Instagram’s growth and spread as a social media platform is literally a tech fairy tale. What started out as a purely recreational app by two young entrepreneurs is now nothing short of a global phenomenon. It’s been 18 months since Facebook acquired Instagram and has estimated 400 million monthly active users. After Facebook’s acquisition, Instagram has opened up advertising opportunities on its platform making it official, that Instagram has truly arrived as a powerful marketing platform.
However, if you plan to use this platform to market your brand, product or service, you must be aware that the regular, run-of-the-mill content and strategy will not work for Instagram. If done well, Instagram can not only increase your brand’s visibility but also can help you engage with your customers and generate business and revenue through it. So here’s a list of 9 ways to use Instagram effectively for your business
- You Are What You Click
Instagram is a very visual platform and therefore you have to use images and videos that can tell your brand story effectively. Use high-quality product images yet ensure that they are not over salesy. The pictures must look organic and as natural as possible. Take this photo shared by Good Earth India
To launch their new kids collection, they have captured the essence of being a child by showcasing a little girl painting on the floor. By choosing to showcase the product in its natural setting instead of a typical product image, Good Earth manages to create a marketing free look while promoting their new collection for children.
Here’s another category of images that work – text. One may think that only images with people or objects do well on Instagram. Contrary to popular belief, images with text do well too. You can follow it up with a question in the caption to get great engagement. Check out this post by Buzzfeed Life about their latest blog post featuring 10 looks created out of a single LBD (Little Black Dress, for the uninitiated)
Ensure that your captions are brief yet engaging. Adding a question always helps to interact with your audience.
You can share plenty of behind-the-scene pictures and videos that can let people know about the team that works for the brand. Remember, the more real you are, the better people connect to your brand.
Once your Instagram profile creates this fun, creative and organic atmosphere, you can start seeing an increased traffic to your site and curiosity about your product/service.
- Bio and Website Link
Unlike Facebook and most other social media platforms, Instagram does not allow clickable links on the posts or on the post description. However the profile bio allows you to write a brief about yourself or your business. Use this space to exactly convey what you would like to say to your audiences. Most brands also use a few emojis here to make this section stand out and support the text with some colour.
The website link added here is the only way your customer can be redirected from Instagram to your website (other than ads).
To subtly push your target audience to engage with your website, blog or your app, end most of your post content with a gentle reminder that the link to reach you is available in the bio. Check out this post by Photo Concierge showcasing stock images directing customers to a link of their choice.
- Instagram Ads
As of March 2016, there are over 200,000 advertisers on Instagram and it’s a great tool to reach your target audience. Since Facebook owns Instagram, you will need to go through a Facebook Ad Account to run ads on Instagram. Here’s a quick guide on how to run Instagram ads
- Visit the Facebook Ads Manager and create an account. Skip this process if you already have an ad account with Facebook.
- Link your Instagram profile to your page using the tab under ‘Settings’ on your business Facebook page
- Select your goal from the options that are offered through Instagram. For instance you can send people to your website, get people to download your app or promote your Facebook post through your Instagram profile.
- As of now, one cannot promote a post on Instagram unless it is shared on Facebook.
- Now create the ad on the Facebook ads manager with the image and text of your choice.
- When you reach the ad format section, you will have the option of deciding if you would like to show your ad on Instagram. Alternately, if you would only like to run your ad on Instagram, make sure that you uncheck the other platforms.
- Now fix your budget, check the ad preview, hit ‘Place Order’ and your good to go!
Like any platform, you need to experiment with various combinations of ads and text to understand which ads are working well with your target demographic. Try the carousel format with multiple pictures or a video ad to get the desired business results.
It has been observed that running Facebook ads along with the Instagram ads can reduce your cost per conversion by around 20%.
- Engage and Reach Out
Engagement with your followers is quite hard on a platform like Facebook, but Instagram is the perfect place to really engage with your followers. It’s also a place that is geared more for organic and real conversations.
Your followers are a gold mine of potential customers. Creating a loyal fan base is a surefire way to generate customers. Of course, unlike running ads, this process takes a bit of time, effort and patience.
Sorting and keeping in touch with followers is vital. Tools like SocialRank are a fantastic way to organize, manage and identify your Instagram followers.
SocialRank essentially pulls out the profiles of all your followers and lets you sort them out based on your preferences. You can create lists of your most valuable followers and ensure that you follow them back. A thoughtful message on their special posts can go a long way in ensuring brand affinity.
Another interesting way to grow your community is by searching relevant non-followers and liking as well commenting on their posts. Richard Lazazzera, Author of What to Sell Online : The definitive guide, ran a small experiment wherein he shortlisted 100 of his competitors’ followers and liked as well commented on their posts. He managed to get a whopping 34% follow back from this group.
- Follow : 14% followback
- Follow + Like : 22% followback
- Follow + Like + Comment : 34% followback
This clearly shows that the more effort you put into your Instagram profile, the better are your chances to build a strong and relevant community which in turn helps with business results.
Another great way to engage with your users, is by reposting customer content. Most brands heavily rely on this and it’s a great way to make them feel special. Use the Repost app to share your customer’s content and tag them on the post! Infact, there are many tools that help you manage your Instagram profile. Here’s another list of top tools to help you with Instagram.
- Keep Your Account Clean
Instagram is a platform where often unfollowing is as important as following!
Since following others is a definitive way to increase your reach, you have to constantly unfollow the people who do not engage with you in any way. Some accounts that you follow may have become inactive and can be weeded out.
Crowdfire is the perfect app to help keep your account clean. Through its simple dashboard, you can quickly see the number of people who follow/do not follow you. It also pops up the profiles of your recent unfollowers which can help you unfollow them as well. Alternately, it helps you quickly find the list of your competitors to follow. With this dashboard, you can ensure that your account is always fresh and updated!
- Hashtag Your Way To Glory
We all love hashtags. We are all guilty of using them all the time. But nowhere are hashtags more important than on Instagram. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post and we recommend using it well. The hashtags can be broadly divided into three categories
- Popular Hashtags (#tbt, #photooftheday, #igers #popular)
- Industry Related Hashtags (#Fashion, #FoodPorn, #instatech, #FitnessFreak)
- Brand Related Hashtag (#Vogue , #UberCode, #MyntraFashion)
Ideally, each post must have a few from each of these categories. Do not forget to coin a hashtag for your brand and promote it regularly till it can catch on and have its own identity among your customers.
Many brands also use clever hashtags to communicate an emotion or trend related to their product. Just like this Starbucks post, where they use the #BeGoodToYourself hashtag along with their tea to indicate a feeling of wellness and indulgence.
Here’s a great guide to the most popular hashtags for the year 2016.
- Instagram Influencers
Instagram influencers are very powerful and have almost the same impact as a popular brand ambassador for your business. Anybody who has a large following and content that interests your customers can be an influencer.
The key to getting the most out of influencer marketing is ensuring that it is done using several influencers and within a short time period. Your customer’s memory is short and to ensure that your brand is noticed, a Blitz Krieg approach to influencer marketing can go a long way. This is especially true when you are launching a new product in the market.
One of the best case studies to understand the impact of Instagram influencers is the launch of the Uwheel, a self-balancing two-wheeled hoverboard. The co-founder’s girlfriend recruited famous rappers, singers, socialites, and other Instagram influencers to talk about the Uwheel, all at once. Some of the posts and reviews were paid for while some others were given the Uwheel in exchange for a word about their business and product on their profile. And suddenly, Uwheel was all everyone was talking about!
Using a marketing budget of $61,200 their team was able to generate a revenue of over 1 million dollars and since then Uwheel as a brand, has not turned back. Read all about it here.
Wanted to get started with influencers for your business soon? Here’s a fantastic list of influencers to help you get started!
- Analyse This
Like all social media platforms, Instagram analytics can help you understand your account and follower behaviour to help optimize your business. Using tools like Social Insight or Iconosquare you can find out more about important analytical points. For instance, the best time to post your content, most engaging content, most engaging filters etc.
These tools help generate comprehensive reports that can speak volumes about the user behaviour and help you understand what works and what does not for your Instagram account.
- Post Regularly
With Instagram, consistency is very important. You must keep sharing your content in different forms to be relevant and sustain the community you have built. One way to achieve this is by scheduling your posts in advance. Use tools like Schedugram and Latergramme so that your workload does not stop you from posting regularly on Instagram.
However, do remember that the name Instagram is inspired from the act of capturing a moment the instant it happens. Nothing works better than taking a picture while as it happens and sharing it immediately with your followers. A successful sales figure, a new product launch, a new business venture – share it when it takes place! During a recent interview, Eva Chen, Instagram’s Head of Fashion Partnerships, speaks about how Instagram is more than just a numbers game and airbrushed photographs. Even grainy but real videos that were taken in poor lighting can do well on Instagram if they truly capture real life. So don’t be afraid to share it all.
Here are some more interesting case studies about using Instagram for business. Instagram is truly a treasure trove of new opportunities to expand your business and generate revenue. While it does work better for businesses that are more visual in nature, it still is emerging as the number one way to interact with the younger audiences with great spending potential. Have you tried to use Instagram for your business? We would love hear from you in our comments section!