If you're reading this, you know how important social media marketing is. And if you're reading this, then you also probably know how hard it is to get things right and get things right consistently. You are dealing with a constantly evolving place on the internet where there is more competition than one could get a hold of or count. Practically every major brand is on Instagram in at least a token way, and it takes effort to carve out a niche on the platform.
Nonetheless, you also likely know how helpful and rewarding it can be to find success on the platform. Even if sales aren't the goal, brand awareness is vital in an age where people quickly see many different products and options and quickly forget them. Instagram can lead to sales and more engaged customers if you use the platform correctly.
Yet how does one succeed, and what steps should you take? What do you need to know, and what do you need to get started? Here is your starter guide to succeeding with Instagram marketing:
It would help if you first thought about what you already have available. What are your advantages and assets? Does your organization already have an audience on other platforms that you would like to follow your account on Instagram? Does your brand already have an Instagram account of some success and want to see it grow? How you first approach the platform will depend on what you have ready.
Additionally, what is there to be said about the platform yourself? Are you familiar with it on both a business and a personal level? As we'll explain below, you must understand the platform and all that it comes with. Not using one of the available options could set you back months of progress or create more work for yourself and your team.
Also, do you have a team? Are you working alone, or are there other people to help with things such as graphics or outreach? You will need to scale your efforts based on the available people and hours you have. While you might think you can do it all and go toe to toe with the most significant actions, one person can only do so much, and you will need to adjust your strategy. A team of one can still be successful (look at many famous personalities on the platform), but you will need to change your expectations and strategies.
You've asked yourself the questions in the section above and think you are ready to start. That's great; it's time to log in if you haven't already and lay the groundwork. Now is the time to pick the best name for your brand and set it up as a business account (if you haven't yet). This is also when you put in the details in your Instagram bio. Often shorter is better, but add some character and individuality to it and the things you want every viewer, potential customer, or client to know. How can your business be contacted? Is there a website to learn more? Answer these questions in the bio instead of just in posts.
If you haven't created an account yet, that is easy. Make sure to use your brand's email and base accounts and information instead of a personal statement. Keeping everything organized is helpful if you're running many marketing campaigns and social media accounts simultaneously.
If possible, and if you have an active account already, one of the best things you can do is get verified on Instagram so that no one impersonates your account and people can feel more confident interacting with it. Getting approved for verification isn't always easy, so you may need to wait for this step until later and have a more active account. Nonetheless, don't forget it.
Now is also the time to start working on your overall strategy and your intention for the account. You can change things over time, certainly, but a focused objective and a plan will be better than random posts. What drives sales in other campaigns for your brand? What do you have to share? These are the questions that you need to start thinking about and questions that only you and other people at your business know-how to answer. Play to your strengths, but keep the platform in mind.
While thinking about your game plan and getting set up, you may also want to make sure to have some posts ready. You will need to do some prep ahead of time, but at the very least, a placeholder post will be helpful to ensure that people know it's the right page if they happen to stumble upon it. An empty Instagram account does not leave a good impression, nor does one with only a few posts. A strong start out of the gate with plenty of content wonders for engagement and viewer confidence in your brand.
While you might know Instagram or use it already, do you know how to use it as a marketer? Do you see how the ads work and what differentiates them from other platforms? What about linking and tagging content creators who might engage with your brand organically? What about filters, options, and ways to make photos and posts pop out?
Now is also time to familiarize yourself with the algorithm as much as possible. While you will not be able to learn all of its secrets, you should, through some research, be able to know what works and what indeed doesn't, some of the things that Instagram cares about most, and what leads some posts rather than others to be recommended to users. Naturally, getting followers and customers are your primary goal, but you won't be able to do that if your account doesn't get noticed.
Some of the things you should pay attention to include:
On top of this, we recommend that you read more guides and articles that are more specialized to overall Instagram usage, as opposed to this piece which focuses on marketing. You may also want to read more about the business features and layout and what you might be able to do. New features and tweaks come out regularly, so update yourself from time to time and make sure your resources are recent.
Saying your profile needs to be perfect might be a bit of an exaggeration, but optimizing the page or pages that you will primarily be working from should be one of the first things you should focus on as a marketer. After all, would you follow or interact with a brand page that seems unfinished and unprofessional? Unless you were a superfan of the product already, it seems unlikely.
So it is clear that setup is vital, but where to start? Some things you might want to set up properly first are:
Profile Links: You should ensure that you include whatever links you think are necessary for your bio and description, and perhaps include links in your posts if you feel they are specific and targeted enough. You will also want to ensure you don't overdo it, as half a dozen links might make people hesitant to click on any of them. Also, make sure the places the links lead to looking great and will make people want to stay. You likely only have one chance with most people.
Story Highlights: Instagram stories can be very compelling but ephemeral by default. While they originally only last for 24 hours (great for advertising flash deals and the like), you can now turn groups of stories into a highlight reel available at the top of your page for people to notice. With the correct label, you can turn it into an opportunity to show certain products off or provide previews or more information.
Main Clickable Hashtags: What are the main hashtags you want to use? We'll talk about them more in a bit, but is there one specific to your brand on your Instagram page? You can make these hashtags clickable by simply typing "#" and then whatever the intended hashtag is. Pick something short yet memorable. Make sure that no one else is using it, lest your posts get buried, or you have to deal with confusion. We recommend starting with the major hashtag for your brand and working out from there.
Profile Photo: You should ensure your profile photo is instantly identifiable and reminds people of your brand. If there is a logo, use that with a proper background. Please don't make it too complex, as people will not see the details most of the time.
Knowing your audience is as important as anything else with marketing, as you well know. Who buys your products or engages with what you have to offer? Yet you also want to keep an eye on the general userbase of Instagram. Instagram is a universal platform, and people of all backgrounds use it regularly, but that doesn't mean it isn't more prevalent in some places and with some groups.
Here are a few notes on the Instagram userbase:
You can use hashtags on most social media platforms in some way, but on Instagram, they are vital and often the primary way people discover new content. By picking out the right ones and creating the best ones for your business, you will be able to attract customers better and drive more sales. There are so many hashtags that we cannot determine which ones are best for your business. This is something you will best discover through your research and exploration. However, we recommend that you try to learn about the different types of hashtags, mix practicality and humor, and look at what other successful brands are doing.
So looking at all of the options, what about paid ads? After all, they are an essential part of any social media platform and social media strategy. If you have the budget (we hope you have it), you should also use them! Larger brands should especially want to use them, and you will be able to choose from a range of options to make sure that you reach out to exactly who you want to in the way that you want to.
Your options for ads include:
Note that cost can vary widely depending on the type of ad you use, the runtime of the ad, and other factors. Rates can change over time, so get an idea of the cost of a campaign before you confirm it.
It would be best to look at the analytics of everything you might be trying to keep track of after launch. Instagram and marketing are driven by analytics, and more people engaging with your Instagram content is generally better than less (though there is something to be said about solid engagement and very satisfied viewers and customers).
Once you have a business or creator profile on Instagram, you can access Instagram Insights, the analytics section of the site. We recommend you spend some time exploring this section of the platform.
However, on top of the tools, Instagram gives you, you will want to look at the tools outside of Instagram that might be able to help you, whether directly Instagram-related or not. Maybe you already use tools based on giving you information and recommendations for your social media campaign. You might be looking for a tool that can give you more significant insights into what is trending. All exist, and all may be worth the money, depending on your budget and intentions.
What posts are most popular on Instagram, and which ones can you emulate? Out of your own posts that exist already on the page (if you aren't starting from scratch), which ones have the most views and engagement? Why do you think that is the case?
However, on top of looking at the numbers, one thing you can do is check to see what's popular for you from your business page. What is popular in the online ecosystem your brand page finds itself in? This might not be the easiest thing to figure out, and you might want to use an outside account to get a look from the outside, but this type of research is vital on top of just looking at the numbers.
Just note that just because there is a popular type of post that does not mean you should emulate it in all your content. Some popular posts won't mesh well with your brand; in some cases, it can backfire spectacularly. It is not to say that you shouldn't experiment, but you should do so in measured and thoughtful ways that make sense for your brand and minimize risk.
Depending on what else you might read about Instagram, influencers, and what is popular on the platform, you might think that Instagram isn't much of a place for businesses, brands, or business pages. Those sources are wrong. There is a place for business on Instagram, and Instagram itself promotes it (how else would they expect to make money themselves?).
We recommend a mix of engagement and more static, reliable content. There is content designed to entertain, content intended to inform, and variations. While entertainment and engaging content are essential, make sure you have a way for customers to get more information about what you have to offer.
Other than ads, content creators and influencers are the biggest drivers of marketing on the platform. Sponsoring them is a common strategy and an effective one for many brands. After all, many people will pay zero attention to ads, and what do people go on Instagram to see? Certainly not your brand's ads, however nice they might be.
Some influencers might work with an agency or manager, so it is often best to initiate contact through them. In order cases, you might be working with creators directly. In either case, be professional yet friendly, be clear about what you want, and do not take offense if you do not get a positive response. Some influencers are protective of their pages and communities and will only work with brands they feel are a perfect fit.
Once you understand the market and how much your money can get you on the platform, don't be afraid to say no to some influencers if they seem hard to work with or you find they aren't worth it. There are many people on the platform, and as long as you don't build a reputation by being rude or hard to work with yourself, you'll be able to partner with some creators that will be the perfect fit with time.
However, you will also want to rotate what you are doing, depending on how you pair with them. If you are using an affiliate program, that's one thing. Still, if it is simply advertising and placement in posts, you will eventually have total exposure to the influencer's audience. Other posts might not be as effective, and seeking a new audience for a time before coming back might be the best use of your money. What practices and strategies would be best depends on your business and overall marketing strategy, so think about it and use your best judgment.
You will want to review more before going out and reaching out to influencers, so we encourage you to read more in-depth guides on the topic.
What is true of Instagram a year ago is not necessarily what is true today. Similarly, what is true of Instagram today will not necessarily be true a year from now as a marketer. Social media specialists must keep on top of trends and features and generally on top of what might work. If your posts seem stale and repetitive, put in some creative effort to inject your page with new thoughts. Showcase products and ideas in a new light, and try to be ahead of the curve instead of constantly catching up. Don't rest on your laurels if a single post goes viral; study what made that post effective. Continuously learn, and you will do a lot better for it.
In some ways, and you know this by now, you cannot rely strictly on one campaign or strategy forever. Is the same true when it comes to Instagram as a platform?
The strategies you use and start with, as well as the methods described here except on the most general points, will fade away and be replaced by the new optimal methods. It is simply the way of things when it comes to marketing. As we talked about, you need to stay aware of the potential options and new features of Instagram and learn the shifting tastes of your audience. There is no surprise here; you need to keep on your toes.
However, in terms of the platform, there are no reasons to believe it is going anywhere. There are competitors, to be sure, but none look to be overtaking the platform. Instagram is king in image-based social media, and it seems like it is installed on nearly every phone in the West. It will look different five years from now, but barring a major scandal or disaster, it will still be here for marketers and brands to use.
Instagram marketing is both an old and new practice, and you must remain adaptive while going through the setup and maintenance of your brand's page. We know that making such changes or even starting from scratch might not be easy, but the sales numbers will eventually speak volumes about how much your efforts have been worth it. Keep it up, search for more information as needed, and keep seeking out new information as the social media landscape changes.
We hope this information has been helpful and that you can succeed with your future marketing efforts. It will take time and further study, but we're sure you can do it.