Using Instagram to Grow Your Audience with Chris Browning of Popcorn Finance

You’re officially a content creator. So what’s the one thing that content creators need even more than inspiration (or caffeine!)? An audience, of course. Have you ever thought about using Instagram to grow your audience?

Instagram is actually the perfect platform to send more eyes to your work, whether it’s a blog, another channel, or even a podcast. How can we be so sure? Chris Browning of Popcorn Finance says so!

We sat down to chat with Browning to find out exactly how he works Instagram magic to grow his podcast. That’s right. He’s using a visual platform to grow an audience for another platform that’s almost entirely focused on audio.

His tips on using Instagram to grow your audience will work for any content creator. Get your content seen by taking advantage of Instagram business account features and learning how to make Instagram Stories work for you. Browning also dishes on all sorts of ways to get past the on-camera jitters. He’s got at least one take you’ve never heard before. Guaranteed.

Why Use Instagram to Grow Your Audience?

There are plenty of social media platforms out there. Why did Browning choose Instagram? He says it make the most sense to use Instagram because it’s the platform he enjoys the most.

Jokingly, he says Twitter is just too many words after a long day at work. Realistically, though, Browning is onto something. More and more people are turning to Instagram for its combination of words, images, and video. It’s the perfect way to share information and to be entertained.

Visit his account to see him in action.

Make Your Content Pop on Instagram

Browning says that he knows he made the right choice for his platform because it helps him engage with people. While it was hard to blend podcasting and Instagram at first, he says he’s found a good system. After some trial and error, he’s learned to create and repurpose content in a style tailored to Instagram.

He starts his explanation with a don’t. You can’t just slap an audio WAV on Instagram and call it a day. Instead, you want to devise a way to capture the audience’s eye, not their ear. This is especially important when you consider the fact that so many people use Instagram without sound.

Knowing these things, Browning says he has to get more creative. One technique that Browning uses is to add text to video on Instagram. He says that the moving text stops people in their scroll. Even if they don’t watch the entire video or click over to his website right away, it’s interesting and unusual enough that people will come back to it later on when they have headphones and more time.

Check out more tips from Pete McPherson on how to capture your audience’s attention.

Using Instagram for Cross Promotion

Every podcast episode of Popcorn Finance is highly cross promoted on Instagram. To do this, Browning uses a combination of tactics. This content creation strategies include using

  •    Images
  •    Audio clips, and
  •    Video with text

His strategy for using images on Instagram is based on building relationships. He says that audiences want to know who the podcast guests are. Sharing images allows them to put a face to the voice.

He also pulls audio clips straight from the podcast episode. The clips are little slivers of conversation that stand out to him. They might be funny, entertaining, or memorable in some other way.

Finally, he uses those video clips with text to really grab his audience’s attention.

By creating a combination of content on Instagram, he’s able to boost podcast engagement for each new episode.

Know Your Audience with an Instagram Business Account

The Popcorn Finance podcast episodes drop on Mondays, and Browning starts cross-promoting them on Instagram that same time. He’s not too worried about a specific content calendar in terms of days. Instead, he says it’s all about timing.

The first thing he suggests anyone do is to convert their Instagram account to a business account. That way, you can see the days of the week and the times of the week that your audience is on. He says that the days don’t change much for his audience. But he did notice a huge difference in terms of time of day.

His particular audience isn’t very active in the morning. Instead, he sees engagement tick upward throughout the day, with his audience being most active after 6PM PT. He releases his content accordingly.

Anyone looking to use Instagram to cross-promote needs to remember that. Cross promotion is only truly successful if your audience is there, so find out when they are most active and engaged.

Check out these tips for using social media to grow your audience.

How to Connect With Your Audience Using Instagram Stories

Browning is also working to create exclusive content on Instagram Stories. To do this, he’s created what he calls the “Popcorn Minute.”

Popcorn Minute is a quick video for the week that he films right in his car. He uses it to preview the week ahead and make real connections with his audience by sharing little bits of his life. He also previews what’s going on with the Popcorn Finance podcast that week.

These videos are recorded directly on his phone. Then, he shares them on Instagram Stories and also on his traditional feed.

The Benefits of Instagram Stories

He’s also realizing that he gets a lot more engagement in Stories than on the posts in his traditional Instagram feed. This isn’t entirely surprising to Browning, though. He says one of the best ways to determine how you should use Instagram for your brand is to think about how you enjoy using the platform as an audience member.

Look at your own habits when you use the platform. Where do you spend your time? There’s a good chance that other audience members in your niche do the same. Knowing your audience and studying your niche is an important step in using Instagram to grow your audience.

Browning acknowledges that he’s not always comfortable on camera. He shares the traditional advice of pushing past it and making more content to get comfortable. But then he points out something different. He says that it’s really essential to remember that you don’t matter; your audience does.

It might feel awkward to you to sit in your car and film, but your audience isn’t noticing your car. Instead, they see this video as an opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation. They’re focused on your message and your meaning.

By turning your focus to your audience and creating something that they will value, Browning believes people can feel more confident with these videos.

He also jokes that there’s something else beautiful about Instagram Stories: They’re gone in 24 hours. If you really hate your content, it’s not forever. You can always try again.

Find more tips on boosting your comfort on-screen from Bobbi Rebell of Financial Grownup.

Using Instagram Stories Highlights to Share Your Best Work

Instagram Stories aren’t forever. Right?

Let’s say you do create something that you actually love and you think your audience will really value. Archive it! There’s a lot of work that goes into creating Instagram content for it to be gone almost instantly. That’s why Browning is working on making the most of his Instagram Stories Highlights.

He’s setting up his account in a way that’s purposeful. His audience can easily tell the theme of the content by the cover image and the name. Popcorn Stories has its own category. He also has other categories where he adds content that he thinks people will really relate to.

He says the best way to determine what you should archive and how to organize it all is to think about a common thread. If you have stories that are cohesive and have value, save it as a complete memory. You can keep building this and your audience can return to it over time.

Another way to build up Instagram Story Highlights is to use them as an ongoing list. Browning started keeping track of everything he’s reading as a personal endeavor. What surprised him, though, was how much interaction and engagement he gets from audiences. People will reach out to ask him what he’s reading next and seem to really appreciate him using the feature to chronicle past reads.

Browning points out that this would work well for any number of things. From recipes to movies and anything in between, it’s a great way to create an ongoing list that can serve as a conversation starter with audiences.

The Best Apps to Create Instagram Content

While Browning makes it seem easy, sharing audio on a visual platform requires careful planning. Having access to the right tools can make your job a lot easier. Browning says that he uses a handful of apps to help with all of his content creation.


Audiogram allows him to take a chunk of audio and turn it into video. It actually transcribes the audio for you. Of course, he says there’s some cleanup involved. But it’s not too labor intensive since the video length is capped at a minute. Browning also appreciates that the app lets users add text and change the placement of it.


Pixelmator is another tool Browning uses. He says it’s a cheap version of Photoshop. It allows people to control and manipulate images without quite the same level of commitment as Photoshop. The app allows people to lighten and darken images. There is a single-tap color correction feature. Plus, there are even templates to help you get started.


Clips is the app that Browning uses to create his Popcorn Minute video. He shoots the video using his iPhone. He knew he wanted to be able to splice together segments and infuse still images, and he found all of those options in Clips. This app is actually a default on the iPhone. Not only does it allow him to splice and organize his video and still image content, but he can add audio to it as well. Fair use background music comes free with the app. There’s a bonus heaping of technology magic, too. The app adjusts the volume of the background music to accommodate audio on the video clips as well.

These tools aren’t silver screen quality, and they don’t have to be. One thing that Browning stresses over and over again is that these videos are an opportunity to connect for audiences. Using Instagram to grow your audience means finding ways to connect with the authentically. The Instagram videos are meant to be entertaining and informative. They’re also fairly casual in order to seem like a real conversation.

Check out how Joseph Hogue of Let’s Talk Money keeps video conversational.

How to Choose Effective Hashtags for Instagram

If you’re using Instagram to grow your audience, you probably have questions about hashtags. After all, no two pieces of hashtag advice seem to be the same.

Browning admits that he’s still working on perfecting his hashtag game, but he does have a plan.

First of all, he says that you want to make sure that you’re not too repetitive. By repeating the same hashtags for each post, the hashtags simply aren’t as effective. Instead, you want to focus on what’s unique about that post.

Of course, brands will want to use one or two consistent hashtags. For Browning, that means using #PopcornFinance. He also uses #debtfreecommunity pretty frequently, and his reasoning is simple: he enjoys interacting with that community.

Another tip that Browning shares is to pick hashtags that are in the medium popularity range. It’s unlikely that your content will float to the top of the most popular hashtags. The hashtags are simply oversaturated, so it’s hard to stand out.

Instead, by choosing hashtags in the 10-30K range, your content is more likely to be seen. Once Browning knows which hashtags fit his post, he records them in Notes on his phone. That way, he can cycle through different groupings of hashtags without having to come up with new ones on the spot each time.

Final Thoughts on Using Instagram to Grow Your Audience

As you evolve and hone your message, you need your audience to grow with you. These tips from Chris Browning at Popcorn Finance will allow you to unlock the power of Instagram to send more views to your work and build a bigger fan-base for your brand.

Have you considered using Instagram or Instagram Stories to make stronger connections with your audience? 

To hear the full interview with Chris Browning, tune into the latest episode of the Money & Media podcast.

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About Our Hosts

Joe Saul-Sehy is the co-host of the Stacking Benjamins personal finance podcast and operates the Stacking Benjamins blog.

Bethany Bayless is a public speaker and emcee who co-hosts the podcast The Money Millhouse.

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