While Facebook's move to purchase Instagram for $1 billion back in 2012 was initially viewed with some skepticism, it's since proven to be a stroke of genius, with the visual-focused platform advancing to a billion active users, and providing Facebook with a unique, mobile-native way to broaden its reach.
But the exponential growth of Instagram has lead to a new problem - now that everyone is jumping on board the Instagram train, including brands looking to ride the new wave, it's become increasingly more difficult to stand out in user feeds.
If you're having trouble getting traction with your Instagram presence, here are some key tips that will help set you on the right track.
1. Establish Your Content Strategy
Converting Instagram audiences into customers is, first and foremost, dependent on the content you choose to share. The phrase “content is king” is one of the few terms that can never be overused for marketing or PR - effective content helps to build trust, is entertaining, and will inspire your audience to take action. As such, a clear plan of action is required in order to present your product to prospective buyers.
Every effective Instagram strategy must have an editorial calendar in place, one that 's both timed properly and aligned with the broader brand mission. Posts should be scheduled and targeted appropriately, of course, but they should adhere to the overall concept you've developed for your Insta presence.
To quote directly from Instagram for Business:
“The key to creative success across Instagram - or any other marketing channel - is relevant creative that’s well branded, concept-driven and well crafted. Follow these tried and true principles when creating your next direct response campaign and see how the ads perform.”
Consider your purpose, your posts in isolation, and the broader brand presence you're looking to build, then strategize accordingly.
2. Build a Beautiful Story
It’s no revelation that Instagram is a visual platform where user preference leans toward high quality, aesthetically beautiful posts. Given this, brands seeking to engage instagrammers should focus on composing beautiful, artful, and thoughtfully arranged images and videos which will engage their target demographic.
Fortunately for those marketers not equipped with the best professional images, Instagram does offer a nice array of filters and other tools for improving on your content, and there are various complimentary apps you can use to enhance your presentation.
While Instagram has added new tools like Stories and advancing video functions into the mix, your visuals still play a key role in getting users to stop and pay attention.
It's worth taking the time to compose and design compelling visual content.
3. Create Discussions
Now that you’ve created an aesthetically beautiful and emotionally-aligned presence that you’re sure will win customers, you need to consider how you can take that initial interest a step further, and move your Instagram audience towards becoming customers.
Social conversions increasingly come out of a sense of participation and connectedness, or the belief that there's a human being on the other end of the bandwidth. Conversations created through Q&A, polls, and through comments drive Instagram users further inside your marketing matrix.
Ironically, relatively few marketing firms make good use of discussion in their Instagram campaigning, but really being 'social' is what 'social media' platforms are all about, and it's important to make the most of your opportunities by extending the conversation, where possible.
Instagram, and indeed all social networks, offer ways to facilitate relationships. This is useful whether you're sharing beautiful stories, providing customer service, or even connecting with other industry influencers. And given the power of such opportunity, it needs to be a key element in your strategy.
4. Utilize Influencers
I almost decided against listing this aspect of Instagram marketing, because businesses can be victimized by the many unscrupulous or ineffectual influencers out there.
We’ve had varying experience with bloggers, and even celebrities - but that said, influencer marketing on Instagram can be a game-changer. My advice here is to ensure you do your homework before choosing an influencer to partner with.
Despite the concerns, there are many influential Instagrammers who'll give more than your money’s worth. Once you’re satisfied and your budget/plan is established, you can expect the following:
- The right influencer can gain your brand/product instant approval from his/her following
- Research shows businesses can gain more than 10x ROI through influencers
- As an added bonus, business Instagram accounts gain followers organically from influencers
- Influencers give you better access to Millennial and Gen Z consumers
5. Make Buying Easy
Instagram is rolling out more and more tools to help businesses generate direct sales. Recent research shows that almost two-thirds of Instagram users have made at least one purchase after having seen an item or service on Instagram first.
I’ve already mentioned using stories, but including links within those conversational elements can make the conversion process that much easier. Action buttons are another tool that simplifies the buying process, and now Instagram is allowing some businesses to create a visual storefront as well, along with Shopping Tags in posts.
Additionally, marketers are also turning to third-party platforms like PromoRepublic, Magisto, or MikMak Attach, which enable you to add a shoppable video layer which can be added to an Instagram Story or Snap Ad. Finally, Story Highlights let businesses present the video clips you want viewed first to appear exactly above your Instagram feed.
There's a range of ways you can use Instagram, and it's worth investigating all the options available to help ensure your business presence stands out. But note, your competitors are likely doing the same. By using a combination of techniques, you can stay ahead of the game, and come up with unique, visual identifiers that expand your presence and performance.