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Instagram can be an effective marketing tool for your business if you know how to use it
Instagram has quickly grown to become the third-largest social media network in the world. It sits behind only Facebook and YouTube, and its 1 billion active users are highly engaged. Moreover, 80% of Instagram's users follow at least one business.
An audience this large could be a goldmine for your business. But you need to use Instagram effectively to get the most from your marketing efforts. Here are our top tips.
1. Get a business account
When you set up your Instagram account, you'll be able to choose between a personal or business account. Make sure you set up your profile as a business profile.
Business profiles get access to Instagram's Insights tool, which gives you analytics tools to track the reach and engagement with your posts. You can see the demographics of your followers, along with the hours and days they're most active.
A business profile also means your followers will be able to contact you via a link on your profile. Users can choose to email you, send you an Instagram message, view your location or even call you directly.
2. Write a great bio
Your Instagram bio will be the first impression people form of your business when they come across you. Make it count.
Your bio consists of your profile photo, your username, 150 characters of info about your business, your link and contact info. You can include your email, your phone number and your physical location.
The really important components to get right are your profile photo and your 150 character bio. Ideally, you should use your company's logo as your profile photo. Remember, however, that this photo will display in a small circular frame. If your logo looks busy or contains a lot of copy, you might want to think about a cleaner looking logo.
Your bio should sum up what your company does and your reason for existing. It's essentially your mission statement. Be clear about what service your company provides and what makes it unique. And don't be afraid to include a call to action.
3. Use your one link wisely
As we mentioned above, you get one link in your Instagram bio. And it's the only link you can use anywhere in your profile. Instagram doesn't allow clickable links in photo captions or comments, and if you put a non-hyperlinked URL in your posts it will come off looking spammy.
You can change the link in your bio from time to time to suit your marketing needs. While a link to your homepage might make sense, you need to consider whether or not your homepage is optimized for conversion.
If you create posts to promote a specific product or service at specific times, the link in your bio might be more effective leading to a landing page highlighting that specific product or service.
Instagram is a visual medium, and the captions you include with your posts will have much less impact than the visual itself. If you want to promote a specific product or service, or update your audience on a special promotion, create a text-based image. Include your logo and text communicating your message. Don't get too wordy. You'll want to use a large, readable font on a background that's not too busy.
Since Instagram is all about communicating through visuals, you'll need to make sure your post is visually appealing. You can use tools like Canva to design your post, or you could consider hiring a freelance graphic designer.
5. Engage, don't sell
The best way to succeed on Instagram is to create compelling content that engages users. Social media is a powerful sales platform, but people don't visit social media sites to be sold to. Offer your audience something of value.
For Instagram, this means either stunning imagery or engaging photos and videos that tell a story. For businesses, behind-the-scenes photos are a great way to engage Instagram users. Give people a look at the processes that go into your business. Let them see what a typical day in your business looks like. Humanize your brand by giving users a peek at the people behind it.
You can definitely use Instagram to market your products directly. Just make sure the product imagery you post is visually compelling. Consider hiring a product photographer to showcase your products in a visually appealing way.
6. Post video content often
It's pretty easy to snap some shots with your phone and push them to Instagram, but don't overlook video. Research shows Instagram videos receive 38% more engagement and more than twice the amount of comments as still photos.
Video will also help set your brand apart. Still photos are much more common on the platform than video (though this is likely to shift quickly). And while photos draw more likes, video attracts more comments, showing users are taking the time to engage with the video rather than just scrolling through their newsfeed.
7. Develop a visual style
Your brand should be known for a particular visual style in its Instagram posts. This helps create a brand identity on the platform and makes your content immediately recognizable to your audience.
A visual style could be the way you compose your shots. It could be the subjects you choose for your photos. It could be a specific color palette you stick to. Or it could be as simple as running all your photos through the same filter.
However you choose to establish your visual style, displaying consistency across your posts will help reinforce your branding.
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8. Get onboard with influencers
It can be tough to get started on Instagram. While finding, following and engaging with users in your target demographic is a good start, the social media quid pro quo of "you follow me and I'll follow you" doesn't hold as true anymore. To jumpstart your brand and get in front of potential buyers, you'll want to leverage influencers.
Influencers aren't always celebrities or other powerful brands. Often they're regular Instagram users who have managed to amass a massive following.
There are a number of ways you can identify influencers to work with, but one of the easiest is HypeAuditor. It's a free tool that lets you view influencers in 14 different categories, broken down by country. You can see the topics different influencers post about most, their followers and their engagement.
After finding relevant influencers for your target demographic, simply reach out to them and ask if they'd consider promoting your product or post. Many influencers may expect payment in return for promotional posts (though some may be satisfied just to receive your product for free), but this can be money well spent. A few promotional posts from an influential Instagrammer with a following of millions could have more impact than a paid ad.
9. Post user-generated content
Smart brands make use of user-generated content. It engages your audience and lets you interact with them. It creates a sense of community.
GoPro has mastered user-generated content on its social media platforms. It regularly posts user-submitted photos and videos shot with its products. You may not be selling cameras, but you have a product or service people can engage with. Encourage your audience to submit photos and videos that show them interacting with your brand, and feature them prominently on your Instagram profile.
10. Go crazy with the hashtags
Hashtags enable people to stumble across your content on Instagram. They're searchable words and phrases that groups together content with similar subject matter. Use them liberally in your posts.
While some platforms require a "less is more" hashtag approach (the optimum number for a Twitter post is two), Instagram doesn't show any drop-off in engagement from loading posts with every feasible hashtag under the sun. Using a plethora of hashtags just means your content can be found by more people in more places.
When you post on Instagram, caption your post and then include as many relevant hashtags as you can think of. You can use a free tool like Hashtagify to find trending hashtags and suggest other relevant hashtags.
11. Know when and how often to post
Every social media platform audience behaves differently, and every platform has its own peak times for engagement. Once you've gathered a following, you can use Instagram Insights to identify the days and times your audience is most active and schedule your posts accordingly. Until then, general data shows that weekday mornings are best.
According to research from CoSchedule, Instagrammers are most active between 8AM and 9AM. HubSpot research shows posting at 5AM from Tuesday to Friday generates high engagement, as does posting between 11AM and 3PM.
In terms of frequency, you don't want to oversaturate your audience. Buffer suggests 1–2 posts per day is optimum.
Bonus Tip: Hire a professional
Instagram marketing isn't complicated, but it is time consuming. If you're concerned you don't have the time to devote to properly engaging with Instagram, consider hiring a freelance social media expert. They'll be able to craft compelling content for you, schedule it for the peak engagement times and interact with users to grow your audience.