A 10-Step Plan to Launch (or Revise) Your Instagram Marketing Strategy

A 10-Step Plan to Launch (or Revise) Your Instagram Marketing Strategy

A 10-Step Plan to Launch (or Revise) Your Instagram Marketing Strategy

Why does every business need an Instagram marketing strategy today? Not only is Instagram is a social media network that marketers can’t afford to overlook anymore, being the second largest social network with over 1 billion users, the time has come to make it an integral part of every business’s marketing strategy, even B2B companies that have neglected to engage with its users. Simply put, those 1 billion people present huge marketing opportunities to businesses. According to Instagram Advertiser statistics, users are engaging with brands on the network in exactly the way that marketers want:

  • 50% of Instagrammers follow a business
  • 60% have learned about products and services through Instagram
  • 75% have taken an action, like visiting websites or looking at products after seeing posts

If you’re looking to improve your visual identity AND get more value from social media, here are 10 steps to help you launch or revise an Instagram marketing strategy:

Step 1: Define your objectives and make a plan for your Instagram marketing strategy

Just like with any social network, the first thing you need to do to get your Instagram presence off the ground is to sit down and draft a plan. Don’t start publishing photos just yet. Your social media results will only ever be as good as the strategy behind your effort, so put in the legwork to reap greater rewards down the road.

First, decide on your goals. Are you looking to:

  • Promote products?
  • Build brand awareness?
  • Engage fans?
  • Grow your audience?
  • Get new customers?
  • Build relationships with influencers?

Ideally, your Instagram marketing strategy will achieve all of these things, but you’ll need to know what’s most important so you can align your image choice and publication strategy. If you want to promote products, you need to share pictures of the items that you sell. If you want to grow your audience, you need to share pictures that will grab people’s attention and make them interested in learning more about your business.

Determining your goals will also help you decide what types of images are most appropriate for your strategy (professional photos, candid pictures, videos, memes), and how often you’re going to share each type.

Next, you will need to establish the visual identity you want to create on Instagram, your own unique “visual voice.” It should align with your existing branding, so customers will instantly recognize the images you share as yours. If your visual identity is artistic, you might want to go with bold black and white images and play with tools to better edit your Instagram photos. For something softer and relaxing, stick to paler color schemes and apply muted filters. If you want something energizing, mix a clean white space with bright pops of color.

In other words, however tempting it might be with the plethora of Instagram apps that exist out there, don’t go crazy with filters and photo editing. Make guidelines for your content and be consistent with the pictures you share.

Note: If you’re looking for a primer on social media strategy in general, make sure you pick up my Maximize Your Social book.

Step 2: Create a schedule

The next step is to settle on a posting schedule. How often are you going to publish content as part of your Instagram marketing strategy? Again, you need to be consistent to be successful with social media. Avoid dumping a bunch of pictures online all at once, and then going weeks or months between updates. You need to have a regular presence on your followers’ feeds to stay top-of-mind and achieve any marketing results.

What can you realistically commit to? One photo a week? Two per week? One every day? I recommend to all of my clients to publish consistently at a minimum of once a week and only increase the frequency once they have a several week stockpile of images or they are achieving great engagement as a percentage of their followers.

Create a schedule based on your strategy, and stick to it. Perhaps that means alternating product pictures and candid shots of customers, with memes and videos every fourth share.

If you have a bunch of great pictures stockpiled, great. Resist the temptation to publish them all at once. Spread them out over the course of weeks, months, or even a year to get the most mileage out of them. Get some tools to help you manage content distribution. AgoraPulse and Tailwind are a couple of social media post scheduling software apps that can help you stay on top of your account with minimal day-to-day management.

Step 3: Do some hashtag research

If you want to grow your Instagram presence, it is an absolute Instagram best practice to use hashtags. A study by Simply Measured found that posts with at least one hashtag get 12.6 percent more engagement than those without any.

Results like this prove why hashtags are so important for building a successful social media campaign on any network. The difficult part is finding the right hashtags. You need something that is going to get your images in front of more members of your target audience.

A couple of approaches to zeroing in on the right hashtags include:

  • Looking at what your competitors are doing
  • Looking at what your customers are using
  • Looking at what influencers in your industry are using
  • Looking up keywords related to your business to discover similar keywords that are trending

You can also try hashtag research tools to find related terms that can help you get in front of your customers.

Suggested Reading: You may want to know your Instagram competition

Step 4: Publish pictures

The next step is to actually publish a picture on your account. Follow the guidelines you set up in your Instagram marketing strategy to determine which kind of image you should use, how to filter it, and which hashtags to use.

Don’t worry about followers just yet. It’s a good idea to have some content on your account before you start following people. Otherwise, they might look at your account and think it’s spam. You will get more followers if you have something published first. In fact, I recommend you have at least 6 to 9 – if not 10 – images on your account before you start following others so that it shows you are actually active on Instagram.

You May Also Like: Six Steps to Strategically Building an Influencer Marketing Program

Step 5: Don’t forget to follow your fans

Although it’s not necessarily the fastest way to grow your audience, it’s smart to follow your customers as well as employees. These people are already your fans. They already know you and support you. They will like your pictures and leave comments, providing genuine engagement as you build a larger following online.

Most companies look outside for influencers to jump start engagement, but it’s always smartest to start with those who have the greatest brand affinity for your business!

Step 6: Proactively follow people in your target audience

Next, follow some of the people who you want to follow you: Members of your target audience and influencers in your industry. This might include other companies in your space that you admire, experts in the field, or anyone else with a large following.

Why do this when your Instagram marketing strategy goal is to build a following – not be a part of someone else’s? It’s a good practice. It’s networking. You need to follow other accounts to gain followers. It’s also an opportunity to get into the same social media circles as people who might be in your target audience, so you can get on their radars and connect later on.

This is social media, after all, made for businesses and not people. Those businesses that engage more like people would will do better.

Note: Check out Combin, a tool which will help you better target those to follow on Instagram.

Step 7: Proactively engage with people

That brings us to the next point: Engagement. Any successful Instagrammer will tell you that in order to grow your following, you need to interact with other people. Like a few photos every day and comment on other people’s pictures and videos regularly.

Do this to people you follow as well as others you don’t know (you might find them through hashtag searches or Instagram’s discover function). It’s a way to get on more people’s radars. If someone sees that you’re liking their pictures and leaving genuine comments, they might check out your profile and follow you back. Immediately, this means you’re growing your audience. Ultimately, it could turn into more customers.

Step 8: Celebrate your fans

Even as your online following grows, don’t forget about your most loyal fans. Share photos from events to give a behind-the-scenes look at your business. Post pictures of customers and tag them. Consider reposting photos from fans that are aligned with your content strategy. These little shout outs will keep fans feeling connected to your brand as you expand.

Step 9: Utilize Paid Social to supplement the organic growth of your Instagram marketing strategy

If you want to give your Instagram account a boost, consider promoting your pictures through paid Instagram ads that show up in the feeds of your target audience. Social media has become pay-to-play for most social networks, and even though Instagram still provides relatively high organic Instagram engagement, at some point you might find that you must promote your content to see the results you expect.

It’s true that promotions usually provide an immediate boost to social media results. To make those results stick, it’s important that paid content appeals to the specific audience you’re targeting and provides enough reason for them to follow you after seeing it.

You May Also Like Reading: Gain Unprecedented Visibility into Your Instagram Marketing Efforts with Combin

Step 10: Check your stats and optimize your Instagram marketing strategy using PDCA

Even though you’re just kicking off a new Instagram marketing strategy and it will take some time to gain traction, it’s critical that you keep track of stats like:

  • Number of Followers
  • Number of Likes per picture
  • Number of Comments per picture
  • Volume of website traffic generated from Instagram
  • Number of leads generated from Instagram
  • Amount of sales generated from Instagram

After you have published enough posts to collect a healthy amount of data, take a step back and compare the results with the content you published. Look for patterns between the images you published, the captions you used, and the results you gained.

Do videos get more likes? Do you gain followers after posting a picture of your events? Are bright pictures more popular than black and whites? Do certain posts generate more website traffic, leads, and sales than others?

With this information, you can hone your Instagram marketing strategy and zero in on the approach that will generate the best results on Instagram. As your audience grows, so should the success you see from your social media marketing efforts.

Any other tips to add?

Looking to launch or revise your Instagram marketing strategy? Here's a 10-step plan that will handhold you through the process in minutes!

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.
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  1. This was incredibly helpful! Thank you for this article

  2. ZamanPPC Certified PPC Specialist
    ZamanPPC Certified PPC Specialist

    I am still weak in instagram marketing. hope these tips will help me to start with.

  3. Useful as Usual

  4. Hi Neal,

    Thanks for sharing this informative & detailed step by step Instagram Marketing Strategy. I am definitely gonna use these strategies & also will never forgot to follow my fans as well.

    Keep up the good Work….Keep sharing…

  5. Great content, Neal!

    Loved how you incorporated basic yet lesser known instagram marketing tactics with more advanced techniques into this simple 10 steps guide. It is true that people do focus on facebook marketing only rather than exploring more techniques to it than that could do best for them.
    Many thanks for the essential takeaways!

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