In just 10 short years, Instagram has become a powerful marketing tool that savvy entrepreneurs are embracing. As of December 2020 …
Instagram has over 1 billion active users, which means your market is almost certainly using Instagram, and so are your competitors.
67% of American adults use Instagram, so while it doesn’t have the reach of Facebook (yet), it’s definitely a platform worth taking advantage of.
A younger audience, more than half of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29, if that’s your market, Instagram is the place to be.
63% of users check their Instagram account at least daily – that’s a lot of eyes on cell phones!
Not only that, but the platform has enjoyed double-digit annual growth and shows no signs of slowing down. Clearly, it’s time to embrace Instagram and the power it promises as part of your overall marketing plan.
Instagram is like a simplified version of Facebook, with an emphasis on mobile visual sharing. As with other social networks, you interact with other users on Instagram by following them, being followed by them, commenting, liking, tagging and sending private messages. You can also save the photos you see on Instagram.
Since it is so visually oriented, Instagram has multiple filters that you can apply to enhance photos and videos. Additional photo editing options allow you to straighten the image, adjust the brightness and warmth, and superimpose the color. For videos, you can disable audio, select a cover frame, and if you use the iOS app, you can trim videos.
But Instagram presents some unique challenges, and you might be wondering if your time is worth the time. The main ones are:
1) First, it is a completely smart phone. Unlike other platforms, you cannot post to Instagram from your computer. In fact, you can’t even post to it from third-party apps. It is fully designed to appeal to mobile phone users. So in markets where mobile usage is high (and let’s face it, that’s pretty much everywhere), Instagram is a no-brainer.
2) It is also focused on images and videos. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+, where text updates are still the norm, Instagram demands photos. Text (called “captions” on Instagram) is secondary, although unlike other platforms, Instagram is quite generous with its character limit. Note that even on other platforms, images often outperform text-only updates. So focusing on images in your marketing is probably a good thing.
Instagram for business
But Instagram isn’t just about photos. By using a business profile, you can highlight your brand’s mission and goals, present your products, capture leads, and drive sales.
When you sign up for Instagram, there is a personal Instagram profile option and then there is an “Instagram for business” option. It’s like Facebook in that, the personal profile is for personal use and the business profile is where you can make offers. (If you already have a personal profile, you can easily change it to a business profile or have both.)
As an added feature, the business profile gives you access to analytics, which means you can view statistics and demographics of your followers and their likes. This helps you understand who your target audience is and what they like. You can also pay to promote your posts, something you can’t do with a personal Instagram account. As with Facebook, if you want to make sure people see your business posts, you will have to pay for it.
Instagram and Facebook
You probably know that Instagram is owned by Facebook, which means that you can link the two platforms to reach both your Facebook audience and your Instagram audience.
When you post an ad on Facebook, you can also do it on Instagram. Or if you post content to Instagram, you can also have it automatically post to Facebook. This saves you time and helps keep your social media accounts consistent.
So how can you put Instagram to work in your marketing?
Here are 6 steps you can take to start using Instagram to promote your business:
Step 1: Optimize your profile
As with any platform, Instagram asks you to create a personal and / or business profile. This is where new followers will find out more about you, who you serve, and what your personality is like. It’s your chance to shine … in 150 characters or less.
Step 2: start growing your community
Above all, Instagram is a social network, and that means that active participation in the community is essential. Focus on finding and following the right people – influencers in your market, as well as the customers of your dreams. Once you find these people, start conversations with them to start building relationships.
Of course, the end goal of all social networks is to get your online community to subscribe to your list, so that you have control over how you interact with them. After all, any of these companies could disappear tomorrow, leaving you empty-handed.
Step 3: #hashtags #matter
Perhaps more than any other social network, Instagram relies on hashtags to sort and categorize content. Users who are interested in certain topics can choose to “follow” certain hashtags, just like you can follow other users.
You can put the power of hashtags to work for you by using a careful combination of tags designed to get your content found and followed:
1) The first hashtags to include are the popular / common types. So for example if you are sharing inspirational quotes that may include #inspirationalquotes, #inspiration, and #quote. This will make those who search on these general topics find your content. Not everyone in this group will be your ideal customer, but that’s okay.
2) The second type of hashtag to use are those that are specific to your audience or niche. #Podcasting, #WAHM, #virtualassistant, #businesscoach and others like these are used less frequently, but will attract a much more specific market.
3) Another type of hashtag you’ll want to use is basically asking for a follow-up. These include #follow, #followme, and # follow4follow, among others.
Step 4: develop your brand
If you have branding issues, you are not alone. It’s one of those things that feels so cloudy and vague that it’s hard to pinpoint. Is it a logo? The colors of your website? Your motto? They are all those and more.
Here’s what to keep in mind when thinking about your brand. Well done, the brand makes every post, photo upload, and social media update instantly recognizable as your own. Is what makes you YOUR —the thoughtful use of:
And for photos, it means being as consistent as possible with composition, style, filters, and other elements.
Step 5: create a content strategy
As with other platforms, when you use Instagram for your business, you may want to create a content marketing strategy. To do that, first determine how many times per day or week you want to post. Some coaches post once a week and some post multiple times a day. Whatever you decide, it is important to be consistent.
And follow this guide for content composition: Make a third of your posts about your brand, one third exchange content from influencers or their users, and a third party actually sale your product or service:
To) Brand: To help your followers know you as a brand, include your values, mission and your “why”.
B) Exchange: This includes republishing what your followers post (and, of course, giving them credit). Followers love it when you repost their images. It makes them feel validated and appreciated for your brand. Reposting the influencers’ images will help you get their attention.
vs) Sale: Sales posts should not be aggressive and should reflect your brand personality. Use lifestyle photos of your products and / or services to show them how they would improve their lives with your product or service.
Using a content strategy in conjunction with a content calendar can keep you organized and help you design your content in such a way that it benefits your business, as well as your customers. A content calendar can be an Excel spreadsheet, a Google document, or a WordPress calendar plugin. But there are also many content calendars available online. Just pick one! Then use it to map your content based on your content and marketing strategy.
There are also products, like “The Ultimate Content Creation Toolkit” that can help you think through themes for your content, create a combined content and marketing strategy, and organize everything on a calendar for your scheduling.
Step 6: Start (or join) a conversation
All social media is about relationships. Ultimately, it’s not about generating sales, getting more followers, or generating traffic. It’s about making a real connection with individual people.
All of those other things – sales, traffic, and followers – are the result of the connections you make. And what is the easiest way to connect and build a relationship?
Join (or start) the conversation with these actions:
Like and share content that moves you
Say hello to those who inspire you
Follow people who have something of value to say and share
BE one of the people who say, do and share valuable things
Instagram is a social platform that you could use no matter what your product or service is. It’s a simple yet powerful platform for getting engaged followers, targeted leads, and upsells. By creating an Instagram business profile and using its many features, you will have another way to brand yourself with a whole new audience.