Since its inception back in 2010, Instagram has become one of the fastest growing mobile applications to date. Considering it has an estimated 150 million monthly active users worldwide, it is clear that this filter-enabled picture displaying social app is showing no signs of slowing down. With the simple evidence being that prospective customers are already present and active on the platform, the benefits of companies using Instagram as a marketing tool are beyond valuable.
One might assume that managing an effective Instagram account entails taking an interesting photo, sitting back, and watching the ‘likes’ and comments ensue. While this method might be efficient for personal accounts and may even help gain a follower or two, it does very little in maximizing optimal visibility in a target market for companies.
The biggest hurdle?
What might be the biggest hurdle for the more business-minded individual is the understanding that Instagram is not just about selling. In fact, using your account as a megaphone to promote your product or service is a surefire way to lose followers and leave you feeling like you are shouting into a deserted room.
By having a dynamic Instagram account, new visitors will feel persuaded to start following you in order to get instant updates on their coveted personal feed.
The fundamentals for Instagram success
The fundamental strategies when regarding customer experience are:
Learning to listen
Creating engaging conversations
Posting ingenious images
By making sure you are practicing these essentials, you will develop a healthy Instagram account that will draw in new visitors and eventually establish an entertaining hub for followers to come back to time and time again. For businesses to truly get the most out of Instagram, below are six tips for Instagram marketing mastery to help establish your account as an authority in your niche and create a fun, open relationship with your customers.
1. Connect your channels
An important—yet sometimes overlooked—feature is the Bio section at the top of your profile page. It is crucial that this section contains all the information pertinent to a new visitor who wants to know who you are, what you do, and where they can find you. Also, since this is one of the first locations a new visitor will view, make sure you add a little personality into the description to entice them to stay a while and thumb through.
Linking your social channels is an excellent way to expand your reach to new or existing communities. If your business already manages a blog that has some online traction, make sure you are embedding photos and videos from Instagram in order to create an avenue for traffic to flow between. Furthermore, be sure to capitalize on Facebook’s integration of Instagram to reach wider audiences. Making your Instagram account visible on your Facebook page is a simple yet extremely effective method that will unify communities and increase the amount of engagement and sharing.
2. Post quality, personable visuals
Below is a list of the most followed brands on Instagram, found on Mashable.
Chart by Statista
What all of these brands have done successfully is to integrate photographs into their strategy. However, if you look closer, you’ll notice that the Ellen Show, Forever21 and the other brands are not posting professionally lit visuals that would normally appear as an advertisement in a magazine.
Instead, the photographs are personal, if not a bit gritty. Instead of being aloof, these companies are using visuals to build a personable identity that readers can bond with.
Let’s look at Sneaker News, a blog that provides up-to-date intelligence on hot commodities like LeBron 11 and Jordans. While this online publication is well-known among sneaker aficionados, it doesn’t pull the same weight as the other bigger-hitters on the above list, making it the true “dark horse” of the winner’s circle.
However, because of its ability to leverage simple photographs and comprehensive understanding of what its followers desire (insights into the trendiest looks that is accurate down to the hour), Sneaker News has forged a bond with readers and established itself ahead of competitors so followers repeatedly visit and share the posts. Check out their Instagram here.
3. Use #hashtags
Hopefully by now you have become acquainted with the ‘lingo’ associated with certain social media practices. Hashtagging pictures on Instagram means you are filing that image in a larger folder where the contents all share the same hashtag. This is a no-brainer for businesses that aim to be associated with industry-related keywords and trending topics. During the beginning stages of your account, try to use the most popular, yet relevant, hashtags that will draw visitors to your account and hopefully increase your following.
How many hashtags?
A recent study from Track Maven found that posts made by Fortune 500 brands that used five hashtags received the most interaction. If your business has already jumped on the hashtag train on other social channels, be sure to enforce them on Instagram, as well. For instance, if you have already built hype around your #bestcompanyever hashtag on Twitter, keep the trend going on Instagram to help solidify the reputation.
Photo: Marketing Profs
4. Be interesting and genuine
Perhaps the most important tactic that will ensure a prosperous Instagram account is posting attention-grabbing images and videos. If your showcase appears somewhat mediocre or low quality, the likelihood of creating new followers and maintaining an existing community is slim. Because Instagram is a ‘social’ network, make sure your account has a heartbeat. Followers want to feel as if they are gaining an insider’s look at your business and get turned off if it feels disingenuous. Capture photos that reflect the lifestyle of your customers, while staying relevant to your brand. Try to keep a balance of fun pictures—such as company outings, pictures of cute animals, or funny pop-culture references—mingled with your promotional business photos.
One common trend is to post pictures of happy employees in their work element or at company events to show that your business doesn’t take life too seriously and workers truly enjoy being a part of your team. Don’t be afraid to shake it up with a few videos here and there. While photos continue to be the bread and butter of the app, the video aspect is growing.
According to Ad Week, 40% of the most shared videos on Instagram were created for marketing purposes. Lastly, try to follow your followers back. It not only shows that you reciprocate their support, but it also allows a new opportunity of being noticed by other connected communities.
5. Host a contest
An optimal strategy to ignite engagement is by hosting a contest. This can be done directly on Instagram and shared throughout all linking accounts to ensure visibility. By asking followers to include one common hashtag so they are stored together, the creative possibilities of contest ideas are endless. Delivering perks to followers in the form of giveaways and contests will form a buzz around your account and help establish a priority to review your page.
6. Plan your posts
The frequency of posts, or your “feed speed”, is an important factor to take into consideration when leveraging customer experience. There is a fine line between agitating your followers with a daily clogging of their newsfeed and posting so infrequently that your followers forget you exist. That fine line is where your company will thrive, and can be sustained through a flexible posting schedule that will allow you time to track what works and decide which direction to take next.
Post at peak times
Try to assess peak times of the day your followers seem to be most active while planning your posts. With the goal of having your images seen by as many users as possible, consider holding out until after work hours, and even weekends, since these are dense activity periods.
Wrapping it up
When contemplating whether Instagram could be an effective marketing tool for your company, ask yourself two questions: Is my target audience active on it? Are my competitors successful with it? If the answer to at least one of these questions is yes, then there is no doubt you should be using Instagram to promote your product or service. Though it does require some planning, testing, and tracking to make sure you are on track with the latest trends, Instagram is meant to display your company’s creativity and lightheartedness. Show that your business has an eye for capturing interesting images, a sense of humor, and a passion for engaging with customers, and start ‘gramming!