Instagram can be an overwhelming platform for marketing departments to figure out.
Because Instagram is not built for selling products.
Instagram is built for building communities. Consider that Instagram does not allow for more than one clickable link per account, each post must include a visually stimulating component, and credibility comes from having a large following and great content.
And still, Instagram offers businesses the ability to build a brand, perhaps better than any other social platform.
In this lesson, you will learn about the foundational strategies for growing your business using Instagram.
Instagram Consumption Behavior
Consumption behavior on Instagram is mobile and fast. Instagram users regularly watch Stories from friends and influencers, and are accustomed to the constant stream of videos and photos on their feed. It’s a crowded platform. But there is also plenty of room for your business to build a brand. This is what makes Instagram such an important platform for businesses.
The fastest and most sustainable way to increasing your sales is by building a brand.
Building a brand on Instagram is done with great content, community engagement, and paid influencer marketing campaigns. The remainder of this article will outline these foundational marketing strategies.
Create List of Top Instagram Hashtags
Instagram operates within a hashtag culture. Whether you have a new or existing Instagram account, use hashtags to add your posts to already existing Instagram communities.
Instagram organizes its content using both hashtags and locations. When one of your buyers adds a hashtag or location to a post, it is added to a collection of posts that also use that same hashtag. Think of these collections as communities within Instagram. For example, the hashtag #organicskincare is used by users interested in organic skincare products. It is associated with over 1.5 million posts.
You have the ability to see all posts that use a specific hashtag. Clicking the hashtag in the Instagram app, for example, clicking the #organicskincare hashtag, brings up the hashtag discovery screen, which is divided into three parts:
Most popular posts
Most recent posts
To grow your Instagram followers, you will want to add your posts to as many of these discovery pages as possible. To do so, create a list of 15-30 hashtags and add these to each of your posts. This is called your target hashtag list. Here is one way to create and organize your target hashtag list:
The first 5-10 hashtags should be general and high-traffic hashtags. High-traffic will be relevant to your industry.
The second 5-10 hashtags should be more specific and medium-traffic.
The final 5-10 hashtags should be niche and long-tail, and may not have that much traffic.
Create Great Instagram Content
Once you have your target hashtags, you’ll have a better idea of the communities you’ll be contributing to. Your next step is to create great content. Instagram allows you to share photos, videos, and Stories. Great content on Instagram can be:
Entertaining photos of locations and people
Motivational quote pics
Inspiring case study videos
Helpful tips shared via Instagram stories
Your creative team will play a large role in crafting your Instagram content. For those without a creative team, we can help! The secret to all great content is to add value.
Ask yourself, is the photo, video, or story you’re sharing likely to educate, entertain, motivate, or inspire your buyer? If the answer is “not really…”, tweak your content so that the answer is “without a doubt”.
Regularly Comment on Top Posts
Once you’ve started to post great content with targeted hashtags, you will need to let potential buyers know you exist. The best way to do this is to become part of Instagram communities.
The top posts on the hashtag discovery screen are the most clicked and seen posts within a hashtag community. Become part of the community by regularly commenting and adding value to these top posts.
For example, buyers who follow #organicskincare view its top posts on a regular basis. By regularly commenting on these posts, you will appear in front of buyers who you know are interested in something related to your product or industry. These are pre-qualified prospects. Comment on posts your buyers are engaging with.
It’s important that you do not spam the comments section. Contribute your opinions, kudos, and feedback. If you can add value through comments and messages, you will start to create familiarity. Those buyers who become familiar with your Instagram page after regularly seeing your comments are more likely to follow your Instagram page, visit your website, and become customers.
A word of CAUTION: regularly commenting on targeted hashtags is a slow process, but also the most effective way to organically build your audience. Don’t get in your own way of success by quitting this strategy too early.
Direct Message Potential Buyers
Instagram also gives you the ability to directly message anyone with an Instagram profile.
If you are a new company, consider offering free products or services to your buyers. If you are an established brand, use direct messaging to create awareness around a local event your buyers might enjoy.
The idea is to add value and create a network, not sell. Before you start using this strategy, create some offers potential buyers would find valuable. This will help you create a valuable offer, and allow you the opportunity to make sure you can deliver on what you offer. If you promise free product to a buyer, send free product to that buyer.
To start directly messaging potential buyers on Instagram, use your list of target hashtags and strategically message users in the top posts section who can benefit from your product or service.
If you have a local business, invite local influencers to come in for a free facial to your spa, a free coffee if you own a coffee shop, or a free 6-month membership to your SaaS product. The idea is to offer something of real value.
Instagram Influencer Marketing
Once you’re creating great content, and regularly engaging with communities, you will be organically building an Instagram following. Influencer marketing is the paid strategy to endorse your product by an Instagram influencer.
The term Instagram influencer describes anyone with a large following on Instagram. Influencers can be vloggers, models, artists, business leaders, comedians, or moms (and dads). Many influencers promote products to their followers.
To have a successful influencer marketing campaign, you must identify which influencers your buyers follow. You can do this by manually viewing who your buyers are following on Instagram.
Some influencers will have a blue badge next to their profiles, signifying verified profiles. Promoted posts from verified accounts will typically be more expensive. However, micro influencers can provide more affordable product placement opportunities. Micro influencers have smaller, more niche audiences. The increased popularity of Instagram created all kinds of niche communities. Naturally, influencers within those niche groups emerged.
The first step to running an influencer marketing campaign is creating a list of influencers and micro influencers. When creating your list, remember that the most important metric is engagement and not the number of followers because followers can be bought. Higher engagement means your sponsored placement is more likely to be seen. As a rule of thumb, create a list of 50-100 influencers relevant to your space.
Your next step is to contact each influencer. What kind of offer can you put together for each influencer’s audience? This is very important to understand before you contact an influencer.
When you send your email, keep it short and to the point:
“Hi INFLUENCER NAME,
We love what you’re doing. Would you be interested in reviewing our PRODUCT in a promoted post? You can review it honestly, we think you’ll love it, and we want your audience to connect with it without a script.
Please let me know. We would like to offer your audience OFFER.
Once influencers interested in promoting your product begin to communicate with your marketing team, you will decide how much you’re willing to pay for promoted posts. Influencer fees vary and your marketing budget will determine which influencer partnerships are feasible and which are out of budget.
Prepare for Future Platform Changes
Instagram is an ever-evolving platform. For example, this article would not have included Instagram stories if it was written a year and a half ago. Today, Instagram stories are one of the most consumed forms of Instagram content.
Although the platform will continue to change, creating value for potential buyers and engaging within communities will continue to be the foundation of an effective Instagram marketing strategy. Start there, and adjust as the platform evolves.