At the start of 2012, 27-year-old Arvin Lal was pumping iron with his friend, a chiropractor who mixed his own herbal supplements. The friend gave him a weight loss remedy.
“I tried it and I lost 8 pounds in two weeks. I asked him is this legal? If so let’s mass produce it,” Lal told Business Insider.
Lal had a credit card with a $US5,000 limit and off he went to bottle the supplement now named Shredz.
By the start of 2013, he was ready to sell it but needed to find buyers.
The plan was typical for the weight loss industry: hire fitness personalities to endorse the supplement. Lal opted for folks with local and regional followings like Jonathan Coyle, a 31-year-old CrossFit trainer in Orange, Calif.
He wanted athletes to write articles about motivation, fitness, training and weight loss and reach young people through social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
“We want to get people to change their lives, not just lose weight,” he says.
Shredz articles did well on Facebook and Twitter, but things really took off when they started using Instagram, Lal told us. Turns out, pictures of beautiful, fit male and female trainers tend to be popular on Instagram.
But Lal’s athletes were not big national stars with huge followings. He needed to help them grow and because his company, Beyond Genetics Supplements, was entirely bootstrapped, he couldn’t spend a lot on social media management technology.
So he found three free apps to help: an analytics site called Statigram, which lets you manage and monitor your Instagram; an iPhone Instagram app, Kik, for chatting with Instagram users and sending private messages; and Instolver, for uploading hundreds of pics to Instagram at a time.
By using these tools (and a few others Lal wouldn’t reveal), Lal taught trainers exactly what, when, where, and how to post to grab followers.
10 months later and the company itself has 2.7 million social media followers. Plus its trainers reach another 3.16 million people on Instagram alone, according to records shown to Business Insider.
And that’s led to growth. The company now has a whole line of supplements, employs about 50 people (between staffers and contract trainers) and generates $US3.1 million in sales, Lal says.
Thanks, in large part, to Instagram.
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