The Definitive Guide to Instagram Marketing for Business
Instagram is the 2nd largest social network, and while it seems like a mere photo uploading site, it can be an incredibly powerful location to have a marketing presence on.
There’s no question that Instagram is a major force in marketing these days. Not only that, but Instagram really caters to the visual orientation of our younger generation. With all this said, how can we as marketers take advantage of this platform? My roundup guide should help you tease that out for your company or clients.
If you want to know why Instagram is such a powerful marketing tool, these statistics will give you a good idea why. For one thing, one person in eight on the planet has an account, making it the second most powerful network after Facebook. Businesses have a heavy Instagram presence, a fact which is OK with the vast majority of individual users. Companies that want to engage in influencer marketing will find Instagram to be one of the most valuable places to do it, in part because influencers prefer the platform and because engagement rates are high. In fact, Instagram is a key destination for Millennials and younger who want to decide what to buy.
General Instagram Marketing Tips
Like so many other types of marketing, Instagram has a lot of do’s and don’ts. For example, there are formatting issues to consider, as well as ways to maximize the impact of your post. Like anything else, matters of taste must also be considered. Here are some tips.
Jenn Hermann gives us some tips on how to use the various features of Instagram. While the platform first offered only picture posts, it has branched out over the years. Now, you can make Stories, video posts, and even use its new messenger service. Jenn gives us a few tips. For instance, it isn’t necessary to have a graphic designer do all your photos. Instead, feel free to have some canned content that’s reusable and post organic photos as well. Video should be optimized for mobile viewing and are best used for things like product release announcements. Lastly, chats can only be sent to 15 people at a time, so spare them for your VIP followers or influencers.
Instagram isn’t all about the pictures and videos, according to Robert Katai. Rather, there are other skills that successful Instagram marketers need to have. First, be able to research hashtags, trends, and competitor activity in order to tailor your posts accordingly. Second, copywriting skills are important, because you want to write catchy captions and other written components of your posts. Lastly, be a master communicator. Beyond your posts themselves, communicating with your followers is the best way to increase engagement and improve marketing campaign success.
If you’re looking for the quick basics of Instagram marketing, check out this post. George Mathew tells us to be authentic, to post with the right frequency, keep it relevant, use user-generated content to your advantage, have fun with contests, be careful what time of day you post, interact with your followers, and have a hashtag strategy. Essentially, his point is that we need to know what we’re going to do things, as well as understand when to do them. This way, we can maximize our efforts and get better ROI.
Are you avoiding Instagram because you’re scared of “doing it wrong?” Don’t worry, with these tips on what NOT to do, you’ll have a better understanding of the pitfalls. Some suggestions are common sense: you need to remember that this is a business Instagram account, so choose a suitable username, respond to followers, and respect other people’s rights. Others are more advanced: hashtags, selfies, and reposting to other platforms can be abused, for instance. No matter your goals, remember that your Instagram presence can be either an asset or a liability for your company. Always post in a way that reflects this reality.
No matter what niche your business occupies, you’re bound to make mistakes when first starting out on Instagram. In order to help owners of the highly competitive e-commerce sector, I’ve put together a list of common mistakes for these businesses and how to avoid them. Probably the biggest mistake is buying fake followers. Not only does it look bad for your brand, but Instagram’s algorithm actively punishes accounts that do this. Using all the trending hashtags has the disadvantage of exposing you to too much competition, as well. Other mistakes include omitting a bio on your profile, ignoring Instagram’s longer form content offerings, staying away from influencers, running poorly-designed contests, and posting captions that don’t measure up.
When using Instagram for marketing purposes, it’s important to remember that this platform is customer focused. Val Razo gives us some tips on how to avoid the most common mistakes made by brands. For example, don’t disable comments on your posts, and don’t avoid customers who reach out. It has a really bad look from a customer experience standpoint to deprive your constituency of their opportunity to interact with you. Also, be sure to meet customer demands, because if you don’t they’ll take their business elsewhere. Finally, be sure to use a social listening tool to help sift through customer feedback.
In contrast to the difficulty of using links on Instagram, the platform has made it fairly user-friendly for ecommerce. So, I asked George Mathew to show us how to use those features to your advantage. First, he recommends connecting your catalog to Instagram. On business accounts, it’s as easy as flipping a switch in your Facebook account or linking your ecommerce accounts. Next, you’ll want to sign up for Instagram’s shopping features, and then start tagging products to get them discovered. Keep in mind that this process takes a few days.
Here's another option: pair shoppable posts with Instagram checkout. This is a recent innovation, and it’s available for brands of all sizes. Leverage user generated content, because it’s a free way to promote your stuff. Note that this one is a bit different from a paid influencer promotion, but it still helps build authenticity and trust. User generated content also helps to drive sales. Finally, be sure to take advantage of the power that analytics have. They allow you to ensure that your efforts are effective and offer the opportunity to adjust if they aren’t.
One of the overlooked ways to benefit from Instagram is building your email list. Guest Val Razo explains that this is a valuable opportunity and teaches us how to take advantage. First, the bio is a very versatile tool. Consider including a link to your newsletter sign-up page there. Or, think about using that single link to direct traffic to your lead-generation page. In either of these suggestions, you can use a few characters to describe the page and invite people to click through. Here’s a somewhat different idea: there are tabs on the Instagram bio that allow you to add an email link. It’s an especially useful idea when you don’t use that profile to provide customer service.
Alternately, try using your posts to encourage people to join the mailing list. This can be done by touting the content they’ll get or offering special deals for subscribers, among other things. Similarly, use a call to action that encourages sign ups. With Instagram Stories, you get the opportunity to include a clickable link, and this can direct people to your signup pages. Finally, think about doing a contest on Instagram, with the price of admission being an email sign up.
Think you don’t need a strategy? Think again. As the old saying goes, failure to plan is a plan to fail. While failure isn’t always cut and dry, not having an effective Instagram strategy is asking for trouble in the form of less engagement and lower ROI. Here are some posts to help build your strategy.
If you need a quick start guide to Instagram strategy, this is it. I give ten steps to crafting a comprehensive Instagram strategy that will help you meet your goals. For one thing, it is important to know what those goals are before you even get started. Know what hashtags to use, and how to be found by people who care about your type of company. From there, you can build a roadmap to success, including scheduling posts and growing your following in a systematic fashion. Along the way, don’t forget to interact with people who are interested in your products and services. Use a social media management system and stay tuned to analytics. Finally, revise the plan as needed to ensure continued success.
Gentlemen (and ladies) don’t read other people’s mail, right? Wrong. Especially when the mail is open and on display. Robert Katai gives us four steps to scoping out the competition effectively. They are: use specialized tools like Brand 24 to track Instagram accounts, Follow the accounts so you can see what they’re doing, use an anonymous account to spy on their Instagram activity, and keep track of their branded hashtags. All of these will tell you what your competitors are up to.
Instagram expert Alle Ceambur has some news for you: it is possible that you aren’t attracting the right audience. Then, she tells us how to fix it in six easy steps. First, make sure you choose a profitable niche for best results. Next, make sure your audience size is neither too niche nor too broad. You want few enough followers that you’ll get good engagement, but not so few that nobody is paying attention. After that, it’s important to create a buyer persona just like a traditional marketer would and analyze your competition to see how well the buyer persona is being catered to. Using industry hashtags, find new people and add them to your audience with expert use. Finally, use analytics to track your audience and adjust content as necessary.
With each of these tips, Alle gives us some actionable ideas on how to implement them. While the post is really geared more towards those who want to be influencers, it’s useful for regular businesses too. For instance, watching the competition is always a good idea for anyone, as is the use of analytics.
It’s one thing to plan, and another thing to know if those plans are working as intended. In order to measure success, there are four basic metrics to follow. First, track your engagement rate. This will tell you how effective your posts are. Next, get a sense of brand awareness by tracking follower numbers, Stories views, and likes. Keep track of how many times Instagram posts drive traffic to your website. And finally, monitor your account for Mentions, because the more the merrier.
Got your strategy mapped out? Now it’s time to work on that first set of Instagram content. Here are some resources to help, not only initially, but over time.
If you’ve been on Instagram for a while and want to improve your Instagram strategy, this post by Alle Ceambur is for you. Step by step, she walks you through the process of building a better strategy generally, and a seamless one in particular. Not wanting to leave a stone unturned, she starts with the basic profile review. Dig deep, and think about how well your existing profile matches your goals and determine if it is the sort of profile someone who matches your target audience would enjoy. Next, build a basic strategy that includes a “branded” look and cohesive content. Be sure to follow marketing basics and use a content calendar. Lastly, fine-tune your strategy so that your content reaches a wider audience.
Now and then, even the best Instagrammers experience periods when they don’t know what to post. Robert Katai gives us a few ways to overcome that creative block. First, check out what your followers are doing, because it’ll give you an idea of what they are interested in. Another idea is to check out micro-influencers, because it’ll give you a clue about what is generating engagement right now. Using these tips, you’ll be able to determine what kind of content resonates with consumers.
Want to get lots of engagement from your photos? Christa Donovan gives us some features of highly effective content. First, humorous or motivational captions are often a hit. Second, uniquely organized everyday objects give many people something to enjoy. Third, pictures that include people tend to be quite popular. Fourth, post “timely” pictures, such as themed snaps around the holidays. Lastly, always be authentic. Nobody likes what appears to be fake or contrived junk.
If you’re ready to take your Instagram to the next level by editing the photos you post, Robert Katai has some app recommendations. VSCO CAM is an easy to use app that provides professional results. It’s very popular with influencers, and can interface directly with your social media accounts. Snapseed is a tool owned by Google that allows users to change even small parts of their photo. PRISMA is a new app from Russia that lets you superimpose famous artwork on your photos. Finally, the editing options in Instagram are still worth playing with.
Instagram captions are an important part of your post, and they’re an important way to boost engagement. I have offered my readers eleven tips on making captions count, and you can choose based on what is appropriate for the picture and message. Some of them are tips on making tags count, while others offer pointers for effective composition. Don’t forget to direct traffic to your site or be afraid to use emojis. Finally, captions can announce contests and serve as mockups for ads.
Did you know Millennials love infographics? Nadya Khoja talks about the importance of using infographics to reach millennials with your brand message. Before Instagram started allowing landscape and portrait images, this wasn’t a viable option. However, now infographics are finding a home on the platform. Nadya closes with some practical advice and a few examples.
Let’s face it, for marketers Instagram is ultimately about the numbers. And engagement statistics are one of the chief ways we measure success. Because of the importance of engagement on Instagram, there are several posts about how to entice viewers into engaging.
Got followers? If not, you have little chance of getting significant engagement. To fix the problem, Jenn Herman gives us her best tips for getting a following. First, promote your profile like crazy by including links everywhere and spreading the word. Then, provide some content only through Instagram, giving customers a reason to follow you. Next, make yourself easy to find on Instagram by using hashtags, engaging with others, and increase the number of people you’re following. Last, be sure to post often enough to make your profile a happening destination.
Want more ways to increase your following? Besides the tips given in our last post, George Mathew gives us a few more. Upping your game includes creating a branded hashtag that followers can use. Then, devise a branded theme for your profile, run contests, use Instagram Stories, encourage engagement, meet audience demands, and involve influencers. With so much going on, who wouldn’t want to check you out?
Val Razo gives her best tips on getting people to like your posts. Hint: they don’t involve buying engagement. A few you’ve seen before in other posts. Several of them center on knowing your audience and using it to formulate content they’ll love. Finally, she gives us a category of techniques we haven’t seen before: paid promotions. Instagram offers a variety of options to promote your content, as well as purchase traditional advertising. Don’t overlook them.
Unfortunately, just because you have great content doesn’t mean it’ll get great engagement. One of the reasons this can happen is that you’re posting at the wrong time. Rather than guessing, I have listed some suggested times for different types of content. While ideal times can be influenced by the choice of Stories or video, for instance, it’s also influenced by topic. Then, I tackle the problem of time zones. For brands with appeal over a larger geographical area, I recommend post schedulers and other tools that free you from being tied to your account all day.
Instagram Stories have become quite popular. And yet, they take more time to create while also being a newer feature of the platform. Here are some ways to use this new marketing tool.
If you’re thinking about jumping on the Stories bandwagon, here are some brands that have done so very successfully. Coach tied weekend fun to a handbag, while Anthropologie leveraged some fan photos. Sephora created a beauty poll, while NBC hyped their Olympics coverage by giving sneak peaks of the opening ceremony. Bark box advertised by making doggie comments on a fashion show, and REI offered up shoes as a solution to athlete problems. Lastly, WeWork, FedEx, and Google all showed off their awesome customers in different ways. In short, there’s a wide variety of ways in which brands can wow with Stories.
Want some great examples of advertisements in the form of Stories? Robert Katai gives us more examples. For instance, Moen showed off their bathroom fixtures through a moving picture ad. PNWonderland offered a promotion if viewers would click through the link on their bio. E! News offered a series of awesome headlines, delivered one at a time. To create exclusivity, J.Crew offered a pair of sunglasses through Instagram. And finally, Maybelline included influencers in an ad for their newest mascara.
Instagram Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing on Instagram is arguably one of the hottest things out there. Unfortunately, picking the right influencer for your next campaign can be tricky. Luckily, I’ve included a post on detecting one of the biggest ways want to be influencers cheat: fake followers.
Fake followers are a problem when you’re trying to find a suitable influencer. At its most basic, this problem is so serious for one important reason: influencers with fake followers lead you to pay more for their services than they’re worth. This can be true whether you’re shelling out cash, free product, or both. Fortunately, spotting this type of influencer is easy if you know the signs. They are: followers that are inactive accounts, low or apparently fake engagement, followers from the wrong geographic area, and huge spikes in follower numbers. If you see these red flags, move on.
Monetize and Influence
This category has a mixture of posts for those who want to make money off of Instagram. This can be done a variety of ways, from using Instagram to promote e-commerce to becoming an influencer.
I cast this post largely in the context of Instagram, because this is the network that generates the most questions of this type. With that said, how do you make money from being an influencer or content creator?? My tips break down into baskets. In one basket, there are suggestions for how to make money by sharing your expertise. For instance, I do a lot of consulting and public speaking, in addition to being a one-man marketing agency. These are all ways to make money being an influencer.
Another basket is participating in marketing activities directly. Influencer marketing is an example of this, as is digital advertising. For this basket, brands are paying you to reach your sphere of influence for their benefit. I’ve done this in a variety of ways, including service as a brand ambassador.
Lastly, profit from your influence by selling stuff. For instance, you can sell memberships to your website. Or, start some kind of event that people must pay admissions fees for. These can take virtual or in-person formats, depending on your goals. Even webinars can make money. Not right for you? Try developing your own product line. In short, it’s easy to make money if you know how.
There are several ways to make money off your Instagram account. One of them is to become your own brand, and then sell related merchandise. Another option is to sell Instagram shoutouts, which is super easy to do. Buying and selling Instagram accounts to people that want something established is another one, as is selling digital merchandise. Becoming an influencer or affiliate marketer allows you to sell other people’s stuff to your audience. If you love retail, try setting up an Instagram shop. Or, for social media afficionados, managing other people’s accounts can be quite profitable. Lastly, consider offering your professional services as a content creator or Instagram consultant for other brands.
In addition to the ideas discussed in the last post, I give a few other ways to make money off Instagram. Of course, it’s always important to build up your account first, and I give readers a few tips. One idea is developing a drop shipping storefront, which allows you to sell things without having to keep stock. Or, you could showcase your talent by selling photos. Lastly, consider using Instagram to drive traffic to your website and promote your business.
Most people think of affiliate marketing as something that goes on primarily through blogs or independent websites. However, it’s also possible to do it by posting on Instagram. This is a bit more complicated due to the limits on posting links, but I give a few options for working around the limits. Then, I talk about what types of brands can benefit from the affiliate approach, as well as who to choose for this type of campaign. Lastly, I close with some links to websites that help facilitate affiliate marketing arrangements.
New Data Helps You Measure Your Instagram Influence – and Hints at How to Become an Instagram Influencer
Want to become an influencer on Instagram? Be sure to check the data! Analytics will help you decide if you’re ready to take the plunge, and if you are, what your chief niche should be. After all, people rally around influencers who have something to say about a specific topic. Then, use this data to help negotiate with potential clients. Need to grow first? I offer a few tips on how to accomplish this task, as well as some hints for goal setting.
Do you want to get verified on Instagram? Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Instagram is a network that pretty much only verifies people who not only are able to confirm their identity but meet a wide range of criteria. In fact, it’s hard to even determine what someone needs in order to be “worthy” of verification. For this blog post, I explore some of the thinking behind this, and share my own struggle to get verified (so far I’ve failed). Verification on Instagram is compared with the process on some of the other social networks as well. The bottom line is simple: you need some serious star power to get verified on Instagram. If you aren’t a celebrity, good luck.
What good marketer is going to talk extensively about a social media platform without discussing advertising? With its wide reach, Instagram is a great place to spend your advertising dollars.
Like anything else in business, you need a reason to advertise on Instagram. Robert Katai gives us a few of them, which are geared for small businesses. First, Instagram offers a vast potential audience for your brand message due to its billion-plus members. Second, while there are paid options it’s possible to advertise for free in the form of organic posts. Third, Instagram advertising offers an excellent ROI, which is especially important if you’re a small business. Lastly, much of the advertising is done in a non-intrusive way that people enjoy viewing. Having presented the benefits of Instagram advertising, Katai gives small business owners some pro tips.
Instagram Marketing Tools
Unless you can spend all day on Instagram and are content with native Instagram features, you’re going to need some tools. In fact, even those who have a small following, and haven’t built their accounts to influencer status, can benefit from them. Who doesn’t want to step up their game?
No matter what kind of tools you think you need, this roundup is for you. Some tools I discuss are comprehensive social media management applications, both Instagram specific and with a general reach. Since properly categorizing posts is so important, I include several tools to help you find the right hashtags. Finally, measuring your account’s effectiveness requires analytics. To that end, I’ve included several options from the general to the specific. For each tool in this post, I give the cost of service.
Need more tools in your box to make awesome Instagram content? Robert Katai returns to give us a list of both free and paid tools that are worth checking out. The granddaddy of them all is Photoshop, but it’s joined by many others. Bannersnack lets you make cool banners, while InstaQuote lets you add quotes to a picture. Easel.ly is wonderful for the infographic fan, while the Social Resizer tool lets you optimize for different platforms. Stencil and Unsplash provide access to stock images, while Slow Shutter Cam lets you make time delayed photos. Lastly, check out Over, which lets you put things on top of your photos. With these tools, making dynamic content is a snap.
For business users, Rebekah Radice gives us a list of apps that make excellent graphics. Each of them is described, along with its unique functionalities. Some of them are traditional photo editors, while others add special effects. Because stickers and writing are popular, some options specialize in this aspect of editing. With the vintage craze going around, a few apps allow users to give their photos a look that mimics the older forms of photography. Finally, options to enhance your phone’s picture taking abilities are discussed.
Unlike many of the posts in this roundup, this one I wrote myself. One of the problems in Instagram marketing is the reduced ability to post links anywhere on your profile. For that reason, the link you post in your biographical section is very important to your overall success. Here, I give some ways to take advantage of this opportunity.
If you’re trying to increase traffic on one of your other social media accounts, you can link it there with the invite to check it out. Another technique is posting a link to a landing page containing more links. This is done when you’re supporting a cause or doing affiliate marketing. On my Instagram, I have a specialized landing page that I link to. Alternately, consider using shoppable posts to redirect traffic to your site, while saving the bio link to the main page. Influencers can invite people to check out their single link by mentioning it in the caption. Finally, think of tools like link.bio, which provides a page of links that you’ll include the link for on your bio.