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This Designer's Instagram Savvy Led to Partnerships With Microsoft and Target Joy Cho discusses her tricks for Instagram success and bringing happiness to your followers every day.

By Nina Zipkin

entrepreneur daily
Joy Cho

In 2005, Joy Cho started a design blog called Oh Joy to bring moments of happiness and delight into her readers' lives. But what began as personal hobby has grown into a design company and lifestyle brand.

Today, the company creates videos about design, food, fashion and style and licensed products that include bedding, gadgets, kitchenware, furniture, baby clothes and accessories for pets. Cho and her team of seven have worked with brands such as Target, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson to release the company's bright and whimsical collections.

The company's first Instagram account, Oh Joy, has 386,000 followers, and its second account, @ohjoyco, which was created in 2016 to give the company's fans updates about its product lines, has more than 50,000 followers.

Cho is also the author of three books, the first dedicated to helping other creators and freelancers get their online businesses off the ground, and her most recent, Oh Joy!: 60 Ways to Create & Give Joy all about helping her followers incorporate a little happiness into their everyday surroundings.

We caught up with Cho to get her insights on how to create a voice that is truly yours.

Related: This Jewelry Maker Who Sells Made-to-Order Pieces Developed Her Brand Through Posting to Instagram

How did you get your start with Instagram?

By the time Instagram had started, I was probably on a year later. I didn't join right away. I had started a blog in 2005. So by the time Instagram had come along I had already established a presence within the blog world and then Twitter. And then Instagram was the next big thing to come along. So for me it was a companion to the content that I was already creating and the stories that I was telling at that time.

What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram?

We use Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and our blog. So Instagram by far is our number one social media channel. I think that in terms of general growth, in terms of feedback, in terms of interactivity that's the one social channel that I'm on multiple times a day for our business.

How much of your time do you devote to it?

Quick spurts of time spread throughout the day. If I want to average it I would say myself personally, probably an hour and change, maybe one to two hours depending on the day. And then for Oh Joy, we have someone who works on our social media. So that's much more hours of her day. It's for Oh Joy combined from my team, there's definitely a good handful of hours per day that's spent working on it. Whether we're actively using it or we're planning for it -- a lot of it is planning and prepping for upcoming posts and stories.

Also, making sure that we're interacting with fans and followers and commenting and responding to questions. That's the one thing about Instagram -- it's become kind of like everything to everybody. We also get a lot of messages and inquiries about things that we've posted or shared especially now with stories too because there's that interactivity and that back and forth.

How do you promote your account? What's your number one way to get the word out there and attract new followers?

It's very grassroots. There's a few ways that we try to go about it. Part of it is the snowball effect. When you start, it's the hardest and as you grow it becomes easier. I think it's something you always have to work to do, even if our following is decent right now, I'm always trying to make sure that we can keep growing because that's how we can reach more people. So to me, it's a combination of following other accounts and commenting on their accounts. It's reminding people about our Instagram through other social platforms who may not be following along. And that also when we do our blog post sometimes, if we're talking about Instagram we're always linking back. So it's a lot of cross promotion.

This was not the case for me starting with the blog, but now somebody can just have an Instagram account as their main social media platform and grow their business or grow their brand in a huge way because that's where everybody is going. So for me I have to remember there are new people and businesses popping up all the time that have their own set of followers and how how can you try to be reaching them and just learning about new audiences and new brands and new people.

Related: This Mysterious Entrepreneur Uses Instagram to Show Off Art and Her Travels and Now Has Half a Million Followers

What's your content strategy?

Oh Joy is comprised of seven people including myself. Our work is not just blogging, we also have products that we design. But sharing our work is so much based on our social media audience. So for me it's very important to plan those things out.

In terms of our strategy, it's not like every single day is completely planned out months and months in advance. We really try to work roughly about a week in advance to a couple of days in advance. Because things change, things get added last minute. It's a combination of products, editorial things from my own life and really just trying to keep it varied. Plus I'm very active in Instagram Stories, which is my favorite thing right now

There's a lot of things that go into it, which we don't even always 100 percent know the answer to but we kind of guess based on the feedback that we have from our audience.

Related: The Blogger Behind WeWoreWhat Decided to Flip the Camera on Herself, and Now She Has an Instagram Following of 1.7 Million

What's your best storytelling trick? How would you describe your approach to storytelling?

For me it's really about making sure that you're saying something that sounds like you. It's easy to put a pretty caption and a pretty picture. And nowadays everybody can do that because people know what the secret sauce is for getting a lot of likes. But I think that lately because people have been used to seeing a pretty picture on Instagram, they are now also craving the voice of that person again.

So there are times when we'll write a completely normal fine caption that makes sense for the story. And it tells it in a way that I've written multiple times. But then I end up changing it last minute to just being something a little bit more silly and a little bit more off kilter and something that's a bit more relevant to my mind at that moment. So tying into the photo but not trying to be so picture perfect editorial. And I find that resonates more with people because you feel the heart of the person writing it vs. just being pretty copy.

How do you set yourself apart from others on the platform?

Voice has a lot to do with it. I really just make sure it just feels like it's coming from me. Oh Joy is about happiness. It's about putting happiness into the world whether it's through a product that we make or a story that we tell or idea that we give you. So each image should project that in some way and it doesn't have to always be so in your face, but combined when you see the entire feed or when you're seeing something pop up you should feel that bit of joy.

How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?

We have products that we make in partnership with other companies such as license products. For example we've been at Target for three years. We have a ton of different lifestyle items coming out. The way that we share what we do is through social media, whether it's content or it's product. When we have new products, it's always Instagram to market it and to share it and to remind people that it is out, both at the beginning and throughout the duration of whatever that collection is.

As a content creator and blogger, sure Instagram becomes a part of our sponsored content with brands, whether it's an amplification of a blog post or whether it is partnering together on Instagram content with another brand. There's also when people are asking me what I'm wearing or people are just seeing my outfit or something like that. Something super simple is also sharing links with people so they go ahead and purchase it.

What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform

I always say you be you. Because when you can follow so many people and see what the people are doing it's great inspiration in many ways but it's also really hard to figure out, even more so, what you have to offer and what is different about you. Follow other people that you love and who inspire you. But also remember to find your own version of whatever it is that you have to offer to the world. Whatever your voice is, whatever your aesthetic is because it's so easy to look at someone else's and then imitate that. We don't want to see so many more versions of the same thing that's already out there. Figure out your voice.

What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?

I think they think it's really easy because it looks easy. Everybody who has a following has worked at it in some way. I think that everything looks easier than it is and people are always only seeing the best, happiest moments. People aren't seeing the work part of it. They're not seeing the hustle and the calls and the emails of running a business. So I think that nothing is as easy as that looks and you just have to be committed to wanting to grow something.

I don't think that people go into it saying "I need to create an Instagram business." I think that they think, I need to create a business and Instagram is going to be a great marketing tool for my business. That's the way I think you should do it because you don't want to depend on any one thing, but you can take advantage of these amazing tools like Instagram to help you grow as it makes sense.

A small glimpse into my life and what I was feeling and thinking at that exact moment.

This was a past recipe post we did that was not only simple but looked really beautiful, too!

While outfit photos are nothing new on Instagram, I tried to share a tip about how to shop for less by looking in the kids' department at Target!

A simple, but visually stunning DIY that we created right before Halloween. Anything that offers a fun twist on a tradition.

A moment from life captured to provide inspiration to others as well as share some of the things I might be doing in my free time.

Nina Zipkin

Entrepreneur Staff

Staff Writer. Covers leadership, media, technology and culture.

Nina Zipkin is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. She frequently covers leadership, media, tech, startups, culture and workplace trends.

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