to the track. Swift is not swift.
He is super laid back and has no competitive spirit. He never gallops around the pasture; he is just a relaxed guy. He was fox hunted for a bit after it became clear he was not going to do well on the track. He doesn’t have any show experience, but Laurie plans to show him as a hunter and is confident he’ll do just fine.
Laurie has never evented she is considering trying out a bit of cross country or maybe letting Swift show her the ropes with some fox hunting. She only lives 15 minutes away from her local hunt club, so it would be easy for her to try it out.
Selling Books Through Instagram
Laurie published her first book in 2016 and already had a pretty large following on Instagram at that point. She promoted them some on there, but was nervous about it and didn’t do a ton of advertising.
Part of her wanted people to read her book, but another part of her was scared they would hate it and leave her bad reviews, so she was a little afraid to overly promote it. She was a LOT more confident when she published her second book in 2019 and promoted that one on Instagram a lot.
She also sent her book to a bunch of influencers in 2019. The people she sent it to shared it far and wide, and it got picked up by Cavali Club and included in their 2019 summer box. That was a dream come true and created a whole new host of readers, many of whom bought the 1st book as well (you can read them out of order and not miss a beat).
Creating Content for Instagram
Whenever she creates content for Instagram, Laurie concentrates on authenticity. She shares a mix of personal photos, shared content, and curated content. Laurie tries to share a picture of herself at least every 12 squares. She wants people who look at her account to be able to see who she is.
As far as a curated feed, Laurie tries to stick with colors of the season, but she doesn’t beat herself up if a picture doesn’t fit perfectly. She says she has a boring life (she doesn’t), but Laurie posts about what’s going on at the farm, her riding adventures, her book progress, and she shares anywhere she is featured.
Sometimes Laurie asks her audience for ideas while she writes. She asked for horse name ideas for one of her books, and April submitted one of the names that Laurie ended up choosing. She deliberately didn’t tell anybody which names she picked; her readers got to discover the surprise when they read the books.
Collaborating on Instagram
Self-published authors are near and dear to Laurie’s heart. Laurie knows what it’s like to navigate that process independently, and the likelihood of getting rich off book sales is very low. She strongly believes in the power of collaboration among authors working together to reach a larger audience collectively.
If you reach out to Laurie, she is always happy to talk to you. She is introverted, and won’t reach out to you because she is worried she may bother you, but she is always open to people reaching out to her.
Laurie doesn’t actively pursue sponsorships, but if a brand reaches out to her that she is passionate about, she is happy to help them out. Redingote Equestrian reached out to her last year about their one-piece rain suit. She immediately said yes. It’s something that she absolutely would use, and she was thrilled to share about it.
Laurie is a firm believer that a rising tide floats all boats. We’re all in this together, so if she can help you gain some exposure for something she is passionate about, she is happy to do it. If the product is not something she would naturally use, and wouldn’t fit well with her audience, she recommends someone else who would be a better fit.
When Will Laurie Publish Next?
Laurie is currently working on a short story collection that will be a starting point for many things. The collection features Cassidy Winters, who is the villain in Where the Bluegrass Grows. She’s going to get her own story where she redeems herself. When Laurie first posted about it, she got a ton of positive feedback. People wondered what had happened to her and were excited to follow her journey again.
At the end of taking off, Laurie hints that book four is going to take place in Ireland. She doesn’t feel like she can write about Ireland until she’s experienced it herself. She and her husband were supposed to go this year, but that’s not going to happen, so book 4 is on hold until they can reschedule their vacation, and Laurie can do the research she needs for the story.
You can purchase Laurie’s books on Amazon in print or as an ebook. If you wait for her website to be up and running you can grab one directly from her, and she may even sign the copy.
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