How do you build a following as a coach? In today’s interview with Nicki Wilson, we’re going to dive into how you can build a following on social media. Having a community, or tribe, can really help build your business.


Jess: Hey Nicki. Thank you so much for being here!  I brought you on today because I want you to talk about building your tribe because I know this is something you are amazing at. But first, let’s let the audience know who you are, what you do, all that kind of stuff.

Nicki: I was a personal trainer for years and years and years and years. Trained people in person. Got really fed up with the health and fitness industry, to be honest. Just I felt like it let especially women down pretty significantly. Just telling them to diet, eat hardly any food, exercise literally ad nauseum, and just try to attain this unrealistic body that is really, honestly, made up. And, you know, I really just saw a lot of pain in my clients. And, I live in Waco, Texas.

Jess: Woo!

Nicki: Shout out. Shout out, Waco. What I started to do was transform my message into kind of like a workshop style deal. I really didn’t know, I just felt like that’s what God wanted me to do because I really didn’t want to train people anymore and continue to feed the cycle of women’s poor body image and unhealthy relationship with food. I did this workshop and it was a sell out crowd. Did it a couple times. It was really great. The only problem was I’m in Waco. And I feel like the market is small here, obviously. And I had thought I could do one of two things: I can travel around to churches and do this inspirational message workshop for women to heal their relationship with food and their body, or I can take it online and make it into a course. Although I have to say, when I decided to take it online, I really had no idea what I was doing.

Jess: But you were just winging it.

Nicki: I was winging it. I mean, I had a blueprint. I just didn’t know deliverables and all of the really technical things that come along with online business. What is your actual product going to look like? I jumped in, though, and just kind of learned through … I mean, I hired a business coach. I joined a mastermind, all that good stuff. And if I hadn’t, I truly would have still just been emailing people the course information with a really sad little Facebook video. It was very bare bones when I started. I started to just hone my craft of courses to set women free from food and body obsession. And that’s really where I’m landing right now in terms of the health fitness industry. I just love doing that. I love doing courses. I love doing online courses. But, like I said, it took me a while to really hone it in and craft it.

Then I loved that so much, I loved doing courses so much and the online business aspect, now I do coaching for women who have online businesses. Not necessarily health and fitness, just women who are starting out who are like we all feel, “The market’s saturated. Oh crap, what have I got myself into? What do I do?” I really teach and coach those women to find their voice, find their ideal client and run with it.

Jess: I love it. I love it. I haven’t seen the inside of your courses, but I did your sales pages and all that jazz and I was like, “This is amazing stuff.” And also part of why I love you is that some of your pictures you’re holding a bowl of greens and a donut and I was like, “This is my kind of woman.”

Nicki: That’s my girl. And that’s, I think, I know we’ll talk about this. I know you have questions for me, but I think when it comes to branding yourself and build a following as a coach, that was a scary path for me to take because I think people look to people in the health and fitness industry like, “You have all the right answers. You do all the right things.” And I’m like, “Well, crud, I like donuts all the time and honestly I don’t care that much about what I eat. I mean, I try my best, whatever that looks like. I mean, I have a couple things that I do but I’m really pretty free with all that stuff.” So that was a hard message to put out for me, personally, because I was scare of what people would think.

Jess: It’s scary.

Nicki: But it turns out there’s a lot of people out there who like that.

Jess: There are. There are. Okay, we’re going to dive right into this: build a following as a coach. First, I want to hear from you because I’m sure some of our listeners might have this question. Why does building or having a tribe matter? Why should I even concern myself? Why can’t I just put my stuff out there and not try and build a following as a coach?

Nicki: Oh, this is a great question. Because here’s the difference. You have followers on your social media, and then you have people who are your tribe. And they are very, very, very, very distinctly different.

Jess: Oh, yes.

Nicki: And I think that, especially younger people might feel like as long as I have thousands and thousands of followers, then I have something viable. When it’s actually just not true. You could have a couple of hundred. I know there’s a book out that’s the thousand greatest, what is it, truest fans or something. Probably botching it all up. But the basic principle behind it is you only need a thousand people to really get you who turn into customers. And I would even say it could be a few hundred.

If your few hundred people, you guys, are understanding your message, understanding who you are and not only that but resonating with you, then they will go with you wherever you go. You can say whatever you want. You can pivot. I’m in the middle of a pivot, I’m like, “What the heck? Is anybody …” Everybody’s going to be just like, “What is she doing?” But it’s not like that. If you just turn the corner, they’re coming with you. If you zigzag back across the street, they follow you because they trust you. And what you say matters. And it is so true that whole know, like, and trust thing. That really does matter. I know people, literally, I have a couple of friends who have hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers and they do not have an email list.

They don’t know anything about how to build a following as a coach. They’re not just pretty faces, but to the interwebs world, they’re a beautiful face, so they get a lot of followers. If they put something out, they’re putting other people’s stuff out a lot. Just modeling things for other people. But they don’t have a viable business of their own. I know people probably hear that a lot, but I cannot beat that drum enough to say you do not need thousands and thousands of people to have a viable … I think you and I are proof of that. We have good followings.

Jess: I do not have the swipe up feature.

Nicki: I am so mad about that, too. I am just waiting for that. I hope every time Instagram updates, I’m like, “Please let it be that I have the swipe up.”

Jess: Can it just be for business accounts because we-

Nicki: Please.

Jess: And I wish Instagram would … Maybe we should send them this podcast episode. We have fans and a tribe and we deserve a swipe up feature.

Nicki: I think the term that is used today, is it microinfluencers?

Jess: Yes.

Nicki: I’m like, “That’s great.” I am happy being a microinfluencer knowing that I have a viable business, and knowing that I’m making money, and knowing I’m not relying on somebody else to make money for me.

Jess: Exactly.

Nicki: Anyway, I think that is the big difference is your messaging and how it’s bringing people around to following what you have to say. And then, in turn, you’re making some profit off of it, too.

Jess: With build a following as a coach, I would love to hear how you built it. Things you did, maybe. Also, how has it changed your business?

Nicki: Oh, totally. I think when I first started out, like I was saying earlier, I was kind of all over the place because health and fitness industry is so broad when you think about it. It seemed like just eat healthy, just exercise. But the spectrum of things is huge. You can just go a lot of different ways. It’s pretty saturated because so many people are just saying, “Oh, look at my body. Look at my abs. And I eat hardly anything.” And that’s definitely one way to do it. But for me, I took a different approach, like I said earlier. I started swimming upstream and making my message really unique to what I was hearing my clients and my customers needed.

Jess: I think that’s one of the key things that people are missing out on is when they speak too broadly. I was talking to somebody, I think it was one of my clients, recently about … It’s kind of like when you meet someone for the first time and they are just like, “Yeah, I like watching TV.” And you’re like, “Okay, cool.” But then it’s like when you meet someone and you find out you have the same favorite TV shows and podcasts and whatever, and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, did you listen to this episode? Did you watch that? Oh my gosh, I love her.” And you have this stronger connection because you have that specific same interest.

Nicki: Yeah, totally.

Jess: When people on Instagram are more specific in their message and they’re not afraid to share it, then it makes that stronger connection with your tribe.

Nicki: Yeah. I feel like a lot of when I started turning the corner from just a general, “I post fitness videos,” which was great, but there’s hundreds of thousands of general like, “This is my workout if you want it.” Hundreds of thousands of those. But when I started to really own who I was and post the pictures like you were saying of me eating a salad because I want a salad but then also eating a donut because I want a donut, I felt like that is when people started sighing a breath of, “Okay. She does that? Okay, I want to know more about that.” And that started my journey to attracting people who wanted to follow me. But where I think what I do, Jess, and what I’ve committed to, this is the number one thing that I do, is I feel like I show up very vulnerably for people.

Jess: Yes, you do.

Nicki: If I say I have body acceptance, I am posting pictures as you’ve probably seen, where I’m posting pictures of a swimsuit where my roll is maybe flapping over the top or I have my cellulite showing. And that’s not comfortable. But I like to show up vulnerable for the people who follow me to say, “No, I’m telling you I’m going to just get in the pool because I’m just getting in the pool as I am.” I think showing up vulnerably is huge for people. And I know authenticity is a buzz word, but people can pick up on authenticity.

Jess: Oh, yeah, they can.

Nicki: Whether or not you’re BS-ing them. I mean, I can.

Jess: Oh yeah, definitely. When I started sharing … I don’t share super in depth or anything and I don’t share it every week, but when I started sharing that I was going to see a counselor, I had dozens of people who were like, “Oh my gosh, this is so important and I love that you do this.” But I also had people which, this was not why I was doing it, but I had people who were like, “Seeing you go to counseling encouraged me to finally go to counseling.” And I was like, “I was not on a mission to do that, but by all means if that gave you the courage to do it, then okay, I’ll keep sharing.”

Nicki: That’s vulnerable. And social media, it’s so confusing. Because sometimes vulnerability is even a little, to me, I get annoyed with it because I’m like, “Okay, you showed me your dirty house, but …” I don’t know, that just feels silly. But I think people can pick and choose. Sometimes going to counseling, that’s going to really hit a chord with somebody.

Jess: Yeah.

Nicki: And it does help people. I think it’s still a tricky thing to be totally vulnerable and authentic online, but I do my best to really practice what I preach.

Jess: Yeah. And you do. You do. I loved your just get in the pool thing this past summer.

Nicki: That was probably my most effective tribe building thing that I’ve ever done.

Jess: Can you tell us, for people who don’t follow you, what this challenge was?

Nicki: Yeah. Honestly, it came out of just a personal vendetta. Women who don’t fricking get in the pool with their children. I would be the only one at parties, literally, the only mom at swim parties getting in with my kids. It was all dads. For a couple of summers, I’d been teasing it out unintentionally, just saying, “Hey guys, we’ve got to get over this body image keeping us from doing really fun things.” Swimming in a pool is just fun.

Jess: It is.

Nicki: And when you can’t get over yourself enough to just hop in, that really strikes a chord with me. And I just teased it out a couple summers. Just talked a little bit about it out of annoyance and just created the hashtag just get in the pool. Just get in the pool. And then this summer, we got a pool. We got a pool out in our back yard and it was my mission. Telling women to, for a second, just get over yourself and just get in the pool. And I did a whole Instagram challenge for ten days of just women tagging me and giving me context around their body image issues and what it meant to them to just get in the pool. It was so beautiful to me. Even the people that still weren’t there yet to put a picture of themselves … I’m asking a lot, you know, to post a picture of yourself on the interwebs.

Jess: In a swimsuit.

Nicki: … and hashtag and draw attention and talk about it. Hundreds of people did it and the people that didn’t do it, they just sent me a DM and gave me the picture that way or they would email me. If I sent out my email campaign reminder, they would email me, “Hey, I really just don’t feel comfortable for whatever reason, but I want you to know that I’ve done it.” I think that was probably the biggest tribe building thing that I’ve ever done.

Jess: I love it.

Nicki: Just putting myself in a swimsuit, everything’s hanging out, no makeup, and just owning it.

Jess: Yeah. It was awesome. I’d already been following you before that, but when I saw that, I was like, “This lady is amazing.” I just love it.

Nicki: And some people see it like, “You’re just posting pictures of yourself in a bikini.” And I’m like, “Whatever. You’re going to see it through the lens you want to see it and I can’t do anything about that.”

Jess: Right. No. No you can’t.

Nicki: But for the most part, I think people who followed me, they saw my heart in it. It was super fun.

Jess: I love it. It’s awesome. People who are listening and they’re like, “Okay, I don’t have a community. I clearly need to work on this.” Other than being authentic, do you have any tips, things for them to consider or just do or think about to build a following as a coach?

Nicki: Oh, yeah. One thing that I always tell people because I really think people miss this mark, especially in social media and even if you’re emailing people. I think you need to always have a call to action with people. A call to action or a CTA, that is going to start a conversation with people who have eyes on you. And I really just find that people like to talk about themselves and to give their opinions about things.

Jess: What?

Nicki: Yeah. It’s like, “Oh, I have a strong opinion about dogs.” You know what I mean? And I’ll coach people. That’s one thing that we first work on with my coaching clients is like, “You need a CTA in every single social media post.” And they’re like, “Well, what if it’s just a picture of my dog?” And I’m like, “Do people like to talk about dogs?”

Jess: “Tell me about your dog.”

Nicki: “What kind of dog do you have? Where do you buy your dog treats?” People love to say stuff like that. “What are you reading? What’s your favorite kind of book? What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?” People love just general questions. It doesn’t have to be anything super deep, although it can be. But I think you need to engage the people who are following you. Even if that means putting it out there and nobody says anything, you just keep doing it until they do.

Jess: Especially if you’re starting out. I feel like those simpler questions or the funny ones, the silly ones about dog treats or weekend plans, whatever. I think those are the easiest things for people to start sharing. Because sometimes I have seen, on the opposite end of that, I feel like sometimes I’ve seen people on Instagram asking super, super deep questions that I’m like, “I don’t even know if I would answer that if Nicki posted it.”

Nicki: Like, “Even Nicki can’t get that out of me.”

Jess: Not that I don’t want to share with you, but I’m like, “That’s really …”

Nicki: Well, the way I deal with the personal stuff, because I actually do want to know because I think my business is very … It’s a very raw, vulnerable population that I work with and what I try to create for. So I do want to know personal stuff. I will say in a post, oftentimes, “DM me the struggle that you have with X Y Z, with food. What’s your actual relationship with food? DM me and let’s talk about it.”

Jess: I love it.

Nicki: And I think through a DM, which is so funny, I feel I’m pretty old you guys, so just saying, “Slide into my DM and talk about your relationship with food,” is really funny. But I think when people can privately message you and you’re actually going to respond, that creates instant rapport.

Jess: It does. It really does. Especially if you, I think this is also the key people miss, when you … There are so many times that I respond to people’s Instagram stories and it’s not always you, actually someone I feel like I have a relationship with, it might just be someone that I follow. And they won’t respond or they’ll just put a heart or … Which I get that not every response is like, “I don’t have anything to say back to that.” But then when people don’t respond at all, which I’m not saying I’m perfect either, but I’m like, “You’re not going to reply back to me?”

Nicki: I think that, no matter how big your platform and that’s just me, I mean I know I’m not super famous, I know that. I think that’s a real jerk move not to respond. If I put a question out, part of my job as a social media marketer is to spend some time answering people’s questions.

Jess: It is.

Nicki: And I always try to address people. I don’t always. I say I always try. I try. I don’t always do it for time’s sake. But I’ll try to address them by name if I can. Just personalize it because I am not any better than any single person who follows me, period.

Jess: No.

Nicki: I think if you really want to gain some ground in this business, then you need to treat it very personally. People be like, “Oh, I don’t have time. My time is so precious.” I’m like, “Well, that’s BS, honestly, because if you’re not engaging with your audience, then you have nothing.”

Jess: Right?

Nicki: Try to put out a product. If you are not responding, then you’ll probably get the same kind of love back.

Jess: Right?

Nicki: It’s not karma. I’m not talking about karma. I’m just talking about like, “You weren’t there.”

Jess: Right? You can’t just put it out there and be like, “Hey people that I don’t respond to. Buy my stuff.”

Nicki: Totally. We just are not afforded that right in the online space. That could be a brick and mortar thing. Apple might be able to do that, but in this space that we’re in, you’re not afforded the right to ignore people and not respond and not be super personal. Engaging with them would be the number one thing. Even if you have 20 followers, that’s a great [crosstalk 00:24:30].

Jess: That’s even better because you have only 20 people to respond to.

Nicki: And people will say that. Like, “I only have 25 people on my email list.” I’m like, “That’s a great open rate. I bet you’re open rate is way better than mine. So you better get in there and ask them really personal things because you have their email and they’re ready to hear from you.”

Jess: Yeah. And I think taking it a step further, which this can be scary and I know this from personal experience, is initiating a conversation. There have been so many times that I have emailed, personal emailed people from my list to ask them questions. But also I recently switched the niche of this podcast and, when I decided that, I Instagram messaged a handful of people that I somewhat engage on a semi regular basis. I said, “Hey, I’m niching down my podcast. What would you want to hear? What would make you want to listen to the podcast?”

Nicki: Yes. Absolutely.

Jess: And just got their input. I wasn’t trying to sell them. I wasn’t like, “Hop on a call with me.” I was like, “Just what would make you want to listen?” And I said that specifically so that I knew … Kind of saying, “I know you may not even listen to it right now-“

Nicki: “But if you did.”

Jess: “But if you did, if you wanted to start listening, what would you want to listen to?”

Nicki: Yeah. Just a little market research. And people think that it has to be super formal. I’m like, “No, just pull five of the people, your ideal clients, and you know who they are. Just ask them what do they want? What do they want?”

Jess: And every single person that I messaged responded to me. I know at least over half, maybe all of them, were like, “Oh my gosh. Thank you for asking.” Or sent a heart emoji or something like, “Wow! I’m so glad you’re nicheing down,” or something like that. And it was like, “Well, yeah, I mean of course I’m excited to niche down, but also I want to hear from you so I’m creating content you want to hear.”

Nicki: I think it surprises people because when you are a personal brand, people think that you’re creating everything for yourself. Like, “Oh, I just love talking about body image.” It’s like, “No. Not really. I’m doing it because the need for it is so high. I’m doing it for you guys.”

Jess: Okay. To wrap up, I have some fun questions for you.

Nicki: Yes. These make me nervous.

Jess: What is your favorite snack, either right now or ever, whatever you want to …

Nicki: Right now or ever. My favorite snack. I like snacks better than meals.

Jess: Same.

Nicki: Do you?

Jess: Yeah.

Nicki: I have a hard time with lunch. I will start fretting over lunch at 10:00 a.m. because I’m just like, “I just want a snack.”

Jess: If I could just eat salami and crackers.

Nicki: That’s what I eat.

Jess: That’s one of my favorite things.

Nicki: That’s what I eat. On a savory note, I would say a cheese [inaudible 00:27:42], a charcuterie. Is that how you say it?

Jess: Charcuterie?

Nicki: Charcuterie? I don’t know how to say it.

Jess: I don’t either.

Nicki: I just kind of rushed through like, “[inaudible 00:27:52].” The cheese and meat board. I make three of those a week. I’m not even kidding.

Jess: Nice.

Nicki: We live in a house that my husband’s an Enneagram 7, very social. We’re just social. So we have people over all the time and I swear that’s just a given that I’m going to have a cheese and meat board. I would say on a savory note, I really love cheese and meat. Salami and cheese. On a sweet note, I like everything.

Jess: Same.

Nicki: My favorite snack, this isn’t really a snack. You see why I had to pivot out of the health and fitness world here. I love candy.

Jess: Oh. What’s your favorite candy?

Nicki: Sour candy. I love the Haribo sour gummy bears.

Jess: I love sour gummies. Anything sour gummy.

Nicki: Anything sour gummy is my jam. Also Hot Tamales.

Jess: No, I can’t do those.

Nicki: You can’t do hot. But I love sour gummies. Those are my favorite things. So that’s not really a good snack, guys. I wouldn’t recommend for dental/just overall feelings of goodness.

Jess: What is your favorite book?

Nicki: Oh. My favorite book, this is going to go a really depressing route, but my favorite book is Night by Elie Wiesel.

Jess: I have not read that. It’s a depressing book?

Nicki: It’s the most depressing book of all time.

Jess: Oh.

Nicki: She’s like, “Oh, great.”

Jess: I mean, I like emotional stories, so maybe-

Nicki: It’s about the Holocaust and a Holocaust survivor. Elie Wiesel.

Jess: Okay, then I would actually really like it.

Nicki: It’s a short read, thank goodness, because otherwise your heart would be ripped out on the floor. But I think just even in today’s world, the climate that we live in, it would be great for everybody to read that book.

Jess: Okay. Well I’m going to go buy it then.

Nicki: It’s a short read. You can read it in a day. He is just poignant in the way he describes the Holocaust experience. It will wreck you. But that’s probably my favorite book. I like really sad, depressing books.

Jess: I like emotional things, so I’m on board.

Nicki: Yeah, it’s weird.

Jess: As weird as it sounds to say this, the Holocaust interests me. Which is very weird to say, but it’s something in history that I … It’s something that piques my interest for some reason which is, again, very weird to say.

Nicki: It’s very sad to say, but I’m the same way. That book and then visiting the Holocaust Museum in D.C. was one of my favorite times in my life. Also, the saddest time, sobering. But it’s just such an experience that everybody should have.

Jess: Yeah. Okay, last question. Are you a morning smoothie or morning coffee person?

Nicki: Oh. Coffee.

Jess: I think I knew that.

Nicki: The amount of coffee I drink in the morning, I don’t know if it’s normal.

Jess: What kind of … Do you do anything special to your coffee? Do you have a favorite type?

Nicki: I grind my own beans. I buy beans and grind them myself. But I’m not one of those fancy pour over, like the new kind of … And a lot of times I feel like the really fancy coffee tastes like grapefruit or something. I’m not really down with that.

Jess: I’m not much of a coffee drinker.

Nicki: You’re not a-

Jess: So I’m like, “Let me drink this grapefruit-“

Nicki: I think the new thing is make coffee just kind of like wine. Just add all the … And I’m like, “No. Coffee needs to have a cinnamon-y, whatever.” Personal opinion here, but anyway I grind my own beans and I have a regular coffee maker.

Jess: Nice.

Nicki: It’s a high quality one, but I grind the beans and put it in and drip coffee.

Jess: I like it.

Nicki: And I have four cups before I leave. And I usually come home and microwave a cup around 10:00. Disgusting, but it’s what I do.

Jess: But it’s what you do.

Nicki: I do. I just-

Jess: We love you for it.

Nicki: I drink it at night, too. I’m a huge coffee … My husband and I make a regular pot of coffee every night and we drink it while we watch our show, whatever the show is for the moment. It doesn’t affect us.

Jess: I wish I could do that. If I have caffeine after 5:00 p.m., not [crosstalk 00:32:35].

Nicki: As most people, that is the deal with most people. But for some reason we just go right to sleep.

Jess: Nice. You’re gifted.

Nicki: Well, we have a build up.

Jess: That’s true. That’s also true.

Nicki: We have a tolerance built up.

Jess: Okay. Final thing. Tell us where we can connect with you, what’s coming up, what are you working on, all that.

Nicki: Yeah. Totally. You can find me on Instagram, probably the easiest place for social media. It’s _nickiwilson_. And then you can also go to my new website. It’s beautiful. It’s And, honestly, every good thing is on there currently.

Jess: It is. Your courses, free courses.

Nicki: Courses. I have tons of freebies. Podcasts.

Jess: Podcasts.

Nicki: I have a podcast, too. My podcast is co-hosted with my friend Beverley Simpson. It’s called Action Made Mamas.

Jess: And it’s awesome.

Nicki: And it’s so fun.

Jess: You all are so fun.

Nicki: Podcasting is the best.

Jess: It is. And it really is. Well, thank you so much for coming to chat today. This was awesome.

Nicki: Thanks for having me. So fun.